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More IQ

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.3, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box at 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Goldmund Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Preamp/filter: Vinnie Rossi Signature L2 + icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature;  Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: starting at €5'500/pr

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Reviews from us and are in the can. HifiKnights, HifiPig and Mono&Stereo are booked. Early owner feedback is on the books; and on. The first product from Poland's Qualio had a steep launch. But shelf life of news is measured in days not eons. Yesterday's thrill is today's chill. The show must go on. Standstill means death; or so goes a rumor about sharks. I've lived with the IQ for the past five months. That's half an eternity for the revolving doors of a working reviewer. But where speakers go, you could now drive a wedge beneath the whirly doors. Extend eternity for its full run. If there's better, it'll cost a lot more. These hybrid OB/boxes already go lower and louder than my needs. That has me hard pressed to identify what 'better' could mean in actual practice. Better drivers than Mundorf's dipole AMT; SB Acoustics' Satori midrange and woofer? At my SPL, hardly. More useful resolution? Given the existing absence of box talk, compression effects, air-flow issues and thru-cone leakage across the dipole range, that too seems quite unlikely. Ditto soundstaging. In my 'free space' setup that's already wall to wall so utterly out of any box. Tone and textures? Strategic energization of the ambient field across the mid and treble bands creates persuasive image density without tube-induced harmonic distortion as filler; or redundant active gain effects via preamp. Now a direct DAC-to-amp connection via lossless volume à la Sonnet/Metrum even Leedh code is ideal. That has the added benefit of a simpler signal path for more resolution and speed. Easily swapped Mundorf shelving resistors for the AMT give each owner control over subjective HF gloss and energy. Included foam bungs can trim the potent ported bass alignment. Finally there's dynamic scaling as a function of what for the same input voltage puts out twice as much air motion than an equivalent classic box speaker. That converts recorded dynamic range to more dramatic in-room level changes than a speaker which kills off half its acoustic energy inside a heavily damped enclosure.

As my formal review covered, the only areas where a cost-no-issue über speaker would still pile on are cosmetics and industrial design. We'd get curves on a cast composite bass array with polished chrome trim, lustrous lacquers and integral isolation footers, on top bent tempered glass à la Engstrøm. The speaker would show on magazine covers, at every major international audio fair and at High Street dealers. Press members would be flown in for a meet 'n' greet, wine 'n' dine then audition the speaker in a carefully curated demo with elite ancillaries at the factory. All of it would pool back into the sell price when nobody in business does any of it for free. Would I love the IQ more if it sold for €30K through top-tier dealers and looked as though Estelon carve it from solid marble? Make no mistake. I like nice things as much as the next guy or gal. There's just a line between fine and pretentious, great and glitzy, substantiative and showy. Qualio's IQ sits on my side of that line. I currently don't know of anything that can touch it at anywhere near the price it actually sells for. It's a very clever design which maximizes performance by apparently simple means yet is truly dialled as can only come from great experience. Here it's worth knowing that Grzegorz Rulka's partner Marek Kostrznski doubles as chief designer at the very large Polish speaker house Pylon and previously worked at Tonsil to bring with him extensive driver design and manufacturing experience when the two formed Cube then Qualio. There are solid reasons why the IQ is this smart.

But on Qualio's site, customer Dan already says this: "In one word? FANTASTIC! Maybe you even have to increase the price. Seriously."

That made today's little feature timely I thought.

PS: Another speaker which during its era I felt was as compelling and different, fabulous and fairly priced was Anthony Gallo's original Reference 3. That goes back nearly 20 years. Truly, lightning like this doesn't strike very often. You've been put on notice now. Again…

PPS: Within a week of publishing the above, two more reviews dropped as did two more awards. The IQ's appeal is clearly more universal than just Irish. One more week passed and then there was this. I rest my case.