We're always on the lookout for new and exciting audio equipment. When we heard that it was possible to get our hands on a shiny new tube amp for less than $100, we had to see what the hub-bub was about. Having a tiny tabletop amp has its perks - including the ability to run our old direct drive turntables into a preamp and have the amp sit right on top. We also received a set of speakers to review, and while it doesn't compete in terms of value nor come close to making our list as the most kickass tiny speakers ever created, it is an interesting exploration in design and makes for an interesting conversation piece.
Before we get started, let's get a little background first. Qinpu is an audio company in China that's been known more as a hidden brand distributed on eBay or third-party Amazon dealers than something like KEF, Polk Audio, or Samsung here in the states. However, just because it's sold on eBay doesn't mean it's always crap. Well, for the most part, that is true.
Although the pictures may not give a good feel for the size of the Qinpu tube amp and speakers, let us be clear: this is one of the tiniest speaker systems we've ever reviewed.
Let us start with the Q-2 tube amp. Designed with retro steel casing around the tube, it's reminiscent or something from the 50's or even earlier. The black aluminum case itself is heavy. Real heavy. As are the knobs; everything is strikingly well-made and is quite surprising for an amplifier that's significantly cheaper than modern home theater solutions sold at BestBuy.
The amplifier itself works as a hybrid, where the tube creates the sound and is then amplified by the solid state amplifier before outputting to the speakers. In the back, you can immediately tell it's designed with a desktop in mind. You have the option to feed RCA in or a line-in from your iPod. You also have the option to drive a pair of headphones, although when tested, it wasn't anything special to write home about.
With regards to the coloration of sound, the amp does a great job with the mids, leaving the music open and uncolored. As for the soundstage, it also delivers high marks for such a compact package. Ultimately, what you end up with is extremely believable performance for a fraction of the cost of other dedicated stereo amps.
As for the speakers... well, they're not really speakers at all, but more "microspeakers" - a small box that attempts to deliver good sound. Yes, they're cute. Yes, they sound better than your laptop speakers.
But the smallness of the box and limited range of the drivers makes it sound so small that we really couldn't figure out what kind of audience such a box could appeal to. There's no bass. No dynamic range. Pairing it with one of our tiny subwoofers just sounded like a complete mismatch. For $170, you can spend a few more bucks and get the Audioengine A2 speakers, which will deliver you surprisingly good bass and a nearly complete dynamic range.
All in all, we were not so impressed with the V-5's. They're cool looking and all, but that's about it.
However, if you need a cheap tabletop amplifier, you simply cannot go wrong with the Qinpu Q-2 Amp. As for the speakers, well, let's just say your money would be wisely spent in other places.
Pros: Great value for the amp, slick design, tube colors sound nicely.
Cons: Speakers don't deliver (limited range), difficult to pair with existing sound equipment.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did loan us the product for testing and review purposes.