Q Acoustics M2 review: A compact sound base that sounds small against the competition

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The Good The Q Acoustics M2 sounds way better than the speakers on your TV. The build quality is very good and the number of inputs offered is good for the price.

The Bad The sound of the Q Acoustics M2 is quite constrained, even compared to units in its price range. It lacks the subwoofer output that would help provide some oomph, and there's no HDMI switching.

The Bottom Line The Q Acoustics M2 is a compact sound base with clean sonics and a handy HDMI connection, but competing units deliver more impact for home theater.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

This time last year we were ready to write off sound bases: most TVs didn't fit on them anymore, and sound bars let you upgrade with a subwoofer, a path seemingly closed to their larger siblings.

Then, along came Sonos Playbase ($699 at Adorama), which sounds better than many sound bars and 'bases. With a renewed appreciation for the "speaker you can plop a TV on" category comes products like the Q Acoustics M2. While it's not as "fancy" as the Sonos product it manages to be both a whole lot cheaper and able to offer one important feature the Playbase can't: HDMI. But how does the Q Acoustics compare against products its own size, like the affordable Fluance A40?

At $349, the M2 is firmly in the midrange of TV speakers, and is fairly likable for the price. Like the company's similarly priced M4 before it, the M2 eschews good looks for performance, but the M4 sounds a bit better. If you're set on a sound base though, our favorite non-Sonos choice is the cheaper Fluance AB40, which offers even better sonic capabilities.

The M2 is available now for $349, £299 or AU$549.

Compact, with HDMI

Q Acoustics M2
Sarah Tew/CNET

The M2 is a compact sound base that kind of resembles a backgammon dice cup in person -- it's a long, rectangular tube with rounded edges. At 21.6 inches (550mm) wide and 3.6 inches (93mm) tall, it will accommodate most medium-sized TVs (up to 55 pounds (25 kg)). Bear in mind if your TV has legs at each end, rather than a pedestal, the M2 might be too tall to fit under it. It's designed for the TV to sit on it.

The soundbase features the same Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers as the Media 4 ($350 at Amazon) in addition to a rectangular, 6-inch bass driver and these are driven by an 80-watt amplifier. Unlike the M4, the M2 lacks the ability to add a subwoofer later.

Q Acoustics M2
Sarah Tew/CNET

Where the M2 trumps its larger brother is in the ability to connect your TV to it via HDMI ARC -- your TV, especially if it's on the cheap side, is more likely to have HDMI out than optical out, the alternative. It lets you hear your flatscreen's onboard sound, but it won't work with sources such as a Blu-ray player, as representatives for Q Acoustics confirmed, so you'll have to keep them plugged into your TV. The M2 offers Bluetooth, optical digital, USB, stereo RCA and a 3.5mm input. The rear also includes a manual three-mode EQ switch to allow for different placements, including putting the unit inside a cabinet.

There's a source select and power toggle on the top of the speaker, alongside volume buttons. The M2 also ships with a credit-card-shape remote with a minimum of controls -- the company recommends using your TV's remote instead.

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