Price: £799 Website:
www.quad-hifi.co.uk Size (HxWxD): 7x32x31cm/14x32x24cm Weight: 4.9kg/12.5kg Type: Preamplifier and power amplifier
Power: 140 watts into 8 ohms, 250 watts into 4 ohms
MM/MC phono inputs
Finish: blue steel
Good value, excellent detail and superb midrange delivery
Heavy and brutal looking, slight lack of definition at tonal extremes
There are two main advantages that pre/power amp combinations have over their integrated counterparts. The technical reason is that by separating the power output from the small-signal electronics in the preamp, particularly if it has a phono stage on board, you reduce the chance of interference from the power stage. The other is of course that it shows you genuinely value your hi-fi - no-one who buys a pre/power pairing does so without serious consideration of the sound they're getting.
Even so, with integrateds moving steadily up the high-end ladder, two-box solutions are having to make an effort on the looks front to compete. Quad's certainly addressed that issue. With its blue steel livery and statuesque bulk, the 909 half of the partnership fairly screams 'power!' to anyone who'll listen, while the svelte and sleek 99 will look smart in any company if you want to park its beefy brother out of sight for fear of scaring the horses.
Construction-wise it's all very solidly built too, with heatsink brackets built into the 909's casing, so the entire case works as a heatsink, removing the need for ventilation slots and their attendant dust - a nice touch.
Incidentally, you can go all-Quad with your system since the 99-series also has a CD player and tuner in its range, and each can be connected using the proprietary Quadlink cable, which uses secure D-connectors like those used on computers. Of course, if you believe in spending a bit on cables, you can also use your own line-level versions.
Around the back are three line-level inputs plus a tape loop and dedicated phono input. Unusually these days, the 99 includes a phono stage as standard, and it's switchable between MM (moving magnet) and MC (moving coil) sensitivity via the fascia controls or the remote. The remote incidentally is a fairly plain and functional affair which can carry out all available functions for the preamp, with the effects displayed on a green-on-blue LED. Some might miss the tactile appeal and sensitivity of a volume knob or other rotary controls, but it's fine once you get used to it.
The 99 has some built-in tone controls - anathema to some dedicated audiophiles of course, but worth experimenting with for some recordings. The bass boost seemed to muddy the midrange somewhat, though the 'tilt' control, which is supposed to slope the entire frequency response about a central point in the midrange, allowing you to raise or lower bass and treble around it had some pleasing effects, especially when it came to adjusting speaker positions.
Overall, the sound of the Quads deliver the neutrality for which the company is famed. With tone controls disengaged it appears to add very little to the sound, seeming content to allow the music to come through without help or hindrance. It's not overtly smooth - there's plenty of detail when required, but there is a pleasingly unfatiguing aspect to the sound which will encourage you to keep listening long after you should have stopped.
Bass is well handled, with good, if not the best, extension, and with perhaps a smidgeon of a timing issue, particularly at higher frequencies, when there was the occasional suspicion that the bass was lagging ever so slightly. Treble is also clear and transparent, though with perhaps a little less 'air' than some at the higher end. But it's in the midrange that this pairing excels, finding the perfect balance between extracting the maximum amount of detail, without also delivering an undue amount of harshness.
With the spotlight on the midrange (though detail is definitely still there at the tonal extremes, just not attempting to take over), most of the best bits of any recording are given their due, and with loud electric music in particular this works a treat, foregrounding guitar solos and vocal pyrotechnics for maximum delivery, without losing anything to or from the backing instruments. It may not be a strictly 'accurate' representation of the soundstage that was intended, but it don't half sound good.
The 99 pre and 909 power amps are obviously designed to work and look best together, though they can of course be partnered with other components quite easily. The 99 offers a remote, built-in phono stage for vinyl junkies and the option of its 'love it or hate it' tilt control, while the 909 offers superb midrange reproduction, if slightly offset by its performance at the tonal extremes - still superb, but slightly bettered by some others. As a bi-amping upgrade to a trusted integrated, it's well worth trying. Matched with the right speakers, the Quad pairing deliver at well above their price range, and their emphasis on the midrange means you get most of the best, all of the time.
Want to send this article to a friend? Please join here
Discuss this article, 1 of 32 messages, read more:
Posted: 18/04/05 03:28:00 00
Hi I have read Dave Oliver's review of this equipment. I own it and it is paired with Arcam CD73T CD player and B&W DM601 S3 speakers.
I have read some more reviews of this combo and everywhere reviewers say that it has sacrified the frequency extremes for midrange. I thought the same until I have changed input sensitivity of auxilary in[puts on 99 pre amp from 300mV to 100mV.
Now this combination rocks! More detail in the midrange but frequency extremes improved significantly. Big improvement.
I would like to ask Dave Oliver what sensitivity of auxilary 99 pre amp input has he used while testing the combo?