Q Acoustics 3030i Standmount Loudspeakers Review
3030i Standmount Loudspeakers
AUD $999 RRP
There’s nowhere to hide in the budget standmounter market. Competition is fierce, margins are slim, and many big brands have dogs in the fight. Yet Q Acoustics is bullish about its new 3030i compact standmount loudspeaker; the manufacturer says it “delivers the biggest, most commanding sound ever achieved by a speaker of this type and cost”, no less.
The company is hoping that trickle-down technology from its flagship Concept 500 speakers will give it the edge. In the same way that NASA’s Apollo space programme gave the world Velcro, Teflon and a nifty pen that could write upside down and underwater, so the 3030i inherits clever stuff from earlier research. The company’s Point-to-Point cabinet bracing – seen on its most expensive design – is claimed to make the box more rigid for a lower distortion sound. Ditto the drivers; the 165mm coated paper mid/bass unit also appears on the pricier 3050i floorstander, as does its decoupled 22mm soft dome tweeter. These crossover at 2.4kHz, says the manufacturer.
The 3030i is available in a variety of finishes, my review samples coming in an elegant Graphite which looks modern and cool – especially when on stands. A walnut finish is also available for the traditionalists, and black or white are also options. Vital statistics are 200x325x329mm (WxHxD), so it’s a deceptively deep design, and it weighs a solid 6.4kg per speaker – more perhaps than you’d expect for an entry-level standmount.
With a quoted sensitivity of 88dB and an average impedance of 6 ohms, the 3030 is fairly easy to drive; the company gives an amplifier power range of 25 to 75W. Frequency response is listed as 46Hz to 30kHz (+/-3dB, -6dB), which means this speaker apparently goes down very low for a smallish standmounter. The 3030i’s 12.5-litre cabinet is reflex-ported, and comes supplied with foam bung inserts should its bottom end prove too much for your listening room.
Driven from an Exposure 3010S2D integrated amplifier, fed by a Chord Mojo/Poly DAC/streamer playing tunes from Tidal and Qobuz, I was surprised by the 3030i’s comfortable, easy-to-listen-to sound. While bass is extended for this size of speaker, fears that it might have a squashy, bottom-heavy delivery proved wide off the mark – it’s crisp and well controlled. Midband is smooth and even, and if anything, treble is a touch too laid back for some tastes. Still, this makes it a great match for the thin sounding budget electronics it’s likely to be partnered with.
Listening to well recorded rock tracks like Talk Talk’s Happiness is Easy and Night Train by Rikki Lee Jones showed up the 3030i’s rather delightful, detailed and seamless midrange – something more common on speakers at twice the price. Indeed it was easy to forget that this is a cheapo mini monitor, such was its lack of shoutiness. At the same time, it resolved surprisingly low notes with relative clarity and ease, and didn’t sound too dynamically compressed reproducing percussion such as kick drums. It was this combination of a refined midband and capable bass that made harder rocking recordings like Rush’s Limelight such fun.
The downside was that in more complex passages, the 3030i lost its way a little bit, masking some nuanced detail. Yet this is nothing untoward at this price, and better the sins of omission than addition. I found I could really get into my music, as this speaker’s fundamentally polite and well mannered character meant the system never needed to be turned down. Heavy rock fans may look for a more in-your-face presentation, but I enjoyed this speaker’s sophistication.
The tweeter is also impressive for an entry-level speaker. Streaming Kraftwerk’s Tour de France was a joy, as the 3030i delivered a clean and detailed top end. Indeed Nicholas Jaar’s Space is Only Noise made me think that the designers must have a penchant for electropop, as these speakers seemed to reproduce this genre easily and confidently. Imaging was about as good as you’ll get from standmounts at this price, these little Q Acoustics boxes pushing the sound way beyond their boundaries. In absolute terms, depth perspective wasn’t great – but again, I refer you to the advertised retail price.
The 3030i has Q Acoustics’ typically smooth, svelte and refined sound. It’s on the laidback side relative to its rivals, but this is no bad thing. I’m not so sure that the speaker quite matches its hype – yet it’s still a well bred and cultured standmount at a wallet-friendly price.
A music junkie who served his apprenticeship in UK hi-fi retail in the 1990s, Mike loves the simplicity of analogue and the complexity of digital. With an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject, he’s been on a life-long quest for great sound at a sensible price – and is still loving the journey…