q acoustics 5040 loudspeaker finishes

Q Acoustics 5040 Loudspeakers: Breaking Away

Everyone loves losers. Having been one of them for most of my life, I have a special place in my heart for those who win when no one expects such an outcome. Those who refuse to give up and continue to work until they overtake the mighty who sit on the iron throne. Q Acoustics was an underdog when it came to British loudspeaker manufacturers, but no more.

Not only do they make some of the best speakers for the money right now on both sides of the ocean, but they also make some of the best period speakers for those of us who really care about the best sound quality. The Concept 30 and Q Acoustics 5040 we just reviewed are prime examples of this and based on the market reaction at the moment – consumers really wanted the 5000 series to be something special given the line’s price range, and they were rewarded.

When listening to the 5040 in the last two weeks with two additional amplifiers; Rotel S14 streaming amplifier and NAD C 316BEE V2 integrated amplifier, it dawned on me how much has changed in the entry and mid-range categories over the past few years.

A pair of Q Acoustics 5040 loudspeakers with and without grilles

Very few of us have to play with inexpensive speakers and components; and although I have access to many products from dozens of manufacturers in this range, they no longer excite me. Not like products like Q Acoustics 5040, Cambridge Audio CXA81, Naim Uniti Atom or Pro-Ject X2B Turntable.

Access to sonic nirvana has never been more accessible, and while not every manufacturer is interested in this part of the market, there is no doubt that consumers are; especially those who are new to our little corner of the galaxy and jumped into it due to the resurgence of vinyl and the exponential growth of digital music streaming.

Did you find my iPhone in Indiana?

Indiana has become popular again as a setting very strange thingsbut my movie memory brings me back to smaller films like HoosersAnd coming off who defended the loser; Video footage of the championship game and the winning basket are certainly an emotional high, but the final moments of the race, when the Cutters win the famous hometown bike race against rich Indiana University snobs, are a real moment of triumph for working-class kids. Dennis Quaid and Paul Dooley are especially strong in the film and it never lost its charm. Available on Amazon.

Starting from an outsider angle, it only makes sense to explain why the Q Acoustics 5040 got me so excited; their ability to work so great with amps ranging from $500 to $6,500 is not how things are usually done in this category.

As I mentioned in my original review, the 5040s demonstrated they could rise to the occasion when powered by something like the $6,500 Cambridge Audio Edge A integrated amplifier; an amp that I usually use with the Magnepan LRS and most recently with the excellent Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3. My review of the 703 S3 is due this month and the three speakers offer a completely different approach to sound reproduction.

Which one is better? They all do certain things better than the other two speakers, and given the price difference between the three of them, this was pretty interesting to discover.

The review process for the 5040 and 703 S3 slowed down a bit when someone broke into our car last week and stole my iPhone 12, which is used as a remote control for a wide variety of streaming devices and platforms; the way he ended up in Indiana made me think about the state of my fellow Americans at the moment. Luckily, my little sister lent me her spare iPad while I waited for Verizon and Apple to prepare a new iPhone replacement for me.


NAD C 316BEE V2 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

Looking at the numbers, a $500 NAD integrated amplifier shouldn’t be a perfect match for the 5040, but as I found with the Q Acoustics 3050i, the numbers can be very deceiving.

45 watts is enough to drive the 5040 in a room like mine (16 x 13 x 9 feet), but tonal balance and speed are more important in this particular case. The 5040 is more neutral-sounding than the larger 3050i, and the NAD offers just enough boost in the upper bass and lower mids to shift the overall tonal balance in a very positive direction.

NAD’s treble energy elicited a rather polite sound from the 3050i, and we were curious to see how this would translate into the 5040 with more open treble, more detail, and a slightly crisper overall sound.

After listening to Amy Winehouse, Dvorak, Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard and Ben Folds, it was obvious that my Clarus speaker cables didn’t work as well with the NAD/Q Acoustics combination as they did with the Cambridge/5040 setup.

Clarus is gone and I replaced the QED Reference XT40i and Analysis Plus Black Oval 12 Loudspeaker Cables; both cables cost 1/10th the cost of the cables they replaced.

QED is the more neutral-sounding of the two and has changed the tonal balance of NAD very little. Overall, Analysis Plus sounds warmer, with less detail, and definitely adds more color to the overall presentation.

The more important point is that the rather inexpensive QED and Analysis Plus cables were a better fit than the Clarus.

Corner of the Cambridge Audio MXN10 network player

NAD worked well with both Bluesound NODE and Cambridge Audio MXN10 network players; both devices have added some color to almost every track with NAD, which I think is positive.

The MXN10 digs a little deeper in terms of detail and sounds a bit more transparent than the NODE; the Bluesound turntable rounds the edges at both extremes, and this may appeal to some with the 5040 if you’re looking for a tighter-sounding low end.

The NAD C 316BEE V2 can certainly handle the 5040, but don’t expect a small Canadian amp to drive a speaker with the same degree of authority as the much larger Edge A.

In terms of speed, NAD highlights the 5040’s excellent pace and timing quite well.

Also read: PERLISTEN’s S7t Limited Edition Loudspeakers Unveiled: High-End Munich 2023

Rotel S14 Streaming Amplifier

Rotel S14 Black Front Integrated Streaming Amplifier with Remote Control
Built-in streaming amplifier Rotel S14

I must admit that I struggled with the S14 from the beginning of the review process; and not because it’s not a very good sounding mains amplifier. My problem is that it doesn’t excite me as much as the Rotel A14MKII integrated amplifier, and this came as a surprise.

Paired with the Bluesound NODE or the Cambridge MXN10 A14MKII is a more expensive proposition than the S14 mains amp, but it just makes the music move with more immediacy and swagger.

Rotel A14MKII integrated amplifier, front, silver
Integrated amplifier Rotel A14MKII

The A14MKII seems to have more to offer and the overall presentation sounds more transparent. The S14 might throw off the 5040 and 3050i, but it feels too loose in my book, and I never really got into the presentation.

The bass response with any Rotel amp was thicker than tight, and that’s perhaps not the worst of the 5040, which already has a very well defined low response, but without the visceral impact of the 3050i.

I may have to listen to the Rotel/5040 combo again, but my first impression of the S14 was less than inspiring.

Q Acoustics 5040 Loudspeaker, rear corner in oak


Three very different sounding amps from Unison Research, Marantz and NAD.

Have I found my favorite combination? You will be very surprised by the final system configuration.

Where can I buy: $1499/ couple in Crutchfield

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