Q Acoustics Concept 500
Design - 96%
Movies performance - 95%
Music performance - 96%
Inputs and Features - 95%
Price / Quality - 96%
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Q Acoustics may not be around for as long as some of the other well established players but is a well known company among music and home cinema fans for their good quality speakers especially in the lower and middle tier categories as these are the most casual and consumer friendly ones and would be easier for a new company to make their name known. But entering the high-end speakers segment is an entirely different matter. In today’s Q Acoustics Concept 500 review we will be looking in their top tier floorstanding speakers that were released in 2017 and certainly made more than a few waves in the speakers industry.
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 is the result of the collaboration between Q Acoustics, Fink Audio-Consulting and IDA and takes it’s place as the high-end floorstanding speaker in the manufacturer’s portfolio. Now until recently hearing the words Q Acoustics, high-end and premium didn’t go together but the UK manufacturer had different plans and with their top offering they entered a market that is being represented by some major heavy hitters. When talking about premium high-end speakers things are a bit vague as prices in this category can vastly vary compared to the bugdet-friendly category where things are more or less clear.
So with the Concept 500 entering the high end with a price tag of around $6,000 things tend to become interesting as it will put itself against speakers that cost much more than Q Acoustics offering. These speakers may seem to cost an arm and a leg for the casual user but keep in mind that when talking about high-end audio equipment prices can go crazy high with some of them having a price tag higher than your average car. In that respect the Concept 500 joins the fight with a more than respectable, but still affordable, price in order to win the hearts and minds of the audiophiles around the world. Will they be able to do it? Keep reading to find out.
Design, Inputs and Features
One thing is for certain. Q Acoustics went through a lot of trouble and made a lot of research in order to create the cabinet for the Concept 500. First of all with a size of 15.74” x 45.27” x 13.77” (400 x 1150 x 350 mm) including the plinth and a weight of 92 lbs (42kg) these floorstanders are definitely bigger than your average floorstanding speaker and have a damn heavy construction. And if you take into consideration the extra space that the plinth takes along with the breathing space the huge rear facing bass port needs then you understand that these speakers need ample of space to do their magic.
And while the speakers pack a lot of exotic materials and technologies their looks is very characteristic as Q Acoustics is using similar lines and design principles among all their models. The first moment you see these you immediately understand who made them without even the need to look at the box. As such you will not find any sharp corners with the whole box having round top corners and very smooth edges all around. Q Acoustics have created three different color variations with the cabinet’s two-color lacquered finish looking totally amazing and very high quality while the color combinations available include Gloss Black / Rosewood, Gloss White / Light Oak and Silver Ebony.
And if the overall looks of the cabinet feel very high quality what is hiding inside along with the materials used are equally impressive. The UK manufacturer didn’t need to re-invent the wheel but they certainly improved it. As such MDF fibre boards is still the material of choice as it provides easy handling and cutting while also being very well damped. But here is where a bit of a magic sauce is added in the form of Q Acoustics proprietary technology that goes by the name of Dual Gelcore which is the same Gelcore technology that is used in the Concept 40 speakers but taken a step further.
Basically what we get here is a cabinet that consists of three layers of MDF and in between have been sandwiched under pressure two layers of non-setting gel. What these two layers do is to create a dampening barrier in the cabinet and convert high-frequency vibrations into heat. But you don’t need to worry that the speakers will get hot during play as heat is dissipated harmlessly within the gel.
Another interesting technology used is called Q Acoustics P2P (Point to Point) Bracing which only supports the parts of the cabinet that really need to be stiffened in order not to spread unwanted energy randomly. Fink Audio-Consulting did extensive research and analysis in order to determine the exact positions that need to be supported in order to eliminate cabinet resonances.
Another technology used inside the cabinet comes in the form of HPE (Helmholtz Pressure Equaliser) which basically is cardboard cylinders that convert pressure into velocity and thus ensure better control of the driver’s low frequency response. Lastly one more thing that Q Acoustics did improve on the design is by holding the drivers in place from behind with the use of spring tensioned retaining bolts which makes the driver tightening easier while avoiding the use of unattractive bolts that need decorative trims to hide them at the front.
The cast aluminium base is securely mounted to the bottom of the cabinet and it sure looks nice as it fits the speaker’s premium look. It does have a bigger footprint than the main cabinet as we mentioned above and this was necessary to keep it stable but this shouldn’t be a major problem as these speakers need a lot of breathing space even if they were without it. With them we get either silver chrome spikes or hard rounded feet depending on the surface you are going to place them.
When using the front grills less than half the front face is covered, just enough to keep the dual mid-range drivers and tweeter hidden. Below that we get the Q Acoustics logo while the rest of the front face keeps a very clean and minimalism design. There are no holes to be found that we usually see in more budget-friendly units as the grills can be magnetically attached to the front and thus everything look much better. At the back we get high quality speaker terminals while above there is a larger than usual bass port with Q Acoustics providing a two part foam bung giving you in essense some sort of flow control.
Lastly in a rather unique move at the back of the speakers we get three terminals that can be connected with the included jumpers and with these you have limited control over the treble with three different settings available, a flat response or a +/- 0.5dB change which may seem like a very small difference but it could really show in some situations.
Q Acoustics went all out when it comes to their cabinet design and quality. These floorstanders are great lookers with their two-color lacquered finish and aluminum cast plinths while all the technologies packed inside the box really show the tremendous research done in this respect in order to provide one of the best shells a floorstanding speaker can have. Drivers play a significant role in a speaker’s performance but Q Acoustics makes sure to show us that the cabinet is equally important in order to provide the premium quality sound you would expect from their top of the line model.
Having put so much attention to the cabinet, it may seem at first look like that the driver configuration of the Concept 500 is an afterthought but this is far from the truth. The speakers feature a woofer/tweeter/woofer driver setup in a vertical D’Appolito configuration. A 28 mm (1.10”) high frequency unit is being surrounded by two 165 mm (6.5″) mid bass drivers and while the materials used is nothing to be excited about looking a bit under the surface will make you understand that there is equally extensive work being done here also.
The 165mm mid bass drivers were specifically made for the Concept 500 which is not something we usually see as there are many well established drivers out there but shows how much engineering effort went on these. The two drivers are made from impregnated and coated paper that is teamed by a low-hysteresis rubber surround. The voice coil used is bigger than usual at 35mm and is made out of glass fibre instead of aluminium or Kapton and thus provides better power handling as well as reduced compensation.
Similarly the 28mm high frequency unit has a lot going for it. It is mechanically decoupled and mounted on a special rubber gasket in order to isolate it from the cabinet. As we saw in the mid bass drivers the voice coil here is also larger than usual at 28mm while the coated-microfibre dome features a wide surround that provides better power handling and less distortion. The slight horn shaped profile of the front plate ensures acoustic impedance with the surrounding air without having the drawbacks of a horn-based system.
But attention to details doesn’t stop on the drivers themselves. A 10cm x 10cm Mundorf aircore inductor has been placed on the bottom of the cabinet while the crossover is 4th order acoustic Linkwitz-Riley and uses high grade polypropylene film capacitors and custom made bifilar wirewound resistors.
From all the above you can see how much engineering effort has gone not only to the cabinet itself but on the actual hardware being used inside. The combination of all these provide the speakers with a frequency response of 41 Hz to 30 kHz, 6 Ohms of average impedance, 90 dB of sensitivity and the Crossover Frequency set at 2.5 kHz. The recommended power according to Q Acoustics is set at 25 – 200 W.
The high quality speaker terminals are placed at the bottom of the back face under the large bass port and are bi-wire capable. The connectors can accept a variety of wire connections that can range from bare wires to banana plugs or pin connectors. The plastic handles are very good quality and really fit the rest of the speaker’s premium status.
With the speaker’s size and large rear bass port you need to make sure you leave enough distance from the back wall in order for the speakers to breathe better and give you the best possible result. For our testings and due to space limitations we had placed them around 9 feet apart from each other and around 2 feet from the back wall.
Also we had them toed-in in order to face directly at our listening position. The pair of Concept 500 we tested had already a few good hours under their belt so we were expecting them to be pretty accurate when it came to their acoustic signature compared to let’s say a new pair that would need a certain break-in period before it could give you the max of it’s abilities.
So after the initial placement and connections to our Onkyo receiver we proceeded with calibrating them in order to work in both a 5.1 surround system for home cinema purposes as well as alone in a stereo setup for our music tests.
The first film we opted to try out is the 4K UHD version of Saving Private Ryan that features an amazing Dolby Atmos track. For this particular testing we are not interesting in trying out the overhead effects that’s why we left the Atmos speakers out of our testing setup and went for a basic 5.1 system. There are two scenes that we tried out in the film with the first being the landing on Omaha beach.
There was something really special to how the Concepts 500 projected the sound in front of us. Imaging was top notch while you could very easy close your eyes and not know that sound came actually from speakers and not from a real life scenery. The first moments of the landing on the beach with the Allied soldiers still on the marine boats gave a very front heavy performance as the Concept 500s were able to reveal an amazing amount of details in the track. And while we have heard these with other speakers also it was particularly amazing how these one were able to render them with an overall natural tone to them.
When the German artillery started rumbling you could feel the shell blasts as they hit the water surface and the splashes hit the metal surfaces of the boats and the soldier’s helmets. When we reach the beach and the door opens we get a camera view inside the boat as the German machine guns are ripping through the first rows of the soldiers revealing unquestionable depth precision from the front channels as well as a really raw texture in the way the bullets were flying from the front.
We were a bit curious to see how a surround setup could fare with these floorstanders without the help of a subwoofer and from what we could tell the Concepts did their best to give you this low end feeling but the 6.5″ drivers can do so much in such a heavy bass movie. If you have heard this movie with a subwoofer then without one, even if we are talking about the Concept 500 speakers, will feel really flat and underwhelming. On the other hand without a dedicated center channel the front right and left channels did a great job at filling the middle space and you could almost feel the dialogue as if it was coming from a center channel.
We also went for a second film that had a bit more finesse than the raw performance of Saving Private Ryan and this was the Blu-ray version of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with it’s amazing DTS-HD Master Audio track. This mix combines more orchestrated tunes with a lot of heavy front action giving more weight to the Concepts than the surround speakers.
The Q Acoustics did once again an amazing job. The siege of Minas Tirith felt more alive than ever as the vast Pellenor fields extended in front of our eyes convincingly showing how good and faithfully they can recreate depth and environment extension when they need to. When the Rohimir charged towards Sauron’s army the scale was breathtaking as everything fell into place to give a near flawless execution.
We could talk hours about how the Concept 500 could faithfully recreate the scenes we just saw but we think that you got the point. The speakers managed to provide the kind of performance that we consider one of a kind with it’s very characteristic controlled mid-range, punchy highs and convincing bass.
Let’s move ahead with our music testing now and as we tend to do here we chose a few music tracks in FLAC format that we streamed through the USB port of our receiver.
One thing that certainly made an impression here is how natural the sound came out with the speakers featuring an amazing degree of transparency. We also liked the fact that they kept their composure across the whole dynamic range and even when pushed to extreme levels and with bass heavy music the speakers never felt overly boomy or excessive.
Spartial awareness was excellent as our testing area really filled with all the musical instruments at play. You could really pinpoint their location creating a very detailed multi-layered soundstage. The highs felt a little more intruding than our liking but this is definitely a personal taste and didn’t throw the whole performance off-balance.
We imagine that many of you will probably want to have these in a state of the art 2 channels setup and the speakers can really make the best out of your system. They have the prowess, the balance and the composure to produce phenomenal results and if you are a music lover you will be hard to stop listening to them after a while.
We are reaching the end of our review and we really need to wrap everything up as it is becoming increasingly difficult to stop listening. And this really shows how good these speakers are. Q Acoustics really nailed it and created a speaker that combines the premium qualities that this category demands but at the same time manages to keep the cost at the lower end of things.
The Concept 500 packs a lot of quality in it. Q Acoustics has gone the extra mile and created a top rated quality cabinet by combining the necessary technologies that would give it as low resonance and distortions as possible. The included dual 165mm mid bass drivers and 28mm tweeter are not made from any exotic materials but have been very carefully designed and constructed that along with the excellent cabinet provided an amazing overall performance that we will remember for a long time. The very rich mid-range connected perfectly with the exciting highs and balanced lows to create an acoustic multi-layered experience that is very hard to find in this price.
With so much good things to say is there anything bad about them? As we already mentioned the high frequencies felt a bit over-exciting to our ears although many may find this to their liking. Also with only 6.5″ drivers these are not the most bass heavy speakers you can get. And while using them in a home cinema setup will almost ensure the presence of a subwoofer if you plan to use them in a stereo music system the lows may lack the power you may be looking for if you are crazy demanding in this regard. Also these are some pretty heavy speakers so moving them around can be a pain while you also need to make sure to give them ample of space to flex their muscles.
Closing we will say this. The Q Acoustics Concept 500 are a real bargain and if you find this strange when we are talking about a $6,000 speaker then keep in mind that you will have to go much higher in price in order to be able to find a similarly competing model that has the same qualities as this one. If are looking for a set of floorstanding speakers in the high-end category then the Q Acoustics Concept 500 should be a strong contender as it can give you the qualities you are looking for while keeping the cost at more or less reasonable levels for it’s category. Highly recommended.
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