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April / May 2010
Superior Audio Equipment Review

World Premiere
SQ Products SQ-H10 Loudspeaker
Transparency, life, dynamics and punch.
Review by Wayne Zufall
Click here to e-mail reviewer.


SQ Products SQ-H10 Speaker  You never know how making a simple call, if any audio related call can ever be considered "simple", can get you into more then you bargained for. I called Stephen Monte from Quest For Sound to discuss the new Dynavector XV-1T cartridge. I bought my Dynavector XV-1S from Stephen and thought he would have some insight into how good the new flagship XV-1T was. During our discussion Stephen told me about the new SQ series of loudspeakers his company, SQ Products, is making. A little further into the conversation Stephen asked me if I would write a review on one of the three new loudspeakers they had just brought out. I had previously written a review for Stephen on the Opera Audio Turandot (CD player) and Calaf (integrated amplifier) which were components he carried at his store, Quest For Sound. I told him I would be pleased to do so but did not have a medium available to have the review published. He asked if he could make that arrangement, would I do the review? I said yes.

The next day I got a call from Stephen asking me to call Steven R. Rochlin at Enjoy the Music.com. I called Steven, who was literally heading for the airport to go to CES. He was kind and spoke with me for a little while and said he would get back to me. True to his word, a few days later, Steven called from CES and after a little more discussion, he asked me to write the review on the SQ-H10 loudspeakers. It is time to see what the SQ-H10s are made of.

Opening the SQ-H10 crates only took a few minutes to unscrew the six Phillips screws and remove one side of the crate. The SQ-H10s come wrapped in layered plastic and are entombed inside a cocoon of 6" thick foam. Once the foam is removed, you can slide the loudspeaker out and remove it from its plastic cover. The SQ-H10s were well protected for even the worst delivery day nightmare. Quality packing is the sign of a good company paying attention to all of the details. The SQ-H10 comes in two different wood finishes; sapleor rosewood, with the review pair being rosewood. The finish and fit was of good quality and the knuckle test showed that the 0.75" plus MDF was doing a good job. This clearly is a multi-national built loudspeaker; the driver is British, the compression horn is German, the crossovers are American, the cabinet is Chinese and the SQ-H10 is final assembled in Pennsylvania . I especially liked the large WBT quality binding posts which had more than ample room to use big spades. The SQ-H10 is a single enclosure design with two round air ports that are open to the front of the loudspeaker. There is a black removable square grill that covers the 10" woofer and short spikes are supplied with the loudspeakers.


Those First Notes
The SQ-H10s are out of the crate and hooked up to a 60 watt integrated Rotel amplifier and Rotel CD player. The loudspeakers were positioned two feet out from the rear wall with 8 feet between them and are 10 feet from the side walls with a 9 foot ceiling. The SQ-H10 is a 94dB/W/m efficient loudspeaker and with 60 watts a channel they should do a reasonable job of filling my music room (32 feet wide by 28 feet deep with a 9 foot ceiling). My first test CD was Keb' Mo' [Suitcase, Epic, 2876776212] which I put on repeat all using an above average sound level and just let it play. I sat down after letting the system settle for about 75 minutes and switched to track 8 and listened to "Suitcase". I was greeted with solid bass and a slightly bloated mid-bass, however, the mid-range and treble was very forward, edgy and canned sounding. The SQ-H10s were not the least bit musical or natural sounding. It seemed obvious that the speakers needed additional break-in time or some other adjustments. I made a quick call to Stephen Monte and asked him how much break-in time the loudspeakers had and found out it was about 100 hours as these were a demo pair. Stephen commented that they put 30 hours of break-in time at the factory. The Rotel's and the SQ-H10s spent the next few weeks playing to add hours, with an occasional sound check to see if anything had changed. At close to 180 hours the speakers started to show some positive changes and at nearly 200 hours I sat down to listen to see if anything had improved.


Those Improved First Notes
SQ Products SQ-H10 LoudspeakerKeb' Mo' and Suitcase go back in and my ears are presented with the same solid bass and a much improved mid-bass. The "canned" sound was gone and some of the brightness and edge had improved, but the loudspeakers still had no real tonal quality; trumpets did not sound natural and the female voice, especially in the upper registers, was not clear, detailed or musical. I decided to take out the Rotel integrated amplifier and hooked up my Canary Reference Ones. An improvement, yes; better upper end detail, the edge and forwardness had improved, but still lacked tonal clarity and natural sound. The Canary's were like sticking a V8 into a VW bug, not a great match. I believe I had the right idea, being tubes, but just the wrong size of tube amplifier. I called Stephen Monte and asked him if he had a 300B SET amplifier that I could try? Two days later a JAS Bravo 2.2 Class A integrated amplifier arrived. The Bravo comes with two each 6J4P and Shuguang 300B tubes. While I am not a fan of Shuguang 300Bs, I was pleased to get the amplifier to see if this was "the" match for the SQ-H10s. Putting out 8 watts per channel (@ 4 Ohms or 8 Ohms) with a 0.56V input sensitivity looked like a potential match for the SQ-H-10s.


The Final Notes
All hooked up and warmed up, I was ready to see what impact the Bravo had on the SQ-H10s. Linda Ronstadt [For Sentimental Reasons, Asylum, 604742] was a push button away from giving me my answer, so I hit track 9 and "Straighten Up and Fly Right" began to fill the room. The bass is tight, controlled and has just about the punch you would expect from a 10" woofer. It is smooth and controlled and, while they may not fill a large room with bass, they do convey a good balance for the size of the loudspeaker. While the SQ-H10 does reach into the sub-bass bracket (38 Hz specification and the bracket is 10 to 60 Hz) you will not be disappointed in its bass response unless you are used to large paired woofer performance. What has come alive in this loudspeaker is its "new" tonal performance and improvement in being more "natural". Before the Bravo, it was lifeless and bland. There is a section of music in "Straighten Up and Fly Right" that has a trumpet solo that has punch, detail and speed, followed by a piano solo that has clarity and tonal definition right through that last second when the note decays and is over. Previously when the SQ-H10s played these passages they did not bring out any of the musicality or depth of the music that they do with the Bravo. There is still a little of the edge and forwardness in Linda's voice in certain passages.


Tuning Progress
Adding the Bravo moved the tonal balance and accuracy on the SQ-H10s to where they became "average". My challenge was to see if with some fine tuning of the cables, room placement adjustments and a change to different 300B tubes might further improve the tonal quality of the loudspeakers. First I changed the loudspeaker cables from Analysis Plus gold to copper which helped soften the edge, brightness and the tonal presentation of the trumpet, piano and the upper register of Linda Rondstadt's voice. With the copper speaker cables making a moderate but positive change, I removed the Analysis Plus gold IC between the Rotel CD player and the Bravo amplifier and replaced it with a Analysis Plus copper IC and added an Analysis Plus power cord to the Bravo SET, which made another subtle improvement on the edge and brightness. However, tonal accuracy was still average at best. My last two "electronic" ideas would, I hoped, be the ace in the hole to move the SQ-H10s a little farther forward in tonal accuracy. I pulled out the Rotel CD player and replaced it with my Canary CD-200, which quickly encouraged me to make the last change; replacing the Shuguang 300B tubes with a pair of Western Electric 300B tubes.

The Western Electric 300Bs, Canary CD-200 and the Bravo 2.2 provided the SQ-H10s with a signal that enabled them to go from a loudspeaker that's tonal presentation was well below average to midway between average and very good. The SQ-H10s are very forgiving sonically on where you put them in your room, and will provide a very cohesive soundstage as long as you do not try to separate them over 8' apart. Adding stands to move the tweeter/horn to ear level definitely adds to the balance, presentation, and breadth of the soundstage. Room placement and size, for the most part, are not a challenge for the SQ-H10. Just use the "triangle" format to set them up, keep them a few feet off the back wall, and use about an inch of toe-in and you are ready to go.

The component changes and the Western Electric 300B tubes clearly helped improve the overall performance of the SQ-H10s. They now had some transparency, life, dynamics, punch and controlled decay. Keb Mo's music has a lot of very subtle percussion in the background: cymbals, wooden blocks and triangles to name a few, which previously the SQ-H10s were not able to filter out when the source was subtle and being played next to louder drums or an electric guitar. Now they are presented with good detail and clarity. Decay before was cut off and never held until the last of the note faded. With the changes a note is now held cleanly until it dissipates naturally. Horns are now sharp, crisp, detailed and transparent. The loudspeaker has a much more palatable presentation, especially in the mid-range and upper registers, giving life and reality, if you will, to Linda Ronstadt's voice. The piano section, that before was somewhat cloudy in presentation and detail, was now crisp, clean and tonally accurate, including the correct presentation of those last decaying notes.

The SQ-H10s produce a wide frontal soundstage. There is a solid wall of sound, almost to the extent that the loudspeakers disappear with a very slight extension to the right and left of the loudspeakers. There is very limited soundstage coming into the room, giving you no idea of the "hall presence" or any depth that might be behind the loudspeakers as well. As mentioned, having the loudspeakers on stands to get the horn/tweeter to ear level is really a big plus in getting a good width, height, and presentation to the listener.

The SQ-H10s image well. There are several passages in Linda Ronstadt's "Straighten Up and Fly Right" where you can clearly tell that her backup singer is standing perhaps a foot or two to her stage right and is a little behind her, which, because they are so close, gives you the impression that their voices are nearly "one." However, they are well defined by the SQ-H10s. Keb Mo's small percussion instruments are also a good evaluation of the loudspeakers dynamic capability and their imaging ability, putting the triangles, symbols and wood percussion blocks in their applicable section of the soundstage. With many loudspeakers you can never hear them separately because they are lost in the mix or are so subtle as not to be heard. The SQ-H10s forte is its mid-bass, mid-range, imaging, punch and detail in presenting the music. Their upper range is slightly above average but could perhaps be further improved by more break-in time and even better matching of components and cables that would better favor the horn/tweeter. The loudspeakers are well built, attractive, and nicely finished, producing a lot more quality sound then their size might indicate.


The SQ-H10s are easy to set up in a room and get good performance nearly anywhere you decide to place them. Because they are not large, they also fit in without causing a decorative faux pas with a spouse or significant other. While it may seem that it took a little time and effort to "match" the SQ-H10s to compatible components, be assured, to get the most out of any component, especially speakers, you will be doing this matching with any brand of loudspeaker you may chose. As you delve deeper into audio, searching for that last 2 or 3 percent of audio nirvana from your system, you will make changes by trying the latest and greatest "new" and improved component. You then have to be ready to admit that what you had yesterday could well sound better then what you tried today. By picking warm tube or solid-state electronics, well matched cables and adding stands to a well broken-in loudspeaker, the SQ-H10s should provide you with years of listening pleasure before you decide to go searching for that last 2 percent of performance. Enjoy the music!



Type: Floorstanding horn loudspeaker with dynamic driver
Drivers: 34mm horn-loaded compressor of composite Mylar membrane
Woofer: 10" paper cone driver with a basket made of magnesium aluminum alloy
Frequency Response: 38 Hz to 20 kHz
Handling Power: 150 Watt
Sensitivity: 94dB/W/m
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Dimensions: 13 x 36 x 11.5 (WxHxD in inches)
Weight: 85 Lbs.
Warranty: 3 years
Retail Price: $4800 per pair


Company Information
SQ Products, Inc.
2307-R Bristol Pike
Bensalem, PA 19020

Voice: (215) 953-9099
E-mail: sqproductsinc@aol.com
Website: www.sq-products.com














































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