John Pickford finds out whether Q Acoustics’ attractive new £199 bookshelf-format speakers punch above their weight…
Small is beautiful – so the saying goes – and it’s certainly true of Q Acoustics’ new 3010i bookshelf loudspeakers. The smallest model in the company’s revised 3000 range, this speaker is actually slightly taller and 25% deeper than its predecessor. Our review samples sport a lovely graphite grey finish (black, white and walnut finishes are also available) and the cabinets’ attractively rounded corners make a refreshing change from the multitude of four-square boxes out there. Magnet-attached grilles are provided; however, they are best removed for ultimate sound quality.
Internally braced to create a strong, acoustically inert cabinet, to improve structural integrity Q Acoustics dispenses with conventional panel cutouts for the speaker terminals. New low-profile binding posts aid close-to-wall positioning even when banana plugs, rather than spades or bare wires, are connected. Similar to many compact speakers, bass performance is improved by some reinforcement from a rear wall – though placing flush against the wall may necessitate the use of the foam bungs provided, to block the rear ring port.
A bass-reflex design, the 3010i’s port assists the 100mm (four-inch) bass unit to achieve a low-frequency response of 65Hz, while the 22mm (0.9-inch) decoupled treble unit extends upwards to 30kHz. A stereo power amplifier rated 15 to 75 watts is recommended, though I would suggest 30w of solid-state power as a better starting point for unstressed performance at higher volume settings.
Placed on concrete-filled stands sited 30cm (12 inches) from the rear wall and powered by my ancient (1961) Leak Stereo 20 valve amplifier, I begin the audition with The Beatles’ Come Together from a first pressing of Abbey Road. This track has a robust low end, and there are many subtleties in the mix, which many speakers fail to resolve. Although there isn’t much in the way of deep bass from the 3010i, the bass guitar is nicely textured and well-controlled; its low end integrates seamlessly with the mid and upper frequencies, no doubt due to the improvements made to the speakers’ crossovers. John Lennon’s “Shoot me” refrain at the start of the track often finds the second word obscured – however, the speakers reveal his voice distinctly from the backing track.
A Midrange Supreme
Acoustic jazz is also well presented. John Coltrane’s phrasing on A Love Supreme is rendered convincingly, while the power of Elvin Jones’ drums is portrayed remarkably well, considering the 3010i’s size. Having enjoyed the speakers in my reference hi-fi system, I try them placed on my mantelpiece, flush to the wall, with the port bungs inserted. The bottom end becomes leaner; however, the overall balance of the broad midrange and upper frequencies stays even, with none of the tizzy treble that often plagues modern loudspeakers.
While dynamic expression is understandably limited due to size, the 3010is do sound bigger than they look, with impressive scale and fine soundstaging; stereo imaging is both panoramic and pinpoint-accurate. At their price point, these speakers offer excellent bang for buck, with a refined sound presentation and stylish looks. A superb introduction to high-fidelity sound for less money than some hi-fi nuts spend on a power cable.