q7 monitor speakers

Falling off the hi-fi wagon (again) – for the Falcon Acoustics Q7 speakers

Those who have read my recent blogs, will know that I fell off the hifi wagon at Black December. Those like me who are prone to give in to hifi temptation will know that one purchase can lead to another and so in January, my new NAD C700 was joined by a new pair of Falcon Acoustics Q7 speakers.

My interest in the Falcon Acoustics Q7 speakers began at the Cranage HiFi show last year, when I heard a lot of big and expensive systems, that left me frankly underwhelmed. However in a small room near the back of the hotel I found a small system based with an Auralic source and a pair of Falcon Acoustics mini monitor speakers. The effect was quite overwhelmingly charming and musical.

Falcon Acoustics is a small British company founded in 1972 by Malcolm Jones, the first Chief Design Engineer at KEF. They have long been associated with speakers built to BBC designs, especially the BBC LS3/5A. The LS3/5A stands out as one of the most renowned monitor designs associated with the BBC. In the 1970s, the BBC required a compact monitor suitable for critical evaluation of program quality in tight outside broadcast vehicles and control rooms. Finding no suitable commercial options, they turned to a separate research project exploring acoustic scaling of studios. This project had produced a miniature loudspeaker which could be repurposed for monitoring. After extensive development, the original LS3/5 emerged.

Initially, a batch of 20 units was constructed in-house for field trials. However, when the decision was made to produce another batch, it was discovered that KEF had made alterations to both drive units. These changes rendered the new units significantly different from the originals, impacting the speaker’s measurements and sound quality. Consequently, the BBC’s Designs Department had to significantly re-engineer the speakers, resulting in variations substantial enough from the original model to warrant the addition of the ‘A’ suffix. The BBC granted licences to a small number of British firms, who first manufactured the product in 1975. More than 60,000 pairs of the speakers have since been sold.

My first encounter with the LS3/5A was in the pages of HiFi News in the 1980s, through the columns of Ken Kessler, who left me with a fascination with the speaker, but it was way out of my price range. At the same time, I read about the Marantz PM4SE Class A amplifier, a fascination that remains unsated to this day! The profile of the LS/5A has risen in recent years, but frankly, it remains a little out of my budget. These days, Falcon Audio is one of the most prominent of the manufacturers that produce licenced LS3/5A speakers. But they also produce variants and kits.

Their Q7 mini monitor uses the same T27 tweeter and B110 woofer combination as the Falcon LS3/5A, in a cabinet made from 12mm and 9mm graded Baltic Ply Birch. This cabinet is 65mm deeper and over a third larger in volume than the LS3/5A, producing an optimal Q value of 0.7 and enhancing bass extension significantly. The specifications show that the Q7 produces 2dB higher output at 50Hz compared to the 3/5A and offers an impressive frequency response ranging from 60Hz to 20kHz. All this from a sealed box design with a five-inch woofer.

Falcon Acoustics offer the Q7 as part of their Complete at Home range of speakers available directly to the customer as a kit to keep costs down. The Q7 kit costs less than half the corresponding LS3/5A and offers a wider frequency range. What’s not to like? The kits are easy to build. The cabinets are supplied pre-built with wired terminals so all you have to do is bolt the drivers and crossover onto the baffle, attach the captive wires via push-on lugs and screw the baffle into the cabinet. Surely, I could manage that, and the idea of being able to look at them and feel that I had built them was very attractive.

That was the plan. I knew that I was building up to a purchase for the front room, where I listen to a lot of dialogue and their small size would be a good cosmetic and acoustic fit. However, Falcon announced a Black Friday offer of free manufacture and I although building themself would have been fun, with their £1000+ price tag, the assembled option seemed the safer option. Having already succumbed once, I resisted purchase during December, but January bought a promised price increase and the free assembly offer persisted, so I gave in, bought them, and placed them on a substantial pair of speaker stands in my front room

How do they sound? Great. In addition to their ability to convey dialog on TV, radio and podcasts, they turn out to have a talent for conveying small scale acoustic music with that charming musicality and stereo sound stage I remember from last years hifi show. They sound so good it caused me to reassess my main system and make some improvements there – the subject of my next blog – and to consider the use of a subwoofer for larger scale music, also a subject for a future blog.

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