Q Acoustics 3050i

Hardware Review

Q Acoustics 3050i
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
floor standing loudspeaker
Jason Kennedy

There are several ways to start a loudspeaker company, the classic approach is to toil away in the shed until you develop a loudspeaker that sounds great and hopefully appeals to other music lovers as well, build a few pairs and try to sell them into the trade and slowly build up a customer base. This is a time consuming and inefficient approach but one that has formed the basis of some of the more successful brands in the business. Q Acoustics is run by professionals so they took a more business-like approach to the job which involved getting an established freelance designer to create a range of models to a specific price that are manufactured in a part of the world where such things can be done to a high standard within a tight budget. This means that Q Acoustics were able to hit the ground running when it originally launched and has built on its success year on year. A couple of years back it got ambitious and produced the Concept 500 which we got a fabulous result with, it really is exceptional value for money. This year they have trickled down some of what they learned with that model to the 3000i range of standmounts, floorstander and surround models. The 3050i is the daddy of the range but unlike the two standmounts, 3010i and 3020i, it hasn’t got any bigger with the addition of the i suffix, it has however seen some important changes. 

One of the things that made Concept 500 so successful was to reduce cabinet vibration by using FIR measurements to establish precisely where to put braces within the cabinet so as to achieve maximum control. On top of this the i series has thicker front and rear baffles that are inset into the one piece wrap that forms top, bottom and sides of the cabinet. Another weak point identified in C500 was the cable terminal fixing, usually these are in a plastic moulding that sits in the back of the box but such things are naturally a lot less stiff than the box itself and in the bigger model a much stiffer panel was used, here they have done away with the plastic and stuck the terminals straight on the back of the cabinet. Which is not entirely new but rare in speakers at this price (£649). 

 

 

Inside the cabinet is another piece of old tech that you rarely see in modern speakers in the form of a Helmholtz resonator, this is essentially a vertical tube that helps to spread the energy within the box. This energy is created by standing waves that naturally occur inside speaker cabinets and muddy the output by exerting pressure on the back of the drivers. The driver array in the 3050i consists of a 22mm soft dome tweeter and a pair of 165mm (6.5inch) mid/bass drivers operating in a two-way reflex arrangement with both cones receiving the same signal. Q Acoustics quotes a higher than average 91dB sensitivity against and average impedance of six Ohms and a minimum of four Ohms, so this should not be a difficult speaker to drive.

Sound quality
But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy speaker to get a result with it seems. Wherever I put them and almost regardless of amplifier I got an overly thick and bass heavy sound. This made the music seem slow and a little lifeless, great if you want loads of welly but clearly not quite right. Usually the solution to this type of sound is to bring the speaker further into the room and use an amplifier that is vital and sprightly yet has a bit of grip on the bottom end. I tried a Rega Brio, this gave decent levels of detail and good even precise imaging but didn’t cure the bass problem. I played a variety of pieces, new and old music including DJ Shadow’s latest live release which sounded pretty good at higher levels, and Jason Isbell’s ‘Brand New Kind of Actress’ which had great kick in its drum. But switching to the more familiar ‘Pretty Pimpin’ by Kurt Vile I realised that something was missing in the timing department, the track didn’t have its usual power to engage because the groove was being delayed by excessive bass. Foam bungs are supplied to curtail low frequency output but these tend to have a negative impact on dynamics so I looked elsewhere.

 

 

I tried something I rarely do and put in a different speaker cable. I use Townshend F1 Fractal as a rule because it is so revealing, 3D and wide bandwidth, but it does deliver a lot more bass than most cables so I went for something more appropriate in price and balance in the form of Naim NAC A5. I usually find this cable too forward and aggressive for my tastes but it proved the perfect foil for this loudspeaker because it tightens up the bass and greatly improves the sense of immediacy. Now we were cooking with gas, the drums are clearly defined and there’s a tautness to the presentation that gives it coherence. The detail improved too, with quieter sounds becoming easier to identify. I tried an orchestral piece and found that the tympani was slightly emphasised but the overall scale and dynamics were excellent, the high sensitivity means that you get plenty of bang for your buck and when something truly muscular like Deadmau5 drops it is righteously boombastic in all the right ways. Leading edges are slightly sharp which is a reflection of the cable in my experience, but the solid punch of kick drum and the visceral quality of the track ‘Seeya’ are very real. You could really wind this up without the speaker complaining if you had a few more watts than the Brio can muster.

 

 

With the more sophisticated sounds of Doug MacLeod’s ‘Too Many Misses’ there is plenty of drive to the groove and decent resolution of the remarkable depth that Reference Recordings managed to capture. One of their more recent releases, Fiona Boyes’ Professin’ The Blues, also has good punch and superb vocal presence. I do like the way you can turn the 3050i up without it complaining, the balance is still a little bass strong which means you get plenty of welly without the mid and top having to struggle. The highs are crisp but not too ambitious, which counts as well judged in my book. It’s a different approach to many affordable speakers and a refreshing one at that. I should also point out that it times nicely too, all of the above would be pointless if that weren’t the case but it most certainly is. And the bottom end is gorgeous especially with a juicy bit of electronica.

 

 

The Q Acoustics 3050i manages to combine big speaker dynamics and scale with the sort of timing and pace associated with two-way standmounts, it can’t ‘disappear’ as well as the best smaller speakers but does deliver a lot of detail and scale. Combine this with high build quality and finish and you have a serious contender in a market sector where most speakers of this size have distinct problems with box coloration. The work that Q-Acoustics have done on this front and the tech it has trickled down from the Concept 500 give the 3050i a clear advantage. Just don’t use them with high end speaker cable!

Specifications: 

Type: 2-way, 3-driver, floorstanding bass reflex loudspeaker
Driver complement: 22mm soft dome tweeter, 2x 165mm mid/bass
Crossover frequency: 2.5kHz
Frequency response: 44Hz – 30kHz (-6dB/+3dB)
Impedance average/minimum: 6 Ohms/4 Ohms
Sensitivity: 91dB/W/m
Dimensions (HxWxD):  1020 x 310 x 310mm
Weight: 17.8kg/each
Finishes: Arctic white, English Walnut, Graphite grey, Carbon black

Price: 
£649
Manufacturer Details: 

Q-Acoustics
T +44 (0)1279 501111
www.qacoustics.co.uk

Comments

Hey Jason,
I read the review and you have mentioned that there is a bass problem.

I have recently ordered this speakers and will pair it with Rega Brio (2017) amp as well.

I don't have the option of going for the Naim Nac A5 cable where I live and hence have decided to go for the Belden 8477.

I wanted to ask if you had used a DAC in your chain and if it would be possible to solve the problem using a specific DAC.

I think an ESS Sabre based DAC will help with this as they are generally detailed and slightly bright. Altho I might be wrong. Kindly suggest.

PS: I have also dropped you a FB inbox message.

Thanks & Regards,
Varun Khanna

Hi Varun, have you tried the Brio and the Q Acoustics together in your room? If not I would wait until you can before changing anything else as the room is usually the biggest influence on bass. If you are using them already and there is too much bass then it would have to be a pretty lean sounding DAC to make enough difference and I would experiment with speaker positioning in the first instance, putting more space between them and the wall behind. You don't mention which source you currently have.

I use my Dell Laptop which is an i5 3rd generation.

From this laptop I use the Roon Labs to play offline downloaded / purchased files from Qobuz etc.

I also stream sometimes using Tidal but mainly like playing from my offline library which has mostly CD Quality or Hires files. Few MQA as well.

Regards,
Varun

In that case a DAC would give you a major upgrade and I would recommend one of the models from the iFi range.

The Rega Brio hasn't arrived yet and is expected tomorrow, I will experiment with the positioning etc and let the systems burn in if that's a thing.

A good dac pairing like you mentioned will really help to solve the low end and make it more tighter and in control.

Altho, I think ifi audio uses Burr Brown chips and are slightly on the warmer side. Hence, I am not sure if ifi audio DACs will be helpful in this case. Btw, I already have an ifi audio zen dac and can try it out and check the sound with it.

I was thinking of pairing it with some bright sounding dacs such as the ones which has ESS Sabre Chips in it.

Altho, I think more than the chip itself, the implementation is also very important and tor that reason I have also been looking at some Schiit DACs such as Bitfrost 2.

Altho, I think going with an ESS based DAC such as Matrix Audio X Sabre Pro, Gustard X 26 etc can solve this issue.

Unfortunately these are not yet available in my country.
I can try options like Project Audio's Pre Box S2 Digital and SMSL 500 as both use ESS based DACs.

Let me know if I'm thinking in the right direction.
What is your view on the 3050i and Brio pairing? Is it a good match? Hope I did the right thing.

Your reply will really help.

Thanks,
Varun