Q Acoustics has produced a handful of flagship Concept speakers in the range’s six-year lifetime, but none has reflected the ‘concept’ name quite as much as the newest member.
The Concept 300 standmounters not only build on the innovative driver and cabinet technologies introduced by the Concept 20s, 40s and 500s, but also widen their focus beyond the speaker boxes to the stands. The spindly-looking tripods upon which these speakers sit wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art exhibition, but they were designed exclusively for the Concept 300s. That said, you can now buy the stands separately or save £500 on the price above by buying the speakers without them.
To ensure they perform at their best, standmount speakers should be placed on stands – at this level, it’s an absolute must. Q Acoustics’ engineering team felt they could improve on conventional solid designs, the idea being that such stands with relatively large surface areas have significant acoustic footprints, and transmit a lot of sound into a room.
In a bid to support the speakers better, the futuristic-looking three-pronged prism stand applies Buckminster Fuller’s 1960 works on ‘tensegrity’ (‘tensional integrity’) to a speaker domain.
The self-supporting structure is made up of elements either in compression (the load-bearing aluminium rods) or tension (the steel cables) and aims to reduce the transmission of external vibrations through its small surface area and high strength-to-volume ratio. Each 14kg speaker has a spring-loaded plate built into its base and the tripod stand bolts onto this. Any vibrations in the springs are converted into heat by a special damping material.
According to Q Acoustics research, conventional stand designs vibrate three times as much above 300Hz frequencies than its own tripod design.
Once they're set up, you may approach the speakers cautiously, as you would expensive pieces in a china shop, but thankfully they’re reassuringly stable. Their suspension means there’s a fair amount of give, but the structure remains upright throughout testing.
These Concepts are not simply existing speakers on new stands. Their 16.5cm paper cone mid/bass driver features a newly-developed rubber surround, with a magnet that has been enlarged over the Concept 500 design to help the control and efficiency of the single driver in a smaller cabinet.
The new 28mm soft dome tweeter sat above features the wide-dispersion technique and decoupled isolating mount developed for the Concept 500. The latter protects the tweeter from vibrations generated by the mid/bass unit, allowing it to be placed nearer the mid/bass driver for improved integration.
Impedance 6 ohms
Weight 14.5kg (speaker), 3.9kg (stand)
Dimensions 35.5 x 22 x 40cm (speaker), 69 x 49 x 43cm (stand)
The Concept 300s make use of Q Acoustics’ cabinet innovations too, ensuring they contribute as little as possible to the overall sound. Like the Concept 500s, they employ P2P (point-to-point) bracing, which adds support to the parts of the cabinet that need to be stiffened to make them quieter. A soft, non-setting decoupling material, called Gelcore, sits between the cabinet’s three layers of MDF. Any vibration transmitted through the layers is simply dissipated into heat within the gel.
On the outside, Q Acoustics has maintained its traditionally clean, contemporary and minimalist aesthetic, and while the stands may divide opinion, the cabinets are beautiful. At 40cm deep, their large overall footprint is exacerbated by the fact they sound best when positioned a little out in the room, but they look well made and equally well finished.
Q Acoustics has at least tried to disguise that depth by applying a panel of wood veneer to the rear end of the otherwise glossy cabinet. Our review sample comes in white gloss with pale oak, but there are also black gloss with deep rosewood and polished tourmaline with ironwood options available.
To avoid screws loosening over time, the Concept 300’s drive units are held in place from the rear with tension-retaining spring bolts that Q Acoustics says will maintain their torque. The bi-wirable terminals can accept bare wires, spades or banana plugs, and a ‘jumper’ above them allows you to slightly adjust frequency response by +/- 0.5dB to accommodate room conditions.
Once plugged in to our reference Naim server and Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power, the pay-off from all the work that’s gone into the the Concept 300s’ cabinets is immediately clear. There’s certainly a sense that you aren’t listening to how the cabinets sound. The quietness of the boxes can be felt physically through the lack of vibration during playback, and the 300s’ impressive outright clarity and transparency.
The consistency of the sonic character compared with other Q Acoustics speakers is also reassuring. There’s all the refinement and warmth we’ve come to expect from the brand, presented on a wide-open soundstage that’s just as familiar in its impressive breadth and spaciousness.
Bass is surprisingly abundant for a standmounter – especially with a relatively modest-sized mid/bass drive units – but also unwaveringly taut and rich. They have no trouble anchoring a cello or driving a beat-led composition.
Frequencies higher up the scale are no less deserving of praise, the midrange refined and clear, the treble biting yet measured. We play Aldous Harding’s Blend, and her room-filling vocal has a velvety texture through the Concepts, its tenderness preserved and nuance plain for ears to hear. Meanwhile, the acoustic plucking has a portly presence that’s equally tangible.
Switch to Radiohead’s Reckoner and we can almost pinpoint the cymbals and shakers, as the elaborate density of the track’s composition works in the Concept 300s’ favour and shows off their strengths.
The polite beginnings of the guitar line, followed by Yorke’s graceful vocal, all feel at ease, able to outstretch without bumping into each other. It’s a scale of sound, coupled with a ruthless organisation, that make the Dynaudio Special Fortys, our current Award winners at this price, seem almost compressed in comparison – their soundstage not quite so profound, nor their presentation as cultured.
But while we’re accustomed to a Q Acoustics speaker that favours warmth and refinement over outright liveliness, these fall short of the Dynaudios when it comes to rhythmic drive and dynamic expression. At this level, we would expect more.
Playing Drake’s Headlines, the Dynaudios immediately spring into action with enthusiasm. They hotfoot the synths with a militant timing and almost habitual cohesion that’s missing in the Q Acoustics. The Qs don’t quite hurry things along or grip a rhythm as well as the Dynaudios, which tightly tie everything together like the end of a Sherlock novel. Dynamically, while far from static or uninteresting, they fail to soar and sink to such effective levels, too.
The Concept 300s respond with greater calculation, unrivalled breadth and a textured warmth that fleshes out the midrange, but we find their rivals a more transparent and emotive listen. Ultimately, that seals their four-star fate in this review.
These Q Acoustics are an innovative pair of standmounters that technologically and sonically are set apart from a lot of similarly-priced competition. The fact they aren’t the most entertaining speakers available at this price point might detract from that achievement slightly, but these are still among the most interesting speakers to have passed through our test rooms in recent years.
- Sound 4
- Compatibility 4
- Build 5
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