The British speaker brand shakes up the compact competition with this affordable system
Some speaker brands start by creating expensive high-end models and then work their way down, but Q Acoustics ploughs its resources into the affordable end of the market. This approach has proved successful, with models offering great design and performance for the money.
The £700 5.1 package on test here is the successor to the 2000i Cinema Package that we raved about back in 2012. For this follow up, Q Acoustics has gone back to the drawing board. Well sort of – it’s gone back to the drawing board but taken along a few old blueprints for inspiration.
Although the 3000 series has been built from the ground up – the company says it starts with a blank piece of paper for all its designs – the cabinet construction borrows elements from the company’s Concept series, providing a solid foundation for the new tweeter and improved midrange drivers.
These revamped cabinets boast dual-layer front and top panels and pivotal internal bracing to strengthen them and minimise resonance. The result is a range of remarkably burly boxes that feel more substantial than their meagre price tags suggest.
But the star attraction is the new ‘2-in-1’ Concentric Ring Dome tweeter, which, by drawing on both dome and ring radiator designs, aims to achieve low distortion and wide dispersion. It’s decoupled from the cabinet using a resonance-absorbing butyl rubber housing.
The tweaks don’t stop there. Q Acoustics has also upgraded the speakers' 4in midbass cones to a mix of paper and Aramid fibre – more commonly known as Kevlar – which is said to make the structure stronger and more sonically predictable than the 2000i’s carbon fibre/paper cones. The crossover has also been redesigned using higher-quality components.
This package includes two pairs of ‘ultra compact’ 3010s – the smaller of two standmount models alongside the 3020 – plus the 3090C centre and 3070S subwoofer. Those with the space and inclination can step up to 3050 floorstanders.
Despite the internal changes, the outsides bear a canny resemblance to the 2000i series, which is no bad thing. The 3010s look stunning for a budget set, with seamless curved edges and black magnetic grilles – a modern, funky approach that’ll appease the Apple generation and traditionalists alike.
All come in a choice of Matte Graphite and American Walnut (pictured) as standard, but for an extra £200 you can step up to premium lacquered gloss black/white or leather finishes. Q Acoustics also sells optional stands and wall brackets to suit your installation.
The 3090C centre looks like an elongated 3010, sharing the same curves and colour scheme. The main difference is that it uses two 4in midbass drivers as opposed to the 3010’s single unit.
The 3070S subwoofer is the least altered model of the lot. It sticks with the same design as the 2070Si, with its long ported enclosure and removable panel on the back that hides the cables. Build quality and spec are superb – there are twin front-firing 6.5in drive units, powered by a 140W amplifier, while the rear panel offers crossover and volume controls, a phase switch and stereo line inputs.
I found setup easier than with the 2000i system. The cable terminals have been moved from the underside to the back, which makes them less fiddly to connect – although they point in different directions, which is still a bit awkward with stiff cables.
Like previous Q Acoustics packages, the 3000 system’s character is one of refinement and transparency, giving you a faithful facsimile of any soundtrack. It goes about its business with ease and composure no matter where the volume dial’s pointing. Nothing sounds forced or artificial.
During X-Men: Days of Future Past (Blu-ray) the system kept my disbelief firmly suspended as it plunged me into the period-jumping plot. I’ve never been caught in a battle between mutants and 20-feet-tall robots, but I’m certain this system has it pretty much spot-on.
Its forte is detail. The enhanced tweeters are the most articulate and insightful Q Acoustics has created, and their wide dispersion means you don’t have to sit dead centre, or toe in the fronts, to experience them. They tease out subtleties that you normally have to spend a lot more than £700 to hear, and there’s never any suggestion of brashness.
When the Sentinels track down the X-Men at the start of the movie, the soundstage sparkles with hissing fire, tinkling ice and crackling electricity as Blink opens a portal. Dialogue is laced with texture too – the seductive husk and sibilance in Patrick Stewart’s unmistakable voice grounds it in reality and keeps you absorbed.
Thankfully all this refinement doesn’t come at the expense of entertainment. The system’s superb dynamics bring effortless excitement and drama. It bites harder than Luis Suarez, making gunshots snap and explosions hit hard. Even the iconic 20th Century Fox theme gets the adrenalin flowing with its piercing snare rolls and incisive brass stabs.
There’s a bit early in the movie when Hank, Logan and Xavier visit Quicksilver’s basement and find him batting a ping pong ball back and forth. The sound of the ball clacking between the left front and surround speakers made me spin round to see what it was, even though I knew it was coming. That’s testament to the 3010’s impressive clarity and attack.
There’s excellent scale, too. My room was filled with big bangs and crashes, as well as deep, meaty bass – the dual-driver subwoofer shares the agility, punch and watertight integration of its forebear and is impressive for the price. The soundstage is spacious and layered. Even the busiest scenes boast clearly separated effects and tonal uniformity between channels. This isn’t just a wall of sound, there’s real light and shade amid the carnage.
This winning concoction of depth, dynamics and detail also works perfectly in a musical context. The impeccably-produced summer funk of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky sounds more polished and full-bodied than ever through these drivers. The fat drums, nimble bassline and sharp snare hits compel your foot to tap, while the speakers’ innate rhythmic ability keeps Nile Rodgers’ iconic guitar in the pocket.
Most impressively, it was streamed from Spotify on a smartphone, underlining the system’s ability to make any source material sound good. Step up to hi-res files and it shines even brighter.
Try though I might, I really can’t fault this new 3000 package. The revamped cabinets and drivers bring improvements over the 2000i, resulting in a sweeter, punchier and more articulate performance than its esteemed predecessor. Its transparency and unfussy, unflappable nature means you don’t have to worry too much about partnering gear or positioning, and it makes the most of any source material.
Had this level of performance and build been delivered by a system costing twice as much, I’d be impressed but not surprised. At £700 it’s an absolute steal.
Q Acoustics 3000 5.1 Cinema Pack
Price: £700 Approx
Highs: Outstanding detail, dynamics and scale; natural, transparent sound makes any source material shine; excellent integration and bite; solid build and nice design
Lows: Subwoofer might not satisfy hardcore bassheads in terms of depth; slightly awkward speaker terminals; glossy finishes cost more
Drive units: 4in Aramid fibre/paper mid/bass driver; 1in Concentric Ring Dome tweeter
Enclosure: 2-way reflex
Frequency response: 68Hz-22kHz
Power handling: 75W
Dimensions: 150(w) x 235(h) x 200(d)mm
Drive units: 2 x 4in Aramid fibre/paper mid/bass drivers; 1in Concentric Ring Dome tweeter
Enclosure: 2-way reflex
Frequency response: 75Hz-22kHz
Power handling: 100W
Dimensions: 430(w) x 150(h) x 200(d)mm
Drive units: 2 x 6.5in bass drivers
Low Frequency response: 50Hz-150Hz
On board power: 140W
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 200(w) x 400(h) x 425(d)mm
Connections: Stereo line-level input
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