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6 Reasons to Avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos Speaker at All Costs

Avoid Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker

6 Reasons to Avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos Speaker at All Costs

Key Points

  • The Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker is a pair of upward-firing speakers with a suggested retail price of $750, designed to be used in place of ceiling-mounted speakers.
  • Reasons to avoid the Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker include the high price, limited functionality, mounting method, and weak overall volume.
  • Alternatives to the Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker include the Klipsch RP-140SA, Sony SSCSE, and Polk Audio XT90, which offer comparable performance at a lower cost.
  • The Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker has a frequency response of 105Hz to 18.5kHz, maximum output of 106 dB, and amplifier requirements of 10 to 100 watts minimum.

Are you looking for a new speaker? There are a few reasons why you might want to avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker. KEF is no stranger to high-end audio equipment. The release of their Q50a has been met with unanimous praise from audiophiles and film buffs alike. However, these upward-firing speakers aren’t going to be for everyone.

There are some shortcomings to the overall package that might make you consider seeking out alternatives. Today’s review will cover six of the strongest reasons you might want to avoid a pair of this upward-firing speaker set in lieu of some alternatives. When you’re designing a home theater system, you want the absolute best you can get.

What Is the Q50a Dolby Atmos Speaker?

The KEF Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker comes as a pair with a suggested retail price of $750. These upward-firing speakers are meant to be used in place of something like a ceiling-mounted set of speakers. Once installed in your sound system, and provided you have an Atmos-compatible receiver, you get access to a new world of spatial immersive audio.

They pair best with the KEF Q-series of reference speakers for home audio uses. As such, they don’t make for the best fit when considering alternative speaker arrangements from the likes of Klipsch or Sony. The Q50a is very much in the premium realm in terms of overall price.

SpecsKEF Q50a Dolby Atmos Speaker
Frequency Response105Hz to 18.5kHz
Maximum Output106 dB
Amplifier Requirements10 to 100 watts minimum
Impedance8 Ohms, minimum of 4.6 Ohms needed
Height6.8 inches
Width7.08 inches
Depth10.19 inches
Weight9.4 pounds per speaker

Reasons to Avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos Speaker

Here are just a few of the reasons why you may want to pass on the Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker and look at other options.

The Price

Avoid A Q50a Dolby Atmos
The Q50a speakers are a high-cost complement to free-standing floor speakers.

One of the biggest reasons to avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker comes down to the raw cost of the unit by itself. At $750 a pair, these are expensive speakers, especially when paired with other components. You could very easily be looking at an overall setup cost of thousands of dollars to get a rich and detailed Dolby Atmos listening experience.

Simply put, you can get comparable speakers for a lot less. When you think about the simple fact that you’ll need to invest in a set of Q-series speakers from KEF to complement these, it starts to add up quickly. No one ever said home audio was a cheap hobby to get into, but you can certainly stretch your dollar further for comparable performance.

It Isn’t a Complete Solution

The Q50a are upward-firing speakers, and that’s all they do. You’re spending almost $1000 to get a sense of height to your sound. Now, this might not be one of the biggest reasons to avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker for you. Chances are if you’re glancing at these, you’re expecting to spend a considerable sum to get the best possible sound.

However, you could readily get into most of a sound system with 90% of the same capabilities for the cost of a pair of these speakers. Even when considering alternative upward-firing speakers, you’ll find there are alternatives that get you in the same ballpark while leaving plenty of room in the budget for the needed positional speakers.

The Mounting Method

You’ve got two options for mounting the Q50a Dolby Atmos speakers. One of the ways KEF recommends is mounting them directly on top of a free-standing floor speaker. The alternative is using the keyholes on the side of the unit for mounting on the wall. The first method is fine practice but can lead to some concerns due to general instability.

Mounting on the wall is an okay solution, but the overall weight of the speaker becomes a concern. One of the biggest reasons to avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker is just down to your options for placement. They work best either sitting atop a Q-series speaker or mounted precariously on your wall. Depending on the construction of your home, the wall mount might not even be viable.

Overall Volume Can Be Weak

Avoid A Q50a Dolby Atmos
A high-powered receiver can be an expensive fix to solve volume and detail issues with the KEF Q50a speakers.

The KEF Q50a has a quoted maximum volume of 106 dB, which is quite loud. However, in practice, many customers have noted mixed results when using these speakers. The Q50a can sound muffled when driven, especially in dialogue-rich scenes from your favorite films and shows.

Now, you could potentially invest in a better receiver with more power. However, that’s a massive expenditure to get the best performance out of these speakers. While the volume is decent, the overall quality of the sound might be one of the strongest reasons to avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker.

Frequency Response Is Lacking

Optimal speaker placement can be a tricky task. You’ve got things to consider like crossover frequencies and effective placement. The Q50a has a lacking frequency range, with lows only going down to the audible range of 100Hz. Now, for upward-firing speakers, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

However, when you look at the reality of the situation, you’re going to need a subwoofer in addition to your positional speakers. The frequency response might not be one of the biggest reasons to avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker, but it is something to keep in mind. There is a steep roll-off in the lows and a crossover frequency of 2kHz to keep in mind.

The Size of Speakers Requires Careful Planning

The Q50a is a sizable speaker. While anyone with a home audio solution knows the degree of planning that goes into speaker placement, these add another wrinkle to the mix. As previously discussed with the mounting options, you’re going to be stuck with these on top of floor speakers or on the walls.

These are large speakers, with a depth of around 10 inches to consider. As such, they take up quite a sizable footprint that needs to be accounted for. You could certainly wall-mount them, but at that point, you could also just invest in a set of ceiling-mounted speakers. One of the biggest reasons to avoid a Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker is down to just how unwieldy these are in person.

Alternatives to the Q50a Dolby Atmos Speaker

Here are three of our favorite alternatives to the Q50a Dolby Atmos speaker.

Klipsch RP-140SA

Rich and Detailed Soundstage
Klipsch RP-140SA Dolby Atmos Speaker
$269.95
  • 50W/200W power handling
  • 1-inch titanium LTS tweeter with hybrid Tractrix horn
  • 4-inch cerametallic cone woofer
  • Brushed polymer veneer finish
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/29/2024 11:08 pm GMT

The closest competitor to the KEF Q50a is the Klipsch RP-140SA. At first glance, these are remarkably similar speakers and they serve an identical function. You use these alongside your free-standing floor speakers to add Dolby Atmos to any surround sound setup, provided you have a compatible receiver.

Part of what makes the RP-140SA speakers such an enticing alternative comes down to the raw cost. You can get a pair of these for well under the cost of the KEF Q50a. Sound-wise, these come out sounding great as well. When used alongside comparable floor speakers, you’re getting a rich and detailed soundstage for your favorite shows and films.

Sony SSCSE

Volume Without Distortion
Sony SSCSE Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers
$123.00
  • Comes in a pair
  • Maximum output of 100 watts
  • 4-inch woofer
  • 70~32,000Hz frequency response
  • Includes mounting hardware
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01/29/2024 10:54 pm GMT

The Sony SSCSE isn’t directly comparable to the quality of sound provided by the KEF Q50a. That said, these get 90% of the way there for a suggested retail price of $200 a pair. These are more reasonably priced while also being smaller dimensionally.

These little speakers aren’t lacking in power, however. You’ve got a maximum output of 100 watts to keep in mind, so they can take plenty of volume without distorting. Reviewers have been fond of the Sony SSCSE, and they’re something of a sleeper for users looking for a compact way to add the height component needed for Dolby Atmos.

Polk Audio XT90

Affordable 3D Audio
Polk Audio Monitor XT90 Hi-Res Height Speaker Pair
$199.00
  • Dolby Atmos-Certified
  • Supports DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X
  • 4-inch woofer
  • Compatible with 4 and 8 ohm amplifiers and receivers
  • 100 watts maximum output
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/29/2024 11:03 pm GMT

Polk Audio is a familiar name for those in the know for home audio. The XT90 is their take on the upward-firing speaker, and like the Sony SSCSE, is priced affordably. You’re looking at $199 for a pair of these speakers which come with a full range of compatibility for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS Virtual:X.

Like the SSCSE, they are more compact overall, meaning you’ve got a huge amount of flexibility on where to place them. Sound-wise, the smaller drivers won’t sound as detailed as the Q50a speakers from KEF. That said, you’re getting most of the way there for a considerably lower sum to integrate into your current home audio solution.

Closing Thoughts

The KEF Q50as are a great set of upward-firing speakers, but they’re hindered by a sizable footprint and exorbitant cost. Numerous alternatives on the market perform admirably, at least when compared directly to the Q50a. Truth be told, the upward-firing speakers in any Dolby Atmos setup don’t need to be the cream of the crop to get the height component needed for truly immersive audio.

Best Alternatives to the KEF Q50a Dolby Atmos Speaker

1. Klipsch RP-140SA
2. Sony SSCSE
3. Polk Audio XT90
  1. Klipsch RP-140SA Dolby Atmos Speaker
    $269.95
    • 50W/200W power handling
    • 1-inch titanium LTS tweeter with hybrid Tractrix horn
    • 4-inch cerametallic cone woofer
    • Brushed polymer veneer finish
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/29/2024 11:08 pm GMT
  2. Sony SSCSE Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers
    $123.00
    • Comes in a pair
    • Maximum output of 100 watts
    • 4-inch woofer
    • 70~32,000Hz frequency response
    • Includes mounting hardware
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/29/2024 10:54 pm GMT
  3. Polk Audio Monitor XT90 Hi-Res Height Speaker Pair
    $199.00
    • Dolby Atmos-Certified
    • Supports DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X
    • 4-inch woofer
    • Compatible with 4 and 8 ohm amplifiers and receivers
    • 100 watts maximum output
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/29/2024 11:03 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need upward-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos?

Generally speaking, yes, you’ll want some degree of height portrayed with your spatial audio, especially if you want Dolby Atmos.

Are the KEF Q50a speakers a good buy?

That really depends on what you value out of a set of speakers. If money is no object, then you might gel well with the capabilities of the Q50a speakers.

Do the KEF Q50a speakers come with everything you need for Dolby Atmos?

No, you’ll need floor or bookshelf speakers and a receiver with Dolby Atmos compatibility to make the most of the Q50a speakers.

Are surround systems better than a soundbar?

Surround systems can have more detail when approaching the overall audio quality. However, they take up considerably more space than a soundbar, so that is something to keep in mind.

Can you use a soundbar with upward-firing speakers?

It isn’t really suggested, you’ll want to stick with a more traditional surround system when considering upward-firing speakers.

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