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To appreciate later sonic comments as logical instead of wildly hyperbolic, it's instructive to first visualize the desktop. At its most elemental, it's a disciplined exercise in wholesale miniaturization. Desktop speakers will maximally spread three feet center to center. If they're bracketing a monitor as tightly as I did in the third image below, they could sit a lot closer still. Their height will be at most two feet off the ground wherein the virtual floor is of course our table's surface. The effective soundstage window is thus three feet wide by two feet tall. The presence of a monitor already psychologically limits depth. It's literally in the way. We're thus dealing with a miniaturized stage peopled by two-feet performers. It would be a gross cognitive disconnect to hear gut-wrenching 30Hz bass from a micro upright. To be realistic i.e. proportionate, the desk-top must scale back everything interrelatedly. This naturally includes LF response. And once you limit bass extension, a counteracting limit in the highest treble becomes relevant to maintain proper tonal balance.

There's more of course. Your listening distance will be roughly one meter. This seriously reduces input voltage requirements to sound loud. What at one meter will sound subjectively loud -- i.e. fill out the small space set up between speakers and seat -- is far lower than in a farfield-type living room. And except for the floor bounce of the table top, the usual room interactions are much reduced. Your ears are closer to the speakers than the ceiling and side walls.
For most intents and purposes then, desk-top listening is closer to the direct sound of headphones than the ambient-rich sound of normal speakers. What gets miniaturized by design are room ambiance, soundstage scale, dynamics and bandwidth requirements.

But there's more. Due to the short listening distance, the driver spacing of even compact two-ways is nearly too large to fully cohere at the ear. Ideally you'd want a small dual-concentric to approach point-source behavior. Faced with this requirement plus their cost limitations to sell cheaply, what would have been the smallest driver Qinpu could use to not require a separate tweeter? And how big would it have to be to do sufficient bass? Most people would answer two to four inches. Anthony Gallo's famous spheres opted for three or four inches respectively. Audience's line-source array went for three. Qinpu went with two times two. For the visible 'fullranger', it means point-source behavior. And because all desk top listening occurs at objectively far lower outputs than usual, it's imperative for speakers to come on song rapidly. The less energy gets absorbed here by a crossover, the better.

For a 24" monitor, the sub-as-stand notion is on the tall side. For a 17" monitor, it could be just right.

Against this basic back drop, we can now appreciate why the puny Qinpus could be giant killers on the desk top. In matters of appropriate downscaling, the V1.8s did all the right things to become the highlight of this assignment. They embody the best of the non-shouty zero-order (crossover-less) religion and require just a skoch of bass fill from the SW5. Even without assistance, they relegate the waveguided NuForce equivalents in their far bigger enclosures to second place. The tiny rosewood boxes have more inner substance to not become insufferable on their own account though an 8:00 o'clock assist on the SW5's attenuator quickly reminds of what's lacking without.

To demonstrate the sub/sat array in its best light, I used the black box as central monitor stand to have path-length equality for the high handover and render the frequency split from stereo to mono inaudible. The provided speaker cable leads were too short to move the amp off the desk so it got parked in front of the SW5. Firing down on tempered glass wouldn't have been ideal at pumped-up settings but at my preferred subtle fill-in levels, there were no issues. In my wife's setup, the SW5 moved on the floor below her desk.

The V1.8s were surprisingly capable to well exceed the volumes I enjoy in the nearfield. They suffered no practical limitations in that regard. Their performance was ultimately best with the modulation slots to the outside and the visible drivers aimed straight at me but such audio-geek tweakery had less impact than one would think. The general quality was one of great speed, directness and minor warmth. That's why a seamless blend with the SW5 required a rather light touch. Starting at zero on its volume, I ramped it up gently until the speakers filled out as though by magic. The moment the bass thickened up the vocal range, I'd gone too far. I backed off the volume to the 5-inch driver again and presto.

If you feed the V1.8s an exclusive diet of sound-card output (tapping into your PC's 3.5mm stereo port), you're doing the expected non-audiophile thing with blessings from on high. The two included interconnect leads will be plenty long for the deed. The paper-cone main drivers and lack of dedicated tweeters beautifully downplay the shortcomings of such signal feeds. Plus those cheap Chinese tubes in the A-6000MKII's buffer do their bit of rounding over the edges (on an aside, the same rationale has the men of Peachtree Audio's Decco and Nova insist on a 6922 triode in their amps).

My wife's artist den on our top floor overlooking the lake and snow-capped mountain range has three tables - one for writing, one for painting and one for assorted crafts. It's on the latter that Ivette enjoys watching DVDs in the background. David Suchet's 10-season stint as Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot is a perennial favorite as is the BBC's Lovejoy with Ian McShane.

Right behind this table sits a book shelf to form a little reading nook behind it. Into that book shelf the Qinpus fled and the SW5 on the floor in front. Atop the amp on a little Ikea rack went a recent Shenzhen acquisition. It's one of those petite play-anything DVD-with-mini-screen jobs that have excellent picture quality precisely because they're so small. With Ivette's type of flicks which don't blow shit up, the audible action revolves around vocal intelligibility particularly when the protagonists dabble in Briticisms and dialects. And you need the subtle recorded ambience which the SW5 provided and where its floor location suffered none the worse. Ivette was quick to proclaim this setup "far better than the NuForce combo", with the latter admittedly lacking bass reinforcement which the NuForce men will have shortly addressed with their own dedicated unit.

Forget hard-as-nails, thin-as-Twiggy, flat-as-pancake preconceptions. Those little paper drivers (two visible, two not) are more unobstructed, toneful and quicker out of the gate than the rather more expensive units in my Mark & Daniel Rubies (which, in the farfield, naturally turn the tables and completely obliterate the V1.8s). Qinpu's 'widebanders' stage exceptionally well. The very thing that allows bigger speakers with widely spaced driver artilleries to blossom but which sorely lacks in desk-top installations -- space -- becomes the very asset these tiny speakers thrive on: nearness and small cones.

Putting it all together: The V1.8s' front venting is ideal for bookshelf placement and solves the eternal non-audiophile obsession with wanting sound but refusing to see any of it. Those 6N3s deliberately shave off the edge of PC-based signal paths. The utter lack of honkiness or hollowness in the V1.8s' voicing when augmented renders the critical vocal band fantastically convincing. Hence it does the same for the non-bombastic musical accompaniment that forms the backdrop for brainy and rascallion TV detectives. The midrange performance of the V1.8 goes well beyond wannabe into the realm of wondrous. It does in fact compete very much with what far more expensive speakers deliver in the farfield.

That's possible because this is purpose-designed stuff. It's not hi-end do-everything and be-all-things-to-all-people stuff. With that, its makers can't know just what type of manse a customer will own; or how she will combine diverse components to pursue what, exactly. The desk top imposes well-defined parameters. To credibly fulfill those within the implicit limitations takes very little money if done as craftily as Qinpu has. Their amp isn't being pushed into gross distortion. True bass and expansive macro dynamics aren't called for. Hyper detail "off the driver cone" such as you might need in the living room (so that some of it might actually survive the many circuitous deflections before reaching your ear) isn't mandatory. It'd be obnoxious in fact. What is needed are first-rate midrange clarity; microdynamic speed to serve small inflections; point-source behavior for at-the-ear coherence and maximal staging under suboptimal conditions; bass fill into the mid 50s to be satisfying for non-bombastic audio or video; and subjective fullness at low levels which can go hand in hand with a soft top end.

This system does all that. You can very easily transition from the hot seat of the expensive audiophile big rig, hunker down on the office chair behind your work desk and get full satisfaction on a smaller but completely appropriate scale. While everything shrinks, the psychology of it and thus believability aren't impacted in the least. It's a simple fact that once we remove from the hifi equation certain bandwidth and SPL demands plus heavy room interactions, the remaining demands on equipment shrivel quite dramatically. Those on the purse should follow, too. I didn't have a Sonic Impact-type amp on hand to confirm Fang's claim that the 6000 MkII smokes their kind for breakfast. I do know that as part of this review system, the 6000 was clearly the perfect tool for the job. As you'd expect, given that one firm designed it and the speakers.

Unfairly or not, it's the V1.8s which stole the show then. To hear such open-throated voices with all the usual cotton fuzz removed was utterly unexpected. On my desk, I clearly preferred this $249 pair + $99 SW5 to my $1,800 synthetic marble boxes. The Qinpu curtain call came sooner. The Rubies fully hit their stride after my desk top playback volumes were already closed for business. And, Ruby dearest always makes me wish I'd sit a bit farther away. The V1.8s elicited no such reactions and managed to stage broadly in both our scenarios. They rendered the spoken voice of DVDs supremely intelligible without requiring the kind of volumes that would get wearing at those distances. And while the SW5 will get a bit boomy at star levels, it remained well behaved in the subtly supportive role I asked it to play. At $99, it's a no-brainer addition. It should be considered part and parcel of this proposition.

Curtain call and ovation: Staying honest*. Prolonged exposure to more and more headily priced hifi goods can destroy meaningful context. How much does one really have to spend to enjoy good music? Headphone listening has long been one cost-effective way to reach high for relatively little. Many folks simply cannot successfully adapt their expectations to the difference a soundstage within the skull makes to the experience. The desk top milieu then becomes a very relevant option. The soundstage moves once again outside your head, just not as capacious as in the living room (where, truth be told, it's still far too small to contain the 15-100 head ensembles audiophiles routinely accept as sounding realistic).

To make the switch from big to small, from 'serious' to 'office' system, requires appreciation only of the inevitable scale reduction involved. And that's easy once we see the silliness of 6-foot sounds attached to 2-foot performers which are milling about our desks. A popular saw talks about making your compromises work for you. In this instance, it's sky-scraper images and rock-arena SPLs that would seem compromised. It's very crafty how Qinpu's sub-thou system (just add PC) adapts to the specific requirements of the desk top. It maintains audiophile-quality vocals while 'quietly' stripping away redundant bandwidth and macrodynamics. To really notice the latter requires being quite the audiophile wanker indeed. Ditto for being jealous over the midrange if you get less from your big rig which you've spent so much more on...

* A Realsization award does seem in order. Given my still limited exposure to this sector however, I'll reserve final judgment pending a few more desk-top system reviews. Glow Audio's equivalent is on the books next. That should add useful data on just where the whole price/performance sweet spot really sits in this segment.

Quality of packing: Individual boxes with one combined outer.
Reusability of packing: Multiple times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy.
Condition of component received: Perfect.
Completeness of delivery: Includes two 3.5mm-to-2RCA interconnects, power cords are captive.
Quality of owner's manual: Basic but sufficient.
Website comments: A little shy on specs still.
Human interactions: Prompt and forthcoming on all info requested.
Pricing: Very attractive for what's offered. Stupidly low would be another way of putting it.
Final comments & suggestions: The V1.8 deserves a dedicated mini stand to get the visible driver to about ear level if used on the desk top. Perhaps Qinpu could see fit to author a matching one?

Qinpu website
Head-Direct website