Our Verdict 
If this thoroughly sorted, fine-value system doesn’t inspire a host of imitators, we’ll eat our collective hat
Versatile, clever solution
pleasingly natural tonality
forceful subwoofer
You’ll need a new TV stand
Reviewed on

If there's one aspect of multichannel speaker systems that puts people off, it's the ‘multi' bit. Not everyone wants a speaker in every corner, especially not if they've gone to the trouble of buying a flatscreen TV to cut down on bulk and clutter. That's where Q Acoustics' innovative QAV system comes in.

The ‘soundbar' concept is not a new one – quite a few manufacturers have single-piece enclosures that purport to offer surround sound. The QAV, though, is designed to offer just left-, centre- and right-channel information, with rear effects being handled by more traditional speakers, and the low-frequency stuff by a conventional(ish) subwoofer.

Adjustable width soundbarIt's Q Acoustics' clarity of thinking that really sets the QAV apart. The front LCR speaker is designed to fit under your flatscreen TV. Thanks to a cunning pipework arrangement, the speaker sits seamlessly beneath any screen of between 37 and 50 inches – the front grille also adjusts to suit the size of your screen. Surround-sound solutions don't come much neater.The rear speaker uses the same Balanced Mode Radiator  drivers as the front speaker array. These combine NXT flat-panel technology with traditional pistonic speaker working, to deliver a sound with wide dispersion characteristics. So wide, in fact, that the rear speakers can confidently be sited anywhere, from the floor to the ceiling, without alarm.

The subwoofer, too, is cleverly designed: it can sit on the floor or be attached to the wall, where it masquerades as a night storage heater.

Widescreen sound Sonically, the QAV is just as thoughtfully judged. The front soundstage is, inevitably, less expansive than that from a traditional multichannel package, but it spreads the sound plenty wide enough – and at the rear, the speakers make good on their promise of spaciousness.

More after the break

The subwoofer provides solid low-frequency impact, and integrates with its partners well. The soundtrack to the rip-roaring MI:III Blu-ray is delivered in explicit detail, the QAV enjoying the most neutral, natural tonality of any of these speaker systems. There's a little hardness introduced at really high volumes, but that's about the sum of its shortcomings. Even music is handled confidently.

So if you can't stand the idea of five speakers and a subwoofer, try this unconventional system for size.