Vrel Electroacustic Bequadro Quattro loudspeakers | Listening test

20.08.2019..

This article aims to retrace a story of suffering and redemption, touching rock bottom and coming up again. The delivery and testing of the Vrel Electroacustic Bequadro Quattro, the loudspeaker at the top of the production of the newly formed Umbrian company, were one of the most challenging and successful things that happened to me. A story of extremes and oppositions, of thorns and roses, as can happen only with one of the flowers all over the world considered as an absolute example of beauty.

 

I don't want to bore you with the misfortunes of the reviewer… I just want to let you know that we don’t improvise, and we do our job with passion and careful research, like you do your job. After some preliminary listenings of the Bequadro sound on several occasions, in agreement with designer Roberto Verdi we decided to do a careful test. So, we organized the listening test at Pietro Mazzagatti’s listening-room, friend and collaborator of ReMusic.

From here on, everything that could have gone wrong happened, nevertheless in the end we were able to bring the test back under controlled and measured conditions.

I will skip the details, however let me make a brief summary of the couple of things that have happened to me, audiophile friends and others collaborators: first, the unforeseen and the technical adjustments; and second some prejudices and superficial opinions that can be found online. I’m not going to report them here in full, but what I’ll say is that the Bequadro have done only one thing possible against this kind of unprofessional opinions: they have played and played on, against everything and everyone, without caring about this kind of opinions.

 

This is what we were up against and since I like to do my job carefully, we took, analysed and solved each of this “problems” one by one.

 

Vrel Bequadro Due

 

A close-up on a Vrel Bequadro sporting one of the most recent finishing of the MCD horn.

 

Let’s take a closer look. First of all, all the Vrel Bequadro, not just the Quattro models taken into test, are speakers that sum up a particular set of features that makes them practically unique in the world’s production. The Bequadro are two-way and four drivers floorstanding dipole loudspeakers, with a modified D'Appolito configuration, without active crossover but with one that has a mechanical action-point, high efficiency and high impedance − 101 dBs and 11 ohms respectively. All this uniqueness, that makes it stands out on the market, have already made a good impression on me, as you can find out in this interview.

However, attempting a further synthesis, these speakers want to:

  • avoid the loss of efficiency given by the cabinet, about three decibels, recovered by the dipole
  • increase the impedance, to the benefit of the load, seen by the amplifier
  • reduce phase rotations, attenuations and timbre variations given by an active crossover, here the action-point of the crossover is mechanical

With the Bequadro we are “going back to the past”, when the speakers "had” to be made that way, because they were trying to squeeze out of them as much sound as possible, because they had low power amps, because the crossover sucked up everything. Now, they are made with modern means and cutting-edge technology.

In conclusion, the Bequadro are born from the simple, elementary and unsettling idea of their designer, Roberto Verdi, who often repeats this question as a mantra: “Why is the market full of loudspeakers with electric values that would have seen me fail if presented as a project at the Electrotechnic­­al Institute?". Well, if we think about it, how can we blame him? It’s embarrassing... If the speakers to play more easily have to be theoretically high efficiency and high impedance, why have we been selling for such a long time loudspeakers that can be driven only from welding machines more than from audio amplifiers?

 

This leads us straight to the first technical "difficulty" that we had to face during the test: every amplifier set with huge feedback, put to drive the Bequadro, will lead to a poor, “enclosed/boxed” sound. The amp that is in "control" does not suit the Bequadro, who are instead aware of what they have to do. On the other hand, when we have placed amplifications suitable for their impedance − on impedances above 8 ohms, usually used in the vintage models, which have 16 ohms outputs − the Bequadro were literally flying. And I’m not looking just at the thermionic amplifications from Audiosophia, like the ones you see in the gallery, but I’m referring also to the monophonic ones, a DIY 211 stereo, and the M2Tech Crosby in class D or the ItalicAcoustic HS-1 in class H + S, in fact, they have unleashed unpredictable performances, since these "extreme" solid states are normally not frowned upon in this kind of speakers. The HS-1 even enlightened me on an interesting behavioural aspect of the Bequadro: with the valves they tend to sound rather "big", not like the Altec of the "Religious Congregation" Silbatone, but the trend is there. With the ItalicAcoustic the proportions are instantly re-entered in the most realistic one, probably a sign that a minimum of control even working in tension does not hurt these speakers.

The "lungs", those amplifiers that appear to be a little poor in power and current, those that seem to be affected by an emphysema − sounding so faint with low-impedance speakers − they have turned out to be discreet interpreters, surely unexpected, if not surprising, like my JVC RX-D701S, a digital audio-video receiver from the 2000s, with only 130 watts on 6 ohms but capable of working up to 16.

This is the paradox: high efficiency and high impedance make Bequadro easy to drive; they need fewer watts than usual and more voltage than current. In this way we can focus more on the quality of the watts and less on their "weight" as power supply, with related power supplies that are necessarily hyper-sized. This is also one of the reasons why Roberto Verdi likes the Japanese concept of amplification, which has never bent to be oriented to the mere doubling of power, halving the impedance.

 

Second technical "difficulty": the Bequadro are magnifying glasses. Like many high-impedance loudspeakers, they typically zoom in the musical warp, allowing us to enter the sound. It follows that everything upstream is amplified. We have discovered and solved some problems with the power supply of the system in use. I felt a great difference with the cables, for example the pure silver cables from LA Sound Olympia were a perfect match. We have experienced that certain sources were limited in dynamics compared to others, more modern or developed one. Add to this that these speakers don’t have a timbre since they do not have crossovers and enclosures, so no boxed-sound at all. All this cannot simply happen with speakers of low efficiency and impedance, because if this was the case you will hear the amp trying desperately to control them, nullifying the rest of the system.

 

Finally let’s get to the other impressions and prejudices that we found. The Bequadro seem to be the object of a physiognomic prejudice. Many audiophiles seem to be of the idea that the Bequadro, being a dipole, cannot emit convincing low frequencies, due to the known phenomenon of transducers' emission in counter-phase. So they think: "they are dipole, they cannot emit the bass". I want to respond to this excess of "opinions", in the most polite way. First consideration: if in the official characteristics the manufacturer declares a certain emission, which starts from 25 Hz at +/- 1 dB, should we really think he is lying to us? Second consideration: we do not need a sound engineer or technician to know that phase cancellation on low frequencies in the environment does not occur for the whole environment but only where the front emission meets the rear, for a matter of nodes in the formation of sound frequencies. So to avoid this you should place the speakers and your listening point properly. You will find out that the basses are well articulated and distributed in the environment. Third consideration: Claudio Pinchi, heir and owner of the Organi Pinchicompany, has participated in developing the entire Bequadro project. Claudio himself confessed to me that these speakers made him want to "go back to listening to music in an environment", since until before he was limiting himself to the pure sound of headphones. So, with this kind of background, are you really going to tell Mr. Pinchi, organ builder and technician, that the Bequadro don't emit a good bass sound, for example like the one produced by the church organ?

 

Claudio Pinchi

 

Claudio Pinchi, from Organi Pinchi, doing some maintenance work on an organ built in Rome by his grandfather.


Fourth consideration: do you really want to give credit to those who boast the usual two-way mini monitors, perhaps with 10 cm mid-woofers, against these three Bequadro 15" authentic woofers? Do you remember nothing about your physics class? Or did you forget its principals? I understand that in many cases since the small size of our listening room and for a peaceful life with our neighbours we are forced to like our mini-monitors, but to get the best bass frequencies "big is better", definitely.

Fifth consideration: before running our mouth, do we want to get off Facebook and really live and feel thing for ourselves?

 

Another first impression that can negatively affect your opinion on the Bequadro: “burn-in” phase. Don’t stop at the first impression, like a new instrument they need some time to settle in. Personally, I have already had my work cut out with the dipoles, PureAudioProject Trio15, which I reviewed here and who needed a long and in some ways frustrating burn-in. The Bequadro, especially the Tre and Quattro, are no exception: considering that for each channel they have three 15’’ woofers – that are in fact quite light, with only 37 grams each – you just have to turn up the volume. Someone could also not appreciate initially the "honky sound" of the horn tweeter, but after its break-in the driver of the highs is more relaxed and everything becomes more clear, fast, deep and engaging.

 

Let’s go back to another misguiding opinion that we have already clear out of the way: the Bequadro indifference to different settings, which has shocked many. And yet they sound, one might say. When I speak of disconcerting indifference, I mean that, even if put in the worst conditions, they continued to do their dirty work that is to play, as I had already said a little earlier. And I repeat myself saying that they play practically with everything and this has really baffled many people, almost as if we had given up on this possibility.

It is also rather indifferent to the environment. Of course, being a dipole, it will have to be kept at good distance from the back wall: you cannot expect to put it at twenty centimetres from the wall and enjoy articulated and precise basses. Also avoid the heavily absorbent surfaces immediately behind the speakers, otherwise you will notice a "gathering" of sound, on the other hand a reflective environment did not seem to penalizing the sound.

 

In summary, the rough immediacy of the Bequadro sound is engaging, physical, vibrant, concrete and without indecision. In the 300-3,000 Hz range it does not have the subtle definition of a Lowther, a Voxativ and certain Fostex or Supravox speakers, but it compensates with the "mass" of the voice, also very coherent, since the whole range of human voice, from 300 to 3,000 Hz, is prerogative of woofers only.

It is a genuine sound, free-range, vigorous, and communicative, that pulls you onto the dance floor and even when you try to ignore it you will still be beating your foot to the rhythm.

It is that sound to which we are no longer used. Or that the youngest have never known, between cell phones and headphones. Or that some of us never left. Or that more and more are looking for.

What everyone has in common, what makes the Bequadro's musical re-enactment better is the image or the experience, which perhaps even many readers have, of a musician with his bass or guitar amp. It plays everywhere, in any environment, in the midst of anyone, it’s indifferent to everything and everyone, its music doesn't give a damn about where it is and how it spreads. It's music and that's enough.

Try to go up to the musician in question and tell him that the highs, the transparency on the middle notes, the perspective and the scene is lacking... And get ready to swallow the handle of his instrument...

 

Last personal clarification: given the necessary experiences, among the Bequadro models I would probably opt for the model Tre. The height still allows fairly close listening and the D'Appolito configuration is well exploited and enjoyable, making the speaker "disappear" acoustically and making the overall emission very consistent.

 

Another misconception: nemo propheta in patria. They are Italian, but will they ever be? Yes, we don’t give enough credit to our own excellence. The Bequadro are designed and built completely in Italy, this should also mean something in terms of quality and beauty of realization. All their components are designed from scratch and have been designed and manufactured for this type of speakers only.

The 385A woofers and the smaller 255A have double cones in corrugated paper of specialized French production, coupled with secret production glue. The baskets, magnets, painting, the assembly and everything else are especially designed for this model.

The tweeter, which is also proprietary, is the HDPP driver − High Dynamic Push Pull 26A / X2 dipolar, without compression chamber, with membrane tuning performed at the interferometer − see video here

and MCD horn − Modified Constant Directivity, also this two made only by-and-for Vrel.

The frames are a sandwich of poplar sheets glued with alkyd resins, so not a conventional multilayer. The front panels finished in eco-leather of different colours and external finishes in precious wood essences. They are intended as aesthetic finishes, as the structure is instead deliberately "tuned", so to be slightly resonant and deliberately not totally inert.

Also, the damping fixing systems of the loudspeakers, the DRFM "plates", are from Vrel and each loudspeaker is supplied with speaker terminals and cables already prepared for biwiring / biamping.

Last but not least, the Quattro model is just the tip of the Vrel iceberg, being the largest and most performing models, they are more suitable for large rooms, where the smaller models, are the most suitable for smaller environments, without penalizing the performance, which has the same sound imprint in every model. To these models "two frontal channels", it is also possible to add subwoofers, side and rear, dipole and also modifiy the same structure, in fact they can be joined tighter creating a bigger panel.

 

Finally, the last misconception on the Bequadro: rejecting the sound. What the Bequadro taught us is what I saw with my own eyes and felt with my ears for example at the recent Milan hi-fidelityshow. In the Vrel room, which was too big even for to their larger speakers, people were divided into two distinct factions: those who rejected the sound beforehand and those who cherished it, without asking anything in return, without wanting to know anything about their technicalities, wanting only to continue the listening, perhaps while walking without a fixed and obligatory point of view – and the last is one of the best features of such a loudspeaker model. Both points of view tell us something. Without defining what is right, wrong, true or not true, if you like the scenic reconstruction confined to the "box" of the speakers, the Bequadro are not for you. If you are looking for what I call "the sound in the room", if you have some nostalgia for the old, very old Philips or Grundig speakers, if you think that by improving the Hi-Fi, becoming Hi-End, you have lost something, like above all the uncontrolled emotions that the well reproduced music can offer ... Well, settle in for the drive, because a lot of road has been made since then and it leads straight to the Vrel Bequadro.

 

Therefore, it is to the whole Bequadro series, to its idea rather than to the single product, that we decided to give our Spark in the Dark award.

 

 

Official technical specifications

Floorstanding dipole loudspeaker with a modified D'Appolito configuration, two-way and four drivers in series, without electric crossover but with a mechanical one.

Woofer: 3 x 385A diameter 15"

Tweeter: 1 HDPP 26A / X2 dipolar driver, without compression chamber, with MCD horn

Efficiency: 101dB

Impedance: 11ohm, resistive

Frequency response: 25-18,000Hz +/-1dB

Maximum applicable power: 300Wrms

Operating power: 10-400Wrms on 8ohms

Dimensions: 650x1900x340mm WxHxD

Weight: 38kg

 

Official Italian dealer: direct sales, in search of international distributors, to Vrel Electroacustic website, writw to Vrel Electroacustic

Official current price in Italy: 15,921.00 EUR the pair, with front and rear dust covers

Associated equipment: see article

 

Claudio Pinchi, me and Roberto Verdi
previous slide next slide
A couple of close-ups of the woofer.
A couple of close-ups of the woofer.
Some rear views of the Vrel 385A woofers.
Some rear views of the Vrel 385A woofers.
The speakers damping plates DRFM Vrel.
The speakers damping plates DRFM Vrel.
The HDPP 26A / X2 dipolar driver, without compression chamber, with MCD - Modified Constant Directivity horn.
The HDPP 26A / X2 dipolar driver, without compression chamber, with MCD - Modified Constant Directivity horn.
A Vrel Bequadro Uno, just to note the laser-cut wood dust cover, available to order for all models.
A Vrel Bequadro Uno, just to note the laser-cut wood dust cover, available to order for all models.
Still Vrel Bequadro Uno, but in rear view, to note the cloth dust cover, available as standard, along with the front one done in the same way, on all models.
Still Vrel Bequadro Uno, but in rear view, to note the cloth dust cover, available as standard, along with the front one done in the same way, on all models.
In this one and in the following images, some Bequadro components, also directly from the Vrel production lines.
In this one and in the following images, some Bequadro components, also directly from the Vrel production lines.
by Giuseppe Castelli
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