How deep is your love? If you’re a pair of Q Acoustics’ 3030i, the answer is ‘about 30cm’. That’s 30% more than your average standmount loudspeaker’s physical depth; and a measurement that suggests above-average low-end action…until we take a seat. In my 6m x 5m room, the loudspeakers positioned a meter out from the front wall (where most loudspeakers sit) and Automat’s Modul Remixes #2 Roon-d in via a Bluesound Powernode 2i, the deep-seated Q Acoustics clearly go lower than their 47Hz manufacturer-derived rating but come up short on forward-leaning heft and weight. For that, we’d have to spend more than the 3030i’s €399 asking.
However, in all other audible aspects – midrange clarity and body, top-end civility, micro-dynamic flair – the Q Acoustics might have us question the need to move up to something like the KEF LS50 — a benchmark at its thrice-costlier sticker. That leaves us more wallet wiggle room for electronics.
Now comes the wrinkle. Conventional audiophile wisdom says we should spend at least 50% of our budget on loudspeakers but the longer I spend in the listening chair, the more I believe this to be a guide for the uninitiated customer or, more cynically, the high street dealer’s bottom line. Here that percentage guide becomes a strait-jacket: so high is the 3030i’s value quotient that the chance of finding a €200 amplifier and DAC combination that would do them justice is slim-to-nothing.
One could argue that this is also true of ELAC’s Debut Reference, KEF’s Q150, Wharfedale’s Evo 4.1, B&W’s 606 or Dali’s Oberon 1. The sub-€500 standmount space is so closely fought by numerous storied manufacturers, their computerised acoustic modelling tech and experienced design teams that the price-point compromises are well known. Engineers must simply pick their poison, their bill of materials reduced by shaving pennies from cabinet materials, its finish, internal bracing, drivers and their reflex ports. So keen is the quality of the competition that also-rans don’t even get a seat at the table.
We’re not playing cards, of course, but fine dining. In a hi-fi system, the loudspeaker lays the plate and cutlery, establishing the serving size and overall food type but it’s the electronics that supply the nourishment. The result? We might (and perhaps should) spend more on the amplifier so that we can base more of our loudspeaker shortlisting decisions on matters of look, feel and build quality.
Repeating myself: loudspeakers are pieces of furniture that create sound in our living spaces. Optimising their in-room performance means loudspeakers (and their stands) must sit front and centre. We are therefore forced to look at our loudspeakers every time we sit down to watch TV, play music or drink a coffee in silence. Where music listening is one of many activities taking place in a family lounge room, looks matter.
Q Acoustics are fully across this line of thinking. They’ve smoothed four of the 3030i’s otherwise crisp clean edges. A choice of finishes – black, grey, walnut or white finishes – makes decor matching that bit easier, particularly for members of the IKEA generation whose a vinyl collection sits inside a KALLAX unit and the amplifier, DAC and turntable on top. I added a Bluesound Powernode 2i (review here and here) and Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB (review coming soon) to my Q Acoustics 3030i, sitting on Atacama Nexus 6i stands, for a complete €2000 hi-fi system that takes us into Eye-Fi:
Further information: Q Acoustics