April
2022

Country of Origin

Poland

Qualio

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Sonnet Pasithea DAC, Avatar CD transport, Soundaware D300Ref SD card transport/USB bridge; Preamp: icOn 4Pro w. 80Hz filter; Power amplifiers: Enleum AMP-23R, Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant with sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio 'medium' 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: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator Plus; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz hi-low pass;
Amplifier: Goldmund/Job 225; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dyaudio 18S subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; 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: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R, Crayon CFA-1.2; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1, Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: TBA

At Munich High End 2022 – photo compliments of Dawid Grzyb, HifiKnights.com

New brand. Familiar owners. Many moons ago, Cube Audio's Grzegorz Rulka spilled that he and Marek Kostrzynski would launch a second brand. It would combine OEM drivers for speakers priced well below Cube's. In early spring I checked back. "We're working on it. In fact we did more tests just last week. It's already very promising but a few corrections are still necessary. We'd like to start with three models so a monitor, a 2-way floorstander and a bigger 2.5-way. Coaxial designs will be for later. We have very nice driver candidates already but still must test them more rigorously. We hired extra staff so prototyping goes quicker. I think we'll have speakers for review by March/April. We're still weighing two business models: direct or direct + dealers no distributors. We're listening to plenty of competition. We want to be way better and way cheaper."

Who doesn't? How is the sour pickle.

When I proposed widebanders from the UK's Mark Audio, Grzegorz had already made that choice with their 3-incher. That was sensible for multi-way designs where a dedicated woofer handles the lows. Gone is the uni-driver notion when such a small tweeter-to-upper-bass driver needs a woofer. It's clear why these changes prompted our Cubists to launch a new brand. Aside from lower price points and a different sales model, even the multi-way concept with at least a low-pass filter won't embed easily in their existing uni-way range. With Sony owning Qualia, Qualio it was; by Cube Audio? Old marketing reflexes from stints at Mesa, Meadowlark and Soliloquy twitched. Having built a rosy rep for Cube, why not bolt it to their new brand for instant credibility? Infinity and Lexus had openly tied to Nissan and Toyota before standing on their own. Or would Grzegorz and Marek prefer to keep Qualio wholly separate?

First renders with Alpair 5.3.

By April 20th 2022, "the project is doing good. We really like the sound especially for the money. We tested against competitors multiple times more expensive and are really happy. The sound is very alive and lots of fun which is most important. We are awaiting first cabinets from the paint shop and are prepping the website and all other logistics. We hope to showcase them in Munich on static display and organize first reviews early May. The mid/woofers are SB Acoustics polypropylene on 1st-order filters at ~1600-2000Hz. Both monitor and floorstander will be about 89dB efficient." So our designers weren't using the Alpair in traditional widebander mode after all. Of course their shallow filter slope runs it deep into the midrange nonetheless. That relies on spare bandwidth with no breakup distortion.

The model name Reverso is obvious yet elegant and thus, unforgettable.

"We're still mulling over model names. Paradoxically that's the hardest thing. We thought about the elements, Slavic beasts and cosmic connotations but have gotten nowhere. Nenuphar is such a great name which people enjoy but my wife had this one great idea and now we can't think of others like it. We need names by the end of this week to make our deadlines." Looking at the very clean renders and logo font, I saw short 'n' modern to suggest On.Q and Q.pid. They sound like on cue and Cupid respectively. In the same vein would fall I.Q and E.Q, the latter perfect for an electrified/active subwoofer with EQ facilities. Q.R8 would spell out curate for perhaps a flagship? There was Q.est and loads more. Grzegorz immediately hit back with Q.T for on the sly and a compact desktopper. He was keen on having one. He wants premium sound for work but doesn't fancy headphones. He and Marek would think over the big Q.estion and surely land elsewhere. But it's fair to mention that naming is a big deal to avoid one more 'Model 1' or grotesque 'SkU-a MkIII'. Great names possess totemic power. Most shopping starts through a window real or web-based. Anything to distinguish a product is key. On totemic draw, compare a Ford Mustang to a Subaru Impreza WRX sti. Luxury watch brands know all about it. Rolex Submariner. Patek Philippe Nautilus. Panerai Luminor. TAG Heuer Monaco. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. They're simple evocative model names all. Now hear a gent's answer to what he's wearing with a Nomos Metrum Datum Gangreserve or Grand Seiko SBGJ235. You need mouthwash after that.

By May 5th, HighEnd Munich was just two weeks away. What had Qualio's clever christening committee decided? Surely not Quandary or Querk, Quick or Queen. "We'll use your idea and pick good names starting with or having a small Q in it. So you are sort of a godfather to Qualio. About two weeks ago I had to refresh my brain and try something different: a speaker I had on my mind for some time. It's small but really can do a lot with good dynamics, a bit like a car sleeper. It's big sound from a box that doesn't look like it's going to rock down the house. So I ordered the drivers and a few days later got them. Within 30 minutes the new speaker emerged. And it's really fantastic in so many ways that at the moment it's my favorite of the new bunch. Its only downside is not-too-great efficiency. Marek is experimenting more with its crossover and going places to try it on multiple systems across our audio friends. We hope to have it for the show and then send that to you probably beginning of June."

Then came more news. "You already know about that very interesting floorstander I wrote you about in my last email. We had purchased basically all available 3-5" drivers to test then readied our first big commercial batch with Mark Audio for pickup. However, this new design exploits the Visaton B100. That's a really amazing driver if quite costly for a budget project. We wanted our pricing to be super attractive since at the onset, the sales model was to include dealers. Then two days ago Marek swapped into an already finalized model a Visaton B80 in lieu of the Mark Audio Alpair. The midrange was clearly superior and the overall performance gains worth all associated inconveniences. We already have cabinets in production but can replace drivers with just very slight adjustments. Since we want the best possible sound, I see no option but to regroup with a direct-to-consumer approach, go ahead with the changes and delay the project's rollout by about a month. We have a few pairs of Visatons to take photos with, redo the website etc so a delay is inevitable. But we still want to take the speakers to Munich even if just to show on static display."

Such are relentless R&D's unpredictable ways. As consumers we're rarely privy to the many switchbacks that might have preceded the final product we now look at. It's why my rewrite didn't expunge the earlier Alpair 5.3 mentions or photos. The latter now simply render faded. Leaving them in says more about Qualio's design ethos than any self-congratulatory ad copy could. When these two men claim that they want us to enjoy the best sound they can possibly give us for our hard earnings, they mean it. They walked the extra miles to make it so.

Veni. Vidi. Visaton. Gaius Julius Caesar would have approved. And he conquered half the known world. Competition-aware punters know of the silvery 3" wideband tweeter Sven Boenicke uses across his speaker range with often—or exclusively?—a shallow 1st-order filter for broad actual bandwidth. One of that driver's many virtues is uncommon off-axis dispersion. It plays to why the Swiss speakers excel at extra-wide soundstaging when set up accordingly; which they always are at shows. Would it be far-fetched to expect similar lateral freedom for Qualio's Visaton [B80's directivity pattern at left]?

By May 13th Grzegorz added that their new monitor and first floorstander both had embraced the B80 not B100 so the 3.3-inch not 4-inch version. Hitting Munich's M.O.C. not rather out of breath seemed a bit of a task with these many last-minute developments.

Just so, a Qualio monitor in white hit their display right next to Cube's Jazzon whose driver has adopted a rubber surround in lieu of the foam version I reviewed. Dawid will review the new Jazzon version when he returns from the Munich show and we're already slated to syndicate it when the time comes.

… to be continued…