How do you translate: ...какие бы они там ни были?
Without context I would imagine
whatever they were?
regardless of their quality.
"Quality" is not really good translatation, since "какие" is wider than "quality". Anyway, "какие бы они там ни были" could be said in another words, "вне зависимости от их качеств".
Here is how the construction is built: "Какие они есть" = pointer to all possible qualities of the certain objects at the moment. For example, if referring to oranges, then it's color, aroma, weight and etc.
"Какие они были" = the same, but at the moment the one who says so has probably no access to the subject and cannot check whether the description it's still actual (for example, he does not know if oranges had rotten).
"Какие бы они ни были" = "бы" and "ни" indicates that the one who says so does not know and does not care. This part is hard to understand, but "какие бы ни были" is a common phrase indicating that the one who says so does not care about object qualities, he cares only about the object itself (no matter if they are rotten or green).
"Какие бы они там ни были" = "Какие бы они ни были", additional "там" means that the objects for now are far away, which is why the speaker does not care about the objects quality at all. "Какие бы они там ни были" is very informal form.
Thank you very much for your detailed answer, dutch dictonaries/ grammar couldn't help me, Rien– RienMay 13, 2016 at 11:52