Q Acoustics Media 4 review: Keep it simple, sound bar

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The Good The Q Acoustics Media 4 sound bar offers sophisticated home theater sound in a single speaker, without a subwoofer. It's easy to set up and use, and sounds decent with both movies and music. It's more dynamic sounding than our favorite one-box sound bar, the Zvox SB500.

The Bad It can't match the dynamics of sound bars with dedicated subs. The Zvox has better bass and more natural dialogue.

The Bottom Line The Q Acoustics Media 4’s minimalist features set, built-in subwoofer, and fuss-free sound make for an attractive alternative to bulkier sound bar systems.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 7
  • Value 9

Sound bars without separate subwoofers are one of the hottest trends in home cinema right now. In the past six months alone, we have seen units from Samsung, Bluesound, Bose and Paradigm, in addition to newcomer Q Acoustics. All of these kinds of speakers have an integrated "subwoofer," but in testing we've found that most struggle to compete with a real sub. All but one, that is: the Zvox SB500.

At the same price as the Zvox, Q Acoustics' Media 4 has its work cut out for it, and the challenges start with the brand itself. While Q Acoustics is well-known in British hi-fi circles, the Media 4 is the first product the company has released in the US.

When judged against its predominantly-American competition the Media 4 is a little more mannered, more "The Guardian" than "Guardians of the Galaxy" perhaps. It lacks bass extension, even compared to other units without subwoofers. One area where it did excel, however, was with dynamics. Compared against the weightier-sounding Zvox SB500, the Media 4 was able to go louder when the content demanded it, whereas the Zvox sounded compressed during loud passages. 

If you're looking for a simple, plug-and-play system with the option to upgrade to a sub later the Q Acoustics Media 4 is a good choice -- it sounds decent and it's well-built. 

It is available for $399, ‎£329 and AU$749. The unit is also available in the US with the optional 3070 subwoofer as the Q Acoustics Superbass Sound bar Package for $699.

Solidly simple -- without apologies

Sarah Tew/CNET

With the external appearance of a demented boomerang, the trapezoidal Media 4 is 40 inches wide by 6 inches at its deepest point. At 3.5 inches tall, it's bigger than many sound bars and may block your TV's remote control sensor, and unfortunately there's no IR blaster to address that issue. Instead there are a couple of keyhole ports for wall-mounting. Unlike some of the plastic competition, the Q Acoustics features a solid MDF construction, and it felt sufficiently weighty when we pulled it out of the box. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Q Acoustics isn't about fancy processing or sound tricks -- it's a 2.1-channel sound bar, and it's unapologetic about it. The sound is produced by a pair of 65mm Balanced Mode Radiators in conjunction with a 4-inch-by-6-inch bass woofer. Connectivity includes digital optical, a pair of analog inputs (3.5 and phono) plus a subwoofer output and aptX Bluetooth.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In keeping with the minimalist theme, the remote control is a five-button affair -- Volume +/-, mute, input and power. It's not particularly ergonomic and small enough to easily lose, but power users will want to program a TV or universal remote instead.

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