Falcon Acoustics Q7 Loudspeaker Kit Review
Neville Roberts builds a super sounding pair of classic-style mini monitors…
Q7 Loudspeaker Kit
I was impressed with the quality of the Falcon Acoustics IMF100 kit loudspeaker that I built on a previous occasion. I was expecting great things from the company's Q7 mini-monitor kit – and was not disappointed. It's a two-way loudspeaker that uses the 110mm Falcon B110 Bextrene cone bass unit and 19mm Falcon T27 Mylar dome tweeter. These are up-to-date versions of the legendary KEF B110 and T27 drive units, which were designed by Falcon's founder, Malcolm Jones.
The original Q7 was also designed by Malcolm Jones and sold by Falcon for many years. It's housed in a specially extended LS3/5a-type infinite baffle cabinet, designed to produce an optimum Q of 0.7, resulting in 2dB of extra bass compared to the LS3/5a at 50Hz. It proved surprisingly easy to build and represents a significant saving in terms of the money you'd otherwise spend to get the manufacturer to do it. Put crudely, kits give you much more bang for your buck. Pricing is very reasonable at £995 per pair, considering the quality of the materials.
DOING IT YOURSELF
The company says this kit takes around two hours to build, which comes supplied with pre-built Italian high-quality Baltic birch ply cabinets with front panels in natural walnut or rosewood veneers. Traditional veneer core plywood has voids and is made up of softwoods. MDF is also made from soft materials. Conversely, Baltic birch ply is manufactured from birch veneers, and this forms a void-free core with far superior acoustic properties. The cabinets are manufactured with built-in magnetic fasteners for the magnetic front cloth grilles. Magnetic Tygan grilles are available as an option.
The crossover is Falcon's 23.2 factory assembled pre-wired unit, with no soldering required. All necessary tools are provided, together with an online instruction manual and video to help with the construction. For anyone happy wielding a soldering iron, specially designed Falcon FL6/23 Silver Badge upgraded crossovers are also available at extra cost and include BBC specification Rogers Swisstone style inductors. Quoted frequency response of these 15-ohm loudspeakers is 60Hz-20kHz (+/- 3dB) with a sensitivity of 83dB/2.83V/m. By modern standards, that's pretty low, but not unrealistically so. The manufacturer says you'll need an amplifier of between 15 and 50W per channel, but I suggest you steer towards the upper end of that. Each speaker weighs 6kg and measures 190x310x230mm.
I was expecting a high-quality set of parts and was not disappointed. As with the IMF100s, the cabinets are absolutely superb, and the wood veneer is beautiful. The crossover is well made using good quality components and fitted with push-on spade connectors, so no soldering is necessary. The instructions are clear and extremely easy to follow, so no one should be put off by having to build them. Each stage is described with a photograph and a caption.
The inset front baffle is supplied separately from the finished main cabinet so that all components can be fitted to the baffle before it is fixed in place. After placing the baffle face down on a flat surface, the B110 driver is screwed into position on top of a gasket, using the supplied nuts, bolts and screwdriver. Next, the pre-assembled crossover board is bolted onto spacers situated around the cut-out for the tweeter.
The T27 tweeter is then fitted to the front of the baffle board in its foam gasket, and the wires are plugged into the appropriate points on the crossover. Now the separate B110 connecting leads are plugged into the crossover and the driver. Finally, the front baffle assembly is placed on the main cabinet. The factory-installed input wires that have already been connected to the rear speaker terminals are plugged into the crossover before the front baffle is screwed into place with the eight wood screws.
The only jobs then left are fixing the 'Falcon' labels on the front grilles and fitting the rear self-adhesive serial number badges. The latter are positioned using a neat little stencil supplied on the back page of the instructions, ensuring that they are perfectly aligned and identically placed on both speakers. Being an old hand at this sort of thing, it actually took less than an hour for me to build both speakers – and I had no issues at all with the construction. The end result is a pair of beautifully finished loudspeakers that look professionally made. No smug self-satisfaction from yours truly whatsoever!
I connected the Q7s to my reference 300B parallel single-ended valve monoblock power amplifiers and began the listening with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, played by the Cleveland Orchestra. This has a very full and deep bass drum, therefore a good test for the bass response of any loudspeaker. I was more than a little surprised with the result, as the drum was reproduced very well, considering the size of the Q7.
Indeed, the exuberant presentation of the full orchestra, for which this performance is particularly noted, was remarkably well delivered. Of particular note was the accurate instrument positioning within the sound stage. At the other end of the frequency spectrum, the strident trumpet blasts during the opening 'Andante sostenuto' were clear and bright without sounding at all harsh. In other words, I heard a perfect balance across all the orchestra's instruments, with better bass than expected and superb stereo separation.
The surprising dynamics that this speaker is capable of were revealed by Vladimir Ashkenazy playing Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1. The powerful playing was breathtaking. The piano is always a challenging instrument to reproduce well and a real test for loudspeakers. Yet, the Q7 had a completely believable presentation of all instruments, and the energy of Ashkenazy's playing was faithfully carried. Crescendos were full and open, and the trumpet blasts were as bright as they should be without sounding harsh. The piano was perfectly positioned in front of the orchestra, which itself was spread evenly across the sound stage. When I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine conductor Andre Previn dancing around on a podium in my sitting room!
The key to this speaker's sound is its lovely midband. My trusty Studer A810 was loaded with a reel of Yarlung Records 15IPS copy-master tape of Yuko Mabuchi plays Miles Davis. The first track, Ikumi's Lullaby, written by Yuko Mabuchi, gently relaxed me into the environment of the Cammilleri Hall in Los Angeles, where the recording took place in 2018. On the downside, I didn't quite hear the same sense of realism with Mabuchi's piano as I did with Ashkenazy's on the Prokofiev recording. Still, there was an inky blackness during the silences, particularly evident due to the huge dynamic range you get from a master tape. During these silences, I got a real sense of the atmosphere of the hall, which is quite an achievement from a pair of small monitor speakers. Mabuchi's sympathetic rendition of So What – which is true to the Miles Davis original – imparted a freshness and energy to the performance. The drums in the introduction of All Blues made me sit up and listen, and the clarity of the trumpet was great.
For a complete change of genre, I switched to an UltraAnalogue recording featuring Tatsuki Narita on the violin and Yun-Yang Lee on the piano performing Massenet's Méditation. The music sounded both beautiful and moving, really showing off the Q7's refined handling of the piece. In contrast, the stalking introduction on the piano in their performance of Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre didn't quite prepare me for the opening chord on the violin, which would have made me jump were I not expecting it. This tuneful yet sinister piece sounded scarily realistic in my listening room.
I was fast beginning to forget that I was listening to a pair of affordable kit loudspeakers, such was the tonal balance, low-level detail and general air of realism on offer, plus the excellent soundstaging. I switched over to a Chasing the Dragon live performance of Vivaldi concertos played by Interpreti Veneziani. The music was full and open, with a great presence. I was able to locate all the eight players individually across my listening room. The recorded acoustic had superb depth, and the Q7s really did turn out a remarkably sophisticated performance. The detail of the cello with Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in A major RV419 was fantastic, and I really felt that I was sitting within a few feet of the performer.
I spun up my vinyl copy of Laurent Garnier's Tales of a Kleptomaniac album, only to marvel at this speaker's prodigious bass considering its cabinet size. The pounding bass line of Desireless proved more powerful than expected from this sort of small speaker, and it was interesting to watch that B110 cone really exert itself. Despite the design being over half a century old, it was almost leaping out of the surround whilst still holding things together admirably. True, it didn't blow a gust of wind across my listening room like my floor standing transmission lines do but was forceful in its own way. Naturally, the extension was quite limited, but that's down to the laws of physics and not the design of this fine little loudspeaker.
Falcon Acoustics' Q7 is an excellent kit loudspeaker on a number of levels. First, it sounds superb for the price. Second, the quality of the parts is beyond reproach, and it's straightforward to build. Third, it's a fascinating design with provenance stretching back to an industry legend. With smooth and delicate treble and midband, fine low-level detail, excellent soundstaging and really decent bass response that belies its size – it's hard not to like. If you're a keen DIYer, you'd be mad to overlook it.
A Chartered Scientist, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Physicist and a Fellow of the British Institution of Engineering and Technology, Neville has worked as a Director of the British National Health Service, for the Ministry of Defence and in private industry. He’s a lifelong audio enthusiast and regular contributor to British hi-fi magazines, with a passion for valves and vinyl.
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