If your love for bass and big sound is greater than your budget for new speakers, a pair of midrange floorstanders could be just what your living room needs.
But not just any old pair of course. You owe it to yourself to acquire a great pair… such as these Q Acoustics 3050is, for instance.
This is a floorstanding speaker with a cabinet that sports curved edges at the top and bottom. It looks attractive but does make moving these fairly large floorstanders tricky, as your fingers tend to slip on the curves.
However, there’s no denying that the Q Acoustics 3050i looks more expensive than it actually is, and the choice of Arctic White, Carbon Black, Graphite Grey, or English Walnut finishes add a touch of class.
There is an eye-catching chrome-finish bezel around the drivers, low-profile binding posts at the rear, and magnetic black cloth grilles that neatly fit into place when covering the drivers. The 3050i has an outrigger plinth at the rear, which makes the base wider and thus provides greater stability – so it shouldn’t topple over. You have a choice of spiked feet – or rubber caps, if you don’t fancy gouging holes in your floor.
The 3050i uses a two-way bass reflex design, with two 165mm (6.5 inch) woofers and a 22mm (0.88 inch) tweeter. At the rear there are bass ports, with foam bungs included for a bit of low-frequency tuning. With the grille and rear outrigger plinth attached, each speaker measures 310 x 1020 x 310mm (WHD) and weighs in at 17.8kg. If you fancy buying the 3050i separately, a pair will cost $800 – regardless of which finish you choose.
Build and compatibility
The 3050is are more evolutionary than revolutionary, in terms of both performance and aesthetic.
For the latter, there is the addition of a fourth colour finish (grey, walnut, white or black) and a chrome bezel around each driver.
But there are some technical advancements over their predecessors. As with the 3010i and 3020i, cabinet rigidity has been improved – P2P (point-to-point) cabinet bracing gives extra support to the parts that require stiffening to make them quieter; the baffle is thicker to support the tweeter and mid/bass driver; traditional terminal panel cut-outs make way for embedded sockets within the cabinet.
The 3050i’s 20mm soft dome tweeter has been decoupled from the baffle via a suspension system to isolate it from vibrations from the two sandwiching 16.5cm woofers.
Unique to the 3050is in the range, however, is their use of HPE (Helmholtz Pressure Equalizer) technology, which Q Acoustics first introduced in its high-end Concept 500 and has since trickled down to this lower price-point.
Essentially, this is a tube filled with damping material inside the cabinet, which aims to absorb energy and reduce resonance.
But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy speaker to get a result with it seems. Wherever I put them and almost regardless of amplifier I got an overly thick and bass heavy sound. This made the music seem slow and a little lifeless, great if you want loads of welly but clearly not quite right. Usually the solution to this type of sound is to bring the speaker further into the room and use an amplifier that is vital and sprightly yet has a bit of grip on the bottom end. I tried a Rega Brio, this gave decent levels of detail and good even precise imaging but didn’t cure the bass problem. I played a variety of pieces, new and old music including DJ Shadow’s latest live release which sounded pretty good at higher levels, and Jason Isbell’s ‘Brand New Kind of Actress’ which had great kick in its drum. But switching to the more familiar ‘Pretty Pimpin’ by Kurt Vile I realised that something was missing in the timing department, the track didn’t have its usual power to engage because the groove was being delayed by excessive bass. Foam bungs are supplied to curtail low frequency output but these tend to have a negative impact on dynamics so I looked elsewhere.
I tried something I rarely do and put in a different speaker cable. I use Townshend F1 Fractal as a rule because it is so revealing, 3D and wide bandwidth, but it does deliver a lot more bass than most cables so I went for something more appropriate in price and balance in the form of Naim NAC A5. I usually find this cable too forward and aggressive for my tastes but it proved the perfect foil for this loudspeaker because it tightens up the bass and greatly improves the sense of immediacy. Now we were cooking with gas, the drums are clearly defined and there’s a tautness to the presentation that gives it coherence. The detail improved too, with quieter sounds becoming easier to identify. I tried an orchestral piece and found that the tympani was slightly emphasised but the overall scale and dynamics were excellent, the high sensitivity means that you get plenty of bang for your buck and when something truly muscular like Deadmau5 drops it is righteously boombastic in all the right ways. Leading edges are slightly sharp which is a reflection of the cable in my experience, but the solid punch of kick drum and the visceral quality of the track ‘Seeya’ are very real. You could really wind this up without the speaker complaining if you had a few more watts than the Brio can muster.
With the more sophisticated sounds of Doug MacLeod’s ‘Too Many Misses’ there is plenty of drive to the groove and decent resolution of the remarkable depth that Reference Recordings managed to capture. One of their more recent releases, Fiona Boyes’ Professin’ The Blues, also has good punch and superb vocal presence. I do like the way you can turn the 3050i up without it complaining, the balance is still a little bass strong which means you get plenty of welly without the mid and top having to struggle. The highs are crisp but not too ambitious, which counts as well judged in my book. It’s a different approach to many affordable speakers and a refreshing one at that. I should also point out that it times nicely too, all of the above would be pointless if that weren’t the case but it most certainly is. And the bottom end is gorgeous especially with a juicy bit of electronica.
The Q Acoustics 3050i manages to combine big speaker dynamics and scale with the sort of timing and pace associated with two-way standmounts, it can’t ‘disappear’ as well as the best smaller speakers but does deliver a lot of detail and scale. Combine this with high build quality and finish and you have a serious contender in a market sector where most speakers of this size have distinct problems with box coloration. The work that Q-Acoustics have done on this front and the tech it has trickled down from the Concept 500 give the 3050i a clear advantage. Just don’t use them with high end speaker cable!
The Q Acoustics 3050i’s are also quite the lookers. The cabinets are virtually seamless with smooth rounded corners are available in grey, walnut, white or black. My samples arrived in black. The finish is like a matte or semi-gloss, not too shiny and not overly dull. Shiny chrome bezels surround the twin, black-coated, paper 165mm precision drivers which sandwich a 22mm cabinet-decoupled high-frequency driver on the face of the speaker. The tweeter has a wide surround which Q Acoustics claim creates a wide and even dispersion of the stereo image. Around back is a large bass port and a pair of fat, low profile speaker terminals. Sensitivity is quoted at 91db, which makes them an easy pair to drive.
Q Acoustics has taken design cues and technology from the high-end Concept 500 Series such as Point-to-Point (P2P™) bracing—which helps to reduce cabinet vibrations for a purer sound and more accurate soundstage—and HPE™ (Helmholtz Pressure Equalizer) technology. Which is basically a vertical tube inside the speaker filled with dampening material which helps to reduce energy and resonance within the speaker cabinet coloring the sound.
The Q Acoustics 3050i arrived neatly boxed and came with some the usual assortment of foam bungs, speaker spikes, fixing screws. They made sure to include an Allen key for tightening purposes. Also included were a pair of stabilizers, magnetic speaker grills (a huge bonus at this price level), a user manual and handling gloves. Affixing the stabilizers and spikes was simple and pain-free.
I initially set the 3050i’s up as fronts in my home-theater replacing my B&W 683’s (s1) powered by my Marantz SR6009. The first few tracks were played via Bluetooth from my iPhone. I was bowled back by the sound. Clear, punchy with a nice large scale sound. I decided to warm the speakers up in this configuration. On the movie front, the Q acoustics didn’t miss a beat with Spiderman Homecoming.and were well at home through any of the Marvel Movies I threw at them.
Once I had the 3050i’s warmed up I brought them up to my living room and set them up paired to my trusty old Nad 326bee. My sources were a Marantz Cd5001 and a Macbook pro via Arcam rDac. The Nad leans a bit darker and bass heavy which in theory is a perfect fit for me and the 3050is. Much had been made of the previous 3000 series’ scale, warmth, and energy but still, I managed my expectations and tried my best to be as critical as possible.
The 3050is are a pair of speakers you may only need to hear for a few minutes before wondering which finish will best suit your room.
Q Acoustics has squeezed more performance into its mid-level towers than ever before, albeit at a higher price (the 3050s launched at $600).
In doing so, it has comfortably filled an important price gap between the five-star Fyne Audio F302 ($500) and Monitor Audio Silver 200 ($1200).
With the 3050is, Q Acoustics has reaffirmed its position within the midrange floorstander market. As the 2018 Awards draw ever nearer, it certainly bodes well for the company.