QR 7 recommended by John Atkinson

STEREOPHILE (US)

Although Danish company Audiovector was founded in 1979, I had very little experience of its loudspeakers, other than at audio shows (footnote 1), until I measured the Audiovector R 8 Arreté that Jim Austin reviewed in May 2021. Jim nominated the R 8 as his “Editor’s Choice” for 2021, writing that “The gorgeous-looking Audiovector took me by surprise, doing things with imaging that I’ve never heard another loudspeaker do (like hearing a bass note directly behind another bass note).” Jim concluded that the R 8 “is a complicated speaker that sounds simple, sweet, and coherent.”

At $75,000/pair, the R 8 Arreté—second from the top in Audiovector’s R series—is an expensive speaker, so it should offer superb sound quality. I think it was Laurie Fincham of THX, then with KEF, who told me more than 40 years ago that the challenge for an engineer is designing a loudspeaker that offers high performance for a low price. Audiovector’s QR 7, which was formally introduced at the 2022 High End Munich show, costs less than a tenth of the R 8’s price—just $6500/pair.

The QR7
Audiovector’s founder, Ole Klifoth, is today the company’s R&D manager; his son, Mads Klifoth, now runs the company, as CEO. I was told that Ole and his staff spent 24 months on the design of the QR 7, working to incorporate Audiovector’s “unique family DNA” in a loudspeaker that’s significantly more affordable than any in the company’s R series.

The QR 7 is the flagship of Audiovector’s QR range. It is a relatively large, three-way tower, standing almost 45″ high. All the enclosure’s surfaces are finished in a real-wood veneer. The cabinet is raised about a half-inch above a black, rectangular base plate by four cylindrical feet. A downward-firing rectangular port at the front of the cabinet’s base reflex-loads two 8″ woofers. These woofers use sandwich cones made from two layers of aluminum on either side of a damping material. The drivers lack dustcaps but have substantial half-roll surrounds; Audiovector says the drivers feature “Pure Piston Technology,” which allows them to operate in their passband “without the distortion normally found in aluminum/diamond drive units.” The woofers cross over to the 6″ midrange unit at 425Hz, which is mounted above them. This driver, too, uses a “Pure Piston Technology” aluminum-sandwich cone. All three of the lower-frequency units use “low-hysteresis” voice-coils, large magnets, and “rigid turbulence-suppressing” baskets.

The rectangular Air Motion Transformer tweeter at the top of the front baffle takes over above 3kHz. A rose-colored, gold-plated dispersion mesh in front of the diaphragm is said to control sibilants; Audiovector calls this mesh an “S-Stop filter.” Audiovector emphasizes that it engineers its drive units in-house before subcontracting their manufacture. Such careful engineering is necessary partly because Audiovector employs first-order, 6dB/octave crossover filters, which means the drivers must be well-behaved beyond the crossover frequencies, which won’t necessarily be true for bought-in drive units. Electrical connection is via a single pair of binding posts at the bottom of the QR 7’s rear panel.

Made in Denmark
Given the QR 7’s competitive price, I wondered whether, like many loudspeaker models in this price range, it was made in China. However, both the QR 7’s manual and packaging say “Handmade in Denmark,” while the plate on each speaker’s rear panel says “Designed and Engineered in Denmark by Audiovector.” I asked Audiovector’s Brand Manager, P.J. Zornosa, for clarification.

“Actually, the assembly is in Copenhagen,” he replied. “Some components, eg, cabinets, are made elsewhere. We polish the cabinets, test, manufacture [the] crossovers, provide measured amounts of dampening in Denmark.” P.J. went on to explain that because more than 50% of the labor and components involved in the QR 7’s manufacture are local, Audiovector is authorized by the Danish government to label the loudspeaker “Made in Denmark.” The terminal plate indicates that both speakers were assembled by “SKS.” (footnote 2)

Setting up
The main source of music was my Roon Nucleus+ server feeding audio data over my network to an MBL N31 CD player/DAC, which was connected to a pair of Parasound Halo JC 1+ monoblocks. The Audiovector speakers were single-wired with AudioQuest Robin Hood cable. I didn’t use the QR 7s’ magnetically attached grilles.

Determining the optimal positions for the QR 7s took longer than I expected. I started with them located where the Q Acoustics Concept 50s, which I reviewed in the August 2022 issue, had been, but this resulted in exaggerated low frequencies. I moved them farther out in the room to where the Wilson Alexia 2s, which I reviewed in February 2018, had worked best. While this gave a relatively even low- and midbass balance, there was now too much upper bass. I ended up with the loudspeakers’ front baffles 88″ from the wall behind them, the center of the right-hand speaker’s baffle 52″ from the books that line its closest sidewall, and that of the left-hand speaker 43″ from the LPs that line its sidewall. These positions gave the smoothest transition from the low bass through to the lower midrange.

Optimal top-octave balance was obtained with the speakers toed-in directly toward the listening position. With the QR 7 fitted with its carpet-piercing spikes, its tweeter is 42″ from the floor, significantly higher than the 36″ height of my ears when I am sitting in my listening chair. When I listened to the dual-mono pink-noise track on my Editor’s Choice CD (Stereophile STPH016-2), the tonal balance acquired some upper-midrange emphasis and a slightly nasal quality when I raised myself so that my ears were level with the tweeters. At my normal ear height, the upper midrange sounded full but with a smoother transition to the low treble. (Interestingly, there were virtually no differences in the quasi-anechoic frequency responses on the two axes—see the Measurements sidebar.)

Listening
The QR 7s cleanly reproduced the 1/3-octave warble tones on the Editor’s Choice CD down to the 40Hz band, with the 63Hz and 32Hz tones reinforced by room modes. The 25Hz tone was clearly audible at my usual listening level, but I couldn’t hear the 20Hz tone. The warble tones sounded very clean, with no distortion. The half-step–spaced tonebursts on Editor’s Choice spoke cleanly and evenly down to 32Hz, though those between 512Hz and 1kHz were slightly accentuated. Listening to the enclosure’s walls with a stethoscope while the tonebursts played, I could hear some vibrational modes in the octave above 256Hz, but nothing that I am concerned about.

The dual-mono pink-noise track on Editor’s Choice was reproduced as a narrow, stable central image, with no splashing to the sides at any frequency. My Fender bass guitar on the channel ID and channels-in-phase tracks on this CD sounded powerful, as did the loping bassline from the inestimable Willie Weeks on “Hold On,” from Steve Winwood’s 1977 solo album (16/44.1 ALAC, ripped from Island CD 422 842 77402). Both bass guitars—mine on the Editor’s Choice track and Weeks’s on Steve Winwood—were reproduced with an excellent combination of low-frequency weight and leading-edge definition.

The low synth-bass lines in “Le Chat Noir,” from saxophonist Philippe Chrétien’s Noir (16/44.1 FLAC, Tidal/Par Coeur), sounded weighty and even, with no undue emphasis at any frequency. The thudding kickdrum and the immense dropped-bass notes on will.i.am’s and Justin Bieber’s “#thatPOWER” from #willpower (16/44.1 MQA, Interscope Records UICS-9136/7) sounded powerful yet clean, even at a B-weighted SPL (slow ballistics) that reached 92.5dB.

Both the image of Chrétien’s tenor sax and that of Justin Bieber’s overcooked vocal were pushed a little forward in the soundstage, though this was more evident when I first installed the Audiovector speakers in my system than it was later. (Whether this was due to the speakers breaking in or to me acclimating to their sound I cannot say.) Solo piano is always revealing of midrange balance issues, so I followed “#thatPOWER” with an album from one my favorite pianists, Martha Argerich, specifically her Rachmaninov: Music for Two Pianos (16/44.1 FLAC, Qobuz/Warner Classics). When Nelson Goerner joins Ms. Argerich on the Symphonic Dances Suite Op.45, both pianos sounded clean, with powerful low frequencies. The upper midrange did sound a little forward, though without any clanginess or with any notes unduly emphasized compared with those adjacent in pitch.

Rachmaninoff—both mine and the composer’s preferred spelling, if not Warner Classics’s—naturally led to Brahms, specifically Clifford Curzon’s majestic 1962 performance of the Piano Concerto No.1 from Clifford Curzon: Decca Recordings 1944–1970 Vol.4 (16/44.1 FLAC, Tidal/Decca). The image of the London Symphony Orchestra surrounding the piano had relatively good soundstage depth. The double basses and cellos sounded warm, and while there was some emphasis of the piano’s left-hand register, it was still in good balance with the instrument’s higher frequencies.

Other than the weightier low frequencies, the QR 7’s high-frequency balance on this recording reminded me of that of the Q Acoustics Concept 50. I therefore played a recording I had used to reach my conclusions about the British speaker, Canadian pianist Robert Silverman performing Schubert’s Moments Musicaux, which I recorded live (16/44.1 ALAC, from Concert, Stereophile STPH005-2). As it had with the Concept 50s, the piano sounded a touch more forward than I am used to, though the sound was superbly clean and detailed.

Nothing about the QR 7’s high frequencies called attention to its tweeter. Billy Drummond’s cymbals on the Jerome Harris Quintet’s Rendezvous album (16/44.1 ALAC, rip from Stereophile STPH013-2) sounded natural, as did the shaker at the start of “North Dakota,” from Lyle Lovett’s Live in Texas (16/44.1 FLAC, Qobuz/Curb). While the treble is a little on the hot side on this album compared with the version of the song on Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth (16/44.1 FLAC, Tidal/Curb), the speakers didn’t seem to be emphasizing sibilants. And both Viktor Krauss’s bass on the live album and Edgar Meyer’s bass on the studio album were reproduced with a nice amount of weight, coupled with a satisfying purr.

I finished my auditioning of the Audiovector QR 7s with a recent discovery, thanks to BBC Radio 3’s Night Tracks program: Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten. The version I found with Roon was performed by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, conducted by Michael Convertino, from the soundtrack album for the movie Mother Night (16/44.1 FLAC, Tidal/Varèse Sarabande). The work starts with a softly struck chime then continues with increasingly complex orchestration based on a descending A-minor scale.

Listening to this work, I was reminded of what Jim Austin wrote about Audiovector’s R 8 Arreté: that it did things “like hearing a bass note directly behind another bass note.” With the QR 7s, I felt I could follow the overlapping lines of every instrument as it descended into an increasingly rich tapestry woven from held notes on the instruments that had preceded it. Tonal warmth was combined with clarity but without confusion.

Conclusion
At $6500/pair, Audiovector’s QR 7 is competitively priced, though it is up against other floorstanding speakers in this price region, such as the PSB Synchrony T600 ($7999/pair), which I reviewed in November 2021, and the Canton Reference 7 K ($6995/pair), which I reviewed in September 2021. The Audiovector offers a different balance of qualities than those two loudspeakers: While its midrange has a little more character than the PSB, its highs are more neutral-sounding than the Canton’s, and it offers more extended, more powerful-sounding low frequencies than either of those speakers. The QR 7 will work best in medium- to large-sized rooms. Recommended.

Read the full review here


Footnote 1: Jack English reviewed the Audiovector VI for Stereophile in August 1996.

Footnote 2: Mads Klifoth confirmed that these are the initials of the technician—Steffen—who assembled this pair of speakers.—Jim Austin

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