Fans of great looking speakers at wallet friendly prices may be surprised to learn that it’s been 15 years since Q Acoustics burst on the hifi scene with its 1000 series range. These quickly garnered an envied reputation for sweet on the ear sonics with easy on the eye aesthetics, while setting new standards for how entry level cabinets should look (i.e. not entry level at all). The brand quickly established itself as a bestseller and since then, has broadened its range to offer premium products including its Concept series, alongside more affordable models.
Back to what you know
And more affordable is still very much where this Hertfordshire based company flies its flag with the 3000i range of loudspeakers. The 3030i standmounts under review here cost £349 and the first thing that is evident upon unboxing them is their substantial step up in size. Cabinet dimensions are 320 x 200 x 313mm (HWD) resulting in 12.5 litres (763 cu in) of internal volume, which is twice that of its 3020i kid brother. There is also a liberal raiding of the range’s parts bin with a 22mm tweeter and 165mm mid bass unit largely derived from the 3050i floorstander. The tweeter is decoupled using Q acoustics P2P bracing technology in an effort to minimise vibrations between the cabinets and mid bass unit. The combination of the larger cabinets and mid bass driver hint at impressive levels of low end, with my appetite further whetted by the specs which claim a frequency response opening for business at a mere 46Hz (+/- 3db) , carrying on up to 2.4mHz before handing the baton to the tweeter. Sensitivity meanwhile sits at 88dB, offering a decent match for a broad spread of amps.
Champagne quality for beer money
Aesthetically they slot in perfectly with the look of the rest of the range, meaning a fit and finish you’d welcome on a speaker at twice the price. With a choice of finishes in graphite grey, arctic white, carbon black or English walnut (tested here), finding a look that will appeal to those that value visual alongside aural appeal shouldn’t be a challenge. What’s also impressive about the static qualities of the 3000i range is how you are hard pressed to identify where cost savings have been made in their construction. Standing shoulder to shoulder with their more pricey Concept 300 flagship brethren, you’ll know which is the more expensive loudspeaker, but the lesser priced units are by no means disgraced.
To further sweeten the looks and the sound, they can be specified with the Q Acoustics’ dedicated 3030FSi floor stands which at £179, provide a solid foundation with looks to boot.
So what of the 3030i’s sound? Pairing them with a project debut EVO turntable, Rega Fono Mk2 phono stage and Arcam A85 amplifier, I spun up Peter Gabriel’s Melt LP on vinyl. What immediately captivates me is how the 3030is capture the claustrophobic intensity of the recording without dominating higher frequencies, with the gated reverb of drums not overwhelming Robert Fripp’s screeching fingers down a guitar string on the opening moments of Intruder. Is this a result of the decoupled tweeter and P2P bracing delivering on their promise? I cannot confirm, but what I can report is that the separation is indeed impressive, with the ground-breaking drum work distanced from the higher frequencies so that each element can be appreciated.
Shining the spotlight at the higher notes doesn’t mean that things are neglected at the lower end of the scale. With Massive Attack’s Protection CD loaded into my Arcam CD72, it’s clear from the opening beats of the Tricky collaboration Karmacoma that these speakers pull off a trick in delivering bass which doesn’t overwhelm or become overbearing. Instead the 3030is bring authority and clarity to these lower registers, something that if not done well with this track can result in a sound with more boom than a boy racer’s bass bin. The 3030is however avoid this potential pitfall, allowing bass to be both well rounded and substantial.
Positioning wise, these speakers sound their best around half a metre or more from a rear wall and if your domestic settings don’t allow this, it’s worth experimenting with the supplied foam bungs in the rear ports to fine tune their lower frequencies.
On the flip side they’re not overly sensitive about positioning when demonstrating their ability to bring a sense of space to the music. With a Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 V2 streaming a 24-bit/96kHz version of Into The Mystic from Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late To Stop Now live album, I’m struck by the sense of space between audience and band, as I’m placed at the centre of the auditorium with guitar, horn, percussion and strings spaced sparingly while Van the man’s impassioned vocals hit me square on.
The speakers were tested both with and without the stands and while these are by no means an essential acquisition, they definitely helped to keep the 3030is’ bass reproduction more firmly focussed.
In the area of market the 3030is inhabit, looks tend to be the first sacrificial lamb offered up to the god of price point adherence. Not so with these speakers, as their aesthetics more than match up to their sonic capabilities. Sound wise the Q Acoustics offer a substantial and sophisticated sound for hifi fans who don’t want to resort to deeper pockets or larger cabinets, making them arguably the go to boxes of the moment for any budget hifi enthusiast.