In case you missed it, that was the sound of my jaw dropping to the floor. I have just unboxed and set-up the Concept 50s from Q Acoustics, stepped back to admire the view, and am frankly blown away by the sleek and elegant look of these floorstanders.
Available in a choice of three high gloss finishes that include black, white and silver, my review pair came in the latter and looked simply stunning stood either side of my system. Each bi-wirable, rear-ported speaker features two five-inch bass/midrange drivers and a single one-inch tweeter set into Q Acoustics hallmark aluminium front baffle plate.
These drive units have been designed specifically for the new Concept series speakers (the range also includes the Concept 30 standmount speakers and Concept 90 centre channel) with the aim of increased power handling. They are mounted to the baffle by pre-tensioned studs which, according to the maker, not only enables the correct acoustic seal, but also damps vibrations. Ah, those cabinets! Whilst it’s hard to take your eyes off these exquisitely finished boxes, it should be said that the beauty here is more than skin deep.
Brace for impact
Q Acoustics is obsessed by ridding its speakers of standing waves and rightly so. And, as the company points out, tall floorstanders in particular (the 50s measure around a metre without their spikes and stabilisers) are susceptible to an internal build-up of pressure that results in undesirable standing waves and reverberations. To prevent this, each enclosure is equipped with specially designed Helmholtz Pressure Equalisers tubes which also help to improve frequency response.
Furthermore, the 50s use Q Acoustics’ point-to-point internal bracing system which is used in the places where it brings the greatest benefit, the company measures the way that the cabinet vibrates and uses this information to find the optimum positions for these braces. The war on vibration doesn’t end there. Other new design features making their debut with the Concept 50 include a tweeter that is said to be completely hermetically sealed and mechanically isolated from the front baffle to protect it from vibration produced by the mid/bass driver.
In addition, the crossover is mounted on the isolation base to protect it from any potential microphonic pick up and away from electro-magnetic fields radiated by the drivers. You want more? The Concepts also take advantage of Q Acoustics’ unique ‘Gelcore’ cabinet construction. This features a non-setting gel sandwiched between two layers of MDF that, according to the firm, dissipates unwanted high-frequency vibrations generated by the moving drivers as heat.
And still the battle continues. The Concept 50s use an ‘isolation base’ that was first seen on its Concept 300. This comprises two plates separated by suspension ‘spheres’ that are designed to isolate the cabinet from interference from external vibrations, and stop its own vibrations getting into the floor and thence the system and the other loudspeaker.
The base is designed to allow for a certain amount of movement, so it can be a tad disconcerting to discover that each speaker doesn’t feel rigid, especially given all those solid cabinet design features. However, the base can be locked for those wanting to use their own isolation bases.
Big audio dynamite
What? You missed it again? This time it was the sound of me falling off my chair. I just played Hardest To Love from The Weeknd’s CD After Hours and was shocked to hear traces of distortion during the synth intro. After all the anti-resonance design talk I certainly did not expect that. But hold on. I have now realised that the crackling is actually recorded on the track and the Concept 50s are just giving me a warts and all performance. These speakers are clearly not going to be forgiving of any poor recordings and so it was with the sweeping electronic beats of Slow Burn from Autograf’s The Future Soup EP. Play this track back through many lesser speakers, and you’re unlikely to miss those occasional moments when the recording strays well into the red, but not on these Acoustic Qs: they’re masters of detail and accuracy.
In fact, it is the latter that is the defining audio characteristic of the Concept 50s. Their ability to pick out and place performers on the soundstage in front of the listener is a huge part of their charm, as In My Life from The Beatles re-mastered Rubber Soul CD testifies: there’re no mistaking McCartney and Lennon vocalising on the right while Ringo taps on his snare on the left.
There’s also another sonic characteristics that’s worth picking out. The sound here is big. And don’t get me wrong, by big I don’t mean bloated. Bass is tight, precise, and supremely controlled, as heard while streaming (from Apple Music) Frank Ocean’s Nikes, and the synths cleanly sweep across the soundscape and fill the room but without ever coming across as overblown or domineering. I am going through a phase of listening to what I call ‘new electronica’ at the moment (probably a throwback to the 1980s of my youth) so my room is full of synth sounds these days.
Good job too, as the Concept 50s lap this kind of stuff up. Tracks such as Never Enough, Another Time, Reflections, among others, all by the very excellent Two Lanes, are proving to be particular ear-worms for me and the way these speakers serve them up is so enchanting and hypnotic that I automatically hit the repeat key after each play, just to let those mesmerising beats and tones wash over me again. Let there be no doubt that the Concept 50s are capable of explosive sonics and are magnificent in every aspect. When it comes to sound quality, acoustic design, and aesthetics, they tick all the boxes. Big time.