Fried Q/4 loudspeaker Page 2
The Q/4's low-frequency presentation was surprisingly full, deep, and powerful for such a small cabinet. They could produce low frequencies without a sense of strain. The pedal tones in the Dorian Pictures at an Exhibition recording were solid and full-bodied. After being surprised by the Q/4's prodigious LF output, I played this recording at very high levels. The Q/4s hung in there well past the point of a normal listening level.
I did, however, have a few complaints about the bass. It tended to be underdamped, creating a "rolling" character rather than an agile, tight quality. Where I had thought the 782s, to their detriment, sacrificed bass warmth for transient speed and articulation, the Q/4s erred in the other direction. The overripe low end tended to obscure bass detail, while imparting a "slow" character. A lot of the music I like happens to feature virtuoso bass players (Stanley Clarke, Eddie Gomez, John Pattitucci, Jaco Pastorius). Their speed and agility challenge the loudspeaker to keep up with them without smearing the notes together. I found the Q/4s adept at producing sustained low frequencies, but less satisfying at resolving lower-register detail and rapidly shifting pitch. One other aspect of the bass that disturbed me was an apparent resonance that manifested as a wooden quality in acoustic bass mid-registers and low-tuned toms (especially floor toms). I don't know how wide the resonance is, but have reason to believe it is moderately so because notes near the peak frequency that really excited it were "pulled" in pitch. On the other hand, the resonance was excited fairly infrequently, indicating a narrow-band, high-Q peak. I suspect that the line tunnel's output may contribute excessive energy in this range.
The Q/4s produced a credible soundstage, with images between and detached from the loudspeakers. In fact, I was able to position them farther apart without losing a strong center image, creating a wider soundstage than normal. However, instrumental outlines tended to be less focused than those heard through the Camber 3.5ti, Cyrus 782, and Triad System Seven. Rather than being tight and precise, images were less well-anchored within the soundstage. Similarly, the soundstage didn't have the depth and spaciousness rendered by the other loudspeakers under review. Again, the reader should be reminded of the Q/4's much lower price compared with the other loudspeakers auditioned.
The LEDR "Up" test produced a fairly good sense of height above the loudspeaker, but stopped short of the height heard through the many other loudspeakers. The "Over" test was better, the "Lateral" excellent.
At $490/pair, the Fried Q/4 delivered a consistently high level of musicality for its price. Its smooth tonal balance and uncolored presentation through the mids and treble were the speaker's greatest strengths. The treble didn't have the hardness and glare endemic in inexpensive tweeters often found in loudspeakers at this price. Music was never fatiguing or annoying, and I enjoyed listening to the Q/4s throughout the auditioning. It also has the ability to deliver low frequencies without the "anemic" quality one hears from small box speakers. Both LF extension and sense of weight and power through the midbass were remarkable.
My complaints tended to be less important musically than the Q/4's strengths, and should be put into perspective by the under-$500 price tag. These include a somewhat sluggish bass and a resonant LF peak that unnaturally colored instruments with energy in that range, while giving low-tuned drums a "fat" character. The Q/4s could throw a good soundstage, but the imaging lacked good focus and a real sense of depth.
The Q/4 offered a smoother treble than the three similarly priced loudspeakers reviewed last month, and far more output in the low-frequency range. However, I have yet to hear the $500 Snell K (review forthcoming), or what has become the benchmark level of performance for inexpensive loudspeakers, the Spica TC-50 (reviewed in Vol.12 No.10).
Despite the Q/4's shortcomings, I can recommend them on the basis of their very smooth mid and treble performance, coupled with an ability to deliver the kind of bass more often associated with much larger enclosures. They consistently delivered more music than one would expect from their modest price.