Q Acoustics 3020i bookshelf speaker review: A definite contender for best-in-class status

Some speakers are criticized for their overt personality, for exaggerated (or undernourished) tonal characteristics that can misrepresent the music. But it’s hard to imagine anyone taking Q Acoustics to task for what they’ve wrought with the personable 3020i bookshelf speakers. These speakers’ special distinction is a focus on soundstage optimization and unwavering clarity that serves almost every musical master exceedingly well, from classical to folk, rock to hip hop to jazz.

These speakers will send you running for your favorite recordings, so you can hear what nuances will be revealed. They imbue studio performances with such presence, depth, and bounce as to create a sort of sonic hologram that pinpoints musicians’ spatial placement in the mix, not just in the horizontal plane but also forward and aft, high and low. And it all comes from an attractive package that positively oozes quality at an almost unbelievably low price: Just $299. For the pair.

The 12-year-old Q Acoustics design team is largely comprised of alumni from a host of august home audio brands, including KEF, Meridian, Mission, and Tannoy. The company’s pinch-me pricing is achieved by manufacturing its speakers in China and selling them direct, at QAcoustics.com and via online storefronts at Amazon, Jet, Reverb, eBay, and Walmart.

q 3000 series Q Acoustics

The 3020i is the second up model in a full range of 3000i-series speakers. You can mix and match them for multiple rooms and multi-channel home theater installations.

The 3020i are in the middle of a range of speakers consisting of the smaller 3010i speakers at one end and the 3050i floor-standers at the other. If you’re looking to build out a 5.1-channel system for your home theater, Q Acoustics also offers the 3060S subwoofer and the 3090Ci center channel.

On their own, however, a pair of Q-Acoustics 3020i’s fabulous for both music and TV/film presentations, especially in a small to mid-sized room. Honestly, these two-way, rear-ported speakers could easily pass for floor-standers. On the cinematic front, they swept me away with precisely calibrated dialog, dynamic in-motion sound effects, and robust scoring.

Test equipment and selections

My test equipment included a Sonos Connect:Amp and a Sony UBP-X800 Universal Ultra-HD Blu-ray/CD/SACD/DVD-A/streaming-video player. With 55 watts per channel, the Sonos falls smack dab in the middle of the recommended power range (25 to 75 watts) for the moderately sensitive (88dB) 3020is. Sufficient to crank the speakers to a Spinal Tap-ish “eleven” with most content in my family room, though really sounding at their best at the middle of the amp’s range.

q acoustics 3020i graphite grille off Q Acoustics

Yes, these are bookshelf speakers, but they beg for placement on stands so you can set them a little further from the wall behind them. 

These ears also obsessed over made-abroad musical content, from Sting’s arresting Live in Berlin, videoed in concert with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophone/UMG Blu-ray disc, to the newly unearthed (by Columbia Legacy) 1960  Euro concert sessions of Miles Davis and John Coltrane (The Final Tour – The Bootleg Series Volume 6). Yes, the quintet romps through the likes of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” and “All Blues” in pristine monaural. And everything is firmly phantom-centered on the Q Acoustics; yet, there’s a sense of staggered depth and room ambience in the playback that sounds 3D-ish!

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I also streamed the new self-titled set by Cuban mambo jazz band Orquesta Akokan (on the Daptone label.) The 3020i charmingly celebrate both the quaint, brassy sound of the ensemble, and the fabled, resonant qualities of the wood-paneled Areito studios at EGREM, the state-owned music complex in Havana where Buena Vista Social Club also recorded.

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