The British brand Q Acoustics offers a fairly limited range of hi-fi and home cinema speakers ? with just a few compact models, a subwoofer and a pair of floor-standing speakers ? the Q Acoutics 2050i. These speakers have been acclaimed by the international press ? for example, a 5 star rating from What HiFi for their relatively low cost, high performance and quality components. We’ve decided to listen in closer.
The Q Acoustics 2050i is an upgraded version of the 2050, with the i standing for improved. They form the basis of a 5.1 system made up of the Q Acoustics 2000Ci centre speaker, the black lacquer compact surround speakers, Q Acoustics 2010i glossy black or the Q Acoustics 2020i and the Q Acoustics 2070Si subwoofer. Q Acoustics has optimized the speaker’s MDF structure as well as the passive filter and chosen new carbon and ceramic membranes for the bass/medium drivers.
The Q Acoustics 2050i has two 6.5″ diameter drivers as well as a cloth dome tweeter with voice coil cooled by ferrofluid. This technique allows you to preserve your transducer’s dynamic range at a sustained volume, for example, home cinema use.
The two bass/medium transducers are bass-reflex loaded with a large circular port on the rear panel. They are tuned to approximately 44 Hz, which on paper means a good amount of energy for drivers of this size. They are used up to 2.6 kHz, and are delivered beyond that by the 25 mm dome tweeter, up to 22 kHz. Sensitivity is established at 92 dB for 1 Watt to 1 metre at 1 kHz.
Q Acoustics 2050i : package content
We tested the glossy black version of the Q Acoustics 2050i, shipped with a pair of gloves to avoid any fingerprint marks. These floor-standing speakers are not light and taking them out of the box while wearing gloves requires a bit of elbow grease. The package also contains decoupling spikes, rubber pads, an Allen wrench and a foam stopper for the port. This foam stopper may prove itself useful when the speaker is too close to the wall therefore increasing the frequency diffusion of the port.
The particular feature of the Q Acoustics 2050i is that the wires are not connected to the rear panel but to the lower panel. Terminals are located under the speaker so it must be laid flat to carry out connections. This is convenient as the decoupling spikes must be installed as well. We used a cushion in order to avoid any scratches to the speaker. The decoupling spikes are easily screwed in. They are made up of a threaded rod and a bolt head which can be adjusted or tightened using the wrench included.
A lock nut ensures attachment under the speaker’s thick metallic base. Depending on the type of floor in the listening room, spikes can be covered with the rubber pads which come with the speaker. This is what we did to avoid scraping the floor when we were moving the speaker.
Each speaker features a double terminal for bi-wiring or bi-amplification purposes. A metallic strap is fitted to interconnect terminals for mono-cabling installation. We initially used this strap with the NorStone Silver 150 speaker cable. Despite its average section, this cable offers excellent results in the low range, much better than standard bigger section copper cable.
Our testing conditions
We used three amplifiers to listen to our pair of Q Acoustics 2050i: an entry-level home cinema model, a Pioneer VSX-S300, a Denon Ceol N8 mini-stereo system and a NuForce DDA-100 integrated amplifier. These range in price between roughly 250 and 600 ?. For our audio source, we chose the Pioneer N-50 network audio player which we used along with RCA Norstone RCS-500 cables. We listened to FLAC and FLAC HD audio files (stored on a NAS) as well as films and TV series on Blu-ray (Dolby Digital and DTS downmixed in PCM stereo). Decoding of the audio stream was carried out by our home cinema amplifier, the Ceol N8 or the Pioneer N-50.
Even before breaking them in, you immediately pick up on the character of the Q Acoustics 2050i, in particular their wide sound stage and obvious depth. The signal’s electric phase seems well controlled, dialogue is located at the centre of the listening area and stereo sound is very clear, regardless of the amplifier and source. The medium is well defined, supported by strong bass and balanced from upper to lower bass. With a low listening level, lower frequencies are easily perceptible, without requiring listeners to listen closely. The tweeter can get a bit carried away in upper medium if it is required too much.
After two weeks of diverse and varied listening, the Q Acoustics 2050i speakers have reached their level of maturity. The metallic straps connecting the low and high frequency terminals have been removed to be replaced with small section speaker cable. This was absolutely worthwhile as listening has gained in terms of fluidity in medium and treble range and sensitivity has increased in the upper part of the sound spectrum.
Some delivery peaks
With an advertised sound level of 92 dB for 1 Watt at 1 metre distance, we imagined that these speakers would definitely be light in the low range and more present in the medium. There are several explanations for this reasoning: firstly, sensitivity is always expressed at 1 kHz (medium) and a pair of 6.5″ diameter drivers ? even with a bass-reflex enclosure ? cannot produce 92 dB for 1 Watt ranging from 44 Hz to 100 Hz, but rather 89 dB. For example, quintessentially British speakers such as the B&W CM9 or the Monitor Audio Bronze BX6 are very linear. The Q Acoustics 2050i floor-standing speakers are not linear, which is not really a problem. The sensitivity ?conceded’ in low frequencies is made up for in terms of energy and that is what matters. A peak in sensitivity in the medium range is not therefore a problem ? it’s the sign that a bass/medium driver features a natural nervosity as it brings an appealing lightness to the sound. This is the case for the Q Acoustics 2050i.
The tweeter is surprisingly lively and not too sharp. This is what makes this speaker so special.
To sum up, the low range is detailed and deep without being too energetic. Medium is very precise and treble even more so.
Convincing for home cinema use
Q Acoustics 2050i’s strengths lie in home cinema use, where their presence in the medium range brings a welcome lightness to dialogue and a very appealing surround sound. The most surprising aspect is the ability of the speakers to extract film dialogue and to place it perfectly in the centre but also to level it out regardless of the type of amplifier used.
The Matrix (DTS 5.1 downmix, Blu-ray)
There are a few classic scenes in the Wachowskis film and some scenes which are difficult to reproduce. When Neo ?follows the white rabbit? and finds himself in a (strange) night club where everyone is dancing to Dragula by Rob Zombie, the superposing of voices is not always clear. With the Q Acoustics 2050i, voices are well centred and can be extracted without any difficulty. Later in the film, the scene with the helicopter rescue produces a few jumps. The four bass drivers extract impact and explosions with ease.
Avatar (DTS 5.1 dowmix, Blu-ray)
Voices are perfectly controlled and there is never too much treble. We can hear Sigourney Weaver take a drag of her cigarette and the other actors catching their breath. The tree attack scene is a festival of explosions and well-controlled muffled sounds. These don’t go down too low, but bass is nevertheless deep. We can congratulate Q Acoustics for having chosen its bass-reflex enclosure with a reasonable frequency, to the benefit of a clean, precise bass.
Downton Abbey (DTS 5.1 downmix, Blu-ray)
These speakers will not let bad sound takes go unnoticed.
As we pointed out when we reviewed the Denon Ceol N8, the audio engineer was a bit heavy-handed with high frequencies and dialogues. The leveling of sound fields is poor ? everything is compressed ? but this isn’t the fault of the Q Acoustics 2050i. Piano, violin and sound effects mix in with each other in a haphazard way. The NuForce DDA-100 amplifier is more balanced for this type of situation.
The Q Acoustics 2050i speakers offer a rather transparent sound but their tweeter, with its excellent transient response, must not be pushed too far. This isn’t a problem when used for home cinema purposes, but it can be problematic for hi-fi use. It’s better to avoid entry level amplifiers (particularly Class-D) which can result in an anemic delivery with bad recordings. If the mixing is poor, the Q Acoustics 2050i will not soften it. Be careful of any ?radio-type? mixed Audio-CD ? the re-edition of the INXS album Kick was disappointing as the upper medium is too pronounced and bass levels are not adequate.
On the other hand, listening to Fip radio in MP3 streaming @128 Kbits/sec with the NuForce DDA-100 digital amplifier is unbelievably warm and lively with a well rounded low frequency range and strongly established voices. The proof that a well balanced MP3 digital stream can be much better than a poorly mixed CD.
For hi-fi use, we recommend using analog amplifiers such as the Marantz PM-6004 , Yamaha A-S500, Yamaha A-S700, Rotel RA-12, NAD C356BEE or Arcam FMJ A19 for example. For home cinema, we recommend using models such as the Denon AVR-X2000, Yamaha RX-A730 or Marantz SR-6008. Conclusion: The Q Acoustic 2050i speaker is a lively but sensible floor-standing speaker to be used ideally for home cinema but equally in a hi-fi configuration if used with the right electronics.