Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack speaker system review

When floorstanders are a no-go in your cinema room (most likely because it's actually also your living room) a bookshelf package can save the day. In this market, Brit audio brand Q Acoustics has something of a pedigree, and the 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack is its latest consumer-friendly offering.

The 'i' suffix denotes this is an update on its previous 3000 series. The new 3000i lineup was actually launched last year – we previously tested the 3050i system [reviewed here], which did use floorstander models (the 3050is, in fact) for the front left and right enclosures. This array takes the 3010i standmount/bookshelf speaker deployed on surround duty in that £1,350 package, and uses them for both front and rear. The possibility of a living room installation therefore increases, while the price dips to £900.

More than meets the 'i'
For this new 3000 Series generation, Q Acoustics has tweaked both the external design of the speakers and their internal architecture, improved the drivers and reworked the crossover of its two-way speakers.

The 3010i is the smallest of the new models (there's a larger 3020i standmount available), but is actually 25 per cent larger in cabinet volume than its predecessor – mainly by virtue of added depth – to engineer an improved bass performance from its coated paper-cone 4in woofer, and hit a claimed frequency response of 65Hz (-6dB), vital as the speaker is also sold for £200-per-pair for use in two-channel systems. This driver sits below a 0.9in soft dome tweeter, given a wide surround to increase dispersion.

Within the cabinet lurks a bracing technique the brand dubs P2P (Point to Point), something it first employed on its top-of-the-range Concept 500 floorstanders. This provides additional reinforcement to areas of the cabinet deemed necessary after computer modelling, aiming to reduce unwanted resonances.

For dialogue and cinematic bass, this system again uses Q Acoustics' 3090Ci centre channel and 3060S subwoofer. The former features a pair of the 4in midbass drivers flanking its tweeter; the latter tucks an 8in woofer and 150W amp into a briefcase-style enclosure designed to fit better into your lounge. The sub is sealed, whereas the rest of the 3010i Cinema Pack is rear-ported – twice in the case of the 3090Ci.

When it comes to styling, the attention to detail here really helps sell the 3010i 5.1 pack. The price tag may be less than a grand but the speakers look a million dollars. Smart design is something that Q Acoustics has always done well, and it's even more necessary in a system that has designs on living room acceptability. Ugly/practical looking cabinets don't present a problem in a dedicated cinema room, but they'd get funny looks in more domesticated setups. The silver trim rings, Q branding, curved corners and in-laid rear panel terminals of the 3000i series speakers combine to create a great-looking setup, and the Arctic White finish of our review bundle is achingly cool too. Other options are Graphite Grey, English Walnut or Carbon Black.

With that added depth, the 3010i speakers aren't exactly diddy – this is a bigger proposition than a sub/sat system. Each has a quartet of rubber feet for mounting on shelves or TV furniture, but for more flexible system placement placing them on stands would make sense. The speakers (and sub) can also be wall-mounted.

'I've been riding shotgun'
This system earns its stripes by matching its style with substance. For the asking price, it barely puts a foot wrong.

I began using the L/R front pair for stereo music playback – an hors d'oeuvre before the main course – and it became quickly clear that the 3010i is pretty special. With Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb (Tidal Hi-Fi), it resolves the finer details of the mix, such as the delicacy of drummer Nick Mason's hi-hat, while bringing a rich warmth and decent heft to the track's bassy swells. David Gilmour's legendary solo sounds sweet, pure and refined. Switch to something more upbeat – George Ezra's Shotgun (CD) – and punch and rhythm comes to the fore. What's lacking is the dramatic scale and room-filling power of a floorstander – but then this system has four more boxes to call upon to help out (indeed, a benefit of having identical speakers for front L/R and surround L/R is that, if you like to listen to music this way, putting your AVR into party/all-channel stereo mode is something of a treat).

First off the Blu-ray shelf was WALL-E (Blu-ray). This has a complex but at times delicate mix, with exquisite spot effects, a lush, orchestral score, and organic and electronic-flavoured dialogue. The 3010i pack captures the mix's subtleties and nuances – the beeps and whirrs of the Axiom ship's robots, the metallic clanks of WALL-E's caterpillar track – and has the balance and believability of tone to bring out the film's drama. When the eponymous hero and EVE are almost sucked into outer space via the gigantic garbage disposal, the sound of rushing air swirls around the room with an icy chill.

Dialogue delivery is excellent, with a forthright presentation courtesy of the 3090Ci's twin midbass configuration. The speaker slips between the L/R pair almost unnoticed; LCR pans seem uniform.

The system's musicality is put to good use by Thomas Newman's score, which frequently uses plaintive, mid-range string notes and deeper bass stabs. In fact, it's consistently excellent with soundtracks, showcasing a refinement I simply wasn't expecting at the price. The 3010i transitions from low bass to the higher registers without any obvious gap or exaggeration, revealing remarkable tuning and accomplished cabinet build.

Wonder Woman (Ultra HD Blu-ray) effectively results in more of the same aural enjoyment. The heroine's theme tune (electric cello!) sounds majestic, and the system's deftness, balance and high-end clarity – treble detailing is smooth and pleasing on the ear - enlivens the film's surround sound environments. But it's not all about subtlety; this system can get theatrical when required.

During the film's airfield battle climax, Q Acoustics' curious-shaped subwoofer puts in a shift. The rumble of an airplane engine and the throaty roar of the flames enveloping Ares have genuine low-frequency presence. When Wonder Woman is thrown to the ground or the big baddie cleaves the runway with his giant sword, the impacts hit with a pleasing, potent thwack. Amidst this, crackling FX and Ares' rambling end-of-the-world monologue remain clear.

In an ideal world the 3060S sub would be more detailed and attack bass hits with the aggression and voluminous nature shown, for instance, by the 10in-driver SW-10 bundled with Wharfedale's Diamond 11 HCP. But, as it is, it integrates so well with the rest of the overall soundfield that I'd be loathe to upset the apple cart. It's by no means a weak link. I ended my testing with a re-run of Solo: A Star Wars Story (Sky Cinema) and eventually gave up taking notes, preferring instead to just watch the movie and enjoy the all-round brilliance of the 3010i 5.1. My listening room was alive with screeching TIE Fighters, scatter-fire dialogue and a howling Wookie...

No complaints
Putting it simply, this is a barnstorming budget system from Q Acoustics, with smart-looking cabinets serving up sweet sonics. Certainly, its scale is suited to small/medium spaces, and you can make the case that it plays it safe when it comes to LFE aggression - but when 'safe' sounds as good as this, I really can't complain.

HCC Verdict

Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack

Price: £900

We say: The 3010i system is impressive all-round, from styling to surround delivery. An essential audition for those shopping for 5.1 below £1,000.

Performance: 4.5/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5


Drive units: 1 x 4in midbass driver; 1 x 0.9in soft dome tweeter
Enclosure: Rear-ported
Frequency response (claimed): 65Hz-30kHz
Sensitivity (claimed): 86dB
Power handling (claimed): 125W
Dimensions: 150(w) x 253(h) x 252(d)mm
Weight: 4.1kg

Drive units: 2 x 4in midbass drivers; 1 x 0.9in soft dome tweeter
Enclosure: Twin rear-ported
Frequency response (claimed): 75Hz-30kHz
Sensitivity (claimed): 89dB
Power handling (claimed): 165W
Dimensions: 430(w) x 152(h) x 216(d)mm
Weight: 6kg

3060S (subwoofer)
Drive units: 1 x 8in paper cone bass driver
Enclosure: Sealed
Frequency response (claimed): 35Hz-250Hz
Onboard power (claimed): 150W Class D amplifier
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 480(w) x 300(h) x 150(d)mm
Weight: 8.5kg
Features: LFE input; stereo phono input; auto on/off; crossover and level controls; phase switch; supplied with spikes; removable connections cover

Q Acoustics