Q Acoustics Q Active 200: an innovative design for the best sound

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This week we reviewed the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 wireless speakers. This compact model is a part of the new Q Active speaker range from the British manufacturer. Like the other models in the range, this pair of bookshelf speakers works with the included Q Active Control base that centralizes all physical and digital sources and wirelessly streams them to the speakers with a resolution of up to 24-bit/96kHz. Sold for 1,799 euros, will these active speakers retain the acoustic qualities of the British manufacturer’s passive speakers while benefiting from the convenience of wireless transmission?

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200s work with a separate base that centralizes all sources and wirelessly streams them to the speakers with a resolution of up to 24-bit/96kHz. On top of that, they are compatible with many online music services as well as Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: the brand

Founded in 2006, Q Acoustics is the hi-fi and home theater speaker subsidiary of the British group Armour Home Electronics, which also manufactures QED cables. The quality of its speakers and the technical expertise of its engineers and designers were the main building blocks for Q Acoustics’ identity. By applying this expertise to each of its products, 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”. In 2012, the specialist magazine gave the Q Acoustics Q7000 compact home theater speaker pack a 5-star rating for its expansive, coherent and rigorously spatialized soundstage.

The Q Acoustics Q7000 5.1 home theater speaker pack was given a 5-star rating by What Hi-Fi? Magazine in 2012.

The excellent build, elegant design and acoustic performance of Q Acoustics’ speakers quickly established the brand’s reputation. 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. 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.

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.

In 2017, the first truly high-end speaker from the British manufacturer was released. Visually impressive, the Q Acoustics 500floorstanding 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.

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

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. The Q Acoustics 3030i is the latest addition to the Q Acoustics 3000i series and thoroughly impressed us during our review (read our review of the Q Acoustics 3030i compact speaker).

The latest addition to the Q Acoustics 3000i series and the largest compact model in the range, the Q Acoustics 3030i speaker is a two-way model equipped with a 6.5” midbass driver to produce full and intense lows.

Until now, Q Acoustics had stuck to designing passive hi-fi and/or home theater speakers (with the exception of the Q Acoustics 3060S, Q Acoustics 3070S and Q Acoustics QB12 subwoofers). The new Q Acoustics Q Active speaker range marks the arrival of the British brand in the wireless speaker market. It includes the Q Acoustics Q Active 400 floorstanding speakers, which are scheduled for release in 2021, as well as the compact Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers that are the subject of this review.

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 are the British manufacturer’s first wireless speakers.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: packaging & accessories

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers come in a single box inside of which they are securely held in place by two large wedges. Each speaker is protected by two foam pads and soft synthetic packaging. Two power cables are included to connect the speakers to the mains. The British manufacturer also supplies the Q Active Control base to centralize the various sources and connect the speakers to the internet. The base comes with a USB cable with an AC adapter for the power supply, an HDMI cable and a remote control with batteries.

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 wireless speakers come with a transmitter base, an HDMI cable, power cables, a remote control and a setup guide.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: presentation

Design

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 is the first active speaker in the British manufacturer’s catalog. Like all Q Acoustics speakers, it has a beautifully finished MDF chassis. The rounded edges on the front and back minimize cabinet edge diffraction and reinforce the speaker’s compact look. The Q Acoustics Q Active 200’s front panel is adorned with the brand’s chrome logo and is reinforced inside with a brace that also supports the woofer. This optimizes the cabinet’s dynamic performance to reduce unwanted vibration and distortion.

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 wireless speaker features a chassis with rounded edges and a control interface on the top.

Acoustic design

The front panel of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker hides two 2.25” drivers behind a metal grille. These drivers are responsible for reproducing high and midrange frequencies. They benefit from proprietary BMR technology which widens the sound dispersion to limit the sweet spot effect and ensure an optimal reproduction across a wider area than that of traditional speakers. In addition, the drivers can operate up to 150Hz. Therefore, no filtering system is needed between the highs and mids. This ensures a more accurate sound and reduces distortion.

The front panel of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker features two BMR drivers to broaden the sound dispersion.

For anything under 150Hz, the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker’s active crossover system entrusts the reproduction to a 5.5” low frequency driver that is mounted at the back of the speaker. A wave guide with a central cone is placed in front of the driver to efficiently handle the bass response and limit distortion. This wave guide has two openings on the sides of the cabinet to distribute the low frequencies evenly throughout the room and ensure smooth airflow.

A 5.5” woofer is located on the rear panel of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker.

To efficiently power the drivers, each Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker uses three Class D digital amplifiers capable of delivering a total of 280 watts of power. Each driver therefore benefits from its own amplification module that has been selected according to its characteristics and the frequencies it reproduces, which ensures that the sound reproduction is better controlled and more precise.

Variable frequency response

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 wireless speaker has a bass-reflex enclosure with a streamlined port in the rear panel. With other models, a rear-firing port means that you can’t place the speaker too close to the wall to ensure good low frequency dispersion. But this is not the case with the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 thanks to a switch that allows you to adjust the low frequency response according to the placement of the speaker in the room. Three settings are available to modify the curve to suit its location, whether it’s close to a wall, in the corner of the room or in an open space.

The switch on the back of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker allows you to adjust the sound according to the speaker’s position in the room.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: analog and digital inputs

All of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers’ connectors are on the Q Active Control base. This base is included with the speakers and is essential for the proper functioning of the Q Active range, whether you want to listen to wired or digital sources. On the back of the Q Active Control base is an RCA analog input that can be switched to a line or phono input to connect a CD/SACD player, a Blu-ray player or a turntable. An HDMI ARC input is also available so you can stream sound from a TV. The CEC protocol even allows you to control the Q Active Control speaker using the TV’s remote control. It is possible to connect a non ARC-compatible TV using the optical digital input.

The Q Active Control base features an RCA (line or phono) input, an optical input and an HDMI ARC port to centralize all sources and stream sound to the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers with a resolution of up to 24-bit/96kHz.

The sound of the different sources connected to the Q Active Control can be wirelessly streamed to the speakers with a resolution of up to 24-bit/96kHz. To do this, the Q Active Control transmitter generates its own wireless network. This communication bypasses the local network to avoid the risks of an unstable WiFi connection or insufficient bandwidth. It is always smooth thanks to very low latency, and we didn’t notice any loss of synchronisation during our test. Even when using the HDMI ARC connection, the sound from the speakers was always perfectly synchronised with the images displayed on the TV.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: streaming

In addition to its analog and digital inputs, the Q Active Control also benefits from a wide range of steaming options and technologies, making it a powerful network player. It provides direct access to the vast majority of online streaming services, such as Amazon Music, Deezer, Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Qobuz. For these last two services, Hi-Res music is supported up to 24-bit/96kHz. The player also features the Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth and Google Chromecast protocols to allow you to easily stream music on any app from a smartphone, tablet, computer or DAP.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: voice control

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers offer a variety of control options to suit all users. They can be controlled via the Q Active mobile app, but also using the remote control and even vocally. To do this, simply pair the Q Active Control base to a Google Assistant smart speaker. You will then be able to adjust the volume, play your favorite music on your streaming service of choice, skip tracks and turn your TV on (CEC protocol required) simply by asking.

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers can be controlled using the remote control, via the mobile app or vocally by pairing them with a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa smart speaker.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: multi-room

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 wireless speakers can be added to a group of AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Roon or Amazon Music compatible multi-room speakers or devices to enjoy your music throughout the house. The various groups are managed via the Roon, Apple Home, Google Assistant or Amazon apps, depending on the multi-room protocol used. It is then possible to precisely configure your installations to listen to the same music throughout your home or a different track in each room. The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers’ multi-room compatibility even allows you to stream sound from different sources connected to the Q Active Control base to all compatible devices. This way, you can enjoy the sound of your TV in other rooms of the house so you never lose track of what is happening on your TV shows.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: configuration

It only takes a few simple steps to configure the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers. First, you must connect the sources to the Q Active Control base, then turn the speakers on. They then automatically synchronize with the control base. A switch on the back of each speaker lets you select which channel to reproduce (left or right).

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 control base is used to confirm that the two speakers are properly paired.

The second step is to pair the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers’ remote control the Q Active Control base. This is done by pressing the dedicated button on the remote. A LED on the front of the Q Active Control box indicates that the pairing was successful. This pairing is essential because the remote control works with radio frequencies and is not natively linked to the box. However, this mode of communication has the undeniable advantage of providing total control of the speakers without having to point the remote control in a specific direction.

The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers’ remote control works with radio frequencies, allowing you to control the speakers without having to point the remote in a specific direction.

The rest of the setup procedure for the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers will depend on the source you want to use. To use a physical source connected to the base, simply select the input using the tactile control interface on the Q Active Control or on the remote control and the system will be operational. To enjoy online music services, Google Chromecast or AirPlay 2, you must connect the base to the local network and the internet. There are two ways to go about this: either via an Ethernet connection or a WiFi connection. For the latter, the rest of the procedure is done in the Q Active app by selecting the WiFi network you want to use and entering the password.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: listening impressions

From the very first listening session, the Q Acoustics Active 200 wireless speakers impressed us with the spaciousness of their soundstage. On Lana Del Rey’s track Salvatore, the soundstage was wide, allowing the New York singer’s voice to effortlessly unfold throughout the room. The acoustics of the recording studio were perfectly reproduced by the Q Acoustics Active 200 speakers, providing an authentic and natural sound.

The Q Acoustics Active 200 wireless speakers impressed us with the spaciousness of their soundstage. The soundstage was wide, allowing vocals to effortlessly unfold throughout the room.

We changed styles with Chris Rea’s Looking for the Summer, a song that allowed the Q Acoustics Active 200 speakers to demonstrate their excellent control in the low end of the spectrum. The lows were deep, well structured, tight and intense. The 4.5” woofer is definitely one of the speaker’s main strengths. The bass was more efficiently controlled and more powerful than with many other compact speakers. There was a “wow” effect every time we listened to a song and it was almost as if the speaker was accompanied by a small subwoofer.

Q Acoustics Active 200 speaker’s 4.5” woofer delivers deep, well structured, tight and intense bass.

We continued our review of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 with Hans Zimmer’s performance of the soundtrack to Pirates of the Carribean during his iconic Prague concert. The Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers were very dynamic and generous. The magnitude of the soundstage was at its peak, and the orchestra and acoustics of the concert hall were incredibly well reproduced. The different arrangements were well rendered and outlined. Nevertheless, the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers sometimes seemed a little harsh in the highs, especially with brass instruments.

Because the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers feature an HDMI input, we also tested their performance with movie soundtracks. To do so, we connected the Q Active Control base to the HDMI ARC port of our LG UHD 4K television. With the movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers instantly transported us to Hollywood in the late 1960s. The bass was pleasantly deep and lively, so we didn’t need to use a subwoofer. The various effects were realistically positioned and distributed in the frontal soundstage. The dialogue was clear and correctly centered.

With the movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the various effects were realistically positioned and distributed in the frontal soundstage.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: compared to…

KEF LSX Wireless: the KEF LSX Wireless are sold for €1,200 and are equipped with a 4.5” coaxial driver with a 0.75” vented tweeter. They feature a double amplification module that delivers 70 watts of power to the midbass driver and 30 watts to the tweeter. The KEF LSX Wireless speakers deliver a sound that is a little more energetic and they are capable of reproducing finer details in the highs. However, the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers benefit from more power and provide deeper and better controlled lows. The KEF LSX Wireless have the advantage of having directly integrated connectors and therefore do not require an additional base to centralize sources.

The KEF LSX Wireless speakers are equipped with a 4.5” coaxial driver and offer a more dynamic sound, but the lows they produce aren’t as deep.

Dali Callisto 2C: sold for €2,400, these Dali speakers are a 3-way model equipped with three drivers including a super-tweeter. The incorporate a 2 x 30W amplifier and a wireless audio receiver. Like the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers, the Dali Callisto 2Cs require a hub (Dali Sound Hub) to work. However, the hub isn’t included with the speakers, and brings the system’s total price to €3,049. Despite this, the Dali Callisto 2Cs have the advantage of providing a softer, warmer and more balanced sound, even though the soundstage is narrower than that of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker.

Like the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers, the Dali Callisto 2Cs work with a hub to centralize all sources.

Q Acoustics Q Active 200: conclusion

The British manufacturer has taken its first step into the active speaker market with the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speakers. While many competitors in the industry simply build an amplifier into their passive speakers, Q Acoustics designed an easy-to-use active speaker suitable for high-resolution streaming up to 24-bit/96kHz from scratch. One of this speaker’s greatest strengths is its extreme compactness. It can just as easily be placed on a TV cabinet, in a bookcase, on a shelf or on a dedicated stand. Its preset equalizer is ideal for adjusting and optimizing the frequency response curve according to its placement in the room. And finally, the 4.5” woofer at the rear of the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 speaker is a deal-breaker for anyone who wants deep, powerful bass.

What we liked:

  • The spacious soundstage
  • The powerful amplification
  • The deep lows
  • The simple setup
  • The many features

What we would have liked:

  • Smoother highs
  • An integrated base

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