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Q Acoustics 5040 Loudspeakers: Breaking Away

The Q Acoustics 5040 are proving to be very receptive to a wide range of amplification options.

Q Acoustics 5040 Loudspeaker in White, Black, Oak and Rosewood

Everyone loves the underdog. Having been one most of my life there is a special place in my heart for those that win when nobody expects that outcome. Those that refuse to quit and keep plugging away until they overtake the mighty who have sat on the iron throne. Q Acoustics have been the underdog when it comes to British loudspeaker manufacturers — but no longer.

Not only are they making some of the best loudspeakers for the money right now on either side of the pond — but some of the best loudspeakers period for those of us who truly care about better sound quality. The Concept 30 and Q Acoustics 5040 that we just reviewed are prime examples of that and based on the market response so far — consumers really wanted the 5000 series to be something special considering the price range of the lineup and they have been rewarded.

While listening to the 5040 over the past two weeks with two additional amplifiers; the Rotel S14 Streaming Amplifier and NAD C 316BEE V2 Integrated Amplifier, it dawned on me just how much things have changed over the past few years in the entry-level and mid-tier categories.

Q Acoustics 5040 Loudspeaker Pair with and without grilles

Very few of us get to play with cost-no-object loudspeakers and components; and even though I have access to a myriad of products from dozens of manufacturers in that range, I really don’t excited by them anymore. Not in the same manner as products like the Q Acoustics 5040, Cambridge Audio CXA81, Naim Uniti Atom, or Pro-Ject X2B Turntable.

Access to sonic nirvana has never been more affordable and whilst not every manufacturer is interested in that part of the market, there is no question that consumers are; especially those who are new to our little corner of the galaxy and have jumped in because of the resurgence of vinyl and the exponential growth of digital music streaming.

You Found My iPhone In Indiana?

Indiana has been made popular again as the setting for Stranger Things, but my film memory takes me back to smaller films like Hoosiers, and Breaking Away that championed the underdog; the championship game footage and winning basket are certainly an emotional lift but the final moments from the race where the Cutters win the famed bike race in their hometown against the snobby rich kids from Indiana University is a genuine moment of triumph for the working class kids. Dennis Quaid and Paul Dooley are particularly strong in the film and it has never lost its charm. Available at Amazon.

Having started with the underdog angle, it would only make sense to explain why the Q Acoustics 5040 have me rather excited; their ability to perform so magnificently with amplifiers from $500 to $6,500 USD is not how things usually work in this category.

As I mentioned in my initial review, the 5040 demonstrated that they could rise to the occasion when driven by something like the $6,500 Cambridge Audio Edge A Integrated Amplifier; an amplifier that I usually use with the Magnepan LRS and most recently with the superb Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3 loudspeakers — all of which offer a very different take on sound reproduction.

Which one is best? They all do specific things better than the other two loudspeakers and considering the price differences between the three of them — that’s been a rather interesting thing to uncover.

The review process in regard to the 5040 and 703 S3 took a slight nosedive when someone broke into our car this past week and stole my iPhone 12 which gets used as a remote for a wide range of streaming devices and platforms; how it ended up in Indiana has left me wondering about the state of my fellow Americans at the moment. Fortunately, my youngest loaned me her spare iPad whilst I waited for Verizon and Apple to get a new iPhone replacement for me.

NAD C 316BEE V2

NAD C 316BEE V2 Stereo Integrated Amplifier
NAD C 316BEE V2

Taking a quick look at the numbers, the $500 NAD integrated amplifier should not be an ideal match for the 5040, but as I discovered with the Q Acoustics 3050i — the numbers can be very deceiving.

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45 watts are enough to drive the 5040 in a room like mine (16′ x 13′ x 9′), but the tonal balance and speed are far more important in this particular case. The 5040 are more neutral sounding than the larger 3050i and the NAD offers just enough of a bump in the upper bass and lower midrange to change the overall tonal balance in a very positive way.

The NAD’s treble energy awakened the rather polite sounding 3050i and we were curious to see how that would play out with the 5040 which have a more open sounding top end, greater detail, and a slightly crisper sounding overall presentation.

After listening to Amy Winehouse, Dvorak, Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard, and Ben Folds, it became apparent that my Clarus loudspeaker cables were not working as well with the NAD/Q Acoustics combination as they had with the Cambridge/5040 setup.

Out went the Clarus and I substituted both the QED Reference XT40i and Analysis Plus Black Oval 12 Loudspeaker Cables; both cables are 1/10th the price of the cables they replaced.

The QED is the more neutral sounding cable of the two and did very little in regard to changing the tonal balance of the NAD. The Analysis Plus is warmer sounding overall with less detail and certainly added more color to the overall presentation.

The bigger point is that the rather inexpensive QED and Analysis Plus cables were a better match than the Clarus.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Angle
MXN10

The NAD worked well with both the Bluesound NODE and Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Players; both units added some color overall to almost every track with the NAD which I felt was a positive.

The MXN10 digs a little deeper in regard to detail and is marginally more transparent sounding than the NODE; the Bluesound player rounds off the edges at both extremes and that might appeal to some with the 5040 if you are looking for a thicker sounding bottom end.

The NAD C 316BEE V2 can certainly work with the 5040, but don’t expect the little Canadian amplifier to control the loudspeaker with the same degree of authority as the much larger Edge A.

From a speed perspective, the NAD accentuates the excellent pace and timing of the 5040 rather well.

Rotel S14 Streaming Amplifier

Rotel S14 Integrated Streaming Amplifier Black Front with Remote
Rotel S14 Integrated Streaming Amplifier

I must confess that I have struggled with the S14 from the very beginning of the review process; and not because it isn’t a very capable sounding network amplifier. My issue is that it doesn’t excite me in the same way as the Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier and that has proven to be a surprise.

Combined with the Bluesound NODE or Cambridge MXN10, the A14MKII is a more expensive proposition compared to the S14 network amplifier, but it just makes music move with greater immediacy and swagger.

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Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier Front Silver
Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier

The A14MKII feels like it has more to give and the overall presentation is more transparent sounding. The S14 can drive the hell out of the 5040 and 3050i, but it comes across as too loose in my book and I never really got into the presentation.

The bass response with either Rotel amplifier was thicker than it was tight and that might not be the worst thing with the 5040 which already have very well defined low response — but without the visceral impact of the 3050i.

I may have to give the Rotel/5040 combination another listen but my initial impression with the S14 was less than inspiring.

Q Acoustics 5040 Loudspeaker Rear Angle in Oak

Next Up?

Three very different sounding amplifiers from Unison Research, Marantz, and NAD.

Have I discovered my favorite combination? You will be very surprised by the final system configuration.

Where to buy$1,499/pair at AmazonCrutchfield

Continue reading: Q Acoustics 5040 wins eCoustics Editor’s Choice Award

Missed our previous stories about the 5040? Go back and read our first hands-on impressions and in-depth review of the 5040.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Asa

    May 9, 2023 at 5:47 pm

    Thanks for the honest review and how combos that don’t always add up or become a nice surprise. Sorry about your phone…never leave anything in your car. People leave signs on cars telling them no valuables inside. Sad commentary on where we’re at as a society (one of many).

    Underdogs, ftw!

    • Ian White

      May 9, 2023 at 5:55 pm

      Asa,

      It was in my driveway.

      Had it been at night which would have triggered the lights on sensors…it might have gone the other way.

      In regard to the 5040/Rotel combination…I was really surprised by how I didn’t enjoy the S14 with it. I do wish the Naim Uniti Atom was more affordable because that combination was ridiculously good.

      Best,

      Ian

  2. ORT

    May 10, 2023 at 3:08 am

    Beautiful speakers. This is the essence of what floor-standing tower speakers should look like. Just as a turntable should look like a turntable and not some 20lb magnet dragged through Manny, Moe & Jack’s discount bin so too does the world not need another fugly speaker design like the Wilson What? Poopies.

    Those look like Yoko bono’d ’em. These 5040s look like something music pours out of, through your ears and into your soul.

    Thanks.

    ORT

    • Ian White

      May 10, 2023 at 1:26 pm

      ORT,

      I’m still trying to find the best amp option for them. They sound completely different with everything. Tubes inbound. The bass is definitely on the leaner side and I’ve noticed that some amplifiers have a profound impact on their performance down there.

      My $3,000 speaker cables (no judging…purchased many moons ago at a huge discount) did not work as well with these as a pair of $200 QED speaker cables. Synergy is a very real thing.

      Best,

      Cable Boy

      • ORT

        May 10, 2023 at 6:07 pm

        Ian, I should very much like to (STILL!) own a tube integrated amp but have been stoopid-busy buying turntables from Pro-Ject. I am done and the 2Xperience in walnut is pretty much my Magnum Dopus (i.e., “total wewaxation”!) as the 1.5″ acrylic platter topped with a cork cover of Sintara’s “Come Fly With Me” from Sir Chris of Analog Restorations makes me fap-happy.

        I never did get the tubish integrated I wanted but I got the ‘tables that got to me…

        I am looking forward to your coming reviews of any affordable (to me?!) CD players but in truth I mostly am listening to records and “webbing” my music (a toadish, NOT spiderish way ’round the st(r)eaming term!). 😉

        Be well, brother. And pass on my hopes and bestest wishes to Sir William of Jennings and let him know I actually just bought a FiiO KA5. The absence (as opposed to the abcess) of MQA will do that to me. 😉

        ORT

        • Ian White

          May 10, 2023 at 6:13 pm

          ORT,

          I will definitely pass on your good wishes to him.

          Unison Research, Rogue Audio, or PrimaLuna.

          One of those 3 are getting my money this year. 5040 is already drooling.

          CD players seem to be getting more expensive. I’m not sure why. I’ve settled on my Marantz, NAD, and Audiolab models that are working fine.

          Ian “Lord of the Spin” White

          • Norman

            May 18, 2023 at 3:15 pm

            Does this “ORT” guy work for you? If so, give him something to review and if not then why not? He’s different and has a way with words that is beyond bland and makes me laugh my ass off and want more.

            Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy everyone I’ve read here but he’s got a way with words almost like he was Moe Howard with a touch of Curly.

            Norman

          • Ian White

            May 18, 2023 at 5:32 pm

            Norman,

            ORT does not work for us but we have met in person. Lovely guy. He’s a very intelligent and witty person and we all get along with him quite well. I’d give him his own column if he wants one.

            Ian White

          • JJ

            May 19, 2023 at 12:47 am

            ORT is with us in the Schiit thread at head-fi and gets the likes with his style of writing. His review of the first Schiit get together should have won him 1st place but it was declared a tie and settled with a coin toss. Seems a decent dude that writes well.

  3. BobPM

    May 10, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    Not to ignite a cable discussion, but anything between the amplifier and the speaker’s drivers is necessarily part of the crossover. If a cable makes a big change, you are basically altering the crossover from the designers intent. It can be good or bad, but the price of the cable shouldn’t matter. What matters is how the electrical properties of the cable effect the totality of the crossover network.

    • Ian White

      May 10, 2023 at 2:03 pm

      Bob,

      I agree. It was very interesting to see how the QED cables worked better at 1/10th the price. Armour Home owns both brands (Q Acoustics and QED) and it’s likely that the internal wiring from the binding posts to the crossover is QED.

      Best,

      Ian White

      • BobPM

        May 10, 2023 at 3:28 pm

        Not surprised that the QED Reference worked well. It is a basic oxygen free copper and like you said is probably the same or close to what Q Acoustics used when finalizing the design. Didn’t realize they were owned by the same company.

        • Ian White

          May 10, 2023 at 5:48 pm

          Bob,

          Armour Home is a much larger company than people think. Q Acoustics, QED, and Goldring. They also distribute iFi and Grado in the UK.

          Super nice group of people. One of the best I’ve worked with in over 24 years covering consumer A/V.

          Best,

          Ian White

  4. Steve Messenger

    May 28, 2023 at 7:18 pm

    Great informative review on a fantastic speaker Ian. I look forward to you report on how the next 3 amps pair and your overall favorite combination. Thank you. Steve

  5. Andras

    September 4, 2023 at 5:42 pm

    Hi,

    I love the look of these speakers. So far I did not have a chance to listen to them. How would they work with a Naim Uniti Atom? Is the 40 Watt to less to drive them?

    Regards
    Andras

    • Ian White

      September 4, 2023 at 5:52 pm

      Andras,

      It’s a really good match. Not a hard load but a thinner sounding speaker compared to the previous Q Acoustics models. The Uniti Atom and Cambridge Evo 150 are my two favorite amps for it so far.

      How large is your listening space? The 5050 is coming soon and is designed for larger rooms.

      Best,

      Ian White

      • Andras

        September 4, 2023 at 8:15 pm

        Hi Ian,

        The listening space is not so large, around 3×4 meters (sorry, living in Germany using the metric system) from
        common living room kitchen area (total 25 sqm). I believe the 5040 would be sufficient

        I have a Dali Oberon 5 now, which I like but the 5040 is simply so beautiful I fell in love with it (without even hearing it) and I guess the QA would a step forward as well

        Regards
        Andras

        • Ian White

          September 5, 2023 at 12:08 am

          Andras,

          It’s interesting to me that you have the DALI Oberon 5, which I’ve always considered to be a natural competitor to the 3050i that occupy my office. The 5040 will not overload your room based on the dimensions and if they are pulled out from the wall.

          On a visual level, it’s a more interesting looking speaker (5040) but I’m not sure that this doesn’t represent a lateral move for you.

          The 5040 is very open and detailed like the Oberon 5 with a slightly more aggressive sounding treble. They need a warmer sounding amplifier or it will become too sterile sounding. These are two speakers that might sound very similar in some ways.

          I may have to request some more DALI this quarter to compare.

          Best,

          Ian White

  6. Andras

    September 5, 2023 at 8:58 am

    Thanks Ian for your valueable feedback. I thought 5040 would be a step forward considering the price difference between the DALI Oberon 5 and QA 5040.
    I need to think this through and give both a listen again.

    Cheers
    Andras

  7. Stevan Spasić

    September 21, 2023 at 11:09 am

    Mr. Jan, many of us can’t wait for your final verdict on this matter.

    Don’t keep us in suspense any longer.

    I’ve been saving up to buy these speakers for a while now. My best assumption for synergy with the amplifier is the Atoll IN80. I asked your fellow Tarun (a British audiophile), and he shared my assumptions. Of course, these are just assumptions without real testing in practice.

    The worst part is that your review of the Triangle AIO Twin speakers appeared in the meantime. Although they are not comparable in terms of size, combined with a matching sub, they can be close to QA 5040. Also, I am aware that they are different from QA in terms of sound characteristics, but they have their advantages, and here in Europe, they cost only €700 and can be found for less. So now I’m in a double dilemma and waiting for your final reviews.

    Not to mention that I hope for your future system builder articles that will include both of these pairs.

    Anyway, thank you for all you do. It really helps a lot and shortens the path for choosing new components. With all that, it is a pleasure to read your texts for purely literary reasons.

    Greetings from Belgrade, Serbia.

    Stevan

    • Ian White

      September 21, 2023 at 11:59 pm

      Stevan,

      End of next week because of all the Jewish High Holidays.

      I will say this — the two loudspeakers are not similar at all in terms of sonic presentation. If you have a smaller listening space, the Triangle with subwoofer might be a better combination. The wireless aspect is also a consideration.

      Having now listened to the 5040 with 7 different amplifiers, I think I finally found the match I love. That is also coming next week.

      Best,

      Ian

      • Stevan Spasić

        September 22, 2023 at 11:23 am

        Thanks for your reply.

        I am aware that these two pairs sound very different. For a while, I was sure I wanted something from the new QA 5000 series, but then I discovered these wonderful Triangle speakers (with all the modern conveniences they bring), and I was swayed.

        The room intended for them is in the apartment. Its size is approximately 4 by 3.5 square meters. I thought I’d squeeze in the 5040 somehow, but now I’m closer to the bookshelf and sub combo. So instead of the smaller 5020, I will still take the Triangle AIO with the sub.

        Of course, price also plays a part in the decision. The inclusion of amplification plus a bunch of other things is just too much of an argument for the Triangle speakers for us on a budget. Finally, there is that moment of relaxing minimalism on the audio shelf.

        Thank you once again.

        All the best,

        Stevan

      • AverageDad

        May 11, 2024 at 8:14 pm

        OK so now Im sucked in!

        What was your final favorite amp with the Q4050?
        I looked all over and did not find it in an article?
        From Anxiously awaiting

        • Ian White

          May 11, 2024 at 9:59 pm

          Ron,

          Cambridge Audio Evo 150 (75 works well too) followed by Unison Research Triode 25. The Simply 845 from Unison is unbelievable with these speakers but the price doesn’t make a lot of sense if trying to assemble a system for under $6500.

          Best,

          Ian White

  8. Stevan Spasić

    September 21, 2023 at 11:14 am

    P.s. Jan is not a mistake, this is Ian in Serbian 🙂

  9. Andras

    October 12, 2023 at 7:53 pm

    Still exited about the final verdict.
    I guess it’s long due 🙂

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