The cabinet initially appears to be sealed but look closer and it’s apparent that there is a reflex port, a slot in fact, underneath the box which is raised above a plinth. Unlike front or rear firing ports, this provides a relatively predictable environment for Audiovector’s engineers to work with when designing the speaker. The back panel is plain except for a large aluminium terminal plate that presumably supports the crossover on the inside. One pair of cable terminals are provided, which simplifies connection but does mean that bi-wring/-amping is not an option. The base plinth extends the QR5’s footprint to improve the stability of what is quite a tall metre plus high cabinet and comes fitted with nylon bolts to suit a polished floor; attractive stainless conical spikes are supplied in the box. Magnetic grilles are also supplied for those that want to cover up the metalwork.
The QR5 is a relaxed and refined loudspeaker; it has wide bandwidth and an easy delivery that’s the perfect antidote to all those bright and zingy little boxes. Refinement is a rare thing in audio and in the QR5 that sophisticated sound does good things for tonal richness; voices sound fabulous, maybe a little bit rich, but more in a satisfying way than blurring the subtleties of expression and phrasing. In particular, the tweeter is fabulously smooth and effortless, which means that nothing grates even with less sophisticated recordings, where some adroit added charm can be a real boon. The guitar on Ryley Walker’s Golden Sings That Have Been Sung[Dead Oceans] sounds fabulous; the tone is gorgeous and helps you to appreciate what’s so special about this artist. It also does nothing to undermine the emotional power of the music; the climax of ‘Sullen Mind’ has all the drama of a genuine travesty. It’s mildly irritating that compression stops this from making the dynamic impact that it must have live, but the QR5 manages to bring out the charm of this commercial recording without ruffling any feathers in the process.
That initial experience was with the Arcam SA20 also reviewed this month (as it seems like a sensible system match, price wise). However, switching to my usual combo of Townshend Allegri Plus pre and ATC P2 power amp brought an increase in vibrancy and scale, with rather nice image depth to boot. This brought more life to the mid and treble and increased bass weight, proving that the QR5 has a lot to offer and is as much a slave to its partnering equipment as any decent loudspeaker. Under these circumstances it projected well into the room and delivered good dynamics. There is no substitute for power if you want to bring a piece of music to life and sensitivity is a key part of the equation. It’s why you get a big difference in level between albums with these speakers and some truly grumbly lows, especially when playing Raime’s ‘Coax’ [Tooth, Blackest Ever Black], a particularly deep and dark recording that often gets uncomfortable with smaller speakers, but retained its clean menace with the QR5.
The treble is also unusually clean. Ribbons usually sound sweeter than the domes found on most speakers and this is no exception. It lets you revel in the nuances that make certain artists and recordings more engaging than others. It can also cope with complex pieces of music without ever sounding mechanical thanks to the absence of the usual break up modes. Its timing is on the majestic side, however; the bass doesn’t stop and start with the quicksilver speed you need to get a strong sense of immediacy. This is not critical with all types of music but does lend anything percussive a realism that’s exciting. However, the piano playing of Patricia Barber on ‘Subway Station #5’ [A Distortion Of Love, Antilles] does ripple with a watery magic that’s quite beguiling. Also, while this characteristic is intrinsic to the loudspeaker, it can be strongly attenuated by careful source and amp selection. Pick a system that accents the beauty of sound rather than its energy and the Audiovector QR5 will react accordingly.