Late last year, we reviewed the M2 Soundbase, a minimalist but full-featured home theater solution from the relatively young UK speaker company Q Acoustics. While already known elsewhere in the world, Q Acoustics has only been selling in the US for a little over a year — they’re known for making high value-for-dollar loudspeakers, and presumably hope to carry that reputation over to this market. This week, we’re looking at Q Acoustics’ Concept 20 bookshelf speaker. The Concept 20 is the company’s most expensive bookshelf speaker but, at $499 for a pair, remains comfortably in the “affordable” range of serious speakers. After a few weeks with the Concept 20, we think it’s a very solid buy for those looking to try out a new brand.
The Concept 20 is a medium-sized bookshelf loudspeaker, at just over 10” x 11” x 6”. Each speaker weighs 12 pounds. Their MDF cabinets are finished in a sharp (but fingerprint-magnetic) gloss black (gloss white is also available), with a simple aluminum baffle in contrasting silver. On the back of each speaker is a reflex port and two sets of beautiful chrome binding posts; you can bi-wire or bi-amp the Concept 20 if you want, or just use the included jumpers to run a single set of cables. A set of foam bungs are included for the reflex ports to manage bass response when the speakers are mounted close to the wall. Each Concept 20 features a one-inch tweeter and five-inch woofer, rated at six ohms with a sensitivity of 88 dB; Q Acoustics recommends 25 to 75 watts to power them. A set of threaded holes are located on the underside of the Concept 20, which are meant for connecting to Q Acoustics’ speaker stands ($279) which were not available for our testing. We generally like the looks of the Concept 20, though a cleaner method for mounting its speaker grilles would have improved its looks (ditch the rubber grommets), and we wish some of the class and beauty we see on the rear of the Concept 20’s binding posts had been mirrored on the front.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Concept 20 is a “basic” speaker. Unlike the speakers we’ve recently reviewed from KEF and Amphion, there are no fancy waveguides on the Concept 20’s baffle, no exotic materials in its cabinet, and its drivers look like speaker drivers. Looks can be deceiving, however — the Concept 20 features some of the company’s most interesting technology, but it’s hidden inside. The Concept 20’s cabinet is actually two enclosures in one — an inner cabinet is adhered to the outer cabinet using a proprietary adhesive that, according to Q Acoustics, “never quite sets.” This reduces unwanted resonances and heat (not that the speaker would get warm otherwise, but warm air increases air pressure inside the cabinet). Most speakers use internal damping of some kind to curb unwanted resonances, but the Concept 20 is the first we’ve seen that does this with a kind of internal suspension system.
We listened to the Concept 20 using both modest and powerful amplifiers, in a medium-sized room. Overall, they performed very well. We heard a transparent sound, with no discernable coloration to the music. Your position in the room still matters, but our pair of Concept 20s mostly maintained their balance as we moved around our listening room. They image well, though not quite as well as the higher-end speakers we’ve tried. The Concept 20 doesn’t have the deepest bass extension, but their low-end output is impressive and palpable, especially when moved far enough away from a wall for their reflex ports to breathe. These are perhaps not the most resolving speakers we’ve ever heard, but don’t get us wrong — music and movies sound excellent on the Concept 20.
We have reviewed lots of speakers — big and small, cheap and expensive, good and bad. It’s easy to talk about speakers that fit into one extreme or another, but far more difficult to judge those that fall anywhere in the middle. Though we’ve heard some better-performing speakers over the years, the Q Acoustics Concept 20 is an excellent speaker on its own. It’s well-built, has clean looks, features some cool technology hidden inside its cabinet, and sounds very good for a speaker at this price point. If you’re shopping for a speaker in this price range, we have no hesitation recommending the Concept 20.
Company and Price
Company: Q Acoustics
Model: Concept 20