The idea of Q Acoustics as a disruptive newcomer in the speaker market persists, but in fact the UK-based company has been doing its thing since it launched its 1000 series back in 2006, and has rapidly expanded its offering from just scrapping with the entry-level models from the established loudspeaker-making names. Now Q Acoustics is one of the established names, with a range running from the £119/pr 3010, the spiritual successor to its launch model, all the massive, yet very competitively-priced, Concept 500 floorstanders, which will leave you change from £5000 yet outperform many a design at several times the price.
In-between the company has filled all the gaps with technology trickling up, down and sideways to create a comprehensive line-up with something for everyone, from stereo speakers to surround systems, and taking in powered designs, subwoofers and even in-wall/ceiling designs for Dolby Atmos set-ups.
The 5000 series is the latest arrival, taking onboard a lot of the design and engineering of the flagship Concept models, kicking off with the little 5010 model and running up to the 5040 and soon to be reeleased, 5050 floorstanders. But by far the most interesting model seems to be the 5020 we have here; yes, it’s still a bookshelf design, ideal for use on stands or shelves in relatively modestly-sized rooms, but with the combination of a largish mid/bass driver and plenty of cabinet volume promising decent bass from a still-compact design.
In common with other Q Acoustics designs, presents a relatively small face to the world, at just over 28cm tall and 18cm wide, but boosting the cabinet volume is the depth, at over 29cm, giving the speakers slightly odd proportions when you unbox them. With a rear port to tune the bass from their 12.5cm mid/bass driver, these are speakers comfortable when used close to rear walls, either on their dedicated 3000FSi stands or the Q WB75 wall-bracket, which fits the speaker almost flat against the wall, assisted by cable terminals sunk into the rear panel, but allows some horizontal or lateral adjustment.
The smooth lines of the wraparound main cabinet, available in satin black or white, or Santos rosewood or Holme oak wood finishes, help slim down the visual impact of the speaker, wrapping round that gloss black front baffle housing the two drive-unit, but the whole construction speaks to the Q Acoustics idea of a speaker cabinet as a necessary evil. Yes, it locates the drivers in place, and manages their unwanted rear vibrations, but it brings its own problems, and it’s all too easy for the ‘box’ to play too much of a part in the way a speaker sounds.
As one of the consultants previously employed by Q Acoustics once explained it to me, ‘the best thing the cabinet can do is shut up,’ and there’s plenty of evidence for that thinking in the 5020. The 25mm soft dome tweeter is both decoupled and hermetically sealed from the rest of the speaker, so its high frequencies aren’t swamped by the midrange and bass output, while a waveguide to the front gives smoother dispersion over a wider listening area.
Tuned venting simplifies the crossover to the larger driver, this using a Continuous Curved Cone design for stiffness, lightness and accuracy, aided by a low-mass, high-power magnet and coil ‘motor’ to drive the cone back and forth.
The baffles into which the drivers are mounted combine 25mm high density fibreboard, a butyl damping layer and that acrylic gloss finish, while within the cabinets use Point-to-Point bracing to damp out resonances identified using computer modelling. It’s all part of that determination to stop the enclosure singing along with the speaker!
If there’s one classic aspect to the 5020, it’s that it does sound a bit ‘bright and tight’ straight from the box, which might have some dismissing it as being rather brash, and hunting for the amp’s treble control to rein it in a little. By all means do that, but you’ll find that after a few days’ use, when playing music has had time to get some temperature into the driver surrounds, and in particular got that mid/bass driver loosened up, the response of the speakers becomes much more integrated. And that means even more involving and exciting.
Used relatively close to the wall behind them – there are foam bungs to tighten the bass if want them very close to the rear wall – and well away from side walls and corners, which can bring their own reflection problems, the 5020 delivers a sound that’s surprisingly full and weighty from speakers so small, and yet with an open, informative three-dimensional presentation.
You don’t need a lot of toe-in – angling towards the listening position – to get a solid sense of the performers laid out if front of you, unless you need to have the speakers quite a way apart that might help: stick to the old ‘as far apart as they are from you’ rule and things will snap into focus very nicely. Neither do you need a lot of amplifier power to get the 5020s working well, as I discovered with the NAD C 3050 – quality is more vital than quantity, and running these little speakers on the end of my Naim Supernait 3 proved as exciting as it was involving. And that was as true chugging out some vintage Little Feat in full-blooded goodtime fashion as it was with the lush arrangements of Stewart Copeland’s Police Deranged for Orchestra album, not to mention some suitably angelic choral music in the form of the Bach Collegium Japan’s recording of the Mozart Requiem.
Full and rich, and yet with the layers in just about any recording cleanly delineated, these are beautifully fuss-free speakers when you want a big sound without resorting to large floorstanding designs, and a hugely enjoyable listen with just about any amplifier.
As is the Q Acoustics way, these are very commercial speakers, delivering more than you might expect for the money and doing so with a minimum of tweakery in set-up or use being required. They look the business – especially in the striking black baffle/white cabinet combination, are solidly put together, and will never fail to entertain.
Provided you have sufficient shelf space and strength, you could use these speakers as real ‘bookshelf’ designs – little rubber feet are provided to isolate them. But they’re at their best on solid stands, the dedicated Q Acoustics ones being sensibly priced, and driven with good-quality amplification – just avoid using them too close to side walls or corners. Even better, they’ll ‘grow’ with your system if you choose to upgrade the electronics at a later stage.
Pink Floyd Another Brick in the Wall Pt I
Strip out the better-known ‘kids chorus’ vocals of Pt II, and you’re left with a menacing, closely-detailed near-instrumental in which every element is clear, all underpinned with the weighty, grumbling bass the 5020 can deliver
Joe Bonamassa Bridge to Better Days
Taken from the You & Me set, this is no-nonsense slamming electric blues, allowing the speakers to unleash their combination of bass slam and vocal/instrumental clarity to thrilling effect
Elton John Tinderbox
Illustrating the benefits of taking a deep-dive into Elton’s catalogue, and going beyond the gawd knows how many hits he played closing Glastonbury, this atmospheric track from The Captain & The Kid couldn’t be much simpler, but it still packs a mighty lyrical and musical punch
Many speaker companies make upmarket compact standmount speakers – it’s just that few do them as affordably, or to such high quality, as these sleek-looking, fine-sounding Q Acoustic 5020 models. Pick a finish to suit your room – black, white or wood – and you won’t be disappointed.