Q Acoustics 3020 review: Mini price, mini size, maxi sound

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The Good The affordable Q Acoustics 3020s bring a dynamic and detailed performance to your favorite tunes. Construction is excellent, and there are four color options. Their compact size makes it a good fit if you don't want a bigger speaker box.

The Bad The Q Acoustics don't reproduce much in the way of bass, and their exciting nature means they could become tiring with the wrong material.

The Bottom Line The Q Acoustics 3020 are a lively and engrossing set of compact speakers that offer true audiophile quality without the high price.

8.6 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 9

For many years good sound was unobtainable on a budget. You needed to spend a lot of money to get quality approaching "hi-fi," and it might not even happen then. In 2017, though, companies such as Pioneer, Elac, Emotiva and Q Acoustics have rewritten the rule book. with genuine hi-fi products at a price almost anyone can afford.

The Q Acoustics 3020, which retail at $299, £199 or AU$499 each,  are small monitors with a sound precise enough to belie their price. While larger competitors such as the Elac B6 offer fuller sound with better bass, the 3020 is the one to get if space is tight. Very few affordable speakers offer this level of engagement, and they're the perfect cure if you find you music or movies generally sound "boring." They're fantastically dynamic, and will let you hear your favorite music anew.

Solid as a (gloss white) brick

Q Acoustics 3020
Sarah Tew/CNET

While some of the more costly Q Acoustics speakers feature a "gelcore" construction -- sandwiches of MDF and gel which renders the cabinet basically inert -- the cheaper 3020s are no still no slouches when it comes to minimizing resonance. Knock on the side of the 3020 and it gives off a faint "glonk," while the Elac B6 rings a little more when struck, like the wooden box it is. Of course cabinet rigidity isn't the only factor to consider in speaker design, but it has an impact on sound.

In another nod to resonance reduction, the 5-inch Aramid Fibre/Paper driver and 1-inch soft dome tweeter are acoustically decoupled from the cabinet. The speaker is small at just 10 inches tall by 9 inches deep and 6.7 inches wide (260 by 226 by 170mm). Its rear port sits above an unusually angled set of binding posts. The models we received came in an attractive gloss white, but the 3020 also comes in gloss black, graphite and walnut. The gloss finishes cost a little extra at $329. A pair of magnetic grilles is included.

Q Acoustics 3020
Sarah Tew/CNET

The 3020's frequency response is measured at  64Hz - 22kHz (+/- 3 dB) and the rated sensitivity is 88db, which makes them marginally easier to drive than their English (B&W) or American/German (Elac) competition.

How do they sound?

To get started, we put the Q Acoustics 3020 speakers on 24-inch-tall metal floor stands, and used a Sony STR-DN1080 AV receiver with an Oppo UDP-205 Blu-ray player. This little speaker has a rear port, so jamming it up against a wall impairs the sound.