Review: Q Acoustics 3030i

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The Q Acoustics 3030i compact speaker is the latest model in the Q Acoustics 3000i range that was first launched in 2018. Larger than the other two compact speakers in the range, the Q Acoustics 3010i and Q Acoustics 3020i, this 2-way, bass-reflex speaker is fitted with a 6½” midbass driver, which, in theory, should deliver a fuller, more intense response in the lows. The 22mm coated soft dome tweeter is the model used throughout the range and is decoupled from the cabinet using silicone gel. Sold for €399 a pair, the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker has a reinforced cabinet and benefits from proprietary Gelcore technology to minimize resonance.

The Q Acoustic 3030i’s walnut veneer is appealing. The chrome rings on the front panel highlight the drivers beautifully.

With this speaker, the British manufacturer promises an “extraordinarily substantial bass presence, beautifully poised and eloquent mid-range reproduction, and crisp, spacious high frequencies” that allow you to enjoy “all the power and detail of your music”. Is this promise kept?

Q Acoustics 3030i: the brand

Founded in 2006, Q Acoustics is a British loudspeaker manufacturer that strives to offer the very best in acoustic speakers at an affordable price. Q Acoustics’ success in this highly competitive market can be mainly explained by the genuine passion the company has for the products it offers. The approach behind Q Acoustics’ creation is based on a simple idea: to design and produce speakers that stand out due to their superior quality, but also remain in the same price bracket as the competition.

Quality that can be heard

The quality of its loudspeakers and the technical expertise of its engineers and designers were the main building blocks for Q Acoustics’ identity. By applying this expertise to each product, Q Acoustics has established itself as a major player in the global loudspeaker market in just a few years. In 2009, only three years after the company was founded, What Hi-Fi? Magazine wrote that the British brand’s speakers were “some of the most avant-garde products in existence”. 

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The Q Acoustics Q7000 5.1 home theater speaker pack was given a 5-star rating by What Hi-Fi? magazine.

In 2012, the specialist magazine gave the Q Acoustics Q7000 compact home theater speaker pack a 5-star rating: “The soundstage is expansive, coherent and rigorously spatialized, the effects are positioned with the utmost confidence and the level of detail is outstanding. The Q7000’s sound is neutral, but despite this lack of coloration, it has no trouble reproducing textures and is just as capable of being nuanced as it is of being thunderous during the biggest explosions.”

The excellent build, elegant design and acoustic performance of Q Acoustics’ speakers quickly established the brand’s reputation. A reputation that hasn’t stopped improving since.

Gelcore™ technology

True to its philosophy, high-quality for the best price, Q Acoustics redoubled its creative efforts to develop a technology that minimizes cabinet resonance. The goal was to achieve a clear, soft and detailed sound without having to build thick, heavy and expensive speaker cabinets. 

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The Q Acoustics Concept 20 compact speaker uses Q Acoustics Gelcore™ technology.

The Gelcore™ technology found in the Q Acoustics Concept 20 bookshelf speakers and the Q Acoustics Concept 40 floorstanding speakers uses a special gel that is injected in between two layers of 10mm-thick MDF to eliminate unwanted vibrations.

Q Acoustics’ Gelcore technology makes it possible to create a remarkably stable cabinet by injecting a damping gel (in green in this diagram) in between two layers of MDF.

Sound quality that speaks for itself

In 2015, the Q Acoustics 3000 speaker range made a great impression at the Munich High End show. This range includes the Q Acoustics 3010 and Q Acoustics 3020 compact speakers, the Q Acoustics 3050 floorstanding speaker, the Q Acoustics 3090C center speaker and the Q Acoustics 3070S subwoofer. The 3000 series was described as demonstrating “astounding possibilities, great ease in reproducing messages and remarkable dynamics” (cinenow.fr). These speakers are a source of pride for the British brand, as well as a source of delight for audiophiles looking for a superior hi-fi or home theater experience at an affordable price.

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During our review of the Q Acoustics 300 Series in 2016, we were impressed by the depth of the soundstage, the overall balance, and remarkable build quality of the speakers.

Q Acoustics Concept 500

In 2017, the first truly high-end speaker from the British manufacturer was released. Visually impressive, the Q Acoustics 500 floorstanding speaker uses highly sophisticated technical solutions to ensure flawless musicality. It has received many awards from the international press, notably the EISA award for best floorstanding speaker 2017-2018.

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The Q Acoustics Concept 500 is the flagship model in the British manufacturer’s speaker range.

The Q Acoustics Concept 500 speaker’s cabinet features a sandwich structure with three layers. It uses Gelcore technology to eliminate unwanted vibrations and cabinet resonance. Two layers of gel sandwiched between three layers of MDF absorb internal waves, eliminating the risk of sound coloration. The speaker also benefits from P2P (Point to Point) internal braces that connect the left and right panels at several points. This strengthens the structure to eliminate low frequency vibrations. Helmholtz resonators absorb and balance shifts in pressure and resonance inside the cabinet. Lastly, the solid aluminum base, designed and built to eradicate the risk of acoustic reflections, perfectly decouples the speaker from the floor.

Q Acoustics 3000i

In 2018, the British manufacturer revamped its 3000 range and presented the Q Acoustics 3000i series. The letter “i” stands for improved. To further optimize these already exemplary speakers, the engineers incorporated some of the technologies used in the high-end Q Acoustics Concept models. In particular, the cabinet features P2P technology, which uses internal braces and spacers to solidify the cabinet and reduce distortion.

Moreover, the internal volume of the compact speakers in the 3000i range has been increased to extend their response in the lows. The drivers used in this series are exclusive, with a tweeter that has an improved off-axis response to provide a wider listening area.

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An exploded view of the tweeter used in the Q Acoustics 3000i speaker range.

Vibration damping is still ensured with mechanical decoupling of the driver, which is mounted in a specially designed IsoMount rubber surround system. Covering the highest frequencies up to 30kHz, this tweeter allows you to enjoy Hi-Res audio files in excellent conditions.

The latest addition to the Q Acoustics 3000i series and subject of this review, the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker is the largest compact model in the range.

Q Acoustics 3030i: packaging & accessories

The Q Acoustics 3030i speakers come in a cardboard box and are held in place by two large polystyrene blocks. Each speaker is protected by its own soft synthetic fiber cover. There is a  protective film placed in between the drivers and the magnetic fabric acoustic grille. The speakers come with foam plugs to block the port if necessary. The manufacturer also includes small rubber feet to stick underneath each speaker, as well as a user manual.

Q Acoustics 3030i: presentation

The Q Acoustics 3030i compact speaker is a 2-way, bass-reflex model with a rear-firing port. It is equipped with a 6½” midbass driver and a 1” soft dome tweeter. 

We received a model with the English Walnut finish for this review. The walnut-like lining is attractive and pleasant to the touch. The combination of wood and chrome on the front panel is very elegant.

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker is loaded with a 6½” midbass driver paired with a 1” soft dome tweeter.

Q Acoustics P2P (Point to Point) system

P2P technology uses braces inside the cabinet, on the parts of the speaker that need to be reinforced. The manufacturer uses laser interferometry to meticulously and precisely analyse the dynamic performance of the cabinet. Q Acoustics’ engineers can then determine the best places to place the braces.

As a result, the cabinets of the speakers in the 3000i range and that of the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker are exceptionally stable, which drastically reduces vibrations and cabinet resonance. When listening, this results in a more focused stereo image and an even more precisely spatialized soundstage.

Decoupled tweeter

As with all of the speakers in the Q Acoustics 3000i range, the tweeter of the Q Acoustics 3030i compact speaker is a 1” model with a soft dome. It is decoupled from the cabinet by a silicone surround system. Consequently, it is isolated from the vibrations of the midbass driver that could alter its performance.

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker’s coated fabric dome tweeter is decoupled from the cabinet so that it isn’t affected by possible vibrations.

6½” midbass driver

The reproduction on mid and low frequencies is handled by a 6½” driver. Its impregnated and coated cellulose fiber cone is mounted on a low hysteresis surround, which improves responsiveness. The coated paper cone provides the perfect balance of rigidity and auto-damping, allowing the driver’s piston-like movement to accelerate without faltering and stop very precisely, without any unwanted resonance.

The Q Acoustics 3030i’s midbass driver is highly responsive thanks to its ultra-low latency surround. 

The large voice coil (25mm) ensures ideal power management and reduces the risk of dynamic compression. Its aluminum core provides the necessary stability while remaining solid and lightweight, reducing the inertia of the whole system and ensuring an excellent transient response.

Magnetic grille

The acoustic fabric grille that comes with the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker is magnetic. Therefore, the front of the speaker is free of any visible posts or notches that would be needed to hold a non-magnetic grille in place.

However, the manufacturer has left a very small notch inside the chrome ring under the midbass driver. Almost invisible, it is designed to accommodate the small tab located at the bottom of the grille (inside) so that it is easier to place and to ensure that it is perfectly centered.

Barely visible, there is a small notch inside the ring that frames the Q Acoustics 3030i’s midbass driver.
This notch allows you to precisely adjust the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker’s magnetic grille.

Bass-reflex enclosure

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker is a 2-way model with a bass-reflex enclosure.

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker features a bass-reflex enclosure with a port at the top of the speaker’s rear panel. It is therefore recommended to position these speakers at a certain distance from the wall (at least 20/30cm away) so as not to alter the sound.

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker’s port is rear-firing.

However, the manufacturer provides foam plugs to block the ports so that you can place the speakers close to a wall if necessary. In this setup, the low frequency range is reduced, but definition and extension is increased.

The manufacturer provides a foam plug for each speaker that allows you to block the ports if the lows are too intense when the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker is placed very close to a wall.

During our review, we weren’t impressed by the result when the foam plugs were placed in the ports. The lows were too muted and it changed the entire character of the speaker.

Optimized filtering

All of the speakers in the Q Acoustics 3000i range feature a 4th order crossover filter with a very steep slope of 24dB/octave and the Q Acoustics 3030i is no exception. This filter guarantees that the drivers are seamlessly integrated to ensure a perfectly linear response over the entire frequency range. In addition, the British manufacturer has taken particular care in phasing the speakers to provide a perfect stereo image.

New binding posts

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker’s terminals are very slim.

With the goal of eliminating all potential sources of vibration and resonance, the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker’s binding posts have been entirely redesigned. Consequently, they aren’t mounted on a large panel on the back of the speaker that could cause unwanted vibration and color the sound.

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker’s binding posts are optimized to generate as few vibrations as possible.

Instead, the binding posts are integrated into the rear panel on a small plate. They are connected to the crossover filter via holes with the smallest possible diameter. In addition, the thickness of the screw caps has been considerably reduced, allowing the speaker to be placed as close to the rear wall as possible, even when using banana plugs.

Key specifications

  • Type : enceinte compacte 2 voies
  • Charge : bass-reflex

Measurements

  • Frequency response (+/-3dB, -6dB): 46Hz – 30kHz
  • Average impedance: 6 ohms
  • Minimum impedance: 4 ohms
  • Sensitivity (2.83v @ 1m): 88dB
  • Recommended stereo amplifier power: 25 – 75W
  • Recommended A/V receiver power (2 channels driven): 50 – 145W
  • Crossover frequency: 2.4kHz
  • Effective volume: 12.5L

Drivers

  • 1x 6½” midbass driver
  • 1x 1” tweeter

General

  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 200 x 325 x 329mm (with the grille, binding posts and feet)
  • Weight (per speaker): 6.4kg

Q Acoustics 3030i: listening conditions

The Q Acoustics 3030i speakers and the Marantz M-CR612 network receiver are a perfect match.

For our review of the Q Acoustics 3030i speakers, we first connected them to the Marantz M-CR612 network receiver using NorStone W250 Classic speaker cables. The receiver was set to bridged parallel mode, which delivers 2 x 60 watts of power. This meant we could listen to a few CDs, but also our review playlist on Deezer (MP3 320kbps) as well as several Hi-Res tracks (24/96 and 24/192 FLAC HD as well as DSD) stored on a smartphone and a remote computer (via DLNA) thanks to the Heos app.

We also listened to a couple of vinyl records with the Rega Planar 3 turntable, which was equipped with a Denon DL-103R phono cartridge and connected to the Marantz receiver’s Line input via the Thorens MM-008 phono preamplifier.

We took advantage of our Q Acoustics 3030i review to listen to several albums on vinyl with the Rega Planar 3 turntable.

Afterwards, we connected the Q Acoustics 3030i speakers to the Cayin CS-55A KT88 amplifier using a pair of QED XT40i banana plug speaker cables. We kept the Marantz M-CR612 as a source (RCA output in Line out set volume mode).

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker with the Cayin CS-55 KT88 tube amplifier in the background.

The Q Acoustics 3030i speakers were placed on a pair of NorStone Stylum 3 speaker stands.

Q Acoustics 3030i: listening impressions

Q Acoustics 3030i + Marantz M-CR612 + NorStone W250

We were immediately struck by the broadness of the soundstage. It was wide, very wide even, but also deep. This was apparent within the first few seconds of Maverick Sabre’s “Preach” (album When I Wake Up – 2019). The sound engineer’s voice was audible in the background, the finger clicks resonated, then in the intro the artist’s echoing voice unfolded and was perfectly reproduced in our listening room. The piano notes, precisely positioned at the left of the singer,  had weight and substance. At the right, the guitar played its composition very softly before the backing vocals began to soar. We were thoroughly impressed by the smoothness and magnitude displayed by the speakers.

For a completely different style, we then listened to Morcheeba’s “Never Undo” (album Blaze Away – 2018), a track with dense and deep lows. The Q Acoustics 3030i provided a good performance in this frequency range, helped by the receiver’s 2 x 60 watts. The lows were tight, well structured and were surprisingly powerful. If you close your eyes, you could easily think that these compact speakers are a pair of small floorstanding speakers, or that they are accompanied by a small subwoofer. The 6½” driver was particularly responsive and stable, allowing us to enjoy all the dynamics of the song.

Prince was next on our list with The Truth from the album of the same name (1998). This track with lively highs that is often on the verge of saturation can quickly become a nightmare to listen to with a bad hi-fi system. The Q Acoustics 3030is performed very well with this track, when reproducing both the acoustics of the recording (there is a lot of reverberation) and the inflections of the artist’s voice. But above all, it was the guitar that was reproduced the most realistically (the nuances in the strumming, the taps on the body of the guitar…). The highest notes, which can sometimes be a little harsh with a metal dome tweeter, were beautifully clear with these speakers. We let ourselves be carried away by the song. 

Q Acoustics 3030i + Cayin CS-55A KT88 + QED XT40i

It may seem somewhat unorthodox to use a pair of compact speakers sold for €399 with this incredible €1790 tube amplifier, but the result was very impressive.

The Q Acoustics 3030i speakers took advantage of the harmonic richness of tube amplification, which resulted in great accuracy and texture. The lows were a little less lively than with the Marantz receiver but gained warmth and fullness, while the highs benefited from the softness of the coated fabric dome tweeter.

On The Girl From Ipanema (Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto), the texture of the South American singer’s voice was restituted softly and precisely. The instruments were perfectly positioned, delicately accompanying the singer. Astrud Gilberto then began her part with her aerial vocals, before being joined by the saxophonist. The phrasing of the instruments was smooth and velvety, the intensity of the musician’s breath on the reed clearly audible. It was a real treat!

Q Acoustics 3030i: compared to…

The Q Acoustics 3030i speaker next to the Elipson Prestige Facet 8B, the Focal Chorus 706 and the Focal Aria 906.

Focal Chorus 706: this speaker also features a 6½” midbass driver and a bass-reflex enclosure, but it is fitted with the French brand’s signature inverted metal dome tweeter. Delivering a neutral and natural sound, it is rather dynamic and provides a nicely spatialized soundstage. However, the Q Acoustics 3030i surpasses the Chorus 706, with its impressive ability to effectively capture the entire dynamic range of a song. The Q Acoustics 3030i also offers a wider and deeper soundstage, as well as deeper, fuller lows. The midrange of this British speaker is also more textured, while the highs, which are very detailed and smooth, are generally softer.

Elipson Prestige Facet 8B: there are a lot of similarities between these two compact models, starting with their ability to open up the soundstage and their precision in the placement of each element. Although they are round and voluminous with both of these speakers, the lows seemed a little more energetic and responsive with the Q Acoustics 3030i. The latter also goes a little higher in the top end of the spectrum. Both speakers are almost equal in the highs, with a lot of smoothness, softness and precision.

Focal Aria 906: during our review of the Focal Aria 906, we were impressed by the speaker’s balance. The midrange was particularly well textured thanks to the driver and its Flax cone. The titanium inverted dome tweeter provides very intense highs without being fatiguing. This speaker is delicate at times, dynamic when necessary, and knows how to precisely position the different elements of the soundstage. The sound provided by the Q Acoustics 3030i isn’t quite as well structured as the French model, but it is just as responsive and precise. The fact that it is a little less direct (but no less precise) than the Focal speaker in the highs means that this frequency range benefits from a little more softness.

Q Acoustics 3030i: conclusion

If acoustic wizards exist, they might well be working in the UK at the Q Acoustics research and development department!

Given the performance it offers, the Q Acoustics 3030i is a very competitively priced speaker and is a solid contender in its price range. The balanced frequencies, response and stability in the lows, dynamism, tonal richness and spaciousness of the soundstage are some of the qualities that impressed us the most. It is a shame that the dynamic qualities are less noticeable and that the lows are a little timid at low volume. But the amplifier’s Loudness or Bass Boost function can easily fix this.

We particularly appreciated the Q Acoustics 3030i and Marantz M-CR16 network receiver pairing, as the latter perfectly harnessed all of the speakers’ dynamic qualities. With this duo, it was a real pleasure to listen to track after track. We couldn’t get enough!

What we liked

  • The spacious soundstage
  • The responsiveness of the woofer
  • The energy and magnitude of the lows
  • The precision and softness of the highs
  • The impressive spatialization
  • The very elegant finish

What we would have liked

  • Nothing more at this price point

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