Speaker Review

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Updating its original 3020 stand-mounted design, Paul Rigby reviews the Q Acoustics 3020i speakers

I loved the last iteration of the 3020 stand-mounted speakers from Q Acoustics. In fact, you can see the review of those very speakers HERE.

For the price, there was – still is – very little out there that can even think about competing. 

Who better to set themselves that very challenge than Q Acoustics itself then? Which is exactly what it has done, adding a letter ‘i’ at the end of the name, as a flourish.

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Taking the new stand (also shelf and wall-mounted) speakers out of the box, what hits you about the 3020i speakers is just how different they are in design and look. Frankly, the family resemblance is receding fast. The original 3020 design looked neat, tidy and efficient in terms of its lines and curves. The 3020i speakers look completely detached from that original design direction. 

In what way? I was offered a review pairing in a wood finish and, in that mode especially, they look stunningly beautiful. For this price point, the design just takes your breath away. They really do look like pieces of furniture, such is the attention to detail and finish. They look like a pair of £2,000 speakers. 

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Featuring a sensitivity of 88db, they are also larger, 25% larger, in fact spanning 170 x 278 x 282mm while the weight has risen to 5.5kg per speaker. Which promises much for bass, of course – but we’ll see about that in a moment.

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Inside the cabinets you’ll find P2P bracing, supporting parts of the cabinet itself, there’s also a 22mm decoupled “High Frequency Driver” with a wide surround that may help sound dispersion. Again, we’ll see. A mid/bass unit is slung underneath spanning 125mm.

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

I like the new binding posts. They’ve been inserted to improve the “structural integrity” to the enclosures and feature sockets deep enough to accept 4mm Banana Plugs. The design means that the speaker can be positioned very close to a rear wall, if required. I found them solid and robust.

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Finishes include Graphite Grey, English Walnut, Carbon Black or Arctic White. All are finished with a chrome bezel around each driver plus included magnetic speaker grilles if you need them.

SOUND QUALITY

I began sound tests via Nat ‘King’ Cole and the title track from the original 1965 album, L.O.V.E (EMI).

The 3020i’s response is quite fascinating, especially when compared to the previous model. The original 3020 is quite dry in the upper mids, compared to the 3020i, which puts some emphasis on the 3020’s detail. That is, there is a slight claustrophobic quality to the original 3020 which enables the ear to pick up finer detail on the right channel’s strumming guitar and certain areas of Cole’s vocal.

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Let me go into more detail on this area. Early in the song, Cole sings these lines, “L is for the way you look at me/ O is for the only one I see/ V is very, very extra-ordinary”…and so on. When he sings each letter, he adds a vocal sustain and his voice drops to a bass growl. There’s vibrato in there. On the original 3020s that vibrato is better translated than the 3020i speakers. It’s easier to hear and aurally track. So, in some respects, the 3020i loses a certain amount of precision. Instead, the 3020i adds a host of other changes. 

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

To begin, there is a slight sweetness in the midrange from the 3020i and a smooth aspect which gives the impression of the music flowing with zero friction. The rhythms just ease by like a lazy river on a Summer’s day. It’s quite mesmeric.

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Next, the 3020i adds a sense of air and space where there was relatively little with the original 3020 speakers. This means that the mix is better translated in terms of natural reverb. For example, there was a lot more reverb off the Cole voice from the 3020i design, via the the backing orchestra.

Thirdly, the structure of the soundstage is such more superior with the new 3020i speakers. The stereo image is just as strong as before but, via the 3020i speakers, the Cole vocal adds much more dimensionality. That is, the Cole voice is pushed way back, giving the soundstage a greater 3D effect. That helps to isolate the Cole vocal so it reverb doesn’t clash with the orchestra. 

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

Finally, there is a greater sense of tonality via the 3020i speakers. Piano has a realistic complexity, brass has a humanistic vibration during crescendos while the upright bass presents a startling resonance which tells the ear that the double bass is a big box, basically. 

I moved to more dynamic a fare and an original cut of Greenslade’s excellent Time And Tide, from 1975 and Warner Bros.

3020i From Q Acoustics : The Ayes Have It

The slight sweetness from the 3020i speakers added a touch of warmth to the drums but there was also an attractive organic nature to each drum strike and, more than that, when the drummer roamed across his kit in a slow, lazy manner, hitting different drums in turn, the tonal contrast between each drum was easily displayed, providing a rich, layered soundstage. 

The infusion of air around each instrument helped to lift each, adding to the overall pace of the music, while giving the presentation a rather epic feel. The piano sounded positively ‘grand’, for example. 

CONCLUSION

If you prefer a slightly drier sound and, hence, more focus on pure detail then you might want to stick with the 3020 originals. That said, apart from the slight smoothing sweetness from the 3020i speakers (which is a Marmite type of attribute), there are so many new extras and sonic benefits that flow from the 3020i designs that you really won’t be disappointed. Despite the detail aspect I mentioned, the 3020i has no vices. No blooming of the bass, no brightness in the mids and no pinched treble while the extra midrange insight and tonal realism gives these speakers an expensive feel. How the company produces this sort of performance from the given price point is beyond me.


Q ACOUSTICS 3020i SPEAKERS

Price: £249

Tel: 01279 501111

Website: www.qacoustics.co.uk

GOOD: midrange insight, tonal realism, smooth mids, imagery, design

BAD: Some might dislike the slight midrange sweetness

RATING: 8


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REFERENCE

Rega Planar 3 turntable

Trichord Dino phono amplifier

Rega Brio-R amplifier

Spendor A1 speakers

Black Rhodium cables

Blue Horizon Professional Rack System

Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components

All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner 

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Geoffrey
    13th June 2018 at 6:52 am

    You say it like it’s a bad thing

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      13th June 2018 at 9:32 am

      You’ve lost me Geoff, sorry – say what about what?

  • Reply
    Geoff
    13th June 2018 at 8:40 pm

    Hello Paul,

    Sorry about that. What i meant was that the careful tuning and sweetening of the sound isn’t a bad, negative thing in my book. In real life and in a real room, where these speakers will end up, they will sound amazing and not harsh like many others.

    Best regards

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      14th June 2018 at 10:18 am

      Hi Geoff – gotcha. My principe intention was to alert the reader the the existence of ‘sweetness’. I do know that some users dislike it. That said, it does slightly dull detail extraction, especially when compared to the earlier model. Nevertheless, as I say, there’s too many other positives going for the 3020i for me to get upset by the ‘sweet’ addition 🙂

  • Reply
    Joe
    13th June 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Is the walnut version wrapped in real wood veneer or vinyl?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      14th June 2018 at 11:47 am

      Good question Joe – I’m not sure. Let me ask Q Acoustics and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      14th June 2018 at 1:09 pm

      Got this from Q Acoustics, Joe: “It’s a wrap around vinyl finish on all models with the walnut version having a 3D wood effect (textured) veneer finish.”

  • Reply
    Rafael Pagán
    19th June 2018 at 2:19 am

    Hello! Would you prefer these over the Dali Spektor 2?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      19th June 2018 at 10:25 am

      Hi Rafael – good question but I have yet to compare the two directly, I’m afraid. Both are excellent and both would make ideal choices.

  • Reply
    Pete
    19th June 2018 at 7:23 pm

    I enjoy your website, Paul. Is the Concept 20 (‘deeply groovy, 9/10’) a better, stronger loudspeaker? Any additional help you can give will be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      20th June 2018 at 7:46 am

      Thanks Pete – I have not had the opportunity to compare both so my comments arrive with caveats but the Concepts are designed to be better, yes. They feature a greater build budget and facilities. I’m sticking my neck out a bit but, as a rule of thumb, I would plump for a Concept over a 3020 class.

  • Reply
    Paul Findlay
    20th June 2018 at 1:15 am

    Hi Paul, I bought the 3020’s a couple of years back after you recommended them to me and I have to say I absolutely love them… I was in Richer Sounds the other day and you can now pick them up for just £99! I am thinking of adding another set of speakers and wondered what you thought about pairing a set of 30201’s with the 3020’s? Thanks

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      20th June 2018 at 7:47 am

      Glad to hear that Paul – these proposed new speakers, is this purchase for a second system or an upgrade to a current system?

      • Reply
        Paul Findlay
        20th June 2018 at 10:15 pm

        These would be as an upgrade to the existing system. I was thinking of adding these to my existing setup i.e. 4 speakers, 3020/3020i left channel + 3020/3020i right channel – or would you not recommend that? Thanks

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          21st June 2018 at 9:41 am

          Hi Paul – is this for a surround-type system?

          • Paul Findlay
            21st June 2018 at 9:05 pm

            Hi Paul, no not really, just to add to the existing front facing stereo sound.

          • Paul Rigby
            22nd June 2018 at 9:58 am

            Although I see the 3020i speakers as superior to the 3020 models I would encourage you to reach higher in terms of sound quality, if you intend to spend your hard earned money. That is, if you want to upgrade, I would look towards a pair of £500-£1000 speakers. The move to the 3020i speakers would be more a sideways step, in terms of the money you would be spending. That cash could be saved and better invested.

  • Reply
    Paul Findlay
    22nd June 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Okay thanks Paul, what would you recommend around the £500 price point? I imagine there is also quite a difference in quality at the £1000 end, what would be your recommendation there and would I be in danger of overdoing it with the speakers at that point compared to the rest of my setup? Rega RP3 with AT440mlb, Rega phono mini, Marantz 6003 amp. Your advice gratefully received, thanks.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      22nd June 2018 at 1:23 pm

      I would look at these: https://www.qacoustics.co.uk/q-acoustics-3050-floorstanding-speakers-pair.html

      Others to look at around the £500 mark include the Focal Aria 906 and Quad S-1.

      You’re right, when you get about the £600-£700 mark you need to be looking to upgrade the other components first. In fact, something to consider, there is a strong case to do that right now. You have a balanced system ‘as is’. The logical upgrade path from here is to upgrade the turntable and then work you’re way along and down to the speakers.

  • Reply
    Paul Findlay
    22nd June 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Yeah that makes sense, where would you start with the turntable as “the next step up”? I’ll look to start there and drop you a line along the way if that’s okay? Thanks Paul

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      22nd June 2018 at 3:37 pm

      Sure, no problem. what’s your budget Paul?

  • Reply
    Paul Findlay
    22nd June 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Hadn’t really thought about it like that, more like choose what to go for and then work towards finding the funds. I know that could potentially mean ridiculous money but I’m looking at a realistic next step up from the RP3?

  • Reply
    Paul Findlay
    22nd June 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Some investigating to do then… thanks for all your help Paul

  • Reply
    pj
    24th June 2018 at 9:09 pm

    Hi Paul: A very nice, passionate review.

    I must ask (and readers must be aware) that when drawing comparisons to the earlier (3020) Q model, was the same ‘reference ‘ system (and listening room) used ?

    A fine ending paragraph you offer up:

    ” …If you prefer a slightly drier sound and, hence, more focus on pure detail then you might want to stick with the 3020 originals. That said, apart from the slight smoothing sweetness from the 3020i speakers (which is a Marmite type of attribute), there are so many new extras and sonic benefits that flow from the 3020i designs that you really won’t be disappointed. Despite the detail aspect I mentioned, the 3020i has no vices. No blooming of the bass, no brightness in the mids and no pinched treble while the extra midrange insight and tonal realism gives these speakers an expensive feel. How the company produces this sort of performance from the given price point is beyond me.”

    What I wish to know, is what component (or loudspeaker ‘changes are responsible for : ” …That said, apart from the slight smoothing sweetness …” (?)

    To me, a “smoothing sweetness” infers a. well, ‘sweetening’ coloration -substituting accuracy with (deceiving) pleasantness. Any further comments you could add to this ?

    peter jasz

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      26th June 2018 at 10:25 am

      Hi pj – yes, the same system was used. Yes, there is a slight reduction in ‘accuracy’ at the 3020i extremes of the frequencies which the original 3020 possess, as I mentioned in the review, but that extra detail from the 3020 speakers comes at a price, I list those factors in the review. That is, the 3020 gives you this one benefit but the 3020i speakers add a further 6-7 benefits. Hence, on balance the ‘i’ wins.

  • Reply
    GS
    10th August 2018 at 10:03 am

    I’m thinking of upgrading my old MS 902i Avant speakers which are over 10 years old now. The design and look of these 3020i’s is great but would they offer a significant sonic improvement? The old 902i’s are great all rounders but starting to look a bit tatty.

    My current setup is;
    PC optical out
    DAC Magic
    Cambridge Audio Azur 640A
    MS902i on Partington Super Dreadnought Stands

    Thanks

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      10th August 2018 at 12:07 pm

      Hi GS – if anything, I would see the 3020i speakers in a similar vein to your MS speakers but I would look at the 3020i as fixing (the MS top end could be a little excitable at times) or enhancing what you already have. The 3020i design would certainly slot nicely into your system.

      • Reply
        GS
        10th August 2018 at 1:58 pm

        OK thanks for that.
        I’ve also been toying with the idea of trading in the Cambridge Audio Azur 640A for a Rega Brio.
        This would be a significant increase in terms of outlay but will this be matched by a marked improvement in terms of sound quality do you think, even with the existing speakers?

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          10th August 2018 at 5:04 pm

          Hi GS – yes, the Brio will work well with the 3020i speakers – get the latest version of the amp if you can, the older Brio was known as the Brio-R (still excellent but the new one is better).

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