I had expected that installing and setting up the Q7 would take an entire day, but three hours after opening the crate we had found the final placement. It was one of the easiest installations of a major speaker I’ve experienced.
The Q7 is exceptional in every way, but there’s one area that stands out above all others—realism. The sense of actually hearing instruments rather than a recreation of them—that “fool you” palpability of texture, truth of timbre, vividness of imaging, naturalness of dynamics, and degree of resolution—is the Holy Grail of music reproduction. It’s when the sound is no longer perceived as sound but purely as musical expression. Realism is the culmination of all the individual qualities we value in reproduced music; they each contribute in some way to the impression of being in the presence of live music.
If I had to sum up the Q7’s sound with one word it would be the elusive “R word.” But unlike some loudspeakers that deliver this realism occasionally with a few recordings, or over a narrow range frequency range, or only with certain types of music (unaccompanied female vocal, for example), the Q7 summons up this shocking sense of live music on virtually every recording, over the entire frequency range, and with every style of music. There isn’t one aspect of reproduced sound in which the Q7 exhibits less than state-of-the-art realism; tone color, low-level resolution, macrodynamics, microdynamics, bottom-end extension, bass pitch definition—the list goes on and on. The result is a total suspension of any thought of listening to a hi-fi system. This quality isn’t fleeting and ephemeral the way it is with many great systems—a few passages here and there on select recordings—but rather is concrete and tangible from the first notes of just about any recording. It’s as though the Q7’s musical realism is pursuing you rather than that you are pursuing the realism.
I could name any number of recordings to illustrate this quality, but I’ll mention the track “La Barrosa” from Paco de Lucia’s Live in America. This piece begins with de Lucia playing a beautiful solo figure on his flamenco guitar surrounded by the hall’s ambience. You can sense the other musicians on the stage waiting to come in, and the audience at attention. These cues are extremely subtle and low in level, but when they are reproduced the way the Q7 portrays them, the result is electrifying. The guitar is just right there in front of you, completely unencumbered by any sense that you are experiencing an electro-mechanical facsimile of the original musical event. The sound is vivid in a completely natural way, rather than a goosed-up hi-fi vividness.
I chose this example because this disc sounds very good, but it’s not by any stretch the most realistic-sounding in my collection. It’s a commercial CD—we haven’t yet talked about the Q7’s reproduction with SACD, high-res PCM, or 45-rpm vinyl spun on the Basis Inspiration. Yes, the Q7 brings this music to life in a way that I have not experienced with any other loudspeaker. Of course, the degree of realism varies tremendously with the recording, but even mediocre recordings are revealed to have previously undiscovered sonic virtues.
If “realism” is the single word that best describes the Q7, the best two words that describe it are “right there” because that’s exactly how instruments and voices sound in the listening room. The Q7 consistently and unfailingly made all music sound so close that I felt I could reach out and touch the performers. If you want to hear the ultimate in this sense of instruments being “right there,” try playing A Meeting by the River on SACD through the dCS Vivaldi with the Vivaldi directly driving a pair of Lamm ML2.2 SET power amplifiers (no preamplifier in the signal path), or the Sheffield direct-to-disc Michael Newman, Classical Guitarist on the Basis ’table. This configuration was the single most transparent, resolved, neutral, and realistic reproduction of small-scale music I’ve heard in my life.
This sense of hearing music and not a loudspeaker is the result of several specific attributes that combine synergistically—primarily vanishingly low distortion, very high resolution and transparency, and the way in which the Q7 reproduces transient information.