Floorstanders…do you need to spend big bucks to get the best from the design or can a sub-1k model actually do more than add a bit of bass onto a good pair of bookshelf speakers? Paul Rigby finds out when he reviews the Q Acoustics Concept 40
Q Acoustics has a well deserved reputation of producing value for money speakers. It has found a research, design and business model that seeks out the very last drop of performance for each and every penny spent. I’ve already reviewed a couple of their stand-mounted speakers, the Concept 20 and 3020 but I have always pondered its floor standing designs and thought that the Concept 40s (related to the smaller Concept 20s) might be worth a little listen).
Looking at the compact design, the 40s are definitely considered and well thought out. The heavy Gelcore cabinet features two layers of MDF. Stuffed in the middle of these layers is a bespoke, resonance absorbing, non-setting adhesive. This material takes the kinetic energy produced by the working speaker and disperses it as heat.
The cabinet holds dual 125mm drive units and a wide dispersion 25mm tweeter, sensitivity is 90db. With its gloss finish, the 40s feel plush and luxurious, for the price. Set up requires a couple of minutes work as you have to bolt on a glass stabiliser or ‘outrigger’ as the company calls them, which prevents nasty wobbles.
The rear offers a reflex port so they’ll need to be moved away from the wall (you can move it closer if you insert the included foam bung into the port) a bit with a bit of toeing in for ideal listening.
I began with a concept piece, The Book of Intxixu, a psychedelic folk/rock outing of strangeness with lots of organic pointers including strumming guitar, plucked strings from the same, bongos, tambourine, flute, male and female vocals and the like.
If you wanted to be super critical, you could point to a slight wavering in terms of imagery, a slight lack in discipline perhaps in how the instruments are laid out along the soundstage but really, for the price, that would be churlish and there is so much to be positive about in terms of how these speakers handle music and present it to you.
Firstly, the open and spacious nature of the soundstage allows dynamics to roam and the frequencies to really breath. Not in a manufactured sense, either, there is a real organic aspect to the presentation of the midrange and treble that allows the ear to hear all of the information on offer, even the most subtle and shy of instruments offer their delights to the ear.
The 40s provide pleasing exactitude when an acoustic guitar string is plucked. There is so much tonal realism here that it adds to the richness of the presentation and enhances the organic nature of the sound while a vigorously strummed acoustic guitar almost shimmers with upper midrange and treble fragility but there is enough precision in their upper area to allow the ear to here delicate cymbal taps while all of this is going on. That is the upper mids offer no negative smearing, only a sense of focus.
That precision is shown during the strike of the tambourine where the skin strike is noted but the tiny delay in hearing the surrounding bell cymbals is also provided without delay.
Bass is also notable by is presence but its refusal to bloom, mask or dominate offers an overall balance to the music and grounds it but never removes itself from the mix to boss the other frequencies.
Vocals, finally, are given enough space and air to emote successfully. They never sound cramped on forced.
Moving to Dusty Springfield now and Just a Little Lovin, her almost breathy central vocal is tracked wonderfully by the 40s. There’s a series of textural nuances from Springfield’s considered and restrained delivery that demands work from the speaker to track and project fully but the 40s do this wonderfully and with no little panache while the orchestral backing offers sweeping strings and an open percussive support on the left channel. Meanwhile, the backing vocals provide an added harmonic richness that provides a sense of maturity to the song, giving it a fullness and a depth that pushes the stereo image back, in a 3D manner.
Finally, on CD and the rock band, 60ft Dolls with the track Alison’s Room from the album Joya Magica. There’s a welcome space and freedom to the presentation with enough power and vigour to portray the excitement of the and high energy nature of the track without blurring the detail in all of the excitement. Delicate cymbal strikes are heard above the din of the screaming electric guitars and the crashing drums while the character of the vocal is never drowned underneath the cacophony behind him. The broad and open nature of the soundstage helps in this manner, adding a grand a rather epic construction that provides the necessary space for detail to flow without restriction.
So are the Concept 40s more than a pair of stretched Concept 20s? Absolutely, there is more going on here. Offering a tremendous tonal realism, for the price, with a sense of air and space that impresses, the Concept 40s manage to present detail to the ear but without that tired old trick of compressing upper mids until they squeal. The Concept 40s never even hint at compression nor, for that matter, do they hint at any sonic element which is less than natural. They are insightful and relaxed speakers that encourage you to listen to music with a sense of joy.
Such is the happy, bouncy and rapturous nature of their general demeanour if you, as the listener, don’t sing along with your arms in the air pretty pronto then, goddammit, these speakers will instead. Nothing, it seems will dim their enjoyment of the sounds that they are determined to produce.
Q ACOUSTICS CONCEPT 40 SPEAKERS
Tel: 01279 501111
GOOD: open and airy soundstage, delicate and detailed treble, organic and natural midrange, solid design
BAD: nothing at the price