Personal review of Dahlquist QX10s (long)

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by FrankHW, May 26, 2003.

  1. FrankHW

    FrankHW Agent

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    This is my first post to this forum, and a lengthy one at that. First some background...I was looking for a new pair of mains for my 5.1 system. I was running an all-Axiom setup, with their top center channel (VP150), mid-line surrounds (QS4), top sub from their previous line, and entry tower (M40). We moved into a new place about 6 months ago, with a much larger and "deader" rec room, and the M40 wasn't cutting it for 2-channel music any longer. The bass wasn't filling the room, but more importantly its laid-back midrange performance was making music seem rather lifeless. While the knee-jerk reaction was to consider towers higher up in the Axiom line (like the flagship M80), there were a few reasons I was thinking of other brands. First off, Axiom has raised its Canadian prices substantially in the last year, and the local Axiom dealer (an absolute moron anyway) wasn't offering big discounts from on-line prices. Secondly, we had a new baby, and I just didn't have the time to seriously audition the other brands available locally (Wharfedale, Paradigm, Klipsch, B&W). I asked Marc Hallam at the Audioshop what he thought of the new Dahlquist towers compared to the Axiom lineup he was liquidating. After a few informative e-mails, I took a gamble on the QX10 factory seconds for a difference of 50 bucks compared to a pair of M80s on clearance. I've had enough experience listening to the M40s, M80s, and Paradigm Reference 100s to make comparisons.

    My electronics are the Arcam AVR100 receiver and CD72 CD player. I listen to 2-channel via direct analog hookup with a bypassed stereo signal. Interconnects are Acoustic Research Pro Series, with generic 12g speaker wire. The room is carpeted, and about 350 square feet, with 200 square foot the dedicated media area, open on the right. I listened to a variety of CDs, including Sarah MacLachlan, Diana Krall, Blue Rodeo, Annie Lennox, Our Lady Peace, Renee Fleming, Eagles, Sting, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, and miscellaneous classical. While I also tried out a bunch of movies, I'm just going to focus on the QX10's music performance.

    The first thing I noticed is that for so-called factory seconds, I could not find a blemish anywhere. The lacquer finish was flawless upon reasonably close inspection, and the front baffle and drivers had no marks on them at all. Score one for the QC at Dahlquist for considering these B-stock. The QX10 in lacquer looks classy without being so big it dominates the room (like the Paradigms). It passed the Wife Test with flying colors. I set them up 6 1/2 feet apart, toed in 5 degrees or so, with the listening position about 10 feet away. I tried not toeing in as per Marc's suggestion, but this was suboptimal for casual movie watching.

    No break-in time is really needed, as the QX10s sound fantastic right out of the box. Music sounds absolutely "right", with terrific balance and no harshness or distortion. The QX10s are easy to drive with the modestly powered Arcam, but still like the volume past the 1/2 way mark to get the bass kicking. Speaking of which, bass is punchy and very well controlled, with a kick drum sounding exactly like a kick drum. Great low-level detail in the bass as well...for example, on Diana Krall's When I Look in Your Eyes album, you can easily hear plucking of bass strings. I didn't quite feel the slam of the Paradigm 100s, but the bass performance was far superior to to the 600 $Cdn M40, and the room was easily filled. Listening to "Woke Up This Morning (theme from The Sopranos)", I didn't have any hunger for more low-frequency kick. I don't have any hip-hop/rap CDs to see how low the QX10s could go, but playing Sarah MacLachlan's "I Love You" from Surfacing (with some mid-30s bass), I needed the sub on to make the walls shake.

    Highs are also exceptionally clean and crisp, with no irritating bite. Even playing some very poorly remastered Coltrane tracks on a Ken Burns CD, there is absolutely no fatigue listening to the QX10. I can easily make out every keyboard and triangle note on Annie Lennox's Medusa CD, and all of them float on the air sounding sweet. Whether this is because of the soft backing to the alloy tweeter I don't know, but the Dahlquist tweeter sounds better than the highly-touted Axiom IMHO. Highs on the Axiom M80 may sound crisper, but also irritate at high volumes.

    Imaging is very precise, tall far beyond the height of the speakers, and nicely layered with a good recording like Clapton Unplugged. The downside to this is that recordings one might think have a well-engineered soundstage, it turns out do not. Through the Axioms, Kind of Blue placed the saxophones in left-center and right-center of the soundstage. On the QX10, they are more rigidly in the left and right channels, with the drums and piano collapsed to the sides as well. I suspect this is the more accurate representation, however, because on Blue Rodeo's "Hasn't Hit Me Yet" from Five Days in July, the QX10 clearly delineates the lead singers' voices from one another, something I have never heard on my old Axioms, or through a friend's Paradigms. The QX10s clarity and transpacency isn't on the level of electrostatics, but was easily comparable to Paradigm and Axiom.

    The real magic of the QX10, though, is its performance with female vocals. Marc had described female vocals through the Dahlquists as more realistic, something I have to take exception to...female vocals are UNreal on the QX10! Renee Fleming, Diana Krall, Annie Lennox, heck even Alanis Morrisette...female vocals hang in the air with a vibrancy and sweetness that defies description, and DARES you to not turn up the volume. I'm talking about a more satisfying listening experience than from a pair of $6000 Royds (and 9K in electronics) I heard at an upscale AV shop in Toronto. Hands-down winner over Axiom and Paradigm in this category.

    I am totally satisfied with my blind purchase of the new Dahlquist QX10s, and give them my strongest recommendation to anybody looking for a ludicrous bargain in a high-end speaker. If anyone out there has been worrying about buying a pair without an audition, don't. They are the real deal, and one of the most genuinely satisfying mid-priced speakers out there. You won't be disappointed.

    ...And of course, another big recommendation to Marc at Audioshop for great advice and service.
     
  2. Alex Dydula

    Alex Dydula Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah Baby!!

    I have a set for several months now and whole heartedly concur with your analysis.

    When I listened to Norah Jones and Diana Krall I was in 7th Heaven, these speakers for the price are absolutley AWESOME.

    I use them for 2 ch and for HT.

    They are NOT Boomy in the least, and I have listed to many of your above cuts and cd's and when you play a great cd with really awesome kick or snare drums, the 'whacks' sound sooooo cooool!! I foound when listening to them in my small room I had to play with placement, a few inches would have a profound impact on the bass response.

    I used to think they were thin on the low end, they are NOT fullrange speakers, but in the mid-bass to upper low bass they are really accurate and tight. I hardly use the subwoofer...its too muddy compared to the QX10's by themselves. The bass plucking in Diana Kralls "live in paris' are really nice...

    I was fortunate enough to get a set while the us dollar to canadian dollar was at an all time low and got what i would consider a really good deal.

    Marc is a top notch audiophile and was quite hapy with his interaction and all my questions and these speakers....

    I also have a set of QX-6s for my surrounds, these also are very fine speakers....

    Glad you like them.

    Alex
     
  3. Marc H

    Marc H Second Unit

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    Thanks gentlemen for your kind comments and for your business!
    The QX10 are indeed a treat and IMHO, THE best bang for the buck in a floorstanding speaker!

    Frank, were you able to trouble shoot that problem with the Axiom VP150Se alright?
     
  4. FrankHW

    FrankHW Agent

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    Hey, Marc.

    I actually have the pre-SE VP150, with the WTWTW driver arrangement. Haven't had the chance to do a lot of the experimentation you and Doug suggested (probably this weekend). I did try putting a pair of doorstops under the speaker to point it more towards the couch (the VP150 sits on a tall bigscreen 4:3 TV), which seems to make a difference in how loud I need to crank the volume. I'll keep you posted.

    BTW, the QX10s mate fine with the Axioms. A stickler would probably have a big problem with the timbre match across the front, but it's a really minor quibble.

    Regards,

    Frank
     
  5. James Bergeron

    James Bergeron Supporting Actor

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    Nice review Frank. I have had the QX10's for a few months now and let me tell you, when the break in your in for a real treat. I find the bass really got cleaner and deeper with more break in. My room is rather large with cathedral ceilings and a wood floor, yet these speakers seemed to adapt well. Like you said the female voices are sooo smooth and rich!

    I use them only for 2 channel, and I'm using ASL Wave 8's to drive them and they are always begging to be turned up more!

    The bass can be seductive on these speakers, I have listened to a few tracks where I have heard notes I just had not heard before, so deep and clean.

    Great speakers, especially for the money! And they blend VERY well with my decor as well.
     
  6. Jason Co

    Jason Co Second Unit

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    Marc,
    How would the X10's compare to the M50's?

    J
     
  7. FrankHW

    FrankHW Agent

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    Jason,

    If I can throw in my opinion, you'll find the QX10 to be a much better buy than the M50 if you can afford it. The M50 is a great speaker for rock or blues music, but without a dedicated midrange driver, it lags behind the higher Axiom towers with vocals. The QX10 vs M60/80 is more likely a matter of taste, room size, and electronics than superiority per se.
     
  8. Jason Co

    Jason Co Second Unit

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    Frank,
    Actually I already own the m50's...lol. Always interested in what's good out there for a good price and if they outperform the M50's then I might give them a good listen or look. Frank you have your Q's matched up with Axioms? How does that sound to you?

    J
     
  9. Marc H

    Marc H Second Unit

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    Hiya Jason,
    Not a fair comparison, the QX10 is a much more expensive speaker than the M50TiSe with quite a bit more engineering in the components. They would be a fair upgrade from the M50 in many ways and you are entirely welcome too if you should choose; our shop has a one year upgrade policy on loudspeakers. They are a four ohm speaker but your Parasound wouldn't have any problems with that. I'm still keeping an eye out for QS8 for you BTW.

    Hiya Frank,
    Angling the VP150 is absolutely necessary as you have discovered. Makes for a big difference, eh? I'm quite fond of the version you have too. It's 50% heavier than the current version and I think that pays off in the sound.
     
  10. FrankHW

    FrankHW Agent

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    Jason,

    The Dallys are fine with the Axiom center and surrounds. There are instances when you can hear a change in tone (eg. voice moving from the center channel to a main), but this is so minor to me relative to stereo performance, I would hardly consider it a deal-breaker. Then again, I readily gave up DPL2, 6.1 and component switching by choosing the Arcam 100 over the Denon 2802...if you have strict demands from your system with movies, you may not want to mix brands.
     
  11. Jason Co

    Jason Co Second Unit

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    Marc,
    I would be interested in finding out more about your upgrade policy. You can shoot me an e-mail if you want. [email protected]


    J
     
  12. Marc H

    Marc H Second Unit

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    Hi Jason,
    Will do. I'll write to you in a few minutes with the costs. Basically, as long as you still have the boxes and packing for your M50TiSe, you can use the $630.00CAD I charged you for them against the QX10 cost plus shipping.
     
  13. AllenLC

    AllenLC Agent

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    I have been out for a while and did a search using Dahlquist as the key word. Nice to see the speakers I have being complemented.
    I too purchased from Marc. Great Experience! I have All Dahlquist in 7.1 HT. All set to large. 2 QX10s' 4 QX6s' 1 QX60c and an old Infinity BU2 12" 200 watt sub. Using Onkyo's TX-SR800, We are Rocking the house. Gonna get a SV Sub Soon.

    Click on my gear page.
     

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