Q Acoustics Concept 500 loudspeaker Page 2

The source was a Marantz UD7007 universal BD player, connected to the Marantz pre-pro with a coaxial digital link for CD playback. (All recordings mentioned in this review were on CD.) The wiring was Kimber Kable AGDL digital coaxial from source to pre-pro, Cardas Hexlink interconnects from pre-pro to power amp, and AudioQuest Rocket 88 from amp to speakers.

The Concept 500s were positioned about 9' apart and 11' from the main listening seat, toed in to aim directly at it. The front baffles were about 5' out from the front wall, and the tweeters were 36" above the floor. While the latter isn't far different from the ear height of a typical listener sitting in a comfortably upholstered chair, my seat puts me a couple inches higher. And because there are hardwood floors under the area rugs, I didn't use the speakers' spikes.

It's long been my opinion that symphonic orchestral music is the most difficult to record and play back—perhaps one reason for its drop in popularity in recent decades. Multichannel recording and playback is typically more convincing than two-channel stereo on such material, perhaps because it can better reproduce the ambience of the recording space, thus at least partially compensating for the fact that no home audio system can reproduce the full power of a symphony orchestra at full concert levels.

319q.black250.jpgBut there are well-recorded two-channel exceptions, and some of the best I've heard have been film soundtracks, which is odd because most modern soundtracks have been recorded in multichannel sound. However, there's an art to mixing down multichannel to two channels, which is one reason many original-soundtrack albums sound far worse than they do on the same film's video release. The latter hasn't been mixed down, nor is it a victim of the current fetish for compressing the life out of recordings—its soft passages can't be allowed to overwhelm the dialogue or the effects!

One of these exceptional recordings is Harry Gregson-Williams's score for Kingdom of Heaven (CD, Sony Classical SK 94419), which deftly combines orchestra and chorus and was one of my 2019 picks for "Records to Die For." It sounded superb through the Concept 500s, with excellent imaging, convincing depth, and a remarkable sense of space and openness surrounding the performers, particularly the chorus.

The late James Horner's score for Sneakers (CD, Columbia CK 53146), one of my R2D4 selections for 1995, was recorded by Shawn Murphy, who's been responsible for some of the best-sounding orchestral soundtracks of the past 30 years. Murphy has recorded virtually every John Williams film score since the mid-1980s (and used to use Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy speakers as his studio monitors). He's also worked extensively with film composer James Newton Howard. Horner's soundtrack for 1989's Glory has long been an audiophile favorite, and Sneakers is another special recording but a hidden gem—it was composed for a long-forgotten box-office fizzle. My favorite track is "Playtronics Break-In," a 10-minute tone poem featuring orchestra, wordless chorus, and soft passages punctuated by abrupt dynamics, all presented on a deep, wide, realistic acoustic space.

From ambience to dynamics, the Concept 500s captured it all beautifully. Their bass impact wasn't quite as punchy, powerful, and deep as I've heard from a few other speakers in my room, but it was never less than satisfying. A subwoofer or two (which I did try) will of course add a bit more bottom-end impact, but with anything less than big pipe organs, savagely huge drums, or the most challenging electronic pop, this was rarely a concern—and might not be one at all in a room of more average size.

Classical or jazz double bass, and bass guitar, were reproduced with similar effectiveness. Unless I turned up the volume too high, making those inevitable room modes more audible, the Concept 500s' bass rarely sounded woolly or boomy. When I tried heavy deep-bass material with the speakers' magnetically attached grilles in place, they rattled—but this wasn't a problem, as I typically leave the grilles off.

I did briefly compare the Concept 500s to my Monitor Audio Silver 10s. The now-discontinued Silver 10 costs less than half the price of the Q 500, so this comparison, however interesting, wasn't entirely fair to the Monitors. I kept the levels matched as closely as possible (though this is dicey at best with speakers that aren't absolutely flat in-room—and no speakers are). I played the same tracks, and set up only one pair of speakers at a time in the same positions, which added an unavoidable delay of about 10 minutes while I swapped speakers.

The Silver 10s, with their dual 8" woofers (but smaller, lighter cabinets than the Concept 500s), did have slightly more explosive bass and harder-hitting transients. But the latter were likely helped by the Monitors' marginally brighter top, as it's the higher frequencies that define edge clarity, even with abrupt bass transients: The sound of a drumstick or mallet striking a drumhead, or the rush of air through organ pipes, can affect how we judge the overall sound—bass isn't inherently "fast," but its accompanying overtones are. Neither speaker could challenge a good subwoofer, but the Silver 10s did provide a bit more subjective grunt in my room.


One complicating factor in this comparison was that I preferred the AudioQuest speaker cables with the Concept 500s, and usually prefer an older pair of slightly softer-sounding Monster Cables with the Monitors. But for most of my comparative listening I used the AudioQuests throughout—after all, I was reviewing the Concept 500s, and wanted to keep the unavoidable delay in switching speakers as short as possible. This may have put the Monitors at a slight disadvantage, as their brighter top end with the AQ cables wasn't necessarily a plus. The more expensive Concept 500s sounded sweeter and smoother on top, but in no way dull.

Back to the Concept 500
The Q Acoustics speakers continued to impress me with a wide range of music. They were particularly good with voices—much better than I'd expected. A two-way design, the Concept 500 has no dedicated midrange driver, instead relying on its two 6.5" woofers to cover that region until they hand off to the tweeter at 2.5kHz. This does provide the cost savings entailed by a simpler crossover and one fewer driver—money that can be put into the speaker's elaborate cabinet structure while keeping the price down—but it forgoes the theoretical advantages of a separate midrange driver. The latter is typically smaller, offering potentially better performance throughout the entire vocal region. That said, successful designs from well-known brands, including Wilson Audio and Bowers & Wilkins, often use midrange drivers as large as 6".

And from my primary listening seat, I heard nothing from the Concept 500s that revealed any boxy, nasal, or unnatural coloration. The balance was neither clearly forward nor recessed. The DALI CD Vol.3, a compilation from the Danish audio manufacturer DALI, has superlative sound quality (footnote 1). Sophie Zelmani's clear, breathy voice in "How It Feels" is crisp and open; and in "These Days," Ane Brun's singing is enhanced by what sounds like artificial reverb. While the Concept 500s made these clear, the effect was subtle, not unnatural. On both tracks the instrumental accompaniment, including the drum kit, wasn't overly powerful, but in this music it doesn't need to be—the speakers did their job by avoiding either excess or leanness.

It had been years since I'd listened to Jay Leonhart's Salamander Pie (CD, DMP CD-442), and I'd forgotten how convincingly this 1983 release reproduces the sound of a jazz duo featuring Leonhart's, um, interesting singing and fine double-bass work, assisted by pianist Mike Renzi. With song lyrics as quirky as in the title track ("Crunchy, munchy, good for you . . .") and "Goodbye Miami" ("The ocean has risen about thirty feet . . ."), it's irresistible. So were the voices of other singers, from Eric Bibb's on A Collection of Cyndee Peters and Eric Bibb (CD, Opus3 CD 7706/03) to Elvis Presley's in "Fever" (on The DALI CD Vol.2). With all of these selections, the Concept 500s did everything right and nothing wrong.

I mustn't fail to mention Annie Lennox's "Into the West," the concluding track of Howard Shore's magnificent score for The Return of the King (CD, Reprise WMG Soundtracks 48521-2). Lennox's vocal, her and Shore's music, and this recording's sound were all sublime through the Q Acoustics. (Note to self: Why haven't you bought any of Lennox's albums? Correct this oversight ASAP.)

All of these selections, and many more, brought out the best in the Concert 500s. It might be presumptuous to say that the Concept 500s also brought out the best in these recordings, but I'm certain that, perhaps apart from the deepest bass—a major challenge for most speakers in my large room—you may have to spend a lot more to do better.

Conclusions These days, the audio market, and most demonstrations at audio shows, are so dominated by big, expensive speakers that it might seem as if relatively affordable models are disappearing. That's not the case. While the average shopper might think $5999.99 an outrageous amount of money for a pair of speakers, it's actually in the sweet spot for audiophiles willing to squeeze their budgets a bit harder to get something special.

And the Q Acoustics Concept 500 is special. Its only obvious flaw is that you can't go give it a casual listen at that audio shop that used to be just around the corner. The good news is that a home trial of these speakers requires little more than the effort to order them, unpack them, and set them up. If you don't like them, you can ship them back within 30 days at no cost, not even return shipping. But I doubt that, once they've entered your listening room, they'll ever leave.

Footnote 1: This and DALI's three other CDs are available only from the DALI website.
Q Acoustics
Stortford Hall Industrial Park, Dunmow Road
Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire CN23 5GZ
England, UK
(855) 279-5070

Long-time listener's picture

"The nearfield measurement technique ... results in a peak in the upper bass..."

I've noted that a dip almost always occurs just above that peak--in this case, a very shallow dip between 300-500Hz. Is that also an artifact of the measurement technique? Just curious, since you have never commented on these dips. Why would so many speakers have a dip in the lower midrange?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Look at TJN's in-room response, before and after EQ :-) .........

Long-time listener's picture

I'm not sure what conclusion I'm supposed to be drawing. In one of those, I do see the dip in the same place, and does your post answer my question about the typical appearance of this dip in the measurements? Thanks...

Bogolu Haranath's picture

No ....... I was just mentioning TJN's in-room response ...... The dip doesn't seem to be that significant after EQ :-) ...........

Jason P Jackson's picture

The dip between ~150hz to ~350hz that is common in loudspeaker measurement at listening distance ie.2-3 metres is nearly always caused by cancellations due to room reflections. The main reflection being the floor- "floor bounce cancellation" and the side walls. The tendency of most hi-fi owners is to place their speakers along the short-wall of the room, bringing the side-walls closer to the speakers, exacerbates this problem. The bottleneck in performance of most 2 driver speakers (apart from the recording) in most rooms is usually due to these reflections, which is also the reason for why most speakers to sound remarkably similar to one another when auditioning in hi-fi stores when placed at the same height and in the same room. In this case, the in-room measurements shows a reinforcement at these frequencies and can be caused by the same reasons as described above. Ironically, I hasten to add cancellations can be less of a problem in smaller rooms. As for the near-field measurements (1.5 metres or 50", averaged across 30 degrees) of the Q-Acoustics 500, of which done by a man who knows how to properly measure loudspeakers in-room John Atkinson, the small dip in the midrange (~450hz) is most likely caused by the losses at those frequencies as a characteristic of the width of the baffle i.e "baffle step" and "baffle diffraction". These issues (baffle step and diffraction) are nearly always accounted for at least in part in the design of the crossover and baffle (the front panel of the speaker). The picture would and nearly always does look very different at listening distance. These are well designed speakers.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Some of the apparent 'dip' is due to the port(s) adding bass reinforcement in bass-reflex designs ....... Look at the measurements before and after adding the port contribution to the bass frequencies .. Fig 4 and Fig 5 in the measurements :-) .......

Long-time listener's picture

This is the best response I've received so far. I was hoping that the person who did the measurements might respond, since this phenomenon is seen in almost all measurements, but he so far hasn't.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"If you want clean, powerful, deep bass at realistic levels from most full-range speakers, use one or more subwoofers" :-) ........

Jason P Jackson's picture

Now that would make a nice system.

Long-time listener's picture

Even if you can accept the circular base on these speakers aesthetically (I can't, and frankly don't care for their looks in other respects), the fact that they extend so far outward past their spikes will only make placement awkward and difficult. Why on earth was this done? This seems like a poorly thought-out -- and completely unnecessary -- choice in an otherwise well-designed loudspeaker. And, umm, why put the redwood veneer on the BACK of the speaker, where no one will ever see it? ?!?! Q Acoustics, please hire someone competent at visual design.

mrkaic's picture

Especially red veneer at the back.

Long-time listener's picture

I guess if you stand behind your speakers all the time as you listen, then you can certainly enjoy the red veneer. I personally don't. But anyway, these things are all quite subjective. I just don't think they look very nice. Sometimes a clean, rectangular box with a nice veneer all the way around is the best.

Ortofan's picture

... toward the rear helps ensure that they are set up correctly.
If you can't see the redwood panels from your listening position, then the speakers are aimed properly.

spacehound's picture

Q Acoustics have a very good, and well deserved, reputation for their cheaper speakers, where probably the expectations are lower. And they are good value for money.

However, yet again, as so many manufacturers, they are obsessed with 'fashion'.
So we have 'narrow' speakers. As a result the two drivers are only 6.5 inches diameter and the working area, the cone itself, is only about 5 inches diameter.

You will NEVER get good bass from speakers of such a small size and that there are two merely makes what bass there is (and everything else until the tweeter takes over) louder, it doesn't create a lower frequency response.
Additionally the two drivers will never respond identically, thus 'muddying' the sound at ALL frequencies, not just the bass. And these two have to cover both the bass and the mid range.

All in the name of 'fashion'.
And as I said, many manufacturers do it. A ten inch bass driver, a five inch mid-range, and a tweeter will be far better. The necessarily wider cabinet does NOT spoil the stereo image either.

Stick to the lower priced Q Acoustics speakers. They will be just as good and you will save 4000 dollars.
If you MUST have fashion (at the expense of sound quality) just buy the lowest priced Sonus Faber speakers instead, they will go well with your Gucci loafers. Q Acoustics stuff, while, except for these, good value, are about as fashionable as Wal Mart trainers.

Long-time listener's picture

The reviewer found their bass to be good, if not great: "Their bass impact wasn't quite as punchy, powerful, and deep as I've heard from a few other speakers in my room, but it was never less than satisfying."

Regarding baffle width, and whether good bass can be achieved with small drivers, take the old Revel M20. It had excellent dispersion despite a wide baffle, but it also had surprising bass extension and weight given its 5-inch driver. The tradeoff, however, was that it was difficult to drive well. Also, though, models such as the AudioPhysic Virgo show that it's probably EASIER to achieve outstanding imaging and dispersion with a narrow baffle.

Ortofan's picture

... (having a five-inch mid-range and a tweeter) along with a sub-woofer (having at least a ten-inch driver) meet your requirements?
Or, would the JBL L100 Classic (12-inch woofer, 5.25-inch mid-range and a tweeter) be more appropriate?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Excellent suggestion ....... JBL L-100 cost $4,000/pair ....... Hopefully, Stereophile reviews them :-) ........

spacehound's picture

Trying to make people buy subwoofers, preferably two, one for each side, and they probably won't 'match' your existing speakers, is just 'marketing'.
Far better not to buy narrow squeaky speakers in the first place as you still have to find room for the subwoofer(s).

It's all about trying to make you buy new stuff. And unfortunately for the 'marketeers' a decent pair of speakers can last a lifetime. I use big 'traditional' Tannoy ones, which have just the one dual concentric driver, and I don't visualise ever replacing them.

The JBL L100 Classic is in the same mould, though the deaign is different.

The laws of physics are as they are and 'fashion' won't change them.

Ortofan's picture

... besides the JBL L100 Classic, what else is available that fits the mold of a tweeter + single ~5" mid-range + single 10"+ woofer?
Harbeth M40, Spendor Classic 100, Focal Scala Utopia Evo and ...

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If someone is willing to spend $8k to $10k, Revel Ultima Gem2 and KEF Reference one bookshelf speakers are other possible choices, which have 3 drivers each. They both got very positive reviews :-) .........

Ortofan's picture

... at least a 10" diameter bass driver.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

True ...... If someone is in the market for a little bit more bass extension, better midrange isolation and reduced IMD, than a typical two-way design, these are some of the other choices ....... That is the reason why I mentioned those :-) ..........

reynolds853's picture

There are many assumptions in the comments on this speaker for some reason. As someone who auditioned these in my dedicated listening room, I think they are VERY competitive at $6k. Most reviews reach a similar conclusion. It comes down to taste, system matching and room matching but I would be hard pressed to say the speaker did anything "wrong". The measurements are exemplary. I had to spend almost 2x to beat them and that was as much about preference than really being better. Build quality is great.

Comments made:
1.) Can't do strong bass: Bass was VERY healthy and tight. (I listen to all music types including EDM, Metal, Classical, Organ music, etc.) Unless you are using them in a large room or as theater speakers without a sub, it is unlikley you would want subs for music. The construction/design is top notch... see the whitepaper at their website.
2.) Wood at the back: It's subjective. It provides an illusion that the speaker is less deep than if it were all one color. I liked it. You may not.
3.) Round base: If this prohibits your placement, they are probably not placed for best sound. Unless your room requires you to shoehorn them into a slot, this should not be an issue.

They port at the back so it does take some time to find the best spot for sound. These were at Axponia this year and I was shocked at how poor they sounded (same with the Revel 228Be) vs prior auditions where both had sounded great. ANY speaker can sound "bad" without careful setup and yes, hotel rooms are especially limiting.

Customer service is great and so is their "no risk" return policy.

CraigH79's picture

LOL @ spacehound's entire comment. Clearly someone who hasn't auditioned the speakers and is just making massive (incorrect) assumptions based on the size of the drivers. Idiotic.

"you will never get good bass from speakers of such a small size"

Absolute rubbish. You will never get LOW sub-bass from 6.5 inch speakers but you can very much get tight, punchy, heavy-hitting, accurate bass reproduction from such drivers. And as an owner of the Concept 500 I can tell you they do it with aplomb. To the point where for a lot of music, I do not need to worry about using my subwoofer (Paradigm Studio Sub 12).

Also the science and R&D behind the cabinet design ensures that these "such small sized" drivers perform far beyond the realms of what you imagine they should. Funny that you mention frequency response. I bet you haven't even bothered to find the frequency response graph of these speakers. From 70hz to 20khz their response is basically flat - within 3-4db across that spectrum.

There's nothing "fashion" about these speakers at all. Their finish, while polarizing, is not gimmicky or fashionable. The build quality is nothing short of first class.

"A ten inch bass driver, a five inch mid-range, and a tweeter will be far better."

Such a silly statement. So many variables at play and at the end of the day these speakers punch well above their weight, giving pairs up to double their price a very good run for their money (yes, including pairs with 8 and 10 inch drivers in them). In Australia these first sold for AU6.3k when released. They easily compete with speakers in the AU$10-15k bracket.

"Stick to the lower priced Q Acoustics speakers. They will be just as good and you will save 4000 dollars."

I thought this was the most stupid thing your said in your post until i read this:

"at the expense of sound quality"

In short, you make it abundantly clear that you have absolutely no idea about the capabilities and performance of the Concept 500.

knaw35's picture

Well, I am Hi-End enthusiast from many years. Write article to hi-fi magazines. I have visited Dali manufacturer headquarter in Hobro/Denmark some years ago. The chief of development department gave me a long time talk to explain some loudspeaker features and how it looks on measurement diagrams. Looking at Q Acoustic 500 I can say that impedance/phase response does not promise any good advantages from these nice looking drivers. My interlocutor says simple - these speakers cannot play well. We discussed the problem based on few similar diagrams came from different models of different manufactures. The answer was clear. Fortunately, many happy owners are not even realize that the speakers they own make bad work. They play, they have bass response and silky high frequencies. Well, but where is musicality? Can they find a melody on each area and coddle one as should be? I think the best way to understand the difference is just to get as much experience as possible and listen to deepest depth. I also would trust more to manufacture with long time experience than any newcomer on the demanding market.

Summary - If you own Q acoustic 500 and you are happy then stick to it. Happiness is a great state of mind. But to be lucky buying speakers for 5000$ you should look elsewhere.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Q Acoustics Concept 300 looks attractive, modern and a life-style product ($5,000/pair, including stands) ......... Check out Q Acoustics website for details :-) ...........