QAcoustics Q7000S Subwoofer review
The Q7000 subwoofer shone as part of the Q7000 speaker package and now Ed Selley finds out if it can deliver as a standalone unit
In a relatively short length of time Q Acoustics has achieved a level of success both critical and commercial that many more well established brands would kill for. The “house brand” of UK based Armour Home electronics, their extensive range of well thought out and affordable speakers have been popular choices for many forum members.
The Q7000 subwoofer has put in a visit to the review pages of AVForums before. When our very own Russell Williams signed off his review of the Q7000 speaker package, he commented; “the sub is frankly stunning for the price and stands up as subwoofer of any type, in its own right.” Bold words indeed and something warranted further investigation. As such this review focuses on the Q7000 subwoofer used as a standalone unit without the partnering satellites. Is it as talented as we believe it might be freed from the 7000 package?
Removed from the partnering satellite speakers, the Q7000 reveals itself to be equally accomplished. The interesting design results in a clever and flexible subwoofer that combines a usefully small footprint with an attractive design and excellent build quality. It is the sonic performance that really stands out however. This is a fabulous balance of depth and speed that really helps bring out the best in a multichannel system. We asked the question whether the Q7000 subwofer was good enough to be considered outside of a matching Q Acoustics system and the answer is undoubtedly yes.
Nobody could easily accuse Q Acoustics of making “me too” products. The Q7000 is an unusual design and features some design features I’ve not encountered on any subwoofer. What is especially interesting is that the sub seems to have been designed from the outset with a certain aesthetic principle and the engineering has worked to complement this rather than the regrettably more common approach of shoe-horning existing engineering into the space that a designer has requested. This approach isn’t unheard of- the gorgeous Bowers and Wilkins PV1 is a fabulous combination of industrial design and engineering principle but it is rather rarer to see anything like this at £350.
The most telling example of this is the mounting of the driver itself. The Q7000 Sub is a horizontal driver design but the driver itself is not visible. The Q7000 is technically a side firing design but instead of concealing it behind a conventional grill, the Q7000 has a completely detachable section of the chassis. This unscrews via allen key to reveal the mains socket and inputs. Once you have made your connections- taking care to ensure that the cable run behind your sub lead is sufficiently flexible to bend out of the way- you reattach the side panel.
The thinking behind this is interesting. Technically, the Q7000 is an infinite baffle design- there is no porting to the enclosure behind the driver. As a function of allowing the cabling out of the bottom, the side panel once re-attached creates a gap at the bottom of the panel that definitely has some level of air movement and could be likened to a very low pressure slot port. Additionally, the side panel is a much more meaningful object for the driver to work against than a grille. To complete the benefits, the panel is fairly weighty and adds considerably to the all up mass of the Q7000 once attached.
The driver itself is a 250mm unit and described as a “long throw” design (although when was the last time you read the blurb for a subwoofer where the driver wasn’t described as such?). It is a sturdy looking affair and appears to be a reinforced paper type with an especially hefty looking surround that accounts for a good proportion of the quoted size. It is a fairly substantial piece of engineering for a £350 subwoofer and feels impressively robust. Amplification is courtesy of a amp quoted at 250w (with a continuous rating of 150w). The amp is described as an analogue type although interestingly there is no visible heatsink.
The controls are reasonably comprehensive and usefully mounted on the top panel of the sub rather than buried somewhere on the rear which makes adjustment easy. The Q7000 is fitted with an adjustable crossover allowing infinite increments between 50 and 150Hz. Phase is only switchable between 0 and 180° rather than fully adjustable though. The auto sensitivity is adjustable between high and low and controls are finished off with a volume control adjustable between 0 and 10.
The only real absence (other than perhaps a full on/off switch which is increasingly rare in this day and age) is any form of notch control or room EQ. If you are in the fortunate position of mating the Q7000 to a relatively new amplifier with EQ on board, this is not a significant omission as the amp will do much of the work at avoiding room resonance and modes. If you have an older amp, this might be more significant as there is no means of avoiding these resonant peaks. Ultimately, there aren’t that many subwoofers so equipped these days but it would still be a welcome addition.
The result of this removable side panel design is that the Q7000 is an elegant looking piece of equipment for a subwoofer. More than anything else it resembles a small suitcase less the handle. The review sample was supplied in the gloss black finish and the overall effect looks extremely compact and by the standards of subwoofers is a pleasant piece of design. The build is good too. The gloss finish is flawless and this feels like an extremely solid piece of equipment for the asking price. The controls themselves feel a little lightweight but assuming you set them up correctly in the first place, you shouldn’t have to use them that often.
The last feature of the Q7000 that may or may not be of interest to any would be purchaser. An optional wall mount bracket is available that will bolt the Q7000 to the wall. I’ve seen this demonstrated at shows and it seems to work well but it wasn’t part of the review. One thing to take into account if you plan to use the bracket is that the driver points in towards the wall (which makes sense in terms of cable management). As I mentioned earlier, the side panel is pretty stiff and inert but there is still likely to be a degree of energy radiated onto the wall itself. Is this is problem? I’m not sure but I get on pretty well with my neighbour in my terrace and I’d be cautious about undoing that!
When the Q7000 was last tested, it was used with a 110Hz crossover and the matching satellites. For this review, the partnering speakers were Mordaunt Short Mezzo 1’s front and rear and the Mezzo 5 centre. This meant that the crossover was running at an altogether lower 60Hz which was for the most part set on the AVR with the crossover on the sub maxed out and bypassed. I tried the Q7000 in the two default sub positions in my lounge. The first is at the rear of the room, roughly parallel to the listening position under the rear left speaker. The second was at the front of the room on axis with the front three speakers. The front position seemed to be the more successful one for the Q7000 and it stayed there for the bulk of testing.
Other partnering equipment used included Yamaha RX-V3900 and Cambridge Audio 551R AV receivers, a Cambridge Audio 751BD blu ray player and NAD DAC1 DAC. Some incidental testing was carried out with Sky HD as well. Setup and installation provided trouble free- in fact I can rarely remember a subwoofer being easier to unbox.
Making a decent budget subwoofer is a dark art. There is enough in the way of physical engineering present in a subwoofer that to build this down to a price is not an easy undertaking. Building a very large subwoofer with a big driver is costly and means that the amp will be a compromise. An extremely powerful amplifier will allow for a smaller driver to subvert the laws of physics to a point but there will still be limits to the frequency response. A truly enormous cabinet with a transmission line could get away with a tiny amp but few people will want a subwoofer the size of a Renault Clio. The design process is a compromise and it is fair to say that Q Acoustics has balanced this perfectly.
After a day or two of running in, I made a beeline for the blu ray copy of Unstoppable. As well as being a splendid example of a film you could enjoy even after a serious brain injury, it has a number of instances of a complex and very detailed bass frequency. There are multiple points where interspersed in the rumble of the trains is the engine note of the locomotive itself which is a very deep and rapid thudding exhaust and engine note. All too often this won’t be possible to pick out in the wider noise of train but the Q7000 finds it and replicates it with comparative ease. The Q Acoustics is more than a device to give you a quick kick in the guts, it can reveal the detail and effort that goes into the subwoofer channel.
This is especially important with films like Contagion where the sub channel includes a significant part of the score. The Q7000 blends the same impressive levels of depth and detail to great effect. Bass can be felt as well as heard but the nuances contained within the signal are not lost in the effort. The result is impressively refined for a sub £500 product. A very stern and somewhat unexpected test of this resolving ability came during the Olympic opening ceremony where the Q7000 did a sterling job of making sense of 900+ people banging away on buckets during the industrial sequence.
The speed is impressive too. There is very little sense of overhang, even when very significant amounts of bass suddenly stop. Obviously, running the Q7000 less the side panel does rather blunt the overall performance but doing so for a short stint does show how well damped and controlled the driver is. The payoff for this engineering effort is that the Q Acoustics has the ability to start and stop with the speed required to avoid irritating “bloat” and wallow when it isn’t needed.
This means that used with music, the Q7000 is able to keep pace with proceedings and is a welcome addition. Ballistic dance music is handled with considerable ability but where the Q7000 really scores is with “analogue” bass, be it double bass, organ or similar where the excellent detail retrieval helps to make for a very believable performance. In a perfect world, it would be good to have a switchable level and crossover setting for music as I found it to be subtly different to the one I preferred for film but again for £350 this is not a deal breaker.
So is the Q7000 perfect? Not quite. If you compare it to more expensive subwoofers you can naturally find areas of performance where it has to give ground but what is more interesting is when you look at two other similarly priced units. The Acoustic Energy Neo subwoofer that also forms part of a package AVForums has tested has slightly greater depth and slam but in turn doesn’t have quite the same levels of detail and insight. By the same token, the Elipson Planet subwoofer isn’t able to get anywhere near the Q Acoustics for depth but it has speed and detail retrieval that is absolutely superb when used in a musical context. As I said earlier, subwoofer design is a compromise and depending on what you need, there may be other designs at the same price which are a more suitable for your requirements but there is little doubt that the Q7000 is a good balance.
The other area where it might be possible to find fault with the Q7000 is more subjective but still something that did make itself felt at certain points. Ultimately, the Q7000 is designed to partner satellites and as such is designed with an operating envelope of over 100Hz to provide a crossover with them. When this operating frequency is cut down after partnering with larger speakers, there is the slightest sense that good that the Q7000 is, a variant designed to work from 70Hz and down might be even better still. This is firmly into the realms of “what if” though and should not be taken as too large a detractor of the Q7000 as an offering.
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Q Acoustics Q7000S
Suggested price: £350
Reviewed 2nd August, 2012 by Ed Selley
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.