Q Acoustics’ foray into active speaker systems has been excellent so far. Build quality is excellent, connectivity is wide-ranging offering multiple ways of feeding an audio signal into the system, and the presentation they offer is smooth, detailed and entertaining. At first glance the price for the system looks high but is comparable to a traditional system made up of hi-fi separates.
- Review Price: £1499
- HDMI ARC
- Class D amplification
- 4.5-inch subwoofer driver
- Built-in Chromecast
- FS75 floor stands
- Bluetooth 4.1, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Roon Ready (coming soon)
- Dual 2.25-inch Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers
The Q Acoustics Active 200 are the first active speakers from a company with a storied history of producing hi-fi speakers.
Q Acoustics calls the release of its Q Active range of speakers its most significant product launch to date. Built from the ground up to be uncompromisingly audiophile in nature, I have gone hands-on with every inch of the Q Active 200 speaker system ahead of their worldwide release.
Q Acoustic Active 200 price and availability
The Q Acoustic Q Active 200 system is already available in the UK, but goes on sale in the rest of the world on January 22, 2021. The Google Hub version of the Q Active 200 has been on sale since November 2020, with the Alexa hub due January 2021.
The Q Active 200 is priced at £1499/$1999/€1999 with the optional speaker stands priced at £349/$499/€419 per pair.
Q Acoustic Q Active 200 design – Futuristic look advances on Q Acoustics’ traditional speakers
The Q Active 200 in its black finish looks like a behemoth and certainly weighs it at 7.5kg per speaker. At 170 x 284 x 290 (HWD, mm) they’re a closer match dimension-wise to the 3020i speaker and smaller than the chunky Q Acoustics 3030i bookshelf speaker. That ought to make them more malleable in terms of placement on shelves or a bookshelf.
Or if you have space you could plonk them on the FS75 stands, specifically designed to be partnered with the Q Active 200. At £349 a pair they’re not what you’d call cheap, though they are half the price of the Concept 300 speaker’s Tensegrity stand.
The philosophy behind the FS75 is similar to the Tensegrity stand, using four legs instead of three, and aiming to minimise reflections and reduce resonance, providing a literal platform for the speakers to go about their business.
But back to the speakers themselves. I find that though they look more monolithic and sleeker in their black finish, smaller grilles and chromium trims than other speakers from the brand – but they are identifiably Q Acoustic. From the shape of the cabinet to the curves of its profile, if you covered up the logo I think people who know their hi-fi would still identify them as being made by Q Acoustics.
Up at the front are the dual 2.25-inch Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers, which occupy less space in the cabinet than a more traditional driver set-up would. That’s freed up space to take the bass driver that would normally be at the front and place it towards the rear. The integrated 4.5-inch subwoofer drive unit is powered by a dedicated power amplifier, and you can spot the unit if you take a glance at the cabinet’s ported enclosure around the rear. All told there’s around 280W of power being delivered to the drive units at its peak.
At the bottom rear of the speaker are switches, the use of which I’ll elaborate on in the Features section. On top of the speaker are LED lights to indicate input source in use, as well as whether the speakers are on/off and connected to the Hub. Physical buttons for volume are also located hither.
Features – Better get yourself connected
As the Q Active 200 is a system there’s a control Hub through which a user operates it. It’s through the Hub where you’ll connect to the Wi-Fi and set up either Google Assistant or Alexa (depending on which version of the system you choose).
I have access to the former, and once the remote is paired and the Hub has found the Q Active speakers, the system can be set-up through the Google Home app. If you’ve ever used it before it’s a fairly painless process of activating the speakers and hooking them up to your Wi-Fi. The Home app offers multi-room functionality with other compatible products in your home, as well as streaming over Chromecast (24bit/96kHz) and casting audio straight to the speakers via supported music streaming apps.
The Hub also offers physical connections around the rear, so there’s HDMI ARC, which opens the Q Active 200 system for use as speakers with a TV; an Optical in and a Sub out for more bass, plus an analogue input that can be switched between line-level or moving magnet (MM) for connecting a turntable. It all adds to the Q Active 200’s versatility, a system that just wants to get connected with whatever is in your home.
I should add that the Hub accepts 32bit/192kHz signals but converts them to 24bit/192kHz for playback. If memory serves that’s the same resolution output the KEF LS50 Wireless II through its wireless connection. The Hub also supports AirPlay 2, Bluetooth 4.1, Alexa Multi-Room-Music and UPnP (for streaming from a computer or NAS drive). It will be Roon Ready with support for that on the way. That pretty much covers every option for feeding audio into these speakers in some way or another.
I mentioned earlier in this hands-on about the switches around the back. One is for determining which speaker is the left channel and which is the right, and that offers a degree of flexibility in terms of placement. With the speakers using BMR drive units, there’s more freedom in terms of placement. For example, you could choose to have these speakers toed in or toed out to the listening position; or you could have the BMR drive units lined up on the inside or outside. It really is up to you and there is no wrong approach (well, aside from placing them on their sides or locking them up in a cabinet).
The second switch that’s next to the USB service socket can be flicked into three positions, and its purpose is to inform the speaker where it’s situated so adapt the performance better. This means there’s no way of auto-calibrating à la Sonos Trueplay. Flick the switch up and that’ll indicate the speaker is positioned close to a corner; to the left for placement against a wall and down to indicate the speakers are free-standing in a room.
I’ve forgotten to mention that there is a Q Active app, or at least there should be. There’s repeated reference to one but it doesn’t come up in a search on the Google Play Store. Perhaps I’ve missed something, imagined it or it doesn’t exist yet (it is option three). The app is reported to make its grand entry alongside the Alexa Hub version of the Q Active 200s.
Q Acoustic Q Active 200 performance – A smooth and expansive sound
As this is more of a first impression there’s still time for opinions to change, but at the moment I can see my impressions becoming more positive the longer I spend with the Q Active 200 system.
The Balanced Mode Radiators – BMR for short – are speaker technology that have been around for several years, but have gained more popularity and use in recent years. They appeared in the Braun LE02 wireless speaker and one of the benefits of using them is their wide dispersal of sound.
These drivers create a wide soundstage, even if the speakers are placed close together, and one of the best things about the Braun speaker was that it didn’t really matter where you sat or how far away from the speakers you stood, the dispersal of sound was even, producing a big sweet spot. The same effect is present with the Q Active 200.
Even better is how smooth they sound. It’s been an effortless performance so far with a midrange that is finely detailed, spacious and intricately put together. Listening to Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman 1984 album on Qobuz, the Q Active 200 deals with the dynamism and rhythmic shifts in a breezy manner. The tone is one of neutrality, and that should help with other sources too, as the Q Actives maintain a steady control of whatever is passed through them.
They’re just as good at dealing with quieter moments, the Actives taking a detailed and rather studios approach in WW84’s Without Armor. High frequency notes are cleanly conveyed and timing is great – it all feels of one piece.
If there’s one aspect of the Q Actives I do wonder about, it’s their sense of energy and propulsion. They don’t feel particularly explosive, something that crops up in the Turnstile track from Ludwig Göransson’s TENET. But the bass is tightly handled and the speakers are revealing in terms of detail, with little tonal shifts and notes in the track that I hadn’t noticed before.
Listening to a track with vocals – Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing – and clarity is great, the performance is refined and there’s a good sense of energy and even balance throughout. Stereo imaging is enjoyable even when sat close to the speaker. So far the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 appear to be worth the time and investment.
Q Acoustics Q Active 200 first impressions
Q Acoustics’ foray into the active speaker realm is looking impressive thus far. From its sleek, modern design; versatile connectivity and smooth, detailed sound, the Q Active 200 system is looking like another terrific product from the company. We’ll be putting it further through its paces in due course for our full review.