Review: James Loudspeaker 53Qw ‘Corners’ Home Theater Market
James Loudspeaker 53Qw is a $1,300 two-way wedged-shaped speaker designed for corner installation in whole-house audio and home theater speaker systems.
Napa, California-based James Loudspeaker has quietly built a loyal dealer base that relies on the West Coast company to deliver high-performing audio products and the highest levels of dealer support.
One of the company’s more recent products is the W series, and included within the W series is the $1,300 53Qw boundary loudspeaker. Designed for placement in corners that include between walls, and between walls and ceiling, the 53Qw complements whole-house audio and home theater systems by offering integrators and homeowners a solution that unobtrusively blends into any home environment.
James sent me a custom finish 53Qw that was matched to a paint sample that it received via email, validating its performance and dealer support policies all in a single swoop.
James Loudspeaker 53Qw Features and Setup
The 53Qw is a two-way loudspeaker is designed for boundary installations.
Starting with the speaker’s enclosure, James employs an aircraft-grade aluminum cabinet because of the material’s “strength, sonic performance, and durability.” As part of the enclosure, there is a perforated aluminum grille and an integrated mounting bracket system that neatly complements the speaker’s industrial design.
James Loudspeaker 53Qw Specs:
- Designed for placement within wall and wall and ceiling boundaries
- Two-way crossover design and multi-driver configuration with a pair of 5.25-inch woofers and a quad-array four 19mm tweeters
- James says 53Qw delivers a frequency response of 68Hz to 24kHz
- The 53Qw offers a 4-ohm impedance and it is 89dB sensitive
- Available in gloss white, satin black and custom colors
Internally, the 53Qw employs a pair of proprietary James 5.25-inch high-excursion aluminum woofers with Santoprene surrounds, and the company’s quad-array tweeter system. More specifically, as part of the quad array, the speaker uses four ¾-inch tweeters.
The 4-ohm loudspeaker is 89dB sensitive, and it produces a frequency response of 68Hz to 24kHz.
In addition, the 22-inch tall, two-way speaker is available in a choice of gloss white, satin black, and a full rainbow of custom colors.
Arriving at my house in two good-sized boxes, I immediately noticed the weight of the boxes and quickly pulled the speakers from the box. Backing up the premise that weight equates to quality when it comes to amps and speakers, I was stunned at not only how well the 53Qw speaker was built, but I was also impressed by the paint match James provided.
The color match was so good I showed my wife. Even my wife, who typically rolls her eyes when it comes to electronics, was impressed enough to give me her silent seal of approval.
Not having any training on the James product line, I found the removal of the mounting bracket from the speaker daunting. I was impressed by how tightly it fit together, but I was also frustrated due to the fact that I could not figure out how to install the speakers.
After watching the video (see below) I was able to disassemble the speaker to begin the installation process.
I started by disconnecting my Boston Acoustics’ on-wall speakers. From there I used a stud finder to ensure I found studs to affix the mounting brackets to, and I ran the speaker cable that was preexisting through the brackets. Making sure the mounts were level, I then secured the mounts to their respective wall to ceiling corner locations.
Once I had connected the speaker cables, I inserted the top of the bracket into a channel that runs along the top of the speaker. At the same time, I inserted the bottom of the speaker bracket into the bottom channel of the speaker.
With the installation finishing up, I used the companion set screws to lock the speaker into the bracket.
My only area of apprehension concerning the install is that integrators will have to be aware of how tightly the mounting bracket is placed near the ceiling. There needs to be enough room to work, but otherwise, I found no issues with the install process.
The 53Qw installs quickly and easily.
James Loudspeaker 53Qw Performance & Conclusions
Using the James 53Qw in combination with a Meridian 258 multizone amplifier, as well as a Meridian 218 Zone Controller, an Amazon Echo Dot for streaming, and an Integra DVD player, I ran the speakers with some streaming content to help the break-in process.
Before I get into my opinion on how the speakers sounded, I would first like to point out that from a listening environment perspective... my kitchen is an acoustic disaster.
With tile floors, drywall, granite countertops and of course household appliances, it’s not a room that is conducive to evaluating sound quality. But I will say, it’s a room that is probably the busiest in my home, and music is always playing in it.
I Started my formal listening with a Van Halen tribute CD that features a number of “name” guitar players. Firing up songs such as "Little Guitars," "Unchained," "Dance the Night Away" and "Light up the Sky," I found the James’ noticeably more dynamic than my previous speakers.
Highlighting those dynamics was much more top-end extension than I was used to from my old speakers. Considering all of the hard surfaces in my kitchen, I didn’t find the top end shrill either, which I think speaks to the overall balance of the speaker.
Switching over to streaming Sports Hub Boston sports radio, I found the talking heads to sound more articulate, with better definition in their voices via the neutrality of the speaker’s upper midrange presentation. With talk radio, this trait helps the 53Qw to provide a more natural sounding vocal presentation.
Listening to more CDs, as well as streaming music from Amazon upsampled via the Meridian Zone Controller, the speakers sounded surprisingly full. For most music, the speakers will provide more than enough bottom end extension, despite its rated bass extension of 63Hz.
In my measurements, I found smooth extension down to 20Hz and real, strong output down to 80Hz. Overall, I was really impressed with the measurements based on how smooth the speakers are in the midrange and bass regions.
I saw a slight increase in the 100Hz and 125Hz bands, but otherwise, it was amazingly consistent. My measurements prove to me the company did truly engineer the speakers for corner locations, otherwise there would be massive humps in the speaker’s response based on the gain they would produce from corner-mounted locations.
To help maximize these speakers capabilities, integrators might consider combining them with an amp that offers some sort of DSP control. This solution, which is prevalent in the pro market from companies like AudioControl, QSC, Crown, and others, would allow me to really fine tune the performance of the speaker within a specific zone like my kitchen to deliver a true "high-end" whole-house audio solution.
I am thoroughly impressed with the 53Qw. It is built like a tank, it sounds excellent thanks to some thoughtful engineering, and through James’ custom dealer support options, it can go just about anywhere without taking away from a room’s interior design.
From an integrator’s perspective, there’s not much more a manufacturer can do to make a product home friendly than what James has done to develop the 53Qw.
Base MSRP is $1,000 each.
CE Pro Verdict:
Outstanding build quality
Big, room-filling sound
James’ custom capabilities allow for the speaker to blend unobtrusively into any home
James is a high-performance manufacturer, and realistically its products should be paired with advanced amplification solutions that incorporate built-in DSPs.
The 53Qw is built like a brick. Because of its weight integrators will have to carefully find a location to support the speaker’s installation, and they should be careful handling the speaker while on a ladder.
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Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
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