Q Acoustics Concept 500 loudspeaker

Q Acoustics was founded in the UK in 2006, but has appeared on the radar of US buyers only in the last few years. Until recently, Q has aimed its efforts at the budget sector, earning enthusiastic reviews and commercial success.

But during that time the company also been quietly working on a product considerably more upscale, though still affordable in a marketplace now glutted with products at if-you-have-to-ask prices. The result is the Concept 500 ($5999.99/pair), first seen in the UK in 2017 and recently made available here. But you won't find it at your local audio shop (if you still have one); in the US it's currently sold only online, through Q Acoustics' US website, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee that includes shipping costs—both ways.

When the review samples arrived in two huge, well-padded, double-thick cartons tied to a shipping pallet, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. This might be familiar territory for those who review multi-hundred-pound speakers costing five or six figures per pair, but not for me.

Yet while the Concept 500 itself is relatively large—the biggest speaker Q Acoustics has ever made—those boxes were a little misleading. The speaker sits 45.3" high, but only 7.8" wide and 13.8" deep—it shouldn't look overbearing in a room of medium to large size. The speakers are delivered with their metal bases, or plinths, firmly attached, rather than the usual "some assembly required."

Design
The Concept 500 is a two-way system employing a 1" soft-dome tweeter and two 6.5" mid/bass drivers, the three drivers arrayed in a vertical D'Appolito configuration: a column with the tweeter in the middle.

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The driver configuration is only part of the design. With the Concept 500, and in cooperation with Fink Audio-Consulting, in Germany, Q Acoustics has launched a serious attack on speaker-cabinet vibrations. The approach they've used is sophisticated. It avoids the extreme-mass solutions popular in cost-no-object speakers, but impractical with speakers priced for the real world.

In a white paper, Q Acoustics describes the four key aspects of the Concept 500's design in more depth than I have room for here. The main cabinet material is MDF, commonly used in loudspeakers for its low cost, workability, and good damping properties. (Humble particleboard, once used for speakers in audio's Jurassic Age, is even better damped and easier to work with, but MDF is stronger, denser, and free of voids.) It's the three other aspects of the design that set the Concept 500 apart, though two of them, bracing and constrained-layer damping, aren't really new. The bracing in the Concept 500 consists mainly of cross-bracing between the sidewalls rather than the more conventional shelf braces. This cross-bracing, which Q Acoustics has trademarked P2P (point to point), is used primarily near the top of the cabinet, where all three drivers are. Using finite-element analysis and laser interferometry, Fink has determined that this is where the bracing will be most needed and most effective.

The cabinet walls comprise triple layers of MDF, separated by a proprietary, nonsetting gel that Q Acoustics calls Dual Gelcore. These constrained layers convert cabinet vibrations into heat.

Last but not least, tuned tubes inside the cabinet quell internal resonances (standing waves) that develop in the longest dimensions of a speaker enclosure. Q calls this Helmholtz Pressure Equalization (HPE). Standing waves aren't typically an issue in the shorter width and depth of this speaker cabinet or most others, or in the shorter heights of smaller, stand-mounted designs; the frequency of those waves is easily squelched by conventional damping materials, typically wool or polyester batting, used in most speakers.

Both drivers are proprietary, and designed specifically for the Concept 500. I'm usually skeptical of claims of proprietary drivers—there are hundreds of superb off-the-shelf drivers that are used in many speakers, including many high-end designs, often with no, or only subtle, custom modifications. Designing drive-units on the one hand and using them to design an original multiway loudspeaker on the other are distinct and rarely overlapping technical skills—it's much like expecting an electronics designer to create the integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, and transformers she plans to use in an original amplifier.

But I have no reason to doubt the claim. The Concept 500's woofer has an impregnated/coated paper cone, a rubber surround, and a large (35mm) voice-coil wound with a double layer of copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW). To reduce distortion, there are an aluminum inductance-compensation ring and a copper cap on the pole piece.

The 1" (28mm) soft-dome tweeter of coated microfiber has a wide surround claimed to offer wide dispersion, high power handling, and low dynamic compression, and a copper-capped pole piece of its own. The gently dished front plate around the tweeter appears too modest to act as a waveguide. The drive-units are secured to the cabinet from the rear by being attached, under spring pressure, to the cross-braces. This eliminates the typically conspicuous front fastening screws.

The crossover network is fourth-order acoustic, Linkwitz-Riley. According to Q Acoustics, it comprises parts of very high quality, including premium polypropylene capacitors, and a Mundorf air-core inductor so heavy that it's secured to the bottom of the cabinet—though I didn't take it apart to confirm this!

319q.bac2.jpgWhile the shape of the Concept 500's cabinet is conventional, the look isn't. Designed in conjunction with Industrial Design Associates Ltd. (UK), the speaker is available in two finishes: Gloss Black or Gloss White, with wide bands of glossy veneer in Dark Rosewood (with Gloss Black) or Light Oak (with Gloss White) across the rear third of the sides and top and on the entire back. Taste will determine your choice, but I'd look no further than the gorgeous black and rosewood of the review samples. Magnetically attached grilles are included. The only change I'd prefer is in the plinth, an attractive and unique open ring offering good stability, with a choice of spikes or hard, rounded feet—but it comes only in silver chrome. For me, gloss-black chrome would look better with the darker finish.

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Around back you'll find the port—foam plugs are included to partially or completely block it if needed, but I didn't use them. Also on the rear panel are two pairs of high-quality input terminals, and three more terminals closer to the top of the cabinet, spanned by removable jumpers. The jumpers can be used to configure the speaker for flat response or ±0.5dB in the treble. I used the +0.5dB setting for most of my listening.

Setup
My listening space measures 16' by 21', with an oddly sloped ceiling at an estimated average height of 9'. But this space is part of an open floor plan: one 21' side is almost entirely open, producing an acoustic space actually far larger than 16' by 21'. This area also accommodates the home-theater setup that I use for my work for our sister publication Sound & Vision, and includes two projection screens that I can fully retract when the main attraction is music. The room is relatively live, but the floor is largely covered with thick rugs. Against the back wall, several feet behind my listening seat, shelves filled with books, CDs, and videos rise from the floor almost to the ceiling.

I drove the Concept 500s with a new Marantz AV8805 surround preamplifier-processor used in two-channel stereo mode, together with Outlaw Audio's new Model 7220 power amp, specified to output 220Wx7 into 8 ohms. To meet this spec with all seven channels driven, the Outlaw needs a 20 amp power line. My outlets are only 15 amps, but that limitation was irrelevant for this review, for which I used only two channels.

COMPANY INFO
Q Acoustics
Stortford Hall Industrial Park, Dunmow Road
Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire CN23 5GZ
England, UK
(855) 279-5070
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
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

Why?
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.

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 :-) ...........

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