Speakers From Q Acoustics Are Well Worth Leaving On The Shelf
A month or so ago, I was wandering around a hi-fi trade show when my ears pricked up at the sound of some music being played in a demonstration room that sounded so lifelike and so dynamic that I simply had to follow the sound to find out what was making such a delightful noise.
What I found when I reached the demonstration room was a small pair of bookshelf speakers pumping out music with a clarity and authority that I really hadn’t heard before from such a small source. I asked what the speakers were and it turned I was witnessing the product launch of the 3020… a brand new budget bookshelf speaker from UK firm, Q Acoustics.
The company is part of the stable of companies that includes veteran speaker cable manufacturer QED and Goldring phono cartridges. Q Acoustics was set up as a brand by parent company, Armour Home, around eight years ago to plug a gap in its product line-up. The range of Q Acoustics speakers is the brainchild of Steve Reichert, an audio industry veteran himself, who acts as Q Acoustics’ ‘golden ears’ and works on developing new designs alongside a German speaker engineer based in Essen, and a British industrial designer from Cambridge. The speakers are very much a product of European speaker design which are then manufactured in China to Q Acoustics’ exacting specifications.
The Q Acoustics 3020 speakers are available in leatherette, laquer, graphite and American walnut finishes.
The 3020 model is a brand new design that replaces the company’s award-winning 2020i speaker. The 3020s feature a 125mm bass driver and a rather clever 25mm tweeter that combines both a dome with a ring tweeter in a 2-in-1 formation. The new design produces a sublimely sweet top end that virtually eliminates any distortion and harshness. The main drive units are constructed from a paper and aramid fibre mix. Aramid fibre (aromatic polyamide) is often better known by its Dupont brand name ‘Kevlar’. The 3020’s cone isn’t made with ‘Kevlar’ but it does include a carefully calculated level of aramid fibre in the cone material which, Reichert claims, strengthens the cone and makes it more predictable with an improved level of tonal balance and natural sound.
The cabinet construction of the 3020 is deep and rear-ported which offers a tight but mellow-sounding bass that has to be one of the most engaging sounds I think I’ve ever heard. If the speakers are positioned close to a wall the ports can be plugged with foam bungs but as I’m rather partial to a good dollop of bass I left the bungs out. I did however fit the rubber feet to the cabinets to provide a bit more isolation from the bookshelf surface that the speakers were sat on.
So what sets the Q Acoustics 3020 apart from other speaker designs? The cabinet is formed into an ovoid shape and thus avoids sharp corners. It’s constructed from 15mm ply and draws much of its design influences from Q Acoustics’ much more expensive and well-regarded Concept series of speakers. The cabinet construction is extremely rigid and generously cross-braced so it really doesn’t have any resonance and doesn’t colour the sound. The sonic quality is superbly neutral and clear with a divinely sweet treble. Even at high volumes it never gets stressed or distorted. For the size of the cabinet, the level of the bass is impressive but without being boomy. It’s this engaging nature of the sound that really grabbed my attention. The way these speakers separate and tease out each instrument sounds effortless. The tightly focused soundstage makes it possible to close your eyes and imagine the position of each instrument.
I’m well aware that I’m gushing superlatives here but I don’t think I’ve come across a budget speaker that offers such an incredibly engaging performance at such an affordable price. I’d go so far as to say that I doubt there are any speakers under £500 that could offer that level of performance in a small to medium-sized room.
During the week that I auditioned the Q Acoustics 3020, I found myself listening to whole swathes of my music collection over and over again as I kept hearing new things I’d missed for years with my B&W D303s. Where previously bass drums and acoustic bass lines had sounded muddled, the 3020s separated them out for me so I could hear the kick pedal as well as the slap of an acoustic bass string on a fingerboard. And it didn’t seem to matter what type of music I threw at these speakers because they sounded equally at home with everything from early music, through to classic jazz and modern pop.
The Q Acoustic 3020s can’t be bi-wired but thanks to a redesigned crossover unit there really isn’t any need. The crossover is a fourth order ‘Linkwitz/Riley’ design which Reichert claims optimisesthe phase relationships between the tweeter and the bass unit’. More audiophile components have been incorporated in the crossover circuitry, including U-Core inductors which have a weaker magnetic field which reduces the crosstalk between the components.
I auditioned the 3020s with a high-end Linn system as well as a micro hi-fi unit from Onkyo. The smaller system allowed the speakers to really shine and I’d have to say that if you are considering buying a pair of bookshelf speakers for use in a smaller room, then don’t look any further because the Q Acoustics 3020 really lead the pack.
The basic cabinet finish is available in Matte Graphite or American Walnut and retail at just £190 (€263/$280) per pair. Alternatively, you can opt for a leather or white/black laquer effect for an extra £50 (€70/$74). Magnetic fabric speaker grilles are also provided and you can buy custom-designed Q Acoustic stands or wall brackets for the speakers.
If you want to reawaken your love for music then do give the Q Acoustic 3020s a listen: I promise you won’t regret it.
More information from www.qacoustics.co.uk
Enclosure type: 2-way reflex
Bass unit: 125mm
Treble unit: 25mm
Frequency response: 64Hz – 22 kHz
Nominal impedence: 6 ohms
Recommended amplifier power: 25-75W
Crossover frequency: 2.9kHz
Effective volume: 5.9 litres
Dimensions (WxHxD): 170mm x 260mm x 226mm