This impressive wireless hi-fi system is built around two floorstanding speakers and a central hub, with extensive inputs including HDMI-ARC. It’s easy to set up, slick in operation, and sounds superb, with a cohesive performance, expansive delivery and deep bass.
- Expansive delivery
- Energetic performance
- Solid bass response
- Decent set of inputs
- Extremely well made
- Soundstage loses some focus
- Design is an acquired taste
- Fairly pricey
- Q Active Control HubWireless hub with support for Alexa or Google Assistant
- Physical connectivityHDMI-ARC, optical digital input, stereo analogue input (line or MM), Ethernet port
- Wireless connectivityUPnP, AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Bluetooth 4.1, Spotify Connect, Roon Ready
- Multiple control optionsRemote control, Q Active app and voice control
- Multiroom functionalityAmazon, Google, AirPlay and Roon
The Q Acoustics Q Active 400 is the latest addition to the company’s range of self-contained wireless active speaker systems, and this floorstanding version joins the existing Q Active 200 bookshelf model.
The two-channel system is based around a pair of active speakers that are connected wirelessly with the Q Active Hub. This comes in two variants – one that is compatible with Google Assistant-enabled devices with Chromecast built-in, and one that works with Amazon Alexa.
- Versatile speaker arrangement
- Superb level of build quality
- Choice of matte black or white finishes
The Q Acoustics Q Active 400 speakers have the same basic appearance as the earlier Q Active 200 models, but now adopt a floorstanding design intended to deliver a bigger soundstage and deeper bass.
The look is very ‘Q Acoustic’, with two drivers offset to one side and enclosed within a rectangular grille with a silver trim. The cabinet has curved corners and clean lines that result in a minimalist front baffle, where there’s nothing aside from a small grille in the top corner.
It’s a bold design statement that’s sure to win admiration from some, and disapproval from others. However, there’s a degree of method to Q Acoustic’s madness, with the offset drivers serving a specific purpose. If you’re placing the speakers close together then have the drivers on the outside, and if they’re farther apart, swap them around so the drivers are on the inside. There’s a switch on each speaker to select whether it’s being used as the left or right channel.
These speakers are also extremely well made, employing a new form of ‘Dart’ bracing to add stiffness to the cabinet and mechanical stability to the drivers. There are two subwoofers at the rear, which have been carefully positioned – one at the top and one at the bottom – in order to neutralise standing waves inside the cabinet. A gap around the rear edge of the cabinet accommodates these rear-facing subs, allowing them to fire into a fixed baffle with a wave guide. There’s also a reflex bass port located between the two woofers, and there’s a foam bung provided if necessary.
The Q Active 400 speakers each have an identical set of controls on the top, allowing you to switch inputs or change the volume. At the bottom they sit on spiked stabilisers to ensure stability, and since these are floorstanders, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover they’re fairly large and heavy. In fact, each speaker measures W320 x H825 x D290mm, and weighs in at 17.5kg.
- Q Active Hub
- High resolution audio
- Remote, app and voice control
- 440W of active amplification
- Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR)
- 2 x 4.5in subwoofers
- Multiroom integration
The Q Acoustics Q Active 400 system centres around the Q Active Hub, which measures W180 x H40 x D122mm, and weighs in at 0.5kg. At the front there are buttons and indicators for power, remote battery life, pairing the speakers, resetting the Wi-Fi connection, clearing a paired Bluetooth device, and cycling through the inputs.
At the rear are the inputs themselves, with a USB-C connector for power, an Ethernet port for a wired connection, an HDMI-ARC port, an optical digital input, and stereo analogue RCA inputs with a switch for changing between MM phono stage or line level. There’s also a subwoofer output for those who don’t feel the Q Active 400s go deep enough.
The system includes UPnP, AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Bluetooth 4.1, and Spotify Connect, plus it’s Roon Ready. It also works with all the main streaming apps such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Spotify and Tidal. It can handle AAC, WAV, FLAC, MP3, Vorbis, WMA, and ALAC, supporting lossless audio up to 24-bit/96kHz. Lower resolutions are up-sampled and higher resolutions down-sampled accordingly.
Depending on your preference, there are two different versions of the Q Active Hub – one that works with Amazon Alexa, and another that’s compatible with Google Assistant-enabled devices via Chromecast. This not only adds a smart assistant to the Q Active 400, but also provides a degree of voice control. Since the system includes AirPlay, you can even ask Siri for help if you prefer.
There’s an RF remote control that’s fairly simple but get’s the job done. Alternatively, there’s the Q Active app that not only offers the same control options as the remote, but also provides access to some custom settings.
The two floorstanding speakers use 5.8GHz receivers to connect with the Hub, and while the latter needs to be in the same room, it could be installed in a cupboard. There’s 220W of power in each speaker, using four customised amplifiers – one for each of the drivers. These are all DSP controlled, ensuring the different signals all reach the listener in a cohesive manner.
There’s a pair of 2.25-inch balanced mode radiators (BMR) drivers, which deliver wider dispersion, and an impressive frequency response from a relatively small area. The two BMRs handle everything from 150Hz up to 20kHz, and produce an even dispersion that approaches 180 degrees.
When it comes to frequencies below 150Hz, each speaker has a pair of 4.5-inch woofers at the rear that help them get down to a claimed depth of 35Hz. You can also fine-tune the Q Active 400’s low-frequency response using a switch at the rear bottom of each speaker, which sets where they are positioned in relation to the room boundaries.
Setting up the hub and speakers is extremely easy – just remember that you need to plug the two speakers and Hub into mains sockets (although the latter can also be powered over USB). You can choose which speaker is left and which is right, depending on how far apart they are. In the images above, the left-hand configuration is for close together, while the right-hand one is for when they’re farther apart.
We reviewed the Google Assistant version of the Hub, so we used the Google Home app to connect to our Wi-Fi. You can run a multiroom system using a number of different approaches including Amazon, Google, AirPlay, and Roon.
- Expansive delivery
- Powerful soundstage
- Great bass response
The Q Acoustics Q Active 400 delivers an expansive delivery thanks to those BMR drivers, but it’s worth remembering that this is achieved at the expense of a focused sweet spot. What this basically means is that the system will sound great wherever you are in the room, but if you’re looking for a system that performs best at a specific listening position, then you’re better off with a more traditional two-channel system.
With that observation out of the way, the Q Active 400 proves to be an impressive wireless system, with excellent off-axis performance. No matter where in the room we listened to these speakers, the stereo imaging always remained solid, ensuring that you can enjoy listening to music regardless of what you’re doing. The downside is that the sense of precision feels a little diffuse – but that’s the price you pay for a big, room-filling delivery.
And big it is, thanks to all that amplification and the dual woofers. These speakers have plenty of headroom, allowing them to go loud without ever feeling strained or uncomfortable. In fact, the diffuse nature of the overall delivery lends itself to cranking up the dial, and while lower volumes tend to feel a little soft, the higher decibels are quite exciting, with a cohesive soundstage that never feels uncontrolled or boomy at the low-end.
Listening to Bernard Butler’s album People Move On, the Q Active 400 revealed all of its strengths. The infectiously upbeat nature of Not Alone is delivered with real energy by the system – from the drums that drive the song along, to the crashing guitars and sweeping strings. All this makes it hard not to get caught up in the music.
The overall performance is undeniably fun. There’s a pleasing energy to the way the system rolls along with A Change of Heart, or slowly builds to a crescendo on the epic Stay. It’s only on a more simple track such as I’m Tired – with its plaintive vocal and acoustic guitar – that the sight loss of focus becomes more apparent.
Where the Q Active 400 also impresses is in its ability to handle a multitude of different sources. In terms of streaming sources, you have an extensive choice of services, and only a hardcore audiophile is going to complain about the system topping out 24-bit/96kHz. There’s also a decent set of physical inputs, with optical digital and analogue stereo (although it’s unlikely most vinyl junkies would want to connect their beloved turntable to a wireless system).
The inclusion of HDMI-ARC is a nice touch, and gives the Q Active 400 an additional feather in its cap as an alternative to a soundbar. You can put these speakers either side of your TV, and you’ve got an instant sonic upgrade. Another added benefit is that you can use the TV’s remote to control the volume, making this approach a pleasing combination of performance and convenience.
When it comes to TV shows and movies, the more diffuse nature of these speakers acts as a bonus, creating a bigger presence that surrounds the screen. Thankfully, dialogue remains clear despite this, and these floorstanders go deep enough to give the bass-heavy soundtracks of modern blockbusters a pleasing low-end kick. However, if you really want to mine the depths, you can even add a separate subwoofer.
Should you buy it?
You want an all-in-one system with serious hi-fi credentials The Q Active 400 uses floorstanding speakers to deliver a cohesive wireless two-channel system that produces an expansive soundstage, plenty of energy and deep bass. It works with smart assistants, supports hi-res audio, offers numerous control options, and multiroom functionality. It’s also well made, easy and flexible to set up, and offers plenty of connections.
If you’re more traditional when it comes to speakers Not everyone is going to like the design of the Q Active 400 speakers, and while the BMR drivers create a more expansive soundstage, this is achieved at the expense of a focused sweet spot. Hi-res audio nuts might be put off by the 24/96 limitation, and despite the phono stage, it’s doubtful vinyl junkies will want to connect their turntable to a wireless system.
The Q Acoustics Q Active 400 is clearly designed to represent a hi-fi alternative to the various all-in-one solutions on the market. As a result, it does require two active speakers, a hub, and three mains sockets to achieve the same result – but the overall performance is undeniably superior.
The design might not be for everyone, but build quality is excellent, there’s a decent set of inputs, and numerous control options that include a handy remote and the Q Active app. The inclusion of HDMI-ARC allows you to upgrade your TV’s audio, and use its remote control.
It’s easy to set up, versatile, and slick in operation. The result is a cohesive wireless system that delivers an expansive soundstage, an energetic performance and deep bass. It certainly isn’t cheap, and the expansiveness is achieved at the loss of focus – but, overall, the Q Active 400 is a success.
How we test
We test every hi-fi speaker we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested over the course of several days
Tested with real world use
Tested with a range of audio formats
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Yes you can, but the Q Active system will downsample it to 24-bit/192kHz.
The Q Active 400 system is Roon Ready