Advertisement
Advertisement

Q Acoustics 3020i review: Devastatingly fine sound for £219

Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
249
inc VAT

Thrilling, refined, room-filling sound for sensible money – the Q Acoustics 3020i are a steal at the price

Pros 
Attractive design
Detailed, natural sound
Great value
Cons 
Slightly congested midrange, particularly at higher volumes
Nothing else at this price
Advertisement

The kind of audiophile who’d spend four figures on a few metres of copper cable will scoff at the Q Acoustics 3020i. This is a pair of stand-mount speakers that retails for a mere £249. And no, no zeroes are missing. Despite the low price, though, the 3020i deserve the utmost respect: these speakers can rock, roll, and reach into the heart of music for a fraction of the cost of some rivals. 

Q Acoustics 3020i review: What you need to know

The audio engineers at Q Acoustics have already proved themselves in the bookshelf speaker arena. The smaller 3010i’s wowed us last year and the 3020i take everything that made them great and turn it up to 11 – except for the price. If you’re looking for great sound on the cheap, you’re in the right place.

For your £249, you get a beautifully crafted pair of speakers. The sheer solidity of the curved MDF boxes rivals far more expensive models and, thanks to the capable pair of 125mm (5in) and 22mm (0.9in) drivers, they sound astonishingly good.

The speakers are quite deep (280mm) and they’re best suited to solid, sand-filled stands but they’re also happy screwed onto their matching wall mounts or perching on an Ikea sideboard. Pair them with a modest hi-fi or AV amplifier (or a little Class D amp, for that matter) and you have a recipe for delight.

Q Acoustics 3020i review: Price and competition

In all honesty, I’ve not heard much that comes close to the Q Acoustics 3020i at £249. If space is at a premium, then Q Acoustics’ excellent 3010i (£199) shrink the same crisp, curvaceous design down to slightly more bookshelf-friendly dimensions. While they lack the bass weight and mid-range slam of the larger speakers, they’re still amazingly good for the money.

If you’re really tight on space but not quite so tight on cash, then the B&W 607 (£399) are an interesting alternative. Their scalpel-precise presentation couldn’t be more different to the Q Acoustics approach to music, but for low-level listening and sheer detail they’re hard to beat. 

Q Acoustics 3020i review: Features and design

This is an unusually classy looking speaker for the money. Where most at this price are rectangular boxes, the 3020i’s hefty-feeling cabinets curve elegantly around every edge, and you can take your pick from white, black, grey and a chintzy walnut wood-effect wrap.

They might not look that big from the front but Q Acoustics’ redesign has added 25% more volume to the original 3020 cabinet and most of it has been added to the rear and the 3020i now measure a considerable 280mm deep. If you’re planning to use your existing speaker stands then you’ll want to make sure the top plates are big enough, and you’ll definitely want to Blu-tack them securely in place.

The attention to detail in the design is impressive. Invisible magnets clamp the grilles firmly to the front of the speaker, and the unusual-looking speaker terminals are mounted almost flush with the rear. If you need to back the speakers right up against a wall – to prevent little fingers from fiddling with them, or just to save space – these new-style terminals are an absolute boon.

For £249, a lot of engineering has gone into the 3020i, even if some of that effort isn’t immediately obvious. Rap your knuckles on the cabinets and, where some rivals respond with a slightly hollow echo, the 3020i’s internal point-to-point bracing does a great job of keeping those nasty resonances at bay: there’s nothing but a crisp, dampened thunk.

And, rather like the substantially pricier B&W 607, Q Acoustics decoupled both the 22mm tweeter and the 125mm mid-bass driver from the speaker cabinet with an absorptive surround between the drivers and cabinet. This impedes vibrations from the mid-bass driver which might otherwise upset the tweeter’s delicate high-frequency tones – which bodes well for sound quality.

Q Acoustics 3020i review: Sound quality

It’s always a good sign when you forget you’re actually meant to be reviewing a speaker. Music flows from one track to the next, one genre gives way to another – and hours later you notice you’ve forgotten to take any notes at all.

Compared with my usual PMC DB1+ and the Bowers and Wilkins 607, which I’ve been listening to for the past few weeks, the 3020i’s easy-going character immediately comes to the fore. While the PMC and Bowers and Wilkins speakers have a sharper, brighter balance (and much, much more so in the case of the Bowers and Wilkins), the 3020i are calm and even-handed. Bass digs surprisingly deep, voices and instruments sound realistic and full-bodied, and the treble captures the zing of percussion without veering into harshness.

I’m all too used to playing Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ and scribbling down issues on my notepad: it’s one of those tracks which gives you the measure of a speaker in less than 60 seconds. If deep bass is absent, midrange thin or treble harsh, you’ll know about it right away.

In the case of the 3020i, the issues that are there just aren’t that noticeable. Bass reaches surprisingly deep – there’s more power and control in the lower registers compared to the smaller 3010i – and the mid-range and treble are nicely balanced. It all sounds very refined for the money.

And it’s this balance that makes the 3020i incredibly hard to wrongfoot. It doesn’t matter what you feed them with – noise, opera, electronica, jazz, classical – everything sounds good. Even bad recordings are entirely listenable.

It’s the delicacy and maturity of the performance that’s most impressive. The detail in the upper registers gives a wonderful sense of space and air to recordings and you can close your eyes and almost see the studio or symphony hall the musicians were sitting in. When you’re talking about a £249 speaker, that’s pretty special in itself.

You could accuse the 3020i of being a tad too laid-back. Classical recordings lack that last bit of sparkle, that fizz of bows scraping across strings, and there isn’t the airiness and detail of pricier speakers which give you that heart-stopping like-you’re-there feeling.

The mid-range can, too, sound a tad congested with loud orchestral or densely-layered recordings as it struggles to unpick the individual instruments – and particularly so as the volume rises towards concert-level volumes. The 3020i’s humble mid-bass driver does have its limits.

Q Acoustics 3020i review: Verdict

It’s impossible to hold a grudge against the Q Acoustics 3020i, though. The sound is quality is nothing short of superlative for the money, the look and feel is great; and they’re unfussy about where you put them.

Whether they’re sat atop dedicated speaker stands or an Ikea bookshelf, the Q Acoustics 3020i make sure that the spotlight shines on the music alone. That’s really all you can ask from any speaker, at any price.

Read more

Reviews