Technology

Field Test: Quested S7 Powered Reference Monitor

A SMOOTH OPERATOR FOR NEAR-FIELD APPLICATIONS 7/01/2005 8:00 AM Eastern

British manufacturer Quested is no stranger to high-end studios. The company's reference monitors have been installed in such iconic music production facilities as Abbey Road, The Hit Factory and Wisseloord. The S7 is Quested's newest line of monitors, the S Range. The S7 is a two-way, active bi-amplified monitor suited for near-field applications, such as recording and mixing, post-production, broadcast and surround sound.

LET'S TAKE A CAB
The S7's cabinet is compact yet hefty, measuring approximately 9.6×11.9×13.7 inches (W×D×H) and weighing roughly 26 pounds. The magnetically shielded cabinet allows it to be placed in close proximity to CRT monitors or TVs, and is finished with an attractive, black-ash veneer. Cabinet edges are not radiused. Two drivers, a 6.5-inch woofer and 1.1-inch soft-dome tweeter are vertically aligned and flanked by two bass-reflex ports that vent out the front of the cabinet. A small, dim dual-colored LED on the monitor's face lights green when power is applied and changes to red 2 dB before the internal amplifier clips. Attachment points for an optional grille frame are provided on the cabinet's front face.

On the rear are a power switch, IEC power receptacle (for the detachable power cord), XLR/TRS Combo jack (for balanced audio input), input-sensitivity switch and two pairs of tiny dip switches to adjust high- and low-frequency responses. The input-sensitivity switch is a 10-position rotary control that takes a small slot-head screwdriver and adjusts sensitivity 2 dB higher with each clockwise click. (Sensitivity range is -12 dBu to +6 dBu for 96dB SPL at 1 meter.)

Depending on their settings, the dip switches for HF adjustment alternately produce a +2dB, 0dB (flat) or -2dB shelving response above 10 kHz. The dip switch settings for LF adjustment alternately offer a flat response or highpass filter settings yielding -2 or -4dB cut at 65 Hz. When all dip switches are set for flat response, the S7 exhibits a stated frequency response of 65 to 22k Hz, ±2 dB. A fixed subsonic filter rolls off lows at 24 dB/octave for a -3dB down point at 30 Hz, while a fixed ultrasonic filter rolls off highs at 4 dB/octave for a -3dB down point at 75 kHz. The monitor's crossover is at 1.19 kHz.

The S7's two integral power amplifiers deliver more than 120W RMS power to the woofer and more than 70W RMS to the tweeter. That produces a maximum SPL of 121dB RMS at 1 meter with music input, which is plenty loud for any reference application. The S7 can be set via internal plugs for either 115- or 230V operation at 50 to 60Hz AC; an external switch would have been more accommodating for producers and engineers working with the S7 in the U.S. and Europe.

TAKE THE STAND, MR. SPEAKER
For my listening tests, I placed a pair of S7s on 16-inch-diameter Acoustic Sciences Corporation (ASC) Monitor Stands. The stands are configured in my control room as part of an ASC ATTACK Wall, a modular and contiguous arrangement of tube traps that wrap around the back side of my mixer to essentially soffit the speakers in an acoustically controlled environment.

I listened to a variety of country, pop and metal material, including some of my own recent mixes. I heard no thumps when powering up or down each S7, and the built-in amplifiers produced no discernible acoustic noise when operational. The S7s sounded great placed either in vertical or horizontal orientation, and I was immediately impressed by how incredibly wide the sweet spot was (both on horizontal and vertical axes). This is a major consideration if, for example, you're mixing on a large-format console.

The S7s exhibited a very smooth and balanced frequency response throughout their usable range. Transient response, imaging and depth of soundstage were all excellent. My only substantial criticism is that bass guitar, although prominently reproduced, could have sounded a little tighter. This is a tradeoff that ported cabinets commonly impose in exchange for greater bass extension. Speaking of which, you'll want to add a subwoofer to an S7 monitoring setup. For example, the low Chapman Stick notes on Paula Cole's “Tiger,” while audible, were very understated. Quested states that adding its SB Series sub bass to an S7 setup extends the system's frequency response down to 20 Hz.

The S7s move a lot of air when reproducing low frequencies at high monitoring levels. Listening briefly to a mix at 90dB SPL while sitting 3.5 feet away from a pair of S7s, I often felt wind from the bass ports hitting my face. It was a minor distraction. Heck, I might have just found a way to cut down on my air-conditioning bill!

CONCLUSION
The S7 does not have a classic “small monitor” sound. If you're looking for a near-field that will give you a band-limited window into the mix's midrange, then the S7 won't be your cup of tea. This monitor leans more toward a full-bandwidth solution (minus at least the bottom octave) while retaining a modest footprint. The S7 excels particularly in situations in which a wide sweet spot is required. The price, $999 each, is quite reasonable, and the S7's overall performance delivers.

Quested, 011/44-1404-41500, www.quested.com.


Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper has been recording voice-overs with news correspondent Barry Serafin for The Journal Editorial Report, airing on PBS.

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