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Best speakers Q Acoustics 3050i review 2018

Full review Q Acoustics 3050i from Australia. Pros, Cons, Build, Sound, Performance, Design and verdict.

Pros
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Great tonal balance
  • Flexible placement
  • Attractive design
  • Solid build quality
Cons
  • Slightly narrow dispersion
  • Subwoofer has limited bass
  • Subwoofer has limited bass
Key Features
  • Review Price: £1345
  • 5.1 speaker package
  • 3050i floorstanding speaker
  • 3010i surround speaker
  • 3090Ci centre speaker
  • 3060S subwoofer

If your love for bass and big sound is greater than your budget for new speakers, a pair of midrange floorstanders could be just what your living room needs.

But not just any old pair of course. You owe it to yourself to acquire a great pair… such as these Q Acoustics 3050is, for instance.

Regular readers of What Hi-Fi? won’t be surprised to see five stars next to Q Acoustics’ name – not only have both the 3010i and 3020i standmounters in the brand’s 3000i range already bagged maximum stars, their predecessors (the 3050s) are also current Award winners.

Build and compatibility

The 3050is are more evolutionary than revolutionary, in terms of both performance and aesthetic.

For the latter, there is the addition of a fourth colour finish (grey, walnut, white or black) and a chrome bezel around each driver.

But there are some technical advancements over their predecessors. As with the 3010i and 3020i, cabinet rigidity has been improved – P2P (point-to-point) cabinet bracing gives extra support to the parts that require stiffening to make them quieter; the baffle is thicker to support the tweeter and mid/bass driver; traditional terminal panel cut-outs make way for embedded sockets within the cabinet.

The 3050i’s 20mm soft dome tweeter has been decoupled from the baffle via a suspension system to isolate it from vibrations from the two sandwiching 16.5cm woofers.

Unique to the 3050is in the range, however, is their use of HPE (Helmholtz Pressure Equalizer) technology, which Q Acoustics first introduced in its high-end Concept 500 and has since trickled down to this lower price-point.

Essentially, this is a tube filled with damping material inside the cabinet, which aims to absorb energy and reduce resonance.

Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema Pack – Design

Since the Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema Pack is comprised of various speakers from the company’s 3000i series, I’ll run through the design of each included model individually.

Q 3050i

This is a floorstanding speaker with a cabinet that sports curved edges at the top and bottom. It looks attractive but does make moving these fairly large floorstanders tricky, as your fingers tend to slip on the curves.

However, there’s no denying that the Q Acoustics 3050i looks more expensive than it actually is, and the choice of Arctic White, Carbon Black, Graphite Grey, or English Walnut finishes add a touch of class.

There is an eye-catching chrome-finish bezel around the drivers, low-profile binding posts at the rear, and magnetic black cloth grilles that neatly fit into place when covering the drivers. The 3050i has an outrigger plinth at the rear, which makes the base wider and thus provides greater stability – so it shouldn’t topple over. You have a choice of spiked feet – or rubber caps, if you don’t fancy gouging holes in your floor.

The 3050i uses a two-way bass reflex design, with two 165mm (6.5 inch) woofers and a 22mm (0.88 inch) tweeter. At the rear there are bass ports, with foam bungs included for a bit of low-frequency tuning. With the grille and rear outrigger plinth attached, each speaker measures 310 x 1020 x 310mm (WHD) and weighs in at 17.8kg. If you fancy buying the 3050i separately, a pair will cost £649 – regardless of which finish you choose.

Q 3010i

The 3010i is employed as a surround speaker in the 5.1 package I’m reviewing, but is primarily designed as a bookshelf/standmount unit. It uses a redesigned cabinet that’s slightly taller and 25% deeper than the previous generation, resulting in a revised crossover that enhances the sensitivity and bass extension.

The 3010i has the same design as the rest of the 3000i series, with a curved cabinet, a chrome-finish bezel around the drivers and a choice of white, black, grey, or walnut finishes. It uses the same magnetic black cloth grilles and low-profile binding posts, but sits on pre-fitted rubber feet.

The 3010i also uses a two-way bass reflex design, but with a single 100mm (4 inch) woofer, a 22mm (0.88 inch) tweeter and rear bass ports with provided foam bungs for tuning. The speaker measures 150 x 253 x 252mm (WHD), weighs 4.1kg, and costs £199 a pair if you want to buy them separately.

Q 3090Ci

This dedicated centre speaker mirrors the design used in the rest of the range, and is a two-way bass reflex speaker with twin 100mm (4 inch) woofers, a 22 mm (0.88 inch) tweeter and a pair of small bass ports at the rear with matching foam bungs.

The 3090Ci sits on pre-fitted rubber feet and its width is intended to match the dimensions of most AV receivers or amplifiers, allowing for easier placement on an equipment rack, shelf or stand. The speaker measures 430 x 152 x 216mm (WHD), weighs 6kg, and has an individual cost of £169.

Q 3060S

This slimline active subwoofer uses a 200mm driver and 150W of built-in amplification. The 3060S offers a choice of spikes or rubber feet, but can also be wall-mounted using an optional dedicated bracket (Q 60WB).

The controls and connections of the 3060S are at the rear, hidden behind a removal magnetic panel, along with a downward-facing port for discrete cable runs. The sub measures 480 x 300 x 150mm (WHD), weighs 8.5kg, and costs £329.

Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema Pack – Performance

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of experience with speakers from Q Acoustics, and the company has consistently impressed with its ability to combine value and performance. It’s as though it’s discovered the magic formula for creating speakers that can deliver a level of build quality and performance far in excess of their price point.

So it didn’t come as a huge surprise to discover that the Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema Pack continues this trend. From the moment I took them out of the box, I could sense the thought and precision gone into their construction. These speakers look and feel more expensive than they actually are, thanks to careful attention to detail.

More importantly, they sound great too. The use of innovations first introduced on Q Acoustics’ high-end Concept 500 speakers has clearly paid dividends. The solid construction and point-to-point bracing creates a cabinet that’s more inert, and when combined with the re-designed drivers, the result is an open and very detailed sound.

If you forget the fancy name and just think of them as pipes, the HPE resonators also played their part, equalising the pressure inside the 3050i speakers and ensuring improved bass performance. The floorstander’s bass extension is fairly impressive, but so too is the smaller 3010i bookshelf speaker. Consequently, the system was able to deliver a solid bass presence, which was then supported by the subwoofer.

The 3060S sub is probably the only weak link in this package. That’s not to say it’s a bad subwoofer, and it’s slimline nature makes it easy to position, but it does lack the deep bass extension produced by some of the competition. The only other observation I’d make about these speakers is that their dispersion is a little narrow and focused, so angling them towards the main listening position would be a good idea.

Those minor quibbles aside, the 3050i package is superb. Movie soundtracks sound amazing, with clear and precise imaging that filled the room with sound. I often use Gravity as a test for 5.1 systems, because the film has a lot of very directional dialogue and extensive steering of effects around the room. Thanks to the shared cabinet design and drivers, this package was able to move those sounds seamlessly from speaker to speaker.

When it came to a reference standard 5.1 mix, such as Dunkirk, this Q Acoustics system really came to life. The score was ably handled by the 3050i floorstanders, retaining a pleasing sense of musicality, while the 3090Ci centre speaker delivered clear and focused dialogue.

The effects were spread around the room with precision, and the combination of the floorstanders and the subwoofer resulted in explosions that both filled the room and retained a degree of concussive impact.

This system isn’t just about big bombastic soundtracks, though; it’s also able to render more subtle audio effects such as the ambient sounds of the jungle in Jumanji. The tweeters can handle high frequencies particularly well, never sounding shrill to forced, while the mid-range is also well represented.

I could also drive the speakers quite hard using my Arcam AVR850 AV receiver without them sounding brittle, although they were equally as adept when listening to content at lower volumes.

When I moved from movies to TV series, the 3050i Cinema Pack continued to impress. The more complex soundtracks of shows such as Altered Carbon or The Expanse were delivered with the same precision and verve as movies.

Watching football revealed the system’s ability to deliver room-filling crowd noise, whilst keeping the commentary clear and centred – even if I didn’t agree with what the commentators were saying. The system was also at home with simpler tracks such as game shows, documentaries and the news, where the mix was primarily focused on music and dialogue.

In fact, the inclusion of the 3050i floorstanders means the system is excellent with two-channel music as well, making it ideal for fans of both movies and music. This pair of big speakers delivered a neutral and refined performance that managed to combine the tonal accuracy of the overall system with a real sense of fun.

I also wired the 3010i bookshelf speakers up as the front left and right channels, and mounted on a pair of dedicated stands. These little beauties sounded fantastic for their size.

At the end of my period of testing, I came away with the inevitable realisation that the Q Acoustics 3000i series is a remarkably accomplished range of speakers, regardless of whether you’re watching movies or listening to music.

Sound

The Q Acoustics 3050i’s performance isn’t short of energy. Echoing their predecessors’ musicality as well as warmth, smoothness and scale, they are also clearer, cleaner and punchier than the company’s previous midrange floorstanders.

We start with the wild groove of Jack White’s Corporation. Its experimental approach feels like it was ad-libbed during a protest march, and the manifold patterns, flitting tempos and stereo interplay make for great tests of timing and rhythmic aptitude.

There’s never a dull moment as the instrumental parts switch between cascading guitar strums and solos, playful bass lines and various African drum patterns, while the vocals consist of shrieks between sparse lyrics.

The 3050is keep it all in check, clocking different dynamic signatures and tracking overlapping instruments in a spacious, orderly soundstage so that nothing feels like a mere footnote. It’s an interesting delivery, and the QAs demonstrate their adaptibility as we jump between genres.

Even with Gas’s Rausch – whose ambient sounds could easily be deemed uninteresting when heard through dynamically flat speakers – the Q Acoustics have the subtlety to pick out textures and discern dynamics without combing over intricacies.

With effortless concentration they ride the piece’s undulating waves of techno beats, taut and punchy and punctual through the 3050i’s woofer. The Q Acoustics’ ability to anchor the deepest, most foreboding notes allows them to communicate threat and peril effectively.

Texas Midlands by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is also a great advert for floorstanders of this calibre, allowing these Q Acoustics to extract greater out-and-out low-end reach than just about any standmounting alternative.

Likewise, the tribal drum pattering in LCD Soundsystem’s How Do You Sleep?reveals the Q Acoustics’ low-end agility in all its glory.

Thankfully that talent doesn’t come at the expense of the higher frequencies.

With Suede’s Filmstar, Brett Anderson’s midrange vocal lifts and lurches between the dense electric instrumental as he belts out his cynical lyrics, while there’s crispness to the leading edges of the tangy guitar lines that reflect the recording’s thorny production.

Verdict

The 3050is are a pair of speakers you may only need to hear for a few minutes before wondering which finish will best suit your room.

Q Acoustics has squeezed more performance into its mid-level towers than ever before, albeit at a higher price.

In doing so, it has comfortably filled an important price gap between the five-star Fyne Audio F302 (£400) and Monitor Audio Silver 200 .

With the 3050is, Q Acoustics has reaffirmed its position within the midrange floorstander market. As the 2018 Awards draw ever nearer, it certainly bodes well for the company.

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