Q Acoustics Concept 300 loudspeaker

When I performed the measurements of the Q Acoustics Concept 500 loudspeaker to accompany Thomas J. Norton's review in March 2019, I was impressed by what I found. The floorstanding Concept 500 offers a high level of audio engineering excellence for its price of $5999.99/pair. When I attended a Q Acoustics press briefing a few months back, where the English company announced the US availability of their stand-mounted Concept 300, I didn't hesitate to ask for a pair to review.

Design
The Concept 300 costs $4499.99/pair, including a pair of unique stands: skeletal, 26"-tall Tensegrity supports, each with three tubular stainless-steel legs, pretensioned with wires. A small platform at the top of the tripod formed by the legs engages with a sprung plate in the speaker's base; more on that later.

The Concept 300 is a fairly large two-way design, deeper than it is high. A 1.1" (28mm) tweeter, using a dome fabricated from "super-fine strands of coated microfiber," is mounted above a 6.5" (165mm) woofer, this featuring an impregnated/coated paper cone, a rubber surround, and a glass-fiber voice-coil. The tweeter is mounted to the baffle with a rubber gasket to isolate it from vibrations from the woofer, and its front plate has a shallow waveguide profile. Both drive-units are fastened from behind, using spring-tensioned retaining bolts. The woofer is reflex-loaded with a large flared port, 7" deep and 2" in diameter, on the enclosure's rear panel. Foam plugs are provided, to convert the speaker into a sealed box, for use in rooms with low-frequency problems.

The third-order crossover uses premium parts, including polypropylene capacitors. Electrical connection is via two pairs of terminals to allow biwiring or biamping. Three 4mm sockets accommodate a jumper to allow the tweeter level to be raised or lowered by 0.5dB.

The enclosure, with its radiused sidewall edges and a combination of two different wood veneers finished in a high-gloss lacquer, looks elegant in the extreme. As it says on the Q Acoustics website, "The Concept 300 is a high-end, high-performance loudspeaker that's respectfully sophisticated and able to interact discreetly with any interior design vocabulary." Couldn't have said it better myself!

The elegance extends inside the cabinet. The enclosure walls are constructed from three layers of MDF, each separated by a gel that absorbs and dissipates any high-frequency vibrations. Lower-frequency vibrations are handled by strategically placed internal bracing. A large sprung plate on the enclosure's base, which Q Acoustics calls the "isolation base suspension system," couples to the top plate of the Tensegrity stand, creating a low-pass filter that isolates the stand and floor from the speaker, and vice versa.

Setup
No grilles were provided with the review samples, nor did the package include the typically supplied foam port plugs ("foam bungs" in Brit-speak). From the look of the packaging, these samples were much-traveled.

After some experimentation, I ended up placing the Q Acoustics Concept 300s close to the positions where small speakers have consistently worked well in my room: 75" from the wall behind them, 122" from the listening position, with the left speaker 29" from the LPs that line the left sidewall, the right speaker 46" from the books that line that sidewall. (All distances were measured from the front baffles; the asymmetry is due to there being two stairs up to a small platform behind the right-hand speaker.)

120q.2

The Concept 300s looked top-heavy on their spindly tripod stands and seemed too wobbly for comfort with their sprung bases sitting on top of the stands' top plates; as we have three cats, two of which occasionally jump on to loudspeakers, I rocked the Concept 300s back and forth and side to side on the stands, and they appeared too stable to topple. The speakers were toed-in to the listening position.

To use the Vandersteen M5-HPA power amplifiers with the Q Acoustics speakers, I set the Vandersteens' high-pass filters to their lowest frequency, 20Hz (see fig.4, red trace, here). The amplifier's response is down by 3dB at 20Hz, and 1dB at 38Hz, which is below the tuning frequency of the Concept's port—see "Measurements" sidebar—so its lower limit should not have an appreciable effect on the loudspeaker's low-frequency performance. Although I left the loudspeakers' rear-panel jumpers in the Normal (flat) position when I used the Vandersteen and Lamm M1.2 amplifiers, I reduced the tweeter levels by 0.5dB for best sound with the NAD M10 streaming integrated amplifier. (See my review elsewhere in this issue.)

Listening
I started my auditioning of the Concept 300s with the test tracks I created for the magazine's Editor's Choice CD (Stereophile STPH016-2, footnote 1), driving the speakers with the NAD M10. The Concept 300s reproduced the 1/3-octave warble tones with full weight down to the 40Hz band, with a slight reduction in level for the 50Hz band. The 32Hz tone was boosted by the lowest-frequency mode in my room, the 25Hz warble was faintly audible, and I couldn't hear the 20Hz tone at my normal listening level. There was no audible wind noise from the port with these lowest-frequency tones. The half-step–spaced low-frequency tonebursts on Editor's Choice spoke cleanly down to 32Hz, with no emphasis of any of the tones. When I listened to the cabinet walls of both speakers with a stethoscope while these tones played, I could hear some liveliness just below 500Hz.

The dual-mono pink noise track on Editor's Choice sounded uncolored unless I sat so high that I could see the tops of the loudspeakers. The image of the noise was precisely placed in the center of the stereo image and very narrow, with no "splashing" to the sides at any frequency.

The stable, accurate imaging of the Concept 300s with recordings of music rather than test tones impressed me from the outset. Lindsey Buckingham's double-tracked vocal on "Never Going Back" from Rumours (24/96k ALAC file, ripped from DVD-A, Warner Bros.) was reproduced as an impressively stable central image between the multiple acoustic guitars that were spread across the stereo stage. And when the backing vocals occasionally came in to the left of center, it was as though I could hear a tunnel of reverberation behind them. The Q Acoustics pair deliciously decoded recorded spatial information, with zero ambiguity in the soundstage positions of acoustic objects at all frequencies.

Provoked by Richard Lehnert's 1981 interview with Keith Jarrett, recently posted on the magazine's website, I streamed the pianist's "Kyoto, November 5, 1976" from The Sun Bear Concerts (16/44.1k ECM/Tidal stream) with the NAD M10. The somewhat forward sound of the piano in this live recording was solidly set within a delicate dome of ambience. The Q Acoustics speakers stepped out of the way of Jarrett's improvising, leaving me marveling at the depth and breadth of his creativity. Every live concert is different, the man never seeming to repeat himself.


Footnote 1: I created the test signals on this CD to make it easier for audiophiles to optimize the setup of their loudspeakers. See here.
COMPANY INFO
Q Acoustics
Stortford Hall Industrial Park
Dunmow Road, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire CN23 5GZ
England, UK
(855) 279-5070
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Ortofan's picture

... bypass or mechanically short-circuit the suspension effect of the stands, particularly if the cables are relatively thick and/or inflexible and especially if the speakers are bi-wired?

For example, the set-up of Linn LP12 turntable requires that the tonearm lead be dressed in a specific manner to prevent the operation of the suspension from being compromised.

Did JA1 make separate sets of frequency response measurements with the port open and with the foam bung installed?

John Atkinson's picture
Ortofan wrote:
How does one avoid having the speaker cables bypass or mechanically short-circuit the suspension effect of the stands, particularly if the cables are relatively thick and/or inflexible and especially if the speakers are bi-wired?

Good question. For the measurements I used very floppy cables, for this very reason. For my listening, I suspended the cables so that they shouldn't have short-circuited the stand's sprung suspension.

Ortofan wrote:
Did JA1 make separate sets of frequency response measurements with the port open and with the foam bung installed?

No, but the bass response with the port blocked can be inferred from the relevant impedance graph, fig.2, which shows that the speaker then behaves as a closed box with a fairly high tuning frequency.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It is about time JA1 reviews, B&W Formation Duo Wi-Fi speakers ($5,000/pair with stands) and/or KEF LS-50 wireless Nocturnes ($2,500/pair ) :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ortofan needs to take classes in mechanical, electrical and acoustical engineering :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Regarding speaker isolation from vibrations, JCA once mentioned about isoAcoustics isolation devices used in Focal loudspeaker demonstration (Munich 2019) :-) .........

Charles E Flynn's picture

https://www.qacoustics.com/concept-300-bookshelf-speaker-pair-stands.html

Charles E Flynn's picture

From https://www.whathifi.com/reviews/q-acoustics-concept-300 :

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.

John Atkinson's picture
Charles E Flynn wrote:
From https://www.whathifi.com/reviews/q-acoustics-concept-300: "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."

I reviewed the Dynaudio Special Forty loudspeaker, which the What HiFi? reviewer preferred to the Q Acoustics Concept 300, in September 2018; see www.stereophile.com/content/dynaudio-special-forty-loudspeaker. Overall, I very much enjoyed my time with the Dynaudios but one thing I couldn't get past with piano recordings was a slight amount of congestion in the midrange.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Charles E Flynn's picture

Mr. Atkinson,

Thanks for posting the link to your review of the Dynaudio Special Forty. I suspect few people are as familiar with the sound of both live and recorded piano as you are. I fondly recall the concert in Providence at which you introduced Hyperion Knight.

There are a few copies left of this Knight recording:

https://elusivedisc.com/hyperion-knight-the-magnificent-steinway-cd/

Page 2 of your review of the Dynaudio has this typo: Zeptember

John Atkinson's picture
Charles E Flynn wrote:
Thanks for posting the link to your review of the Dynaudio Special Forty.

You're welcome.

Charles E Flynn wrote:
I suspect few people are as familiar with the sound of both live and recorded piano as you are.

The sound of the solo piano is tough for loudspeakers to reproduce, as there is very little masking in the midrange. If a reviewer doesn't play any piano recordings, he may well miss a problem.

Charles E Flynn wrote:
I fondly recall the concert in Providence at which you introduced Hyperion Knight.

Although I am a big fan of Hyperion's playing, that would have been erstwhile Stereophile contributing editor John Marks.

Charles E Flynn wrote:
Page 2 of your review of the Dynaudio has this typo: Zeptember

Ah, that was a feeble attempt at humor, as I was using a Led Zeppelin recording for a review to appear in the "Zeptember" issue.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Charles E Flynn's picture

Mr. Atkinson,

Thank you.

I thought it was possible that the "Zeptember" was deliberate, but then I did not recall any other examples of such an attempt at humor.

I hope I am never called to give eyewitness testimony about who was present at a concert.

Pianist Hyperion Knight to Perform in Providence RI February 25, 2018

https://positive-feedback.com/audio-discourse/pianist-hyperion-knight/

02-05-2018 | By John Marks | Issue 95

You make a good point about the value of piano recordings for evaluating speakers. I will try to remember that better than I remembered who introduced Hyperion Knight.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

$5k is somewhat expensive for a 2-way passive bookshelf speakers ........ There are several 2-way bookshelf speakers listed in Class-A and Class-B in Stereophile recommended components, some of which costing less than half the price of Q300 ......... For $5k one can get any of those bookshelf speakers plus two powered subwoofers ........ B&W Formation Duo Wi-Fi capable speakers are $5k with stands, BTW :-) .........

tonykaz's picture

and assessment ?

Should we consider a Pair of Devialet Phantom 900s for about $3,500 ( made in France ) : a Stunning Music System.

Why would we consider a pair of spindly Mini-Monitors ( Asia Made ) costing $5,000 ?

I can't help noticing that these tiny things need Higher Authority comparisons from Wilson & Magico, etc. ( betcha these outfits aren't happy to be favorably compared like this, I wouldn't ).

So, I beg to ask: How can a technical outfit like Devialet produce 21st Century Electronic Transducer Devices ( in France ) and still charge considerably less. Why would Brit. Engineers source in Asia?

Something smells >)))))'>

Tony in Iowa frrrrreeeeezzzzzzzzzzz'n

ps. should we now expect our LS3/5a to be made in China ? What tragedy is befalling our Island friends?

ps. I know people spending serious money for Isly Single Malt that favorably compares to horrible ( my, not useful, opinion )

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I'm waiting for Asian made Scotch whisky for $5 a gallon :-) .........

tonykaz's picture

How can Scotch be made in Asia?, isn't it Scotch from being made in Scotland???

Tony lost in the fruited planes

Bogolu Haranath's picture

(Recipe) designed in Scotland, made and bottled in Asia ....... That is a good possibility ..... BTW, they are now making Tesla cars in Shanghai :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

What is a 'fruited plane'? :-) .......

tonykaz's picture

The great Mid-West was described as a "Fruited Plane" by the 1850s emigrants ( whilst still in the Old-Country ) prior to making a decision to immigrate and inhabit places like Kansas and Iowa where Land was deeded ( for free ) as an inducement to Build America into a White Man's Paradise.

Of course, the Native Indigenous population were escorted/forced out & down the "Trail of Tears" to their New Mexico Homes ( reservations ).

My ancestors were part of the 1850s group of Europeans that traversed the Erie canal to claim their Acreage recently vacated by the Native Indians, they then prepared to fight the Civil War to right the wrongs of Slavery.

The Fruited Plane is that vast track of land now known as America's Bread Basket : Flat Farm Land West of the Mississippi River where the Buffalo roam and Grasslands became Wheat Fields and Kellogg Cereals .

Tony hoping to return to Venice

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The spelling may be 'Fruited Plains' (grassland, flatland) ........ Google search :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

Yes, not hard to agree with you, thanks. I sit, corrected ( stand ).

Its a dam cold place.

But...

If they were giving me a homestead of free acreage I'd probably accept too.

A curious thing is that these folks are identical to everyone I've ever met anywhere in the World, they seem to want the same things and even look pretty much the same. I might've thought that they'd look like Hee-Haw TV Show Farmers, they don't, they could easily look like people walking down the street in San Fransisco or anywhere else.

I'm looking forward to the Deep South Campaign tour. I've heard that those people look the same too. Everyone seems kinda wonderful, I wasn't expecting that. ( being from angry-finger waving Michigan )

Tony out in the cold

Bogolu Haranath's picture

In one of the recent polls, Iowa was ranked as the number one ideal state to retire ........ Florida was ranked as one of the top ten states :-) .........

tonykaz's picture

Hmm, kinda illustrates the problem with Polling Data or suggests the Poll was hired by the Iowa Real estate developers association.

Of course, if a person likes vast panoramas of windy flowing grasslands or has a group-home overlooking the John Deere Combines at harvest time, this place could be a peaceful home.

then again,

who can retire now-a-days? or afford to retire ? Siemens abandonded Iowa workers for the Czech republic and a non-union workforce.

Tony out somewhere

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Another poll shows, Nebraska as the number one state and Iowa as number two ideal state to retire ....... New York State and California are at the bottom of the list ....... Not surprising :-) .......

soundcents's picture

The the Trail of Tears refers to the forced removal of native peoples as a result of Andrew Jackson's "Indian Removal Act" of 1830 (ending in 1850). Although many of the groups were marched through the mid-west on their way to "Indian Territories" (modern day Oklahoma) the groups were actually from the south east. The Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee people were marched from modern day Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
The trail of tears was over 5,000 miles long, resulted in the death of more than 16,000 native people and the loss of 22 million acres of their land. The name refers to a quote from a Choctaw leader who referred to the forced marches and relocation as a "Trail of Tears and Death"

tonykaz's picture

How can Scotch be made in Asia?, isn't it Scotch from being made in Scotland???

Tony lost in the fruited planes

Ortofan's picture

... Hong Kong?
https://6moons.com/audioreviews2/rogers/1.html

Want to consider an even less expensive speaker?
Try the KEF R3:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5esoOMgzfUo

tonykaz's picture

Ouch, this one hurts.

Tony out in the freezing winds

Anton's picture

After the review of the Crystal Cable Arabesque Minissimo Diamond speakers, I expect these to have a "$$$" next to their name in the next Recommended Components.

Four pairs of these = one pair of the Crystal Cable.

Jack L's picture

...... structures that will influence its sound in unpredictable ways,.." quoted Jim Austin.

Yes, that's why I have my KEF 2-way standspeakers isolated from their spiked steel tubular tripods (full stuffed with lead shots & baked fine fine sand to increase their mass) with 4 dense cushion pads each. This should reduce substantially any loudspeaker box vibration from passing down on to the concrete floor underneath through the tripod spikes.

It sounds obviously cleaner to my ears than without.

listening is believing

Jack L
Canada

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