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Waters on the Hardware: Qln Signature Loudspeakers (5th generation)

04-10-2024 | By Dean Waters | Issue 132

Dean Waters at Pacific Audio Fest 2023: a portrait (photograph and image processing by David W. Robinson)

The Qln Signature Series, Fifth Generation, front view with magnetically attached grill cover

For the last several weeks I've been gleefully enjoying listening to and marveling at the 5th generation Signature series speakers from Qln. These are 2-way monitor speakers that blend a significant amount of beautiful design work—hardware and wood crafting—coupled with unrivaled appearance and attention to detail.

My associated equipment list used for this review consisted of (borrowed items are in bold):

  • Qln Signature loudspeakers with matching base
  • RSX Technologies Beyond Series power cables
  • RSX Technologies Benchmark Series Interconnect cables
  • Kubala-Sosna Realization Series speaker cables
  • Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC
  • iFi Pro iDSD Signature DAC
  • Mola Mola Perca amplifier
  • AGD Duet monoblock amplifiers
  • DECES S300+ amplifier
  • Sony UBP-X800M2 CD/SACD transport
  • Windows™ PC w/Audacity - DSD streaming server
  • PS Audio PowerPlant 15 power regenerator

Just as beautiful with the cover removed!


  • 2-way full-range speaker
  • Qboard® Qln unique multi layer damping cabinet technology
  • Tweeter: 25mm wide surround, AirCirc magnet, soft dome
  • Woofer: 184mm Kevlar® cone, under hung magnet system
  • High-end brand crossover components from leading manufacturers
  • Qln SP-One pure copper solid wire acoustic shielded cable
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB SPL 1 Watt 1m, 100-10kHz
  • Low frequency performance: -3dB 38Hz
  • Impedance: 8 ohms
  • Amplifier requirements: 50-250 Watt RMS
  • Terminal: WBT Single wire
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 448x280x480mm
  • Weight: 31,0 kg each
  • Finish: Walnut Matte, Walnut Burl Piano (reviewed finish)

We'll spend some time here and talk about each of these two characteristics: Sound and Looks.

The Sound

Let's start with sound.

This is easy.

Rear view of the base and loudspeaker.

The Qln base fully assembled.

The Qln Signature 5 were exceptional, with uncolored, unbiased sound. These are marketed as "monitor" speakers. And they certainly are. But more than that, they serve equally well as main speakers, equally adept in a studio environment as a true mixing & mastering monitor. Outside the studio, such as your living room and/or primary listening space, I am delighted at the sound stage and balanced profile of the Qln. What immediately catches my attention is the lack of mid-range "honk" that is so often so prevalent in speakers of this size (or to some degree in speakers of any size, for that matter).

Remember that human hearing is most sensitive around 3kHz. This is also where many speakers (and resonances within speaker cabinets) are also most efficient. Thus, it is common to get a ton of that mid-range sound in your listening. If we put our own EQ on our speakers, we tend to soften the mids and boost the ends (the highs and lows). Granted each speaker, listener, and environment is unique, and each set of ears and brains will have their own preferences.

For me personally, there is so much additional clarity and depth when the mid-range frequencies are not hollering at me. Fortunately, this is precisely what the Qln Signature offers. A smooth, comfortable, and precise experience across the frequency spectrum, with additional attention to detail in the mid-range. A test I like to do when evaluating speakers is to slowly turn up the output levels just to the point of discomfort and then ask myself why is discomforting. In most cases, it's simply because there's too much "honk" and "shouting" coming at me. With the Qln, I can easily turn up the volume beyond where I can go with many other speakers without any unpleasantness or harshness. These are some of the most balanced speakers I've come across in a while. 

Notice the slanted front to allow the center of each speaker to be time-aligned on the same vertical plane.

On the other hand, these are not bass-heavy speakers. They aren't designed to thump you out of your chair and make the walls rock. That's not to say that they are weak. Hardly. You can get as much sound as you'd ever need from these. They're enough to fill even large listening rooms or studios.

No, these speakers are about balance and blend. They disappear into the fabric of the music without drawing attention to themselves. For chamber music, jazz, piano, soloist, and small ensemble music, these speakers really are hard to beat. The Qln Signature 5 loudspeakers shine best when listening to music where clarity and preciseness are the order of the day. I find myself going back to jazz and "crooner" standards and falling in love all over again with these recordings. Some of my stand-out favorites with these speakers are the jazz/blues 5-piece combo albums featuring Itzhak Perlman on violin and André Previn on pianos on A Different Kind Of Blues, and It's A Breeze

After these, I went back and re-listened to the complete Schubert Die schöne Müllerin song cycle sung by Fritz Wunderlich, originally released in 1966. What a delight. A tenor, a piano, and a great pair of highly resolving Qln Signature speakers.

Delving into DSD content in the library is where these speakers really shine. The heightened clarity and resolution provided by the Qln brings out the additional nuances and precision that the high-res bitstream formats offer, especially DSD. All in all, I probably have about 200 hours' worth of listening so far. The user manual for these speakers recommends a break-in period of at least 50 hours, with 200 to 400 hours for the speakers to reach their full potential. I would agree with this. To be honest, they sounded fine right out of the box. And they did open up after a few weeks (about 50 hours, I'd say). Any harshness and 'brittleness' in the sound, although slight to begin with, vanished after the initial break-in. The more you listen, the better it gets.

A close-up of one of the Qln connectors

It's worth looking at some of the technologies that make the Qln such a good listening experience.

First off, there are no 90-degree corners in the cabinet. Corners are murder on standing waves and sonic reflections inside of a speaker cabinet (or a room for that matter). Sounds tend to get trapped and re-introduced where corners are present.

Second, the speakers are filled with a wool synthetic fiber blend. Wool is an excellent damping material, and the synthetic fibers are added to get the correct density to dampen out resonances within the cabinet. Third, Qln material for the inside surfaces is what they refer to as "Qboard." This is a dual-layer high density paneling bound together by a viscoelastic layer that provides damping and allows the combined layers to absorb rather than reflect sound waves coming from the drivers back into the cabinet. 

Qln 7" mid-woofer driver (image courtesy of Qln)

The main midrange/bass driver is a 7" (184mm) custom design with a Kevlar cone. This provides exceptional rigidity with low mass. If you've ever seen a video of a speaker driver taken with a high-speed camera and then slowed way down for playback, you'll often see the cone deforming and 'wobbling' about as it moves in and out. The larger the driver (and the higher the frequency), the more pronounced is the deformation. The goal in speaker design is to find material that is both highly rigid and super light. Spun copper is sometimes used for increased stiffness, but at the cost of additional mass. The extra mass makes the speaker less responsive as it takes more effort and energy for the cone to move and change directions.

Qln tweeter (image courtesy of Qln)

Kevlar provides the stiffness desired while minimizing the mass of the cone. The magnet system and voice coil of the driver are designed in such a way that the voice coil always stays within the magnet gap. The voice coil never moves out of the range of the magnets. This provides a linear motor system that doesn't compress surrounding air creating additional resistance via air turbulence. The tweeter is a 1" (25mm) surround design that provides excellent high-end imaging regardless of how the speakers are pointed relative to the listening position.

Speaker timing is the science of having sounds from multiple drivers within a speaker reach the listener at the exact correct moment. When drivers are mounted directly above one another, the sound from each driver can reach the ear out-of-phase from the other drivers in the same cabinet. The trick is to have the driver's center of acoustic mass mounted along a vertical plane so that the signals from each driver reach the listener at the precise same moment, completely in phase.

Hand-crafted in Sweden! Note the silver-plated copper connectors. These connectors are the flagship terminal from WBT (additional info HERE).

Ok, a little geek math here: A 2500Hz tone has a wavelength of just over five inches (depending on temperature). That five inches represents the full 360 degrees of the wavelength (one complete cycle). Ok, assume that you have a speaker with two drivers and the center of mass of those two drivers are one-half inch off axis. That is to say, the center of mass of one of the drivers is a half-inch further (or closer) to you than then other driver. When those two drivers are 'speaking' at 2500Hz, the signal from each driver will be about 36 degrees out of phase when it arrives to your ear, simply because the sound from the closer driver will arrive slightly ahead of the sound from the other driver in the same speaker. Granted in listening sessions the two drivers won't be producing the same frequencies (mostly). However, any sound from a driver that is closer to the listener will arrive out-of-time with another driver in the same cabinet. Higher frequencies with shorter wavelengths will be more out of phase than lower frequencies with longer wavelengths.

Qln corrects this by slanting the front panel back (from bottom to top). If placed directly on top of each other, the 1" tweeter would have center of mass closer to the listener than the 7" driver. By slanting the front of the cabinet, the center of mass for both the 7" and 1" drivers are perfectly aligned vertically. This reduces phase alignment issues when you are seated on the same horizontal plane as the speakers. In simpler terms, put the speakers at ear level!

The speakers are a less directional speaker than many other options. You can toe-in the speakers toward the listening position if desired. Or you can leave them more flat-facing without sacrificing clarity and imaging. Whether you choose to point the speakers directly to the listening position or leave them pointed straight at the back wall (or something in between), the overall imaging is still well preserved. As with any speaker setup, you'll want to experiment with what works best for your environment. For me, I have the speakers set 8' away from the main listening position and placed 8' apart from each other. Looking down from above, it's set up as an equilateral triangle, 8' per side. 

Since these speakers are so good at not coloring the sound, I've been able to test out three different amplifiers to see how they perform relative to each other. I'm usually hesitant about doing this, because speakers will usually affect the outcome more than the amplifiers. On the QLNs, I've had them powered by a Mola Mola Perca (class D), a pair of AGD Productions Duet mono-blocks (class D), and a KECES S300+ (class A, A/B hybrid). I wouldn't venture to say which is best. I'd only say that differences between these amplifiers can be easily heard on the QLN. 

There is just as much care in craftsmanship and design with the speaker base. Notice the mirror image. One side is a mirror image of the other. 

The Looks

If you've ever ridden in or looked inside a Rolls Royce or a Bentley, then no doubt the first thing that catches your eye would be the phenomenal woodworking artistry inside. Look a bit closer and you'll see the bookending where each panel has a mirror image of itself. A video showing how Bentley does this can be viewed HERE.

Qln takes this same approach with the speaker cabinets and matching stands. These are all hand-made using processes that produce the same type of beauty and quality you'd find in an ultra-luxury auto. Since the speakers and stands are hand-made, any that you purchase will indeed be one-of-a-kind.

Summing It All Together

If the carefully crafted woodworking on the Qln Signature 5 loudspeakers fits your décor, and if you're looking for a speaker pair that will provide maximum detail from your source material, be it vinyl, CD, streaming, or DSD/SACD, then these are certainly worthy of consideration. If you are a high-resolution audio buff and you're looking for speakers that can show the added resolution and realism that comes from DSD & SACD, then the Qln are going to be hard to beat. As a good friend of mine commented, "You can hear the horse-hair on the violin bow!" Can't sum it up much better than that. 

As mentioned, these speakers would be great additions to both a home environment and in a studio. For some of us, our home setup is our studio.

So much the better! If these were located adjacent to your main console board, with or without the stands. You'd be giving your mixing and mastering sessions a step-up towards producing a better end-product, regardless of your workflow. When recording my own singing group and listening back on these, I'm getting a true picture of what we actually sound like as compared to what a speaker would have us sound like. There's a big difference here.

A studio musician hearing their tracks on these speakers would readily be able to tell what they like in their own sound(s) and what they would want to improve on and change for future recordings or performances. These are honest loudspeakers. They represent what is possible today in clear, transparent delivery.

And that delivery comes in cabinets and stands that would be described as works of art. It's hard to ask for more than that.

Custom-fit casters are provided for non-carpet installations.

Mark Sossa of Well Pleased AV (portrait and image processing by David W. Robinson)

Qln Signature Loudspeakers (5th generation)

Retail: $24,000 in Burl piano finish as reviewed. $22,000 for the matte walnut finish. Matching stands for the Burl piano finish (shown here) are $2500 for the pair or $2000 for standard black stands.

USA Distributor

Well Pleased AV

1934 Old Gallows Rd. Suite 350

Tysons Corner, VA 22182


[email protected]


All photographs by Dean Waters unless otherwise noted. Drawing by Bruce Walker.