Q Acoustics BT3 Speaker Review
A fantastically versatile all-in-one audio solution
What is the Q Acoustics BT3?
A soundbar is all well and good and the perfect solution for some but we’d always steer folks to a separates system when available space permits.Such a package is the Q Acoustics BT3 which promises many of the conveniences of a soundbar but with proper stereo separation. So, the BT3’s have their own built in amplification, a solid choice of connectivity options and contemporary styling to blend with your living room. In some ways they are even more versatile then a soundbar as you could even use them as a swanky pair of desktops.
Q Acoustics BT3 Design and ConnectionsThe review sample supplied were in the (Juice) Red colour option but there are also (Urban) White and (Jet) Black options, if you prefer something a bit more neutral. Red is easier to photograph but if it were my money on the line, I would have chosen black as it never goes out of fashion. Whichever way you go, you can be assured of excellent build quality with a very solid MDF cabinet fronted by a tough, fine mesh plastic grille. There’s no obvious or easy way of removing the grille, if you’re one that likes the drivers exposed but the Q logo on the front can be rotated should, for any reason, you need to mount them horizontally.
All the amplification electronics and connections are contained within the right speaker so it’s significantly heavier than the left and the right also has some moulded control buttons and an indicator light on the top. Said connections include RCA Stereo, Toslink digital optical and a stereo 3.5mm auxiliary jack. You also get aptX capable Bluetooth to turn your phone or tablet in to a HiFi system and left/right speaker outs to take the supplied cable to the left speaker. There is also a subwoofer output if you need even more bass. Dimensionally, each speaker takes the tape at 240mm x 148mm x 226mm (HxWxD) so they are compact, although they might just be a bit on the large side for some desks but they were fine for us.
Red wouldn't be our choice but they're also available in black and white options
Q Acoustics BT3 SetUp and ControlFor living room use we used a pair of SoundStyle Z2 speaker stands, which would add around £85 to the asking price but if your AV furniture permits, you won’t need to factor that sort of sum in to the costs. We had the BT3 hooked up to a Samsung HU7500 TV via optical, a Windows 7 PC with an aptX capable Bluetooth dongle for streaming and a Panasonic BDT300 Blu-ray player, via the RCA stereo jacks, for the odd CD we still spin. Setting up is as easy as finding the appropriate outputs on your source equipment and the appropriate inputs on the rear of the right speaker and away you go. The only source (pun unintended) of annoyance comes with the fact that the Bluetooth connection is prioritised over the rest so you could be listening to the TV only to be interrupted when powering up your phone or tablet. There really needs to be some kind of option to mitigate this, or Q Acoustics simply needs to make source selection an entirely manual process.
We won’t go on about the supplied remote control as we gave it enough of a bashing during the M4 Soundbar review but it is very tiny and can easily be misplaced. The potential saving grace here is that it shares the same Infra-Red code as Sky and (some) Virgin set-top-boxes so if you have one of those, you could always use it for volume control. In truth we didn’t have any joy with our TiVo remote but we’ll take Q Acoustics at their word that they will work with most. As previously mentioned, there are also a set of control buttons on the top that will allow you to select input and adjust volume so, if you do happen to lose the remote, all is not lost.
A HiFi speaker with most of the conveniences of a soundbar package
Q Acoustics BT3 FeaturesThe inclusion of aptX Bluetooth is a real boon for those that like to stream their music. It really is an improvement over older codecs so if you’re feeding the BT3 with high bitrate files, you won’t be losing too much from the equivalent CD recordings. The internals of the speakers utilise a 25mm (1-inch) silk dome tweeter and 100mm (4-inch) coated paper cone midrange/bass unit so they pack in more HiFi credentials than your equivalently priced soundbar and the crossover is a fourth order 'Linkwitz-Riley' configuration with some extra fine tuning of its frequency response curve, achieved by using digital filters in a DSP (Digital Signal Processor). There are no fancy ‘surround’ or other sound modes available, quite simply because Q Acoustics doesn’t think you’ll need them.
Q Acoustics BT3 Video Review
Q Acoustics BT3 Audio QualityLet’s get this out of the way first. If you were dipping into the soundbar market at this kind of price-point, you will not get anywhere near the overall sound quality afforded by the BT3. On a very basic level you, of course, will get a far more defined soundstage with genuine width, which results in effects being more accurately localised and a sumptuousness to audio, generally lacking in a speaker bar/sub package. When watching movies and TV, the BT3 also kept dialogue extremely clear, precise and well anchored to the centre of the display (where appropriate) and, unlike some multichannel systems, they never seem like overkill when watching the likes of the news or weather.
About the only real complaint we had with the M4 soundbar, was that you needed to drive it quite hard to get the most from it but the BT3 is clearly more sensitive and able to operate at lower volumes far more convincingly. Naturally you will want to give them some room to strut their stuff and they’re not likely to disappoint when you pump up the volume, either. A quick spin through some scenes from Gravity proved their worth as an audio outlet for your movie collection, with terrific placement of the complex audio contained within the movie while something with a more bombastic soundtrack, such as certain parts of Oz the Great and Powerful revealed a good level of bass extension.
It will go low enough to please most but you can always add a subwoofer later
If you’re really addicted to the low frequency effects present in a movie soundtrack, you might find the BT3 a touch bass-light but, again, compare it to a soundbar in the same price bracket and you will see (hear) the extra refinement and speed. Where a cheap sub might be able to reach a bit lower, it will do so at the expense of clarity and will generally just rumble along but the BT3 is fast and accurate in the low end and, of course, you could always add a modest active subwoofer to the mix, should you require. To put it another way, you’ll probably need to be looking in the £600 region for a soundbar that can offer anything like equivalent mid and high-end performance whilst bettering it in the bass notes.
The fact the BT3 were primarily designed as a HiFi speaker is readily apparent when you spin up some music on them. All the qualities of clarity and liveliness we’ve come to expect from the Q Acoustic ranges are present and correct and the lack of a huge bass extension becomes an almost complete non-issue for the majority of tunes. OK, if you’re a fan of cathedral organs or heavy dub (or maybe both) you may feel they lack a little something but even something with complex bass, such as John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts won’t overwhelm their capabilities. They’re a super little set of HiFi speakers, regardless of all their other merits, and worthy of recommendation on that front alone.
- Lively, dynamic audio
- Great connectivity options
- aptX Bluetooth
- Contemporary styling
- Solid build
- Some might want more bass
- Bluetooth priority can annoy
Q Acoustics BT3 Speaker ReviewThe Q Acoustic BT3 package is a very versatile beast, almost equally at home with movie soundtracks as it is with music. For £350, or thereabouts, you get a system with built-in amplification, great build quality and enough connections to satisfy most. The inclusion of aptX Bluetooth compatibility means you can turn your average smartphone or tablet in to a Launchpad for your digital music collection or favourite streaming service and it will do so with great finesse.
Audio is delivered with superb clarity in a lively style and, when comparing to your run-of-the-mill soundbar package in the same price category, the soundstage is both far wider and much more convincing than that. You might not get quite the same level of ultimate bass extension, although the BT3 more than makes up for that in terms of speed and accuracy but if you really do need to hear the lowest of the low effects in a multichannel movie soundtrack, you could always add an active subwoofer into the mix via the supplied connection at the rear.
If you’re in the market for something very convenient and stylish to beef up your TV's sound, whilst providing an excellent outlet for your music collection, it would be difficult to think of a better way to spend your money, so please think twice before automatically assuming it has to be a soundbar. Highly Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £349.99
Value For Money9
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