There is always a bit of a risk when a company introduces a new range meant to satisfy the needs of the middle of the market; especially when said manufacturer has already established itself as a category leader below $1,000 and in the segment above $3,000. Can they find that magic again in a segment of the market that often struggles to attract mainstream attention?
Q Acoustics’ 3000 Series has made almost every “Best of…” list for the past 5 years at eCoustics, Gear Patrol, Digital Trends, What Hi-Fi, and at least a dozen other magazines that we can think of.
The 3020i, 3030i, and 3050i are category leaders because they offer so much performance for the money. We use the 3030i/3090Ci/Q B12 trio as a 3.1 home theater system in our living room and there is no desire to change it because it works universally well with music and movies.
The recently reviewed Concept 30 loudspeakers offer even greater performance for only $1,300 USD and would be a great option for anyone considering loudspeakers in the $1,300 to $2,500 USD range.
The entry-level loudspeaker segment has become a rather crowed space with Q Acoustics, KEF, Wharfedale, ELAC, PSB, Monprice, Polk Audio, and Klipsch engaged in a Game of Thrones-esque fight to the finish.
Fortunately, one does not need to overcome the mountain to find a pair of loudspeakers in 2023 that deliver great performance for less than $750.
But what about that segment of the market between $750 and $2,000 USD?
Do you really get that much more from a performance perspective when you purchase the Q Acoustics 5040 loudspeakers for $1,499 over the 3050i which retail for $999 USD?
I’ve owned the 3050i for almost 3 years and would say that they are very different sounding loudspeakers. The forthcoming 5050 model is a better comparison but until I am able to audition them together — it’s impossible to say how large of a gap there is.
We have a detailed breakdown of the Q Acoustics 5000 Series that you can read here, but I want to focus on the 5040 today with some introductory observations; the floor standing 5040 offer a different perspective on the music and for listeners familiar with other Q Acoustics loudspeakers, the uptick in clarity and detail will be quite surprising.
When you have been listening to a specific loudspeaker brand for years — your brain expects a specific tonal balance and sonic signature — the 5040 sound more like the Concept 30 than anything in the 3000 series with a few differences that are heavily influenced by the amplifier.
My full review will go live next week after AXPONA but there are a few aspects of the performance that I want to focus on for now.
The new mid/bass drivers offer leaner, tighter, and better defined bass response with every genre of music. The 5040 sacrifices some impact compared to the 3050i but the detail and speed are far superior.
Listening to the 25th anniversary release of Green Day’s Nimrod (TIDAL, MQA Master), one immediately notices the improvement in the timbral accuracy of bass notes; Mike Dirnt’s performance through the 3050i is almost overwhelming and it becomes somewhat lost in the rest of the instrumentation.
Through the 5040, one can discern his position within the soundstage more easily and pick up each note with greater clarity.
The overall tonal balance is more neutral than the 3000 series and that makes the loudspeaker somewhat of a chameleon depending on your choice of amplifier.
My Cambridge Audio Edge A Integrated Amplifier barely hit 11 o’clock on the volume dial before volume levels started to become slightly uncomfortable in my 16′ x 13′ x 9′ den.
Pushing the volume a few additional steps revealed that the 5040 can handle a lot of power, does not lose its composure when driven very hard, and that the mid/bass drivers don’t fall apart with challenging music with a lot of bass information.
Solid State or Tubes?
After a few days of listening, I started to lament sending the Unison Research Triode 25 Integrated Amplifier back to Fidelity Imports (who also handle Q Acoustics in the United States) because these are loudspeakers that will excel with a good tube amplifier; it also needs to be a tube amplifier that can grip those mid/bass woofers with an iron fist or you will not hear what these loudspeakers are capable of in the bottom end.
The midrange could use some additional flunken at the Shabbos table and that’s not a bad place to start.
I may reach out to Fidelity and Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio for one of the PrimaLuna Integrated Amplifiers because my gut tells me that the 5040 has something wonderful beneath its beautiful Holme Oak finish just waiting to come out.
Something that really sets the 5040 apart from the 3050i and the rest of the 3000 series is the spaciousness of the sound.
The soundstage width on these loudspeakers (which were setup 72″ apart and 3 feet from the wall behind them) with some recordings made me laugh; not just because it extended well beyond the edges of both loudspeakers which is not something I have experienced with their other speakers.
It was everything that I heard within the enlarged soundstage and the improved sense of detail and clarity.
The new tweeter is detailed, smooth, extended — but never hard unless the recording is utterly horrible.
The 3050i’s treble performance is certainly more polite, requiring a more neutral sounding amplifier to awaken it from its slumber.
That’s all I want to say for now, but Q Acoustics have created a new series of loudspeakers that have to be considered a mandatory listen if your budget will allow for it.
Where to buy: $1,499/pair at Crutchfield
April 14, 2023 at 1:07 am
This company makes some very beautiful speakers. To me, the are styled in the same vein as Roman Columns. Classic. For speakers I like that look. For electronics, pacifically peaking, I prefer what I call the “Metropolis Look”.
From Fritz Lang’s silent film, “Metropolis”.
Back to speakers, these appeal to me in the same way as Klispch’s offerings do. Simple. Stylish. Stunning.
Thanks for giving us a look at ’em!
April 14, 2023 at 1:16 am
You left out “affordable.”
I’m currently running the 5040 with a $6500 amplifier and these $1,499 speakers are giving me the evil eye. “Please sir, may we have some more. And make it tubes.”
Very impressed. Build quality is superb for the money.
April 14, 2023 at 11:15 am
I’ve just bought the concept 50 in grey,as much as I like the look,an oak veneer or rosewood would look better for me anyway!!
April 14, 2023 at 1:03 pm
Great pair of loudspeakers. The Homle Oak and Rosewood look really sharp. I have the Holme Oak pair and everyone likes the finish more than the rosewood on the 3050i.
April 16, 2023 at 2:54 am
I look forward to you full review on these Ian, and always enjoy your review and comparisons. Also, please let those of us who could consider upgrading our speakers now and our amps when budget permits if they would sound acceptable in the meantime with a more budget amp like a Nad 316, Powernode, Cambridge Audio, etc. Thank you. Steve
April 16, 2023 at 7:05 pm
It’s going to be a three-part review because it’s not possible for me to cover 5-6 amplifiers with them in one review. But I’m using everything from $400 to $6500 that I have.
April 14, 2023 at 11:33 am
Well, I was planning on upgrading my 3050i one of these days… Looking forward to read your full review!
April 14, 2023 at 1:01 pm
They offer a different perspective on the music and most certainly work better with warmer sounding amplifiers.
April 15, 2023 at 1:28 am
Ian, any plans on reviewing the 5020’s anytime soon?
I already have the 3020 and 3090c in my HT setup and I’m starting to look forward on building my first stereo setup. I was looking at KEF’s LS50 as my goal, but now with this new line from Q Acoustics, it made me think twice.
The plan is to pair the speakers with the Marantz PM7000N.
April 15, 2023 at 11:13 am
We have reviews of the 5040 and 5020 being published this week and next. I have the 5040. Jeremy “the budget audiophiler” has the 5020.