- Slimmer, sexier design than M4
- Terrific build quality
- Clear, transparent sound
- Punchy, well-integrated bass
- Built-in sub might not satisfy bass junkies
- Slightly resonant midrange at high volume
- Rubbish remote
- Review Price: £299.00
- 2.1 soundbar with integrated subwoofer
- Balanced Mode Radiator drivers
- Bluetooth with NFC pairing and Qualcomm aptX
- In-furniture, on-furniture and on-wall EQ settings
- HDMI ARC
- MoviEQ mode
What is the Q Acoustics M3?
The M3 is the follow-up to Q Acoustics’ M4 soundbar, widely regarded as one the best-sounding ‘bars on the market. This new model boasts a more compact design and adds some features missing on the M4, all for an even more affordable price.
Related: Best Soundbars
Q Acoustics M3 – Design and Connections
One of our only criticisms of the M4 was its big, chunky cabinet, which takes up a lot of space on a TV stand. Thankfully, the M3’s slimmer cabinet is easier to accommodate, even though the size differences aren’t that big on paper.
Height and depth have been shrunk down by 20mm and 17mm respectively, while the 1-metre width stays the same. At 70mm high, the M3 sits low on my TV stand and doesn’t block the set’s remote sensor.
These tweaks make the M3 more dynamic and streamlined, further enhanced by an angled front grille and thinner back-end. The all-black styling is classy and discreet, while its build quality goes well beyond the £300 price tag, even putting some high-end soundbars to shame. The only thing that gives the game away is the plastic back-end, but even that feels nice and solid.
It’s fitted with a heavy-duty metal stand that doubles as a wall bracket and leaves a gap for the down-firing sub to move air. The integrated sub is great news for clutterphobes, as you don’t have to find space for another black box near your TV – the M3 is a neat, self-contained solution.
Buttons are kept to a minimum. On top you’ll find volume and power keys, while a Bluetooth pairing button is placed separately on the back, the logic of which eludes me.
The power button lights up in a different colour for each input and blinks when you change the volume. It’s clear enough, but lacks the immediacy of a text display – and since it’s mounted on top, you can’t see it very well from the sofa.
Connectivity is better than the M4, thanks to the addition of an HDMI ARC port, which accepts audio from a compatible TV over a single cable. It also allows you to control TV and soundbar with one remote. There are no HDMI inputs though, so you can’t pass Blu-ray/TV pictures through the M3 to your TV.
The ARC port is joined by optical digital and two analogue inputs – 3.5mm and RCA – while the USB port is for firmware updates only.
Q Acoustics M3 – Features
The M3’s 2.1 driver array includes two Balanced Mode Radiators (58mm by 58mm) and a 100mm x 150mm dual-voice coil woofer for bass.
BMR drivers are known for their wide dispersion properties, which means everyone in the room gets the same quality of sound – not just those sitting in the sweet spot.
Also on board is Bluetooth with NFC pairing and aptX support for wireless music streaming, plus three EQ settings that cater for different installation positions – in furniture, on furniture, or on the wall. These can be selected using a switch on the back.
The “in-furniture” setting delivers the flattest, most accurate frequency response and is therefore a good choice if you’ll be frequently switching between movies and music, even if you place the bar on your TV stand.
A MoviEQ audio preset can be selected using the “EQ” button on the remote, which gives low frequencies a boost.
Q Acoustics M3 – Setup and Operation
Setup is quick and easy, and even the addition of ARC doesn’t complicate matters – just make sure the feature is enabled on your TV. Similarly, the optical input can only take PCM signals (up to 48kHz/24-bit), so make sure your TV’s audio output is set correctly.
However, operation is hindered by a horrible credit card-style remote, which I found unresponsive and fiddly to use. The layout is simple enough – a column of six keys running down the middle – but the clumsy blister buttons and slow reactions make it a chore to use.
Related: Best TV 2017
Q Acoustics M3 – Performance
It may not hit the sonic heights of its big brother, but the M3 is still capable of wonderful sound quality that transcends its price tag.
There are many strings to its bow, but what stands out is the sheer clarity and transparency of its presentation. It’s polished and easy on the ear, but beautifully fleshed out by the built-in sub.
The M3 takes care not to over-emphasise one frequency band over another, resulting in a rich, full-bodied sound. The mid-range can sound a little resonant when you push the volume too high, but it does little to spoil your enjoyment.
The M3 handles the berserk Suicide Squad soundtrack with superb attack and agility. When the squad takes on Enchantress’s minions, the punches and gunshots rattle incisively, while Harley Quinn bashes creatures to bits with a vigorous crunch. Explosions and hip-hop beats punch forth with power and conviction.
The M3’s soundstage is clear and well organised – effects cut through the chaos without feeling congested. You won’t miss a single word of dialogue either, which isn’t necessarily a good thing in the case of Suicide Squad.
The BMR drivers create a wide and spacious soundstage, sweeping effects into the spaces on either side of the bar. With no surround processing, the M3 doesn’t envelop you like the Yamaha YSP-1600 or the Orbitsound A60, but makes up for it with its clarity and directness.
It’s insightful, too, rendering top-end detail with a silky touch. The way Deadshot’s gun clicks and jingles as he walks along is gorgeous; likewise the clink of Katana’s samurai sword. Voices are layered with nuances and sibilance, while nimble bass work from the woofer adds subtle depth.
TV material also sounds great. Even with something as innocuous as Film 2016, the presenters’ voices have amazing presence and detail, while the iconic title music is deftly handed.
One thing worth pointing out is that the M3 won’t give you the huge, thunderous bass of an external subwoofer. It’s certainly punchy and well integrated, but lacks the room-filling power to satisfy serious bassheads, even with the MoviEQ setting engaged.
The M4 is much more satisfying in that respect – its sound is bigger, tighter and more commanding, and you pay only £30 more for the privilege. Even so, the M3 still puts most of the competition to shame.
What’s more, it’s one of the few soundbars that’s as good with music as it is with movies. You know you’re onto a winner when you start scouring your collection to find out how your favourite albums sound.
With Jarrod Lawson’s “Sleepwalkers”, the M3 unpacks the layers of the complex jazz-soul production, giving each instrument room to breathe within the open soundstage. It’s a well-balanced presentation with bags of detail and taut bass.
Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Horse Print Dress” sounds equally impressive – the squelchy synth bassline is suitably fat and funky, while her vocal harmonies are rich and detailed.
Should I buy the Q Acoustics M3?
If you want a well-made, great-sounding TV speaker that doesn’t break the bank, then put the M3 on your shopping list now.
It’s slimmer and prettier than the M4, with superb build quality and useful features, including Bluetooth and ARC connectivity. Although its performance isn’t quite up there with the majestic M4, the M3’s dazzling clarity, transparency and cohesion remain highly impressive.
The only things that let the side down are the fiddly remote and slightly underwhelming bass output, but even that won’t deny the M3 our recommendation.
It may not match the mighty M4 sonically, but the M3’s performance, build quality and improved design still earn it a place among the soundbar elite.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9
|Number of Speakers||3|
|Dolby Pro Logic II||No|
|DTS Master Audio HD||No|
|S/PDIF Optical In||1|
|Stereo Line In||2|
|Power (Watt)||Not givenW|