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Q Acoustics Q-BT3 review

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Q Acoustics Q-BT3

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Eye-catching design
  • Rich, detailed sound quality with any source

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as convenient or space-efficient as a soundbar

Key Features

  • Bluetooth 4.0 with apt-X
  • 2 x 50W power output
  • Low-distortion DAC
  • Optical/analogue inputs and subwoofer output
  • 100mm mid/bass driver and 25mm silk dome tweeter
  • Manufacturer: Q Acoustics
  • Review Price: £349.95

What is the Q Acoustics Q-BT3?

Soundbars are a wonderful way of upgrading your TV’s sound quality without impacting on living space, but they’re not for everyone. Their shallow cabinets often put a limitation on sound quality, making them too much of a compromise for discerning listeners.

That’s why Q Acoustics has come up with a more traditional alternative in the Q-BT3, a pair of powered hi-fi stereo speakers with a built-in amplifier, a variety of connections and Bluetooth – much like the Blue Aura X30 we reviewed recently.

There seems no end to its versatility – you can hook up your TV and boost movie playback, stream music wirelessly from phones and tablets or connect a laptop. It might cost a little more than most soundbars, but we’re hoping the step-up in sound quality is worth the investment.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3

Q Acoustics Q-BT3 – Design and Connections

Although not as convenient or space-efficient as a soundbar, Q-BT3 is visually striking and sublimely-made pair of speakers. They come in three funky colours – Juice Red, Urban White and Jet Black.

We tested the bright red version, which makes a fun, eye-catching addition to any room, contrasting stylishly with the curved black metal grille on the front (which we’re told can be removed with the right tools). Gently rounded edges soften the lines.

Build quality is superb too – the rigid cabinets feel pleasingly robust when handled. You can place them horizontally or vertically according to your setup (the Q Acoustics badge on the front rotates) and there are adhesive rubber pads to curb vibration.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3

The active right speaker houses all the connections. These include optical digital, analogue stereo RCA and 3.5mm minijack inputs, plus a subwoofer output if you want to boost bass output. The right speaker connects to the passive left using high-quality binding posts on the back of each (a 4m speaker cable is supplied in the box).

Q Acoustics Q-BT3

Q Acoustics Q-BT3 – Features

The right speaker also houses a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), a 2 x 50W power amplifier and a Bluetooth 4.0 receiver, which is the obvious highlight. It supports apt-X to deliver better sound quality than bog-standard Bluetooth, and remembers up to eight paired devices so visitors can reconnect easily.

Each speaker uses a 100mm coated paper cone mid/bass driver and a 25mm silk dome tweeter – the sort of full-range array that you don’t normally get inside a soundbar – while the built-in DSP’s high-precision digital filters fine-tune the frequency response curve.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3 – Operation

Setup involves a little more faffing around than a soundbar, but not much. Connect the right speaker to the mains, link the speakers’ binding posts and plug in your devices. When used as a soundbar replacement, just connect your TV’s optical output to the right speaker and away you go.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3

On top of the right speaker are volume and power buttons and an LED that glows different colours to denote its status – blue for Bluetooth (natch), green for analogue, white for optical and red when turned off. It flashes blue when pairing with Bluetooth devices and slow flashes when muted. It took seconds to pair a Bluetooth device.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3

You can also control the speakers using the supplied credit card style remote. We don’t like the horrid blister buttons, cheap build quality and the fiddly size, but it’s hard to get worked up by a zapper that sports just five buttons – power, source, volume up/ down and mute, all arranged in a vertical line.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3 – Performance

The Q-BT3 is a real jack of all trades, working brilliantly with TV shows, movies and music. No matter what you throw at them, these speakers handle the material with refinement and authority.

Unlike many soundbars, its sound is satisfyingly complete, going from deep, punchy bass right up to super-crisp top end without giving undue prominence to any particular frequency groups. We tested it directly after Toshiba’s budget SB3950E1 soundbar, and the difference was the sonic equivalent of walking from a dark tunnel into bright light.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3

We started with the Blu-ray version of Thor, and the Q-BT3’s class shone through from the very first listen. It makes the comic book action sound remarkably rich and fulsome, taking everything in its stride even at high volumes. Sounds are cleanly separated and skilfully organised within the wide stereo stage.

When Thor and pals square up to the Frost Giants, Q-BT3 fills the room with dynamic, weighty effects. There’s a fierce crunch as Thor’s hammer blasts the Frost Giants, while swords connect with a clean, metallic clang and shards of ice shatter with gusto.

These effects are backed up by quick, thumping bass hits. We’re impressed by the amount of bass these speakers produce, lending a decent sense of scale even without the involvement of a subwoofer.

The system also drips with detail and conveys dialogue beautifully. Voices are presented with all their nuances intact and stay locked to the centre of the soundstage. Deep-voiced characters like King Laufey have real presence. These impressive vocal abilities continue with TV material, where clear speech is of the utmost importance.

The Q-BT3 is equally impressive with music. Songs sound smooth and easy, with clear midrange, solid yet agile basslines and sparkling detail. The jazzy brass licks in Afro Elements’ Live Your Life are sharp and precise, with a clearly-defined leading edge. We tried music from an OPPO Blu-ray deck, an iPod and even a portable CD player, and in every case the Q-BT3 makes it sound great. We really can’t speak highly enough of these speakers.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3

Should I buy the Q Acoustics Q-BT3?

If you want to improve your TV’s audio quality but feel uninspired by what soundbars have to offer, then the Q-BT3 is a fantastic alternative. Its superb, full-range sound trumps almost every soundbar on the market (and most powered speakers for that matter) turning music, movies and TV shows into things of sonic beauty.

But you don’t have to use it with a TV – it’s equally at home with a PC or as a wireless hi-fi, thanks to its built-in Bluetooth. There’s no end to its flexibility.

What’s more, build quality is of the highest order and we love the funky red finish. It’s relatively pricey and not as discreet or hassle-free as a soundbar, but with sound quality this good it’s worth the inconvenience.

Q Acoustics Q-BT3 – Verdict

Superb sound quality and funky design come together in Q Acoustics’ wonderful wireless speaker system

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Value 8

A. Mir

May 6, 2014, 7:00 pm

Expensive? Compared to what exactly? You get a nice pair of speakers, amps, a DAC, Bluetooth option and great sound for under £400. Where else would you get that?

I used to be an "audiophile" myself and spent thousands on HIFI equipment and suffering from 'upgradatitis' in the process but now I've settled for a pair of active speakers. Yes, they cost more than three times than the Q-acoustics but they also play better than anything else costing ten times as much. Active speakers with digital cross-overs are the future. Passive speakers and separates are on their way out.

Jamie Lewis

May 6, 2014, 9:23 pm

Would these sound better than the Canton DM50 soundbase?

Can you also comment on the quality of speech compared to the Canton on tv programs and in movies as the Canton has been criticised for that.

Thanks

Traveller

May 7, 2014, 10:40 am

In my opinion having heard both products the BT3 has a better mid range presence than the Canton DM50

FutureShock999

August 11, 2014, 7:12 pm

Thanks for that evaluation - that is a question I have had too. Suspected the Q's would be better, nice to hear it from someone that has heard them both.

FutureShock999

September 16, 2014, 10:00 pm

As a result of this review, hearing other Q Acoustics speakers live, and the comments below, I suggested these to my girlfriend as an accompaniment to her new Sony W7 TV. They were more expensive than her original budget, but even she (a total techophobe) was totally unimpressed by the Sony soundbars and even the Sony soundbase she listened to. She ordered these ear-unheard based upon my recommendations.

They arrived well-packed, and after a bit of unpacking and connecting they were set to go. They are configured via the ARC (Audio Return Channel) from the TV via an digital optical cable, and the TV itself is connected via WiFi to a DNLA digital music server. They are currently sitting on a large TV bench, but speaker stands are the next order of business. The room is an average sized (UK) lounge, with thick carpeting.

Disappointingly, the grill covers do not seem to be removable, but the Q Acoustics logo plate swivels to either a vertical or horizontal speaker placement. The cabinets are well finished and well made (for the price point - not going to compare them to my Epos M-series which cost a lot more).

Oh, how is the sound? Again, for the price point - amazingly impressive. They are VERY easy on the ear, with few noticeable flaws. TV and movies are well voiced, and the dialog is clear. On music, they handle everything we have thrown at them, ranging from classical, to pure jazz, to belly dancing music, to punk. They simply take it all in stride - and while they may not have the deepest resolution or widest soundstage I have heard, that is in comparison to my Arcam/Epos/REL 5.1 system which cost about £3500 in list price. Or, exactly 10 TIMES what these cost.

The Bluetooth implementation is easy to use, and sounds decent enough. It gives an easy way for visitors (such as my self) to easily play music from portable devices when visiting.

There are two minor disappointments. The first is that the included batteries in the remote control seem to have died within a couple weeks of delivery. That or the remote is dead - as she hasn't bought more batteries yet to test.

The second is a bit more of a hassle. The speakers have a very nice power management feature that puts them into standby when they are not being used for a while. When connected to an analogue input, such as the RCA plugs or the 3.5mm input jack, any new signal will bring them out of standby into the mode they were previously left. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get this to work for digital signals on the optical input! So there will always have to be another button push to power on the speakers, which is a small pain. Given that the DAC feature of these is a large part of their attractiveness, not having the power management work with a digital signal seems a large oversight.

So, in summary - how good are these speakers? They cannot and would not try to replace my main AV system as described above. However, my kitchen has a very nice Creek Evo integrated amp, connected to a pair of Epos 12Ms, playing streaming music off iTunes (much of it uncompressed high-res sources). If I hadn't paid for that system previously, I would see no reason to NOT replace it with these speakers! They are simply that good, and that listenable, and frankly I don't listen THAT critically in the kitchen unless I plug in my headphones.

So unless you want the whole 5.1 channel experience (or 7.1, or whatever), or have true audiophile requirements - these speakers simply must be auditioned to provide sound for a slimline TV (or trust John Lewis's return policy). My girlfriend outstripped her budget for these (she terms it in the shoes she could have bought instead!), and she has ZERO buyer's remorse now that she has listened to them. The one additional cost? She now plays her music and TV at a higher volume, because it is so much more enjoyable. So now we have to go buy an electronic door chime, as her mechanical door knocker is now insufficient to get heard when the TV or music is on. THAT'S how good they are...

Apodiopompaios Tragos®

November 8, 2014, 1:50 pm

Hello my friend.Please help me!I am from Greece.
I have the Samsung UE-46H7000.
I Would like to purchase BT3 in order to disable Samsung's speakers.
Is it possible to adjust the volume of BT3 from the Samsung Remote?
I do not want to mess with many remotes.I just want to open my TV and adjust the volume from the UE-46H7000 Samsung's Remote.
I will connect them with Optical input.
Is this possible?Thank you for your time.

Apodiopompaios Tragos®

November 8, 2014, 1:53 pm

Hello my friend.Please help me!I am from Greece.
I have the Samsung UE-46H7000.
I Would like to purchase BT3 in order to disable Samsung's speakers.
Is it possible to adjust the volume of BT3 from the Samsung Remote?
I do not want to mess with many remotes.I just want to open my TV and adjust the volume from the UE-46H7000 Samsung's Remote.
I will connect them with Optical input.
Is this possible?Thank you for your patient.

FutureShock999

November 10, 2014, 9:36 am

No,, the volume from ANY optical out will not be changed from the TV, on any TV than I know of. You can get variable volume from the 3.5mm analog jack, but not the digital. But that is a function of the TV, not the speakers....and these remain very, very good speakers.

Apodiopompaios Tragos®

November 10, 2014, 9:56 am

Thank you very much for your answer!

Tom

March 22, 2015, 12:15 pm

HI,

I am looking for active, bluetooth speakers. I consider buying Q Acoustic BT3 or Philips Fidelio E2. What do you recommend?

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