REVIEW: Q Acoustics 1030 Floorstanding Speakers
Take a look up into the night sky and see if you can spot a black hole. Should be simple, there are enough of the buggers.
Black holes are just part of the dark matter that accounts, apparently, for 75% of all the mass in the universe. Yet searching for dark matter vexes cosmologists considerably. Partly because the matter is, as its name suggests, dark and therefore hard to see. But mostly because it’s being looked for in space, which is not only dark, but rather large too. Millions and millions of dollars are spent every year in research programmes that finish up spotting, well, nothing much.
Bizarre really when you consider that for the last three weeks I’ve had two very substantial lumps of dark matter sitting in my living room – Q Acoustics 1030 loudspeakers.
Mass (but not in b minor)
With matt black cabinets, black drivers, black grilles and only a nicely finished aluminium plinth for light relief the Q Acoustic speakers seem to create a wall of darkness in the room. It’s a sizeable wall too, each speaker is 930mm tall by 195mm wide and 295mm deep.
At 19.5kg each they are almost massive enough to have their own gravitational field. But just in case you think they’re a little lightweight, there’s a chamber in the bottom that can be stuffed with sand or leadshot. Make sure you reinforce your floor though.
Not that any of this is a criticism. While I’m no fan of the black finish, there are cherry and beech veneers available, and the solid build bodes well for the sound of these newcomers.
The dark art of speaker design
Q Acoustics was formed from the matter left over after Mission was taken over a year or so ago. Mission’s new owners decided they didn’t need the old design, manufacturing or marketing departments and shut them down. The departments, of course, had something to say about this, and shifted themselves into orbit around Armour Home Electronics (manufacturers of QED cables, among other hi-fi products) to become Q Acoustics with a whole new range of hi-fi and home theatre speaker systems.
The 1030s are Q Acoustics’ so-called “compact” floorstanding speaker (what on earth would they call “big”?) and the styling reveals more than a little of the company’s Mission DNA. With a 165mm bass driver, 25mm soft dome tweeter, six ohm impedance and 90db efficiency, their architecture has much in common with Mission designs too.
Despite the weighty issue of moving them around, the 1030s were surprisingly easy to set up, proving largely unaffected by room placement. The spikes are neatly designed to be externally adjustable, making levelling simple. Less easy were the strange, bi-wirable binding posts that have positive and negative terminals arranged in a vertical line, but at opposite 90 degree angles. Pointless and awkward.
A mass of music
If the looks and specifications don’t give the ex-Mission game away, listening to the Qs certainly does.
Starting with the Stereo MCs and Step It Up from their first (and frankly, best) album, Connected had me stepping up right away. There was surprisingly deep bass considering the single driver, but the whole sound was driven by grippingly rhythmic midrange. Fun, but perhaps not terribly sophisticated, and with a slightly tiresome edge to the treble.
For something a little more subtle I tried The Real Tuesday Weld’s Bathtime in Clerkenwellfrom the album I Lucifer. Recently featured in a Yellow Pages TV commercial, this somewhat eccentric collision of thirties music hall with contemporary electronica really lets the 1030s show off their rhythmic chops but also reveals a more balanced high frequency performance. The aggression largely gone, replaced by incisive treble that helps to create a convincing soundstage.
Even with more complex acoustic music, the story is impressive. Mozart’s horn concerto in D major (K412) from by David Pyatt and the academy of St Martin in the Fields under Neville Marriner (Erato 0630-17074-2), is rendered beautifully. Once again, midrange is the star of the show, with a gorgeous bite to Pyatt’s French Horn that so often gets lost. There isn’t quite the detail and separation of instruments that can be achieved with this recording, but the deft and bounteous bass keeps the whole piece engagingly listenable.
Stars or just lumps of rock?
The 1030s are clearly party speakers in the classic Mission mould, but there is more to them than just bounce and exuberance. The Q’s bass performance shines, particularly for a two-way speaker costing just $999 but there’s a commanding, if slightly forward, mid-range to go with it. And although not the last word in sophistication, their well-rounded and dynamic performance combines with stellar build quality to make the Qs exceptional value for money. That really is harder to find than a black hole on a dark night.
Q Acoustics 1030 floorstanding speaker, $999.
For more information visit Q Acoustics.
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