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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Raysonic Audio CD-168
Amp: Sutra 1.3 [on review]
Speakers: Mark & Daniel Maximus Mini + [on review]
Cables: Zu Varial and Ibis

Stand: Ikea office table
Powerline conditioning: Furutech RTP-6
Room size: 8m x 5.2m x 2.20 - 6m

Review Component Retail: $249 for speakers; $279 for integrated amp; $99 for bass box

On certain days, my Outlook Express inbox turns into a dating ground. This was one of those days: "...We currently carry Qinpu amplifiers and full-range speakers. Qinpu is a well known manufacturer in China with a more than 20-year history. We hope you guys could review their $249/pr V1.8 speakers and $279 A-6000MKII integrated amp. These are excellent products with very hi-end grade sound quality (warm mids and sweet highs, perfect vocals), cute looking and inexpensive. I did a test between A-6000MKII, Sonic Impact Super T-amp and hand-built 8PR preamp/Museatex Melior power amp. The A-6000MKII beat the T-amp in almost every area and was almost as musical as my 8PR/Museatex combo which is $3000+. The V1.8's vocals can beat most bookshelf speakers below $1500 such as the JBL Ti2k."

My Guangzhou AV Fair 2008 report had indeed profiled Qinpu cuteness to some extent. And it had left me quietly curious about actual performance. Thus Fang, executive officer for Internet-direct Head-Direct Corporation, was more timely with his inquiry than he could know. I had just a few questions. Many Chinese brands have (deliberately?) lousy control over their distribution. This causes serious issues between dealers, importers and direct sellers. Either format is valid. But playing both sides against the middle is a grey-market disaster. Then I'll go with the joke about the Triad boss who made you the offer you couldn't understand.
Earlier writeups on bigger Qinpu amps in the US and Canadian press -- including our own A-1.0X review by David Kan [linked at left] -- suggested formal distribution was in place. Hence I sensed potential conflicts with this ship-anywhere house.

"Starting in 2006, Head-Direct Corporation has been the official distributor of many China audio and headphone brands such as YUIN, Minibox, Fiio etc. We have our own brand as well. Our headquarters are currently located in New York. We have a buyer's office in Jiangsu province, China. We've collaborated with Qinpu since 2008. I was told by their marketing manager that they don't have any US dealers and will use us instead. Qinpu also told me that there were several areas we can not sell into because they do have exclusive distributors there. If you need an official dealer certification from Qinpu, please let me know."

Did that mean Head-Direct Corp. would refuse orders from forbidden sectors? "Yes, I will refuse them." With that clarified for the record, a closer inspection of the proposed review kit suggested a rerun of my NuForce desktop speaker encounter. Namely insufficient bass fill from tiny widebanders. "These 2-inch drivers are amazing." Perhaps. But the world's best midrange driver won't suffice if it cut out at 90Hz without a woofer as the specs said. "If you have a lot of concern about it, how about adding the $99 SW5 sub-bass speaker?" Now Fang was talking. It wasn't that I had concerns. I'd call a spade a spade and that a day. He'd be the one unhappy if I disqualified his tiny wonders for unacceptable bass shyness and called them satisfactory only for talkies. I don't want 20Hz extension on the desk top. I do want 50-ish at the ear which a 2-incher won't do. The SW5 promised bass to 45Hz. In the immortal words of Anette Benning's Being Julia, this would "make this old man happy". Cue audience cackle from the movie.

The pricing of course is a major attraction here. For old men with money, too; but far more relevant for younger gals and guys on lean budgets. Before the audiophile police calls it lo-fi, remember the desk-top milieu. Even inefficient speakers won't tax cheaper amps into their nonlinear zone. Heck, I run the 82.5dB Mark & Daniel Ruby off a 10-watt Sutra 1.3 T-amp and the volume control tends to sit at 8:00. Time to study the published specs more closely. The A-6000MkII runs a 2 x 6N3 tube buffer and an input sensitivity of 450mV to come on song rapidly. Input impedance is 10K. Besides the expected speaker outputs, the rear sports an RCA stereo input, two 3.5mm 'aux' and 'MP3' sockets and one 3.5mm output for headphones (or a suitably dressed analog interconnect to a subwoofer or power amp). However, there's no USB input. PC and MP3 users need to go in analog. Dimensions of this well-dressed cutie are 261 x 170 x 110mm. Weight is 2.75kg. Output power into 8 ohms is 16.5 watts, plenty sufficient for the intended application. For tube rollers, the 6N3 is compatible with the 6N3P, ECC42 and 2C51. General Electric NOS 5670s are plug-ins as well. Yatego offers 6N3s for 19.50 a pop so maintenance is harmless.

The V1.8 speaker, surprise, runs two of the aforementioned 50mm/2-inch '"full-rangers" for a 90Hz to 16kHz spec (no -3dB points given). One is in plain sight, one behind the acoustic felt in a 1.5-way filter network array to reinforce bass. "To get better mids, the bass port was designed like a Tractix horn. The two black slots on the side are modulation slots. They look like plastic but are actually made from wood and improve high-frequency performance." Impedance is 4 ohms and sensitivity 88dB. Dimensions are 173 x 136 x 102mm HxWxD and the cabinet is Rosewood-clad MDF. The SW5 bass extender runs a 15-watt onboard amp with 220mV input sensitivity for a 45 - 250Hz response from a 5" driver. Dimensions are 241 x 242 x 212mm. Weight is 4.5kg.

This being a blind date -- though I'd taken a sneak peek in Guangzhou to be favorably predisposed -- the total pre-shipping tally of $627 for this foursome had quite the ring. This assignment promised relevance also to parents hoping to outfit youngsters with a little sound system; to the home-office worker; the den-izen; the tunes-while-ya-cook kitchen kaboodle. In short, a cheap date. Would the sparks fly? Or - how much of an audiophile wanker did one really have to be to not appreciate this mini system from Guangzhou City? Flip the virtual page for the conclusion on wankers, wannabees and other wonders...