Q Acoustics 5040 loudspeakers
The new Q Acoustics 5040 has me wondering whether somewhere in their sound labs, Q Acoustics’ engineers have secret ingredients in bottles labelled ‘Thrills’, ‘Spills’ and ‘Miscellaneous audio wizardry’. I’ve now had the pleasure of listening to several different speakers from this Hertfordshire-headquartered company, and every time my opening and closing thoughts have always been the same: how do they do that? Each time, the performance is nothing short of breath-taking, and the 5040s are no exception. So, how do Q Acoustics do that?
What lies beneath
The 5040s are part of Q’s new 5000 range announced earlier this year which also includes a larger floorstander as well as bookshelf, standmount, and home cinema speakers. The line-up inherits the cabinet and driver innovations used in the company’s flagship Concept range, such as the Concept 50 reviewed last year. But what characterises the 5000 models is Q Acoustics’ new ‘Continuous Curved Cone’ or C3 mid/bass driver design.
The aim here is to combine the lower frequency performance benefits of a conventional straight conic cone with the high/mid-range frequency control of a flared design. According to the firm, the creation of a single, smooth, continuous curve profile offers several benefits. These are said to include: “excellent” dispersion, “well-controlled” frequency response, smoother integration with the tweeter, and “superior” deep bass dynamics.
In terms of the latter, Q Acoustics adds that a tighter, damped low-end sound allows more flexibility in placement of speakers near the walls of the listening room. Because the cone’s geometry requires good motor strength for optimal performance, the 5040s feature what’s described as “substantial” magnets that are combined with large voice coils. Q Acoustics says this increases motor strength and claims it results in a 50 per cent increase in power handling and control over a comparable driver with 25.4 mm voice coil.
As with the Concept series, the 5040’s high frequency driver unit is hermetically sealed and mechanically isolated, or floating, from the baffle. This is designed to reduce internal pressure modulations from within the cabinet and adjacent mid/bass driver. Other Q Acoustic innovations used in these speakers include the firm’s Point-2-Point bracing to damp low-end frequency reverberations within the cabinets, and specially designed Helmholtz pressure equaliser tubes to prevent unwanted standing waves and coloration that are caused by the internal build-up of pressure within floorstanding loudspeakers.
To provide further control of vibration, the baffle fronts are laminated with a layer of butyl rubber and black acrylic trim. This also creates a clean and aesthetically pleasing fascia without any visible fixings. Solid aluminium stabiliser legs are included and these are fixed to the base of each cabinet and also feature top adjustable spikes for easier levelling adjustment.
The 5040 also has a newly designed terminal panel with metal securing nuts for low contact resistance and compatibility with 4mm plugs, bare wires or spade connectors on the speaker cable. The terminals have been designed with a very low profile to keep plugs close to the back panel which, says the firm, also results in a tidy appearance and allows the speaker to be positioned closer to the back wall if needed. Finally, all the models in the 5000 range are available in a choice of four finishes that include satin black and white plus rosewood and oak. That’s how Q Acoustics does it. And it works.
Q Acoustics 5040 performance
The thing that immediately struck me once I was ready to play with the 5040s was just how alive they sounded. For instance, I’ve recently been hooked on digging out remastered tracks from my youth courtesy of Spotify, and had the urge to listen to Three Minute Hero from ska revivalist band the Selecter. As soon as it kicks in, you get this uncanny feeling that there’s a real life drummer behind each drive unit, pounding those paper cones.
Staying with early eighties ska, and the guitar riffs of The Beat’s Stand Down Margaret has the 5040s bristling with vibrancy. The performance here is effortless and with high energy to boot. I really wanted to get these speakers to break out into a sweat, and so I upped the tempo and lower frequency levels with some old school Dutch trance. The Qs remain unfazed.
High octane tracks such as Moonman’s Don’t Be Afraid or CM’s Dream Universe come across with solid confidence, even with the volume cranked higher than what I would normally have for regular listening. All those innovations to reduce coloration and unwanted resonances that have become hallmarks of Q Acoustics really do work. The company says that reduced harmonic distortion ensures that its 5000 series deliver a sonic performance and wide soundstage that “belies its ranking”. The 5040s provide ample proof of that. They finely carve out instruments and vocals and then serve them as a well-integrated whole.
Listen to Vilde Frang’s masterful violin and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne performing Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor (a 2009 Warner Classics CD recording) and the entire piece is etched out in the finest detail to create a breath-taking aural picture in front of you that never fails to captivate. And the performance is always consistent – even with older and less well-produced recordings, the 5040s still impress with that energy and vibrancy. Of course, the better the recording, the bigger the thrills.
The downtempo electronica on Two Lanes’ Back To You with vocals by Trøves sweeps across the soundscape and fills the room with a clean sound that’s fresh and engaging, leaving you wanting more. Go to the other extreme and the solo piano of Parra for Cuva’s beautiful Belle de Jour and I defy you not to fall completely in love with the awesome Q Acoustics 5040 speakers.
The bottom line
If you’re looking to spend around a £1,000 and are in the market for some classy and comparatively compact floorstanders, put the 5040s at the top of your shortlist. You will be hard pressed to find something more musically rewarding.