Q Acoustics’ stunning 2000i speaker package scooped Best Surround Sound System at the 2014 Trusted Reviews Awards after blowing us away with an exceptional performance at an affordable price. So it’s with great excitement that we welcome its successor, the 3000 Series.
This not merely a tweaked version of the 2000i – the 3000 series incorporates fresh driver technology and enhanced cabinets in a bid to deliver ‘clear sonic advances’ over the 2000i system. Despite that, this system stays in the same price range as the 2000i, which could make it even better value for money if it fulfils its performance potential.
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This 5.1 ‘Cinema Pack’ comprises two pairs of 3010 standmount speakers for the front and surround channels (£140 per pair), the £130 3090C centre speaker and the £280 3070S subwoofer. You can swap these for other models in the range, such as the larger 3020 standmount (£190 a pair) or the 3050 floorstander (£500 a pair), but this 5.1 pack is the most affordable and living-room friendly option.
The system comes in a choice of standard finishes – Matte Graphite and American Walnut – but if you want to push the boat out it also comes in Gloss Lacquer and Leather finishes for an extra £200. Q Acoustics sent us the Gloss White version and it’s ridiculously attractive. The 3010’s cabinet eschews the straight-laced boxes of most standmount systems at this price in favour of elegant curves that fit more comfortably in modern living rooms.
The white finish contrasts beautifully with the black magnetic grilles, and up close the lacquer finish adds a sense of luxury far beyond the price tag – although the £200 premium might be a stretch for some buyers. Remove the grille and you’ll uncover the new tweeter and midrange cone, with ‘High Frequency De-Coupler’ written subtly on the tweeter surround.
The rock-solid cabinets feature dual-layer top and rear panels and targeted ‘pivotal’ internal bracing, which all sounds very encouraging from a performance perspective. These features have been borrowed from Q’s higher-end Concept speakers and work to improve cabinet strength and minimise resonance.
There’s a significant change on the back too. The 2000i’s binding posts were found in a recess on the bottom, which made access a little tricky, but on the 3000 series they’ve been moved to the back. Not only does that make access easier but also boosts cabinet strength. That said, the two posts face in different directions, which can be a bit awkward if your cables are stiff.
You can mount the 3010s on optional 3000ST stands (£100 a pair) or 3000WB wall brackets (£19 each). Whatever you opt for, they’re guaranteed to look great.
The 3090C centre is like an elongated 3010, measuring 430mm wide (about the same as a typical Blu-ray deck) by 150mm high. Its dimensions make it easier to place on an AV rack shelf below your TV. Like the 3010, the cabinet is reassuringly weighty and styled with panache. Under the grille, two 100mm cones flank a 25mm ring dome tweeter.
The 3070S subwoofer has undergone the fewest changes compared with its 2000i equivalent, the 2070Si. Like its predecessor, the 3070S has an unusually long body (425mm to be precise) which commands a fair chunk of space, although the curvy cabinet and glossy finish makes it more attractive than your average bass bin. It’s also remarkably well made for the money.
The controls are found on the back end, including crossover control, volume and a phase inversion switch. Lower down is a removable flap that conceals the power lead input and stereo RCA inputs – you can feed the cables through a hole at the bottom, making everything nice and tidy.
The 3010s and 3090C use a new ‘2-in-1’ Concentric Ring Dome tweeter that incorporates both ring radiator and conventional dome tweeter technology. It benefits from the best sonic aspects of both, namely the extra wide dispersion of a ring radiator and the low distortion and directivity of a dome. It’s mounted in a butyl rubber housing that absorbs resonance.
The mid/bass cones have also been upgraded from the paper/carbon fibre mix used by the 2000i speakers to a mix of paper and aramid fibres, more commonly known as Kevlar – DuPont's trademark – which is a stronger and more predictable material.
The crossovers have also been upgraded to include more ‘audiophile’ components, such as
u-core inductors that reduce crosstalk.
The result of all these technological upgrades is an even more spellbinding performance than the 2000i system. The 3000 package offers everything we look for from a speaker system – crystal clear detail, insight, big dynamics and a remarkable sense of scale with blockbuster movie scenes.
But what we love most about these speakers is their transparency – in other words, how they present the material in the purest, most natural way possible. You feel as though you’re getting a faithful interpretation of the song or soundtrack, like it’s actually happening in your living room. That’s a hard thing to achieve at this price.
Their sound is highly detailed and refined, shining even brighter than the brilliant Wharfedale Diamond 220 system we tested recently. Movie scenes are packed with sonic minutiae, providing insight and texture that you normally only get from more expensive systems.
It’s most clearly heard in male voices, where the words are dusted with a delicate husk and little flecks of sibilance that sound true-to-life. You can even tell what type of surface someone’s walking on thanks to the layer of detail on every footstep.
What’s more, the 3000 system steals a march on the 2000i with its wider treble dispersion, which means you don’t have to sit square-on to the speakers to enjoy their sweet high frequencies. We shifted seating position while listening and the top-end clarity remains consistent along a fairly wide axis.
The sound may be polished but the system doesn’t forget to excite. It has the bite and attack to bring out the best in high-octane movie scenes such as the warehouse training scene from Robocop. Gunshots have a wonderful snap about them but don’t sound hard or spitty, while clanking robo-footsteps zing into the room. Its full-bodied reproduction of the prog-rock soundtrack propels the scene forward with gusto.
Despite their ‘ultra compact’ size, the 3010s have no trouble conveying scale. Placed close to a rear wall they muster rich, punchy bass that blends seamlessly with the excellent subwoofer. When the Iranians attack the ED-209s in Tehran, the explosions are huge but remain tight and solid.
The 3070S has no trouble filling a large living room and gels everything together with its natural, well-controlled low frequencies. It also displays terrific agility with smaller, more rhythmic bursts of bass. It may not produce the thunderous, wall-shaking power that hardcore cinephiles crave, but it delivers more than enough oomph for us and proves a perfect match for the satellites.
The 3000 speakers are also easy to drive. Indeed, our midrange Onkyo amp didn’t have any trouble pushing them to their full potential, and even at high volumes they comfortably handled everything we threw at them without even a hint of distortion or fatigue.
And with a pair of 3010s on surround duties, their precise treble and full-bodied approach guarantees an immersive and absorbing rear soundstage. Effects are steered between channels with tonal consistency, while transient sounds hit their mark with impressive accuracy.
And if you’re using this 5.1 pack with your hi-fi system then you’re in for a treat. Corinne Bailey Rae’s version of Since I’ve Been Loving You sounds sumptuous – the thick double bass is laced with a crisp twang at the top end, while the warm piano chords and Rae’s delicate voice are treated with perfect poise and detail.
Q Acoustics set the bar very high with the 2000i system but has smashed right through it with the 3000 series. This revamped 5.1 package delivers a peerless performance that excites and beguiles with its sparkling detail, powerful dynamics and effortless scale. Its clear, natural tone allows music and movies to shine.
It’s remarkably attractive too – particularly if you can afford to upgrade to the gloss lacquer finish – with a more luxurious, modern and stylish design than most of its similarly-priced peers. We really can’t recommend this system highly enough.
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Q Acoustics’ superlative speaker package sets a new benchmark for standmount systems. Its first class performance and delectable design represent outstanding value for money, although fans of the lacquer finish will need deeper pockets.