By Don Lindich
Week 51, 2023
Q. Rather than get a soundbar I would like to stream music and play TV audio through two stereo speakers, placed on either side of a wall-mounted 75-inch television. I would prefer to use bookshelf speakers on stands, possibly adding a subwoofer later. I can spend up to about $3,000 to get the best sound quality, especially for music. What would you recommend?
-K.L, Raleigh, NC
A. Two speakers with an amplifier or receiver is a very good way to enjoy television sound, and especially to enjoy music. You won’t get the surround effects of a multichannel soundbar system, but you will get notably superior sound quality if you choose the right components. Any system that reproduces music exceptionally well will also sound fantastic for movies, so the system I am recommending will focus on music reproduction while providing an ideal interface for your television.
The new 5000 series speakers from British manufacturer Q Acoustics are an ideal choice for your system. I heard these speakers at the AXPONA audio show back in April and was tremendously impressed, and my positive impressions were confirmed after hearing the 5020 stand-mount speakers in my home last summer. There is some really pricey gear on display at AXPONA ($100,000 to $200,000 stereo systems are not at all uncommon) yet the 5000 series speakers were some of the most memorable products I encountered, both for the innovative technology and enchanting sound. The 5000 series speakers incorporate drivers with Q Acoustics’ trademarked Continuous Curved Cone (CCC) design, which optimizes the changing curve of the cone to reproduce sound as accurately as possible while integrating perfectly with the tweeters. The clarity, purity and precision is hard to put to words, and the CCC concept is so simple and ingenious I was surprised it had not been developed until now. The 5020 speakers sound effortlessly precise without being cold or clinical, while possessing the natural, agreeable sound associated with British hi-fi gear. The Q Acoustics 5020 speakers sell for $899/pair. If you can spend a bit more and change your mind about having a floorstanding speaker in your room, the $1,499/pair 5040 speakers might be an even better choice given the stronger bass.
A perfect hub for your system is the Technics SU-GX70 Network Audio Amplifier. The SU-GX70 has an HDMI–ARC connection that takes television audio (from Smart TV apps and any component connected to the television via HDMI) and sends it to the amplifier in full quality. The built-in network player provides access to Internet Radio and multiple streaming services with easy control and uncompromising performance.
The advanced digital amplifier keeps the signal fully digital until it gets to the speaker outputs, the theoretical ultimate for a digital amplifier. Back in 2003 I tested the $300 Panasonic SA-XR45 receiver, which employed a very early version of this technology. (Panasonic is the parent company of Technics.) Some reviewers compared the SA-XR45 favorably to esoteric amplifiers costing tens of thousands of dollars. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a $10,000 amplifier to compare to the SA-XR45, but did find the performance beyond reproach with crystal-clear transparency and enough power to drive 4-ohm Polk LSi9 speakers. I recommended it wholeheartedly and readers loved it as much as I did. The SU–GX70 uses an even more advanced version of this amplifier technology.
Last but not least, the Technics Space Tune feature analyzes your room via test tones and optimizes the speaker’s response to match. At $1,999 the SU-GX70 is not inexpensive, but it is a good value for such a versatile, beautifully made and high-performing luxury product.