Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema Speakers Review
By Chris Heinonen on
For many years, I’d read reviews of speakers from Q Acoustics in UK Hi-Fi magazines and wonder why they were never available in the USA. Thankfully that ended in 2017 and when I reviewed their bookshelves at Wirecutter, I found they were remarkable for the price. Well engineered and compact in size, but with great sound quality and nice build quality. When I had to listen to receivers again this year, I asked if I could borrow a full 5.1 setup, including their new subwoofer, for the testing.
After spending a few months listening to the 3050i 5.1 home theater system as my main speakers, I’m not sure there is a better speaker system out there for $1,500. The 3050i towers, 3010i surrounds, 3090Ci center, and 3060S subwoofer combine to offer fantastic sound quality in a variety of finishes to match your decor and can easily be driven with a standard receiver.
Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema System Design
The Q Acoustics 3000i series comes in four finishes: white, black, gray, and English walnut. My samples were in the walnut which is a nice veneer, but I’ve previously used the gray finish and loved the look of that. The cabinets feature rounded corners so they don’t look like a traditional box and have a construction that feels firm and solid when you give it a knock. Each speaker features a rear port for bass and the towers include foam plugs in case they need to be placed very close to the wall, though I didn’t use them in my listening. The towers feature carpet spikes to keep them secure that also include rubber covers if you are using them on a hard floor.
Connections are handled through a pair of low-profile binding posts on the rear of the speakers. These are easy to get on and off and accept my banana plugs easily, though fitting in bare 12 gauge stranded wire was tougher. I’d recommend using bananas or 14 gauge wiring with them unless you’re going to do a new cut of the 12 gauge wire to make it easier to fit in. The speaker grill is magnetic, making it easy to take on and off and giving you a front face that is perfectly clean when not being used. The overall design of the Q Acoustics 3000i series is very nice and much better than you have come to expect from speakers in this price range that we would typically consider budget. There’s no cheap veneers and sharp corners here, but instead, the rounded corners and design far more closely resemble the $1500 KEF LS50s or another high-end speaker.
Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema System Performance
My initial listening for the 3050i System was done with the 3050i towers in a pure direct stereo mode. Despite being a compact tower the bass response on the 3050i is very good. Queueing up “Angel” from Massive Attack, I had to double-check and make sure I wasn’t using a subwoofer on the opening bass beats. The bass is remarkably clean and tight for a speaker of this price range, with a big, open soundstage. For those audiophiles that want to run their fronts full-range for listening to vinyl, the 3050i can handle it without a problem.
I’ve started using “Walk On the Wild Side” from Lou Reed for testing speakers now as it has a great bass line, but also vocals and other instruments to test a speaker. Here the vocals are very clear and clean. When the backing chorus comes in you can hear them in the back of the stage, slowly building up. The closing saxophone is nicely isolated on the stage and easy to place between the vocalists. The Q Acoustics present you a very detailed soundstage that’s also large so it sounds much more like a real concert than the flat 2D soundstage some speakers offer.
To out-do what the Q Acoustics were capable of, I had to start using the KEF LSX bookshelves with a subwoofer. Compared to the KEFs, the Q Acoustics lack the midrange clarity and treble of those bookshelves, but also have a far better bass response. They also cost less than the KEFs and can support a full 5.1 system instead of just a 2.1 system. I doubt anyone would typically be looking at these two speakers since they serve different goals, but with them both set up in my listening room at the same time I had to compare them.
For movies, I added in the 3090Ci center channel and a pair of 3010i surrounds, along with the 3060 subwoofer. Unfortunately, there aren’t matching Atmos or DTS:X modules for Q Acoustics right now, but they do offer a number of architectural speakers for in-ceiling installs that would be a good match. All the positive things I had to say about the 3000i series for stereo music continued when watching movies. The center channel did a particularly good job with vocals, making it easy to understand anything I was watching. The blend in the front three speakers was seamless, with voices matching as they moved across the front and making you unable to hear a difference between the speakers.
The surrounds are perfectly capable of keeping up with the front speakers. They easily handle the loads down to 80Hz, where the subwoofer takes over bass duties, and blend in well. Their small size, and available mounting brackets, make them easy to place in the room. Listening to demanding surround content, like the SACD of Wish You Were Here, sounds panned around the room and the 3010i offered pinpoint locations for them. When pressed hard by running them full range at reference volume, you could start to strain the 3010i slightly but at normal levels, it was no issue. If I wanted to run my system at full reference volume I might look into stepping up to the 3020i surrounds. They’re a bit larger, but having tested the 3020 I know they offer more extension than the 3010i is capable of.
The only weak point for the 3050i system is the subwoofer. It’s a nice, compact unit that makes it easy to place out of the way, but that’s also the crux of the problem. The common expression with a subwoofer is that between cabinet size, bass output, and low price, you can pick two but not all three. Some smaller cabinet subs generate deep bass, but they have very expensive drivers and amplifiers to do so. The 3060S does a fine job of augmenting the surround speakers in a stereo setup, but can’t generate that truly deep bass that some movies call for. With the opening scene of Edge of Tomorrow, you can’t get that deep subsonic bass and you start to hear a decent amount of distortion. I wound up doing most of my listening with the Martin Logan 800X subwoofer I was testing at the same time instead, and it paired better with deeper output though it is far larger in size and more expensive.
Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema System Conclusions
When I started in home theater, finding a quality home theater speaker system for $1,500 was a huge challenge. Most of what was out there was lower-quality gear sold at big box stores as real Hi-Fi brands didn’t dip into that price point. Now, mostly thanks to the Internet I believe, there is a huge range of options to choose from. The Q Acoustics 3050i speaker system is the best that I’ve heard at this price point today, with some of the best build quality and aesthetics as well.
The only negative I have with the Q Acoustics 3050i series is the subwoofer. While it works fine, with only an 8” driver it doesn’t add much heft beyond what the 3050i towers already offers. Upgrading it to a different option, like the SVS PB-1000 or MartinLogan Dynamo 800X, will provide better impact for movies and also fill in those lower octaves for music as well. It won’t be as attractive or discrete as the Q Acoustics sub, but it’ll offer a difference you can hear.
With their ability to be easily driven by a normal receiver and superb sound quality for the money, we highly recommend the Q Acoustics 3000i lineup. They’ll both sound and look great in your home theater system for years to come and not leave you wishing you’d saved up to spend more on speakers from the start.
Fantastic sound for the money, very nice build quality in a range of finishes to match your decor, very impressive performance.
Subwoofer is too small to provide a major improvement over the tower speakers.
The Q Acoustics 3000i home theater system is a fantastic sounding and good looking 5.1 system that makes for a great home theater. The speakers are easy to drive with a standard receiver and sound much better than you expect for the price. The only thing I'd do is swap in a more powerful (and larger) subwoofer for improved movie performance.