I tried the Q-2 with all sorts of speakers, including the Hsu Research HB-1 Mk2, the PSB Imagine Mini and a pair of bookshelf speakers I built using high-efficiency, full-range Super 6.5 Cast Frame drivers from Audio Nirvana. I even tried using the Q-2 to power a pair of MartinLogan ElectroMotion ESL electrostatic speakers.
Used with a pair of PSB Imagine Minis on my desktop, the Q-2 delivered pretty nice sound, with decent stereo imaging and surprisingly full bass. The treble sounded somewhat coarse at times, though, with a little bit of distortion creeping in now and then on dynamic peaks. At typical desktop listening levels, though, I seldom noticed these flaws unless I was really listening for them. Unless you’re using your desktop system for critical applications like mixing or editing audio tracks, the Q-2 should deliver enough power and sound quality to keep you happy.
To see what the Q-2 would do in my listening room, I first connected it to the MartinLogans. Seeing the Q-2 hooked up to the 52-inch-high ElectroMotion ESLs was like watching a Chihuahua trying to hump a Great Dane, but the speaker’s 91 dB rated sensitivity actually made it an okay match for the Q-2. I found I could play typical pop/rock fare, such as Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything, at an average of 80 to 83 dB SPL, which for me is a normal, casual listening level. The Q-2 drove the ElectroMotion ESL’s 8-inch woofers surprisingly well; I even felt the vibrations of the bass in my chair. But when singers started to hit high notes, and when the music got more dynamic, the Q-2 sounded ragged, with noticeable distortion.
I got about 3 dB more usable output when I switched to the Audio Nirvana full-range speakers. With these speakers, I could play the Q-2 loud enough to give me the visceral feeling I like when I’m playing pop/rock music. Again, the bass sounded tighter and fuller than I expected. However, peaks in the Audio Nirvana driver’s treble response emphasized the Q-2’s not-so-smooth top end.
The Hsu HB-1 Mk2 proved, by far, to be the most synergistic match for the Q-2. The speaker’s relatively high sensitivity allowed me to play the system at satisfying levels, the sound was well-balanced and the Hsu’s horn tweeter, to my surprise, seemed to smooth out the Q-2’s treble. The HB-1 Mk2 was the only speaker with which the Q-2 sounded good on Toto’s “Rosanna”; with the other speakers, singer Bobby Kimball’s voice sounded strained and distorted when he hit the high notes.
Keeping the HB-1 Mk2s on the stands, I switched to the Topping TP30 amplifier, which Parts Express currently sells for $128.90. The TP30 is rated at 10 watts into 8 ohms, and even with the levels matched with the Q-2, the improvement was obvious. The TP30 was more dynamic; delivered tighter, more powerful bass; and sounded smoother in the treble. In this case, a few watts makes a big difference.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.