Compact speaker systems can be real problem-solvers in small rooms thanks to their size and cosmetic appeal, but their inherent lack of cabinet volume means they’re not always the most commanding performers.

Conversely, larger bookshelf speakers offer more grunt but they’re often too boxy and bulky to get the green light from the rest of the household. This conflict between matters aesthetic and acoustic can make choosing a speaker system a real pain in the tweeter.

Help is at hand in the form of Quad’s L-ite Plus 5.1 package, which offers slightly larger satellites than most compact systems without hogging space like bookshelf boxes.

This system comes with four identical satellites – each measuring 248mm high – plus a centre speaker and active subwoofer, all packed into a single box. At £1,200, the package will out-price budget buyers, but isn’t prohibitively expensive either. All of the components are available separately should you wish to expand to 7.1 or downsize to 2.1 (the satellites cost £250 per pair; centre £200; subwoofer £600).

I whipped out the satellites and was instantly smitten – the cabinets are curvier than a catwalk queen and thickly smothered in High-Gloss Black, White or Ruby Red lacquer. Our white samples glimmer and gleam under test room lights like buffed-up BMWs and slink into place without drawing undue attention, despite their larger-than-usual dimensions.

The sats’ contoured top and side panels also serve a sonic purpose, namely to aid dispersion of sound from the drive units. The cabinets taper towards a rear panel equipped with high-quality metal binding posts. This is illustrative of the good overall build quality.

Those who like a minimal frontage can keep the black cloth grilles attached, which form a striking contrast with the white finish. Remove them and they reveal a 4in woven Kevlar midbass cone and 1in fabric dome tweeter, both fixed to a firm butyl rubber surround. It’s all very easy on the eye.

Shouldering dialogue duties is a 382mm-wide centre speaker that can be placed in a supplied tabletop cradle. It features two of the midbass cones, either side of a 1in tweeter that uses a precision-engineered waveguide to supposedly aid coherence between mid and high frequencies.

The LF-66 subwoofer is remarkably well-made for the money. Like the other speakers, its weighty, solid cabinet is covered in multiple layers of lacquer. Inside, a 200W amplifier powers two mechanically opposed 6in bass drivers, composite cones comprising one layer of woven carbon fibre sandwiched between two layers of glass fibre. Try asking for that in Subway.

Superheroic sound

Hooked up to my AVR and fed with Man of Steel’s spectacular DTS-HD mix, the L-ite Plus system conjures up a big, beguiling soundstage peppered with lucid detail and dynamically-steered effects. I was taken aback by the clarity of the sound and its utterly immersive staging. With more cabinet capacity than your average compact speaker, the satellites dispatch action scenes into the room with power and scale, while their accurate effect placement and wide dispersion put you at the heart of the action.

As Krypton is destroyed during the movie’s entertaining first fifteen minutes, spaceships blow up chunks of the landscape with huge, bass-rich explosions, and as Jor-El’s flying beast swoops down you can hear and feel it screeching and beating its wings above you.

But what makes L-ite Plus an especially likeable performer is its unflappable nature, particularly with the volume up high. As Superman and Zod wreak their brand of interplanetary havoc across Metropolis, midrange and high frequencies stay smooth and easy on the ear. The Quad shows little sign of fatigue no matter how much Zack Snyder cranks up the action.

However, some listeners might crave a little more bite and aggression – the Quad’s smooth sound errs on the side of caution, which reduces the overall excitement levels – but I was still easily seduced by their silky charms.

There’s also a wonderful sense of cohesion across the entire system, ably demonstrated as Kal tries out his newly acquired powers of flight and swooshes from speaker to speaker without any discernible difference in tone.

The subwoofer also puts in a shift, melding well with the satellites and reinforcing low frequencies with greater punch and depth than its size and driver array would suggest. There’s a solidity and control to bass notes that makes transient effects like footsteps and gunfire sound tight, nimble and – most importantly – realistic. Bigger, more expensive woofers deliver deeper thrills, of course, but it's certainly good for the price.

At the other end of the spectrum, high frequencies are crisp, airy and unflustered by rising volume. As Lois and Kal reunite by his dad’s grave, the soundstage is alive with chirping crickets and distant traffic, while their hushed conversation is clearly audible. The shouty face-offs between Jor-El and Zod on Krypton also provide evidence of the system’s top-drawer speech handling – the L-ite cabinets pick out the little vocal nuances that can go unheard on cheaper speakers.

Switching over to music, the Quad stays true to its hi-fi roots with a highly impressive rendition of Miles Davis’ Blue In Green and Nirvana’s In Bloom. Played back to back, they give a sense of the system’s versatility – it treats the former’s languid, shuffling jazz tones with the utmost respect, keeping the crackly detail intact and nailing the rich texture of John Coltrane’s sax solo. With the latter, the Quad’s excellent dynamics handle the sudden flits from moody verse to anthemic chorus.

So, if you want a 5.1 system with more clout than compacts, Quad’s L-ite Plus is worth an audition. It’s a smooth, expressive performer with decent dynamics, top-drawer detail fidelity and plenty of power when the scene demands it. The stylish cabinets will also attract admiring looks. I like it.