Last year, a company called NXT announced that they'd developed a way for a flat, rigid
panel to act as a transducer, creating the potential for very thin, flat speaker systems.
But if you've been around high fidelity audio systems for the past 25 years or so, you
already know that flat speaker systems already exist. NXT's technology is different. And
much less expensive than the electrostatic drivers that Magnepan used in their famous
planar stereo loudspeakers.
4Q Technologies has licensed the rigid panel technology from NXT for their Sound Image
QX-TFT-02 speaker system. The speakers consist of two flat panel satellites and a single
powered subwoofer. The subwoofer contains the amplifiers for the satellite speakers, as
well as the bass driver. The two rotary controls (Off/On/Volume and Bass Volume) are
located on the front panel of the subwoofer.
The satellite speakers connect to the subwoofer with separate cables that are permanently
attached to each satellite. The subwoofer connects to the audio source with a stereo cable
with mini stereo plugs on each end. Power is delivered to the subwoofer through a standard
two-prong power cord. The power transformer is located within the subwoofer, which is a
convenience, although at the cost of interior space within the subwoofer's cabinet.
The speaker system is finished in an off-white color that is molded into the plastic. The
fronts of the satellites are light gray with the 4Q and NXT logos screened on them.
4Q's speakers aren't the first of the flat panel speakers that we've seen at The NOSPIN
Group. We reviewed Benwin's offering a few months ago, so when the speakers arrived, I had
some preconceived notions of what to expect. The satellites, because of their physical
design, cannot reproduce must low frequency information, so the subwoofer is necessary to
overcome this liability. I was not particularly impressed with Benwin's choice for a
subwoofer, and so I was curious about 4Q's selection.
The first thing that I noticed when I removed the speakers was that the satellites had a
larger surface are than the Benwin satellites. Also, the 4Q subwoofer was larger than
Benwin's. And after listening to the speakers, the difference was clear. The 4Q system
produced louder, more satisfying bass than the Benwin speakers.
I used the speakers to listen to several classical and rock and roll MP3 files on a
Celeron 366 system running RedHat Linux 6.0 through KjukeBox and an Ensoniq PCI sound
card. In each case, the midrange and treble sounds were very discrete and clear, just as
with the Benwin speakers. The bass was much more substantial than with the Benwin system,
although still not up to the standards of our reference speaker system, the Microsoft
Digital Sound System.
Several computer games also showed the good performance of the speakers. QuakeII and
Civilization: Call to Power proved the speakers ability to handle the abrupt, dynamic
demands of modern shooting and strategy games. Finally, I connected the speakers to a
portable CD player and listened to several discs. Musically, the speakers sounded very
clear, especially in treble and midrange areas. The bass range of the music lacked the
punch that you might expect from a home audio system, but considering the size of the
subwoofer, I was satisfied with its performance.
As I mentioned before, the 4Q speaker system did not perform as well as the reference
Microsoft Digital Sound System, but the price premium for 4Q's offering is much lower. It
outperformed the Benwin system, which carries a similar price tag.
Overall, the 4Q system is satisfying from both a performance and ergonomic point of view.
The speakers were effective at audio reproduction and the thin satellites take up precious
little space on your desktop. The 4Q Sound Image TFT (QX-TFT-02) is worthy of
consideration for your next multimedia purchase.
4Q Technologies: http://www.4qtech.com