Musical, serenading, calm, natural and realistic, it will not take long to feel all relax and fall asleep listening to LATL 8.
Built from the ground up, LATL8 is another model from QA increasingly self-produced, self-designed and self-assembled products. QA resourcefulness and technicality has allowed various inner components to be worked on in enabling audiophile products to come together greater than the sums of all parts. This is why QA products, with the right expectation and understanding, can perform tremendously, all without the conglomerate fundings of marketing and advertising.
In becoming Lii Audio dealer, QA has handpicked the Crystal 8-inch, their audiophile level of full range drivers, in the conceptualising of LATL 8. Lii Audio is an industrial-recognised manufacturer of high-end speaker drivers heralding from Hang Zhou of China. They do not typically make complete and finished speakers, as production of speaker drivers is their main core of business, mainly as OEM for some renown speakers globally. To have components of such quality to work on for QA products is always a good reason we feel proud with how we can stand among the dime and dozens.
Not to be confused with Lii Song drivers, we have firm affirmation that Lii Audio has no affiliation with them, and Lii Audio is definitely not the subsidiary. In fact, Lii Audio has always been the only ‘Lii’ brand of speaker drivers manufacturer before the aforementioned company was subsequently created and started emphasising on markets out of China. QA stands by the source and authenticity of Lii Audio speaker drivers.
Full range drivers are commonly deemed as lacking of bass or seemed as a simple speaker that can hardly reach the level of sound of crossover system speakers. At over 120 litres of volume, and even more from the stuffings inside, there is literally no lacking of bass. Being a dedicated transmission-line designed speaker cabinet designed by QA proprietary in LATL 8, the bass has even more muscles unheard of in most single-driver full range. Calling spade a spade, we are not comparing with bass from a true subwoofer. But against many floorstanders and betters them, the bass from LATL 8 packs some oomph to be felt.
The clean, deep bass is a result of the calculated reflex port, designed and built at the front so placement of the speakers can be right up to the wall even just at 10cm and not suffer any muddied lows. But more importantly, it is the internal bracing and design of the cabinet that brought Lii Audio Crystal 8 to the biggest enhancement to what was already an excellent hifi quality of a full range driver.
Transmission line design is the building of partitions or baffles within a speaker cabinet to route the path of the air pushed from the back of the speaker cone out to the nearest exit, normally the reflex port. Such structure looks like a maze, hence this kind of speakers are also referred to as maze speakers by some. The simple idea is to make the air travel a longer distance to deepen the low frequency output. The complex idea, however, involves calculating the right distance, and surface area of the space, for that travel with respect to the specifications of the driver and cabinet dimension – all in all a balancing act. This proprietary design of the cabinet by QA for the Crystal 8 driver has probably maximised the fullest potential of sound coming from this driver not seen and heard elsewhere.
A speaker cabinet this size requires a very strong material of wood without being too stiff, which can sterilise the sound. Plywood made from Russian birch is an ideal candidate. At 18mm thick a panel, not only are they able to hold up the whole weight without warping, it leaves the driver flushed at the front baffle while still retaining ample thickness to hold the driver securely in place. Again, having too thick of the front baffle holding the driver will stiffen the sound -18mm is excellent for mounting of 8 inch drivers.
The grains of Russian birch add an elegant touch visually, as the light-coloured wood paired with the white paper cone of the Lii Audio Crystal 8 driver present a modern outlook that can sit well in many home deco and interiors. Sanded down with an absolutely smooth finish and sealed from moisture and splashes, the professional craftsmanship of the cabinet definitely stood beyond the realm of any basic DIY-er quality of speaker cabinets. This is already evident with the dovetail joints and highly-precise alignment of panels on all side. Please do not compare this cabinet to any sorts of home-DIY speakers. The artisan craftsmen producing for QA deserved a higher respect for their skills and workmanship. Even the speaker grilles are magnetic. Just drop by and see for yourself.
Other components QA spared no efforts in using high quality parts include the internal hook up wire and binding post. While there may not have crossover inside full range speakers, connecting the drivers to amplifiers is a more straight forward affair. In the LATL 8, one can be very sure the power output from amplifiers can reach the drivers in the best possible purity of copper through the trusted and audiophile quality of speaker cable from Gotham as the internal hook up wire. We use another trusted brand jn CMC for the speaker binding post. It is solid and build-to-last with excellent gold-plating. They are then mounted on a circular aluminum plate flush to the cabinet, before hook up cables are soldered to the binding post with WBT 4% silver solder for the best connection.
4 rubber feet will be provided, and by default 3 for each speaker will be installed – 2 in front, 1 at the back, in a triangular arrangement that ensure equal distribution of weight on each foot. Isolation feet do make some difference to the bass response, and in our test, this rubber feet allows bass to go deep and authoritative without sacrificing any clarity. Hence the decision to provide this over traditional spikes. You can opt for the feet not to be installed (they are hard-screwed on, not bolted screwed on) if you wish to experiment with other feet. They will still be provided for your own installation if necessary. Just take note at around 30.15kg per speaker, it can take effort to install one’s own spike/feet.
Let us put this straight right from the start, it really does not sound great on first listening. Tonality will be off, mids are congested, bass are light, separation and highs are at best passable. Lii Audio Crystal 8 drivers need serious breaking in, minimally at 300 hours, ideally over 500 hours, for the maturing and opening up of entire frequency. The best way to do it is to use any cheap digital amp to drive the speakers with any portable players playing a series of sweeps, noises and some music continuously for a few days, take a break and repeat until the hours are met. With patience, the sound will take on a whole new level of revitalization revelation.
With a high sensitivity of 92.5dB, LATL 8 can be easily driven by any amps, even low powered tube amps. The best pairing is with 300B tube amps, where the low output has no problem driving the speakers to a loud volume but the sumptuous midrange glory of 300Bs will give the Crystal 8 the perfect juice to sounds its best. On good quality sources, vocals are realistically rendered in true-to-life imaging in the space between the speakers. At a common distance of 2m placement between the speakers, there are clearly defined regions of space staging for different layers of instrument presentation in well-mastered tracks. Full range speakers are not about dynamism and being fast – they are controlled, refined and emotional. We do not use them for heavy metal or rock & roll. But on jazz tracks, ballads, soft rock and pop, and strings ensemble, the fluidity and organic nature of sound from LATL 8 can engulf listeners with soothing pleasure, with ease, with sweetness and be smitten with the decay of voices and strings. Yet when a low bass note hits, one can feel the transience quickly on the chest below the throat, tight and clean.
The superb quality of the Lii Audio Crystal 8 driver in such a well-supported and large volume of cabinet is confidently producing a sound punching way above this price bracket. Come and hear for yourself so you do not wait further to place an order, as lead time for production is at 5 weeks minimum as all LATL 8 are hand assembled here in Singapore by QA. Together with the high number of hours for breaking in, the longer one waits only cuts shorter the enjoyment time for this speaker.
Build to order with a minimum lead-time of 5 weeks. FREE shipping in Singapore. Comes with 3 years warranty.
Audition available in our shop front at Peninsula Shopping Centre #03-19, Singapore 179804.
Nominal Impedance: 8Ω
Power rating: 50-80 W
Frequency Response: 35Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity: 92.5dB (2.83V/m)
Driver material: Pulp fibre paper cone
Driver basket material: Cast aluminium
Grille: Magnetic attachment
Dimensions: (W) 340mm * (D) 380mm * (H) 1070mm
Weight: 30.15kg (gross) per speaker