19 February, 2016

NAD 3020, 3140, Micromega CD-20, Klipsch Quartet

Note NAD3140 atop NAD3020 atop Micromega CD-20. Click pic to enlarge.

Home Visit: NAD3020 meets Klipsch Quartet
Review: NAD 3020 (original version), Part II
NAD 3140, 7020, Micromega CD-20
Talk Horns - Klipsch, the One-Stop Solution, Part IV

Note: Previous articles in Talk Horns - Klipsch, the One-Stop Solution (Part I, Part II, Part III) treat mostly what is now called the heritage Series, especially La Scala, but I'd think they make supplementary readings for this article.

Review: NAD 3020 (original version), Part I covers the same version of 3020 driving TAD-TSM-2201

During the CNY holidays I found some time to hook up with old friend Hoi, a very busy man/scientist who has scaled down his hifi from a complicated Altec horn system with electronic crossover and multiple amps to the current system you see in the pic.

Klipsch Quartet (sold 1989-1996) There is not too much info on the Quartet per se on the internet. But there is a lot more info on its slightly bigger sibling Forte II (Soundstage review; also this HiFiclassic review of its similar predecessor, Forte I), which is very similar, employing the same treble and midrange drivers/horns, the same 12" rear passive radiator, differing only in having a bigger woofer (12" vs the Quartet's 10"). The Forte's have considerable underground reputation and there are a lot of forum discussions, mostly on aftermarket mods. These are low for "floorstanders", so most users raise them so as the horns are at ear level. Also, because of the rear passive radiators, they cannot be placed against the wall. Note too these are still bona fide Paul Klipsch designs.

NAD 3020/3140 Hoi's 3020 is the original (see my review), but he is only using it is preamp, connected to the 3140's power amp section. From the looks of the knobs, the 3140 should be a contemporary of the 3020, and it puts out double the 3020's power (40 watts vs 20 watts). Hoi mentioned that the 3140's power amp section is not quite as refined sounding as the 3020's, but he preferred the higher power handling. In passing, in the pic also note the receiver version of the 3020, the 7020, essentially a 3020 + 4020A (my tuner review here).

Micromega CD-20 This is one model above my CD-10 (see my review), differing solely in having a better power supply. Hoi mentioned that he auditioned all three, and the CD-20 outperformed the CD-10 in large-scaled music; he also preferred it to the flagship, the upsampling CD-30.

Hoi's Comments
  • Bass Hoi regards the Quartet and Forte's as some of Klipsch's best designs. I agree. Hoi says, aside from a very large room, the Quartet has better bass extension and performance than the La Scala. I beg to differ (see below). Extension is one thing, impact another, as long as it is tactile, there is room for difference.
  • Tubes Hoi also uses tubes with the Quartet's (see the Unison Research Smart 845 on the floor, which is used with the McIntosh C20). He thinks now that is the minimum required for the Quartet. Maybe, but with the La Scala etc I enjoy much lower power. Well, if Hoi is totally satisfied with the performance of ss with Quartet, why would he tinker with tubes? :-)
  • 3020's Preamp Section Obviously Hoi is satisfied with the performance of the preamp section of the 3020, which he thinks impart most of the sonic signature (spacious and tubey feeling), although he also thinks the power section of the 3020 is sweeter than the 3140.
  • Tone Controls Hoi opines that tone controls, including the infamous Loudness Control, are a must to compensate for various recording deficiencies. I can allow, even sympathize, with that, and would not argue with those who regard these as necessities. But I personally don't need to have these, even at very low volumes (where the loudness control is said to cut in), because with my references of 15" woofers, bass can be physically felt even at low level. To me, this reflects that the system's bass is perhaps too lean. BUT, if you have these knobs, DO use them to equalize!
My Notes
  • Sonic Impression We were dining and chatting, but the sound was very familiar to me. You see, I have recently acquired another NAD 3020A and is now using it in my "new home" reference system with Micromega CD-10 as one of the sources, although partnering Yamaha NS-1000 (write up on this latest iteration to come). Do not forget I have also used the Klipsch La Scala and still own a Heresy I. As expected (as I know Hoi's preferences quite well), the sound is a little on the dry side, but has good balance, rhythm and pace, not to mention the kind of presence that only horns can render. But with the solid state, for me, bass is decidedly lean - I think I'd prefer tube electronics. Note online you can find a lot of Klipsch people who like solid state (including Hoi I think) - they point out the impedance curve is not so straight and ss would deal better with these. I think it is just the opposite - damping restricts bass as much as controls bass. I am sure this may be heresy to some - more on this perhaps in a later HiFi Basics article.
  • vs Cornwall and Heresy Aside from the rear passive radiator, designed to augment bass with a smaller woofer in a smaller enclosure, the Forte can be reasonably compared to these two look-alike classic Klipsch designs. As I have heard the much more expensive Cornwall (15" woofer) driven by tubes, resulting in a lot heftier bass (here), I'd prefer the Cornwall. But if you don't want to fuss, you are likely to find the Quartet (or Forte's) much easier to get quality bass from than the idiosyncratic Heresy (see here).
  • The Alnico Question Then there is this the BIG question. All Forte's and Quartet's are Ferrite. But Cornwall and Heresy can be had in earlier alnico versions. Personally, if obtainable, I'd prefer alnico. For more on alnico vs ferrite, and my experience with both ferrite and alnico La Scala, see here.
  • In Modern and Overall Terms Hoi's room and placement are not ideal, yet the sound was quite good: nothing vintage or outdated about them! I'd love to hear these further apart and more in-room, and more against the side walls; I think that will carve out a much bigger stage and generate heftier bass. I think there are a lot of room placement options for these, and they are relatively compact for what is on offer, making them suitable for smaller rooms. Apart from Klipsch, I can think of few designs that can wed horn virtues to conventional infinite baffle designs; that have good bass, yet retain high efficiency. IMHO, these are great speakers that can hold up against many much much more expensive modern speakers. They are very cheap, and Best Buys. 


  1. Did you also compare the ICL Softone DAC & Sony Blu ray player that is in the pic on top of the Marantz to the Micromega? I see your friend uses some type of power strip? What are your feelings/suggestions regarding power conditioning, surge protection, etc? I tend to plug my equipment directly into the wall if possible, especially the amp as it robs the dynamics otherwise but I use a cheap wiremold power strip for my other equipment.

  2. No, but I did previously own the ICL DAC, a very musical one imho.

    Like you, I find power conditioning usually restricts dynamics. I don't use any, but I do use a simple DIY power bar (without surge protection).