A new pair of stand-mounted designs from Q Acoustics takes the Concept range up towards the £1k mark
Released in company with the Concept 50 floor standers (£1,999) and 90 central channel speakers (£649, for surround use), the Concept 30 speakers are quite a drop in price from the 50s. There’s a fair bit of price separation between the two, which I find interesting.
The Concept 30 design, which can be bought with a pair of eye-catching Q FS75 speaker’s stands for £375, takes particular issue with its cabinet. This is not the norm. Speakers tend not to run into a crowded room shouting about their cabinets. Midrange this and bass that, sure – not cabinets. Yet that’s where the principle issues lie, according to Q Acoustics. That’s your foundation. That’s the core.
It makes sense too. Get his right and everything else, which is suspended within or fixed to it, has a head start. Doesn’t matter how great your house is, if it sits of shifting sands, the entire structure will ultimately collapse.
This is why Q Acoustics talk a lot about its Point-to-Point internal bracing, first seen in the Concept 500 aiding rigidity and reducing low frequency vibration shift.
It also talks about its Gelcore cabinet construction to reduce high-frequency cabinet-derived noise. This means that the cabinet is layered and sitting in between this layer is a gel that never sets. That is, Gelcore never sets hard. It just sits there, gel-like and no doubt rather gooey, damping the impact of moving speaker drivers and getting in the way of high-frequency noise by converting that vibration into heat and dissipating that into the air.
A sprung suspension system baseplate fitted at the bottom of the speaker also helps.
In driver terms, up top is a sealed and isolated 25mm (1”) tweeter. A 125mm (5”) mid-bass unit, with a large voice coil, sits below. Both are fixed to a stiff aluminium baffle and then that is fitted to the cabinet. The crossover is mounted to an isolation bass to again, reduce vibration.
Arriving in black, silver and white, the design – especially my white review models – looks like something that Dieter Rams would have cooked up for the original Braun company, way back in the 50s. There’s something vaguely vintage chic about these speakers, especially when looked from the rear.
These speakers are 6 Ohm designs and that figure is coupled with a 87db sensitivity but I didn’t have any issues driving the things. I increased my pre-amp gain by a notch or two but that was it.
As such, you only need an amplifier of around 25W or higher to get good volume from the speakers. Spanning 284 x 180 x 319mm (11.2 x 7.1 x 12.6in) and weighing in at 12.3kg (27.1lbs), how do these things sound? How do they perform? I brought in a few other speakers to add a slice of contrast.
To begin the tests I wandered down the loungecore route and played a vinyl version of The Kings Singer’s Encore and the track, The Peanut Vendor. Apart from the harmony vocals, there’s quite a meaty upright bass offering bass along with relatively complex percussive rhythms and cymbal taps to look out for.
First off the taxi rank of comparative speakers I wanted to hear was another Q Acoustics model.
So why am I including these speakers in this review? After all, the 3030i speakers are far lower in price at around £269 for a pair. Hardly a fair fight is it?
They’re included in the review for those hifi fans who feast with their eyes. For those who judge a book by its cover. For those who shy away from extensive research. The 3030i speakers look bigger than the Concepts, the mid/bass unit also looks more substantial and hey, it even has the same badge on the front. So why not save more than a few pounds and go for the 3030i speakers?
Well, you can do just that and yes, the 3030is are superb speakers. I’ve already given them a good review. I love these speakers to bits, in fact and still rate them at the top of their tree in their price point.
The Concepts are in a completely different class, though. In short, they sound more…professional. Bass sounded forceful, focused and precise. That upright bass offered strength but also structure in its delivery while the treble-infused cymbal taps had a delicacy but also described the cymbal itself in a realistic manner. That is, you felt you were hearing a large sheet of metal being hit. The sound wasn’t just a tone. The cymbal sounded large and tonally impressive via the Concepts.
The percussion was also pushed a little further forward in the mix providing lots of information that was slightly veiled via the 3030i speaker.
The meat of this track though, the vocals, offered a better structure, superior imagery. A mature and tonally accurate presentation, you might say.
The Concept 30 speakers managed to simultaneously offer a tremendous structure and focus while still giving a heap of air and space in the rear of the soundstage so the music provided discipline and a sense of delicacy and finesse.
vs Martin Logan 15i
A much greater challenge though was offered by the 15i models and their ribbon tweeters. The result of that challenge was fascinating and full of pros and cons. The 15i offered a more airy treble. That 15i ribbon tweeter displayed a free and spacious suite of cymbal taps with a very long reverb tail sequence. The upper mids also benefited from the detail that swam around this part of the frequency spectrum. There was an extension here, a greater dynamic reach. Again, I’ve given the 15is a good review here and I highly recommend them.
The issue I had with the 15i speakers, when compared to the Concept 30s, was that the 15is did not have the control offered by the Concepts. The 30s had a far stronger hold on what was going on. The Q Acoustics were organised and structured. In comparison, the 15i speakers were a little naive in their delivery: free and easy and a little undisciplined around the mids and how those mids plugged in and connected to the bass. The Martin Logans, on their own, sounded superb and I still rate them very highly indeed but, compared to the Concept 30s, they floundered around the midrange area. Vocals lost positioning and poise, imagery was wayward, the soundstage itself was a bit of a mess.
Bass on the Concepts was also superior in terms of focus and precision. Yes, the 15i speakers were able to offer punch but there was more weight and drive in the bass regions from the Concepts.
vs Spendor A1
This was the scariest test for the Concept 30 speakers because the A1s are more expensive at £1,250 and should walk all over the 30s, to be frank, in sonic terms.
So were the A1 designs superior to the 30s? Well, yes. Yes they were. The A1 speakers sounded ‘grown up’ for that extra £300. They sounded mature. The A1 speakers provided control and discipline and imagery and finesse and elegance right across the soundstage. Everything that the Concept 30 speakers offered, in fact but more of it. The A1 speakers seemed to offer all of this without breaking sweat. The Concept 30s needed to concentrate on what they were doing. The A1s were effortless. They were smooth. They glided.
Now none of the above was a surprise. It was expected. The A1s had more build budget afforded to the basic design and parts quality. The 30s had the deck stacked against it from the beginning of this test. The 30s didn’t really stand a chance in a straight fight. What I found in the Concept 30’s favour though was how the 30s stood up to the challenge. That is, the 30s were on the right lines.
I’ve already listed how the A1s were effortless in how they undertook their control and discipline and imagery and finesse and elegance. The 30s were actually doing all of this. What I mean by that is the 30s were on the correct sonic road. It’s just that the A1s had a bigger budget behind them so they were more accomplished. The Concept 30 speakers knew the goals here, they knew the answers, they knew what had to be done in sonic terms it’s just that the A1s had more resources to accomplish them.
So on that basis, the Concept 30s performed remarkably well for the price.
Offering much more high energy was firstly the minimal synth duo, Deux and the track, Game & Performance from the Decadence LP on the Minimal Wave label, utilising analogue synths and spare vocals and also the CD version of The Who’s The Who Sell Out. On both, the bass beat was firm, deep and tight but never encroached upon the mids. The vocals sat around an airy stereo image with a 3D depth that provided plenty of nuance and emotion. The presentation was both spare but also packed with meaning which was superbly translated by the Concept 30s.
The Q Acoustics 30s performed remarkably for the money. I felt that the 30s maximised their design specs. For a pair of speakers priced under £1,000, I never felt that the Q Acoustics were ever flustered. I never felt that the 30s were aimless in their performance. The Q Acoustics, in fact, provided superlative value for money. The design takes every penny of its asking price and gives you the very most it can.
These speakers give you controlled, naturalistic bass. Bass that is full of information. The mids offer focus and an impressive tonal realism while the treble is delicate and sophisticated.
Look, this point of view might change tomorrow with a quality competitor in place but right now? As I write these words? If you’re looking for a balanced speaker offering detail and finesse? The Concept 30s are my No.1 choice for speakers under £1,000.
Q ACOUSTICS CONCEPT 30 SPEAKERS
GOOD: disciplined bass, tonally realistic mids, finely tuned treble, stylish design, focus
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