The Q Acoustics Concept 500 has all the makings of an outstanding speaker, most notably for its impressive implementation of the brand’s proprietary technologies. The depth of the soundstage is superb, and the speaker’s energy and extension in the lows add to its allure. The Q Acoustics Concept 500 needs to be paired up with a stereo amplifier or network receiver capable of driving 4 Ohm speakers while ensuring controlled mids and providing a generous amount of power (Cambridge CXA60/80, NAD C368/388, Hegel H90/H190, for example).
What we liked
What we would have liked
Q Acoustics Concept 500: presentation
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 floorstanding speaker is a 2-way model featuring bass-reflex technology. A high-end descendant of the Q Acoustics 3050, the Concept 500 is equipped with revamped 6.5” (16.5 cm) drivers and a larger, more efficient tweeter boasting a completely original design. Just like it did for the Q Acoustics Concept 20 and Q Acoustics Concept 40, the British manufacturer has equipped the Concept 500 with Gelcore anti-resonance technology. What’s more, the speaker benefits from a unique bass-reflex design and an adjustable passive crossover filter.
Q Acoustics Concept 500: the cabinet
The Q Acoustics Concept 500’s cabinet received extra attention from the brand’s designers. In order to limit–and even eliminate–resonance, the brand turned to a technique which had already proven its merit with the Q Acoustics Concept 20 and Concept 40 speakers. The latter benefit from a structure composed of a layer of gel sandwiched between a dual layer of 10mm MDF board. For the Q Acoustics Concept 500, a second layer of gel and a third MDF board is brought into the mix (Gelcore technology). Is this just a gimmick?
Not at all. In fact, it’s no less than a first-class innovation. Speaker manufacturers have always sought to design acoustically inert cabinets in order to reduce resonance. Even the smallest amount of resonance leads to increased distortion and renders the micro-dynamic changes in the music inaudible. Which is a shame, as micro-information is exactly what makes music magical. Q Acoustics uses a gel which behaves like air trapped between double-pane windows. However, the gel’s efficiency is infinitely superior, and it transforms all traces of resonance into heat. Since the level of resonance is low, this heat does not accumulate inside the Concept 500’s cabinet.
A second innovation is the integration of two internal absorbers in the speaker’s cabinet. The absorbers take the form of two vertically positioned dual cardboard cylinders which more or less act as sound traps to ensure optimal control of the driver’s low frequency response. Meanwhile, the speaker’s bass-reflex system, which is fitted with a large, rear-firing port, has been designed to offer generous extension in the lows. The inside of the cabinet is lined with an assortment of foam and acoustic wool to further reduce undesirable sound reflections.
Q Acoustics Concept 500: the finish quality
In terms of design and manufacturing quality, the Q Acoustics Concept 500 speaker shines in every sense of the word. The two-color lacquered finish is remarkable, and the deep black tint of our model is exquisite, with a seamless transition from black to walnut. The speaker’s finish is one of its most outstanding characteristics. The Concept 500 comes with a pre-installed, round aluminum base which grants the speaker flawless stability.
Q Acoustics Concept 500: the drivers
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 speaker is fitted with a pair of midbass drivers similar to those which equip the Q Acoustics 3050. These 6.5” (16.5 cm) drivers feature exceptionally rigid cellulose and aramid fiber cones (comparable to Kevlar). Nonetheless, the manufacturer has made adjustments to the driver’s surround and voice coil in order to optimize its performance. The tweeter is a coated fabric soft-dome model resembling those which equip the other speakers in the range, apart from the fact that it is larger (28 mm vs. 25 mm) and generates more energy.
Q Acoustics Concept 500: the filter
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 speaker benefits from a 2-way, steep-slope passive crossover filter. While the brand’s other speakers integrate a 2nd order filter (slope of 12 dB/octave), the Concept 500 features a 4th order filter (slope of 24 dB/octave) which requires twice as many electronic components. This approach may raise a red flag, since adding components to the signal’s circuit necessarily alters it. However, Q Acoustics assures that it has selected only high-end components. The cutoff frequency of lows and highs is centered around 2.5 kHz.
Note: Q Acoustics has fitted the back of each speaker with a system of metal straps in order to allow the user to adjust the tweeter’s performance. With the strap inserted, the tweeter’s output is unchanged. With the strap removed, the tweeter’s output is reduced by 0.5, and when it is inserted in the second position, it is increased by 0.5 dB. These differences are very small and the speaker’s restitution is not fundamentally altered.
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 has a sensitivity rating of 90 dB for 2,83 V into 6 Ohms, a minimum impedance of 3.7 Ohms, and a frequency response of 41 Hz to 30 kHz (+/- 9 dB).
Q Acoustics Concept 500: test conditions and listening impressions
We listened to the Q Acoustics Concept 500 speakers with two amplifiers, namely, the Hegel H190 and the compact Yamaha CRX-N470D, which we connected using Norstone Arran and Viard Audio Silver cables.
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 is not radically different from the 3050. Both speakers share essentially the same DNA, and their sound signatures are comparable. However, the Concept 500 sets itself apart from its predecessor with a more convincing performance in the lows: minimal delay, greater extension and more power, in addition to less overexposed mids. Regardless of which amplifier the speaker is paired with, the restitution is serene and benefits from superior dynamic control.
The speaker’s soundstage, which is particularly wide in all three dimensions, is clearly its strongest point. The impressive spatialization (particularly in terms of depth) is typical of Q Acoustics floorstanding speakers, and it contributes to the excellent layering of the soundstage.
Meanwhile, the tweeter’s slightly excessive energy throws the restitution a bit off balance, as the midbass and upper bass register can’t quite keep up. This may be the price to pay–and not a steep one–for such a wide soundstage.
Lows: appealingly deep and controlled, but lacking fullness in the upper bass register
Mids: rich and well layered with a lot of depth
Highs: the most energetic register, with a bit of coloration in the upper midrange
Soundstage: the speaker’s strong point, very deep with precise and efficient layering
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 compared to…
Monitor Audio Gold 200: the Monitor Audio takes a different approach by aiming to please those nostalgic for the golden age of hi-fi: a well-articulated lower midrange, ultra-responsive bass, vigorous infrabass, and miraculously smooth highs (ribbon tweeter). The only edge the Concept 500 can claim is an atypical soundstage.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Cantabile Jubilé: smoother, more precise, and more linear, this speaker is a testament to fine craftsmanship. Along with a truly believable placement of instruments, it offers exceptionally well-centered vocals. The mids benefit from greater detail and better timbres. The audiophile choice.
B&W 703 S2: here’s a speaker which can match the Q Acoustics Concept 500’s particularly deep soundstage. The B&W’s mids are more set back, thus allowing for long, fatigue-free listening sessions. The 703 also offers more rigorous and refined highs.French