Q Acoustics M3 Soundbar Review
Does what it says on the box...
What is the Q Acoustics M3?Q Acoustics have built themselves a strong reputation for producing high quality, good sounding speakers that offer exceptional value for money. The M3 is just such a product and one that doesn’t try to make outlandish claims about immersive audio or surround sound from your TV. Instead the M3 soundbar offers a very straightforward and easy to set up solution to replace the speakers on your flat panel TV. It doesn’t claim to be able to replace your 5.1 sound system or rival a full home cinema system, it doesn’t even offer any surround sound, instead it aims to deliver high quality audio that is better than that provided by your existing TV. It is aimed at consumers who don’t want clutter or cables running around their room and who are not interested in a separate AV receiver and speaker solution.
Q Acoustics are certainly on a roll at the moment with the last few products reviewed by AVForums picking up well-deserved praise and awards, and while the M3 is a far cry from the recent Concept 500 speakers that Ed covered, the aim to produce the best sound for the money is still the main objective here. So with all that in mind lets see what the M3 can do.
Design, Connections and ControlApple have a lot to answer for when it comes to fancy packaging of products as the Q Acoustics M3 comes in a very stylish and minimalist box that has a further white box within. When you open the top of this you are greeted with writing on the two left and right inside flaps. To the left is a welcome message from Q Acoustics and the right has ‘Getting started’ under which you will find the quick start manual, warranty card and wall hanging template. Inside dedicated areas within the packaging are the cables (power and HDMI) and the tiny remote along with the soundbar running the length of the polystyrene material.
The actual soundbar weighs in at 4kg and measures 1000mm x 70mm x 125mm (W x H x D) and is black in colour. There is a nice solidity to the hard plastics used for the soundbar with an aluminium loop stand to the centre bottom of the unit. This keeps the soundbar 30mm above the surface it is placed on in front of the TV. This helps with the subwoofer that is downward firing right in the middle of the unit. Looking from the front of the soundbar it has a slightly tapered design rising from the centre to each bottom edge with a design edge in the middle of the speaker cover that mimics a top edge. The actual top of the speaker section is further sloped back from the cover. The top plate of the unit is also slightly curved to the rear panel and tapered in line with the front speaker section. It is here we get a power button that changes colour depending on the source. For example it turns blue to indicate the source is a Bluetooth device. Of course you don’t have to just place the soundbar in front of your TV, you can also place it on a cabinet shelf underneath the TV or even wall mount it. The overall design in this reviewer’s opinion is understated and works well in a modern environment and will blend with most recent TV designs. It is also well built with decent materials used throughout on the actual soundbar, although we’ll come back to the remote control later.
Around the back of the unit are the connections and a rather useful EQ switch. The EQ switch is for use with your desired mounting option with three possible positions that cover ‘on’ cabinet, ‘in’ cabinet and ‘on wall’. This sets the speaker and subwoofer response for the different options so you are always getting the best sound quality possible. Connections wise we have one analogue (3.5mm jack) and one digital (Toslink) along with an HDMI ARC slot and the figure of eight power socket. The USB port on the M3 is for service use only.
Getting back to the remote control you could be forgiven for thinking costs had been severely cut here with the tiny card type of unit. However the M3 is promoted as having smart connectivity and in reality you will never use the provided remote with HDMI ARC making the soundbar part of your TV and if you don’t have ARC the M3 is also capable of working with almost all IR cable, satellite and TV remotes.
The M3 offers excellent build quality and performance for the money
FeaturesAs we explained in the opening of the review the aim of the M3 is to be an easy to use soundbar that does nothing but improve the sound quality from your TV. In following this pursuit there are very few features included with the soundbar. The most important feature is HDMI ARC as this is what makes the M3 so easy to use. If you have a modern TV with ARC then all you do is connect the provided HDMI cable to the soundbar and the ARC input on your TV and that is it. The M3 is now part of your TV and is operated by the TVs remote control including power on and off with the TV. We tested it with our Samsung KS9500 and it worked flawlessly.
The only other features to really take note of on the M3 are the Bluetooth connectivity with AptX and NFC compatibility. This allows easy connection of your mobile device to the soundbar so you can use your favourite streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal. Again we fully tested this with our iPhone6 and Spotify and Tidal accounts and everything worked flawlessly, as you would expect.
In terms of power the M3 is rated at 20W per channel and 40W for the subwoofer, so 80W in total. And really that’s about all you need for this style of soundbar, so how does it sound?
Sound QualityThe M3 will not compete with a full-on surround sound system, even one costing as little as £1,000, but that completely misses the point of this product. Soundbars exist at this price point to replace the inferior speakers in most modern flat panel TVs and offer better sound quality for TV and some music listening. Even with a high-end TV like our Samsung KS9500 test sample, that has fairly decent sound for a thin TV, benefits from the addition of the Q Acoustics M3 soundbar. We all know that there are a number of possible solutions to improve the sound quality of TVs and at £300 the M3 is a compelling product to consider if you can’t go with a separate AV receiver and speakers ( or even a stereo amplifier and two speakers).
The M3 is using wide dispersion BMR drivers and the first thing you will notice about the M3 is that the stereo sound field while decent, is held back slightly by the size of the unit. However sitting bang in front of the TV, and therefore the M3 as well, you do get decent stereo separation and with music tracks you do get a nice sense of a fairly wide soundstage in front of you. Movies are also nicely presented when head-on with the M3, taking advantage of the built-in subwoofer to create a nice sense of weight to the sound. It is an immediate upgrade to our Samsung’s built-in sound with better volume, harmonics and decent soundstage. Vocals are noticeably better with a rich midrange now present to voices and an unpinning sense of some bass. Normal every day TV shows like ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ benefit from better presentation of not only the voices of the presenters, but the stunning music selections come to life with decent weight and depth.
Movies also benefit from excellent clarity with a decent bottom end to underpin the action on screen. Obviously the M3 just can’t compete with a dedicated sub/sat system or other home cinema system and it doesn’t pretend to do that. There are no claims of immersive surround sound from Q Acoustics when it comes to the M3. Nope, it is just not that kind of product, but what you do get are excellent vocals positioned on the screen with effects and explosions nicely positioned within the soundfield created by the soundbar. At decent (and fairly loud) volume levels there is no distortion or hemmed-in boxy sound to the M3, instead it handles everything with distinction and decent poise. Push it too far and it will start to sound brittle and harsh as it runs out of headroom, but by that point it becomes uncomfortable to listen to in our living room which is of typical size and layout to most UK rooms. Used in the way it is designed to be utilised and the M3 offers a very good sound for TV shows and movie content that is a big step up on the built-in sound of your TV.
So what about music playback? Well as long as you don’t expect miracles and you will be using it mostly for background listening - you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve used it for the last week to play Spotify from my mobile via Bluetooth while working at the iMac and it has provided a very decent, well balanced sound quality to a large variety of genres and musical styles. If you want a stereo soundstage then you will need to sit directly in front of the unit as the width of the soundbar dictates how wide things get. If you do so and at reasonable volume levels, the M3 is capable of a pleasing performance with a decent weight to the sound without any signs of distortion. However we would imagine that, like me, most users will use the M3 as a sound source for background listening while doing other tasks and again it performs this role extremely well and at decent volumes without getting compressed or brittle. It certainly performs well enough in both of these roles given its price point compared to its performance.
- Very good sound quality at reasonably loud volumes
- Excellent replacement for the TV speakers if space is tight
- Reasonable music performance from Bluetooth sources
- Easy set up with ARC HDMI
- Stereo separation and soundstage is restricted to the width of the soundbar
Q Acoustics M3 Soundbar ReviewWhile there are debates to be had about soundbars trying to offer immersive surround sound like Dolby Atmos at higher price points versus a dedicated home cinema set up, at the level where the M3 operates it offers a solution for those simply wanting to improve the sound quality of their flat panel TV without any hassles or wires. And that is exactly what it is supposed to do. We are not dealing with a product that wants to replace a home cinema or a dedicated two-channel stereo set up. Nope, this is purely a product to replace those awful speakers on your TV without any complicated wiring or additional speakers all over the living room. As such the M3 does exactly what is says it will and does it to a very pleasing standard indeed.
It’s not the last word in audio quality but it doesn’t over-promise either. It will fill a typical living room with decent sound from under your TV that is a definite step up on the built-in speakers with a nice weight to the audio and vocals along with decent music playback as well. It is so easy to set up that a complete technophobe will be able to do it within a few minutes and it works from existing remote controls too. It is likely the ease of use and very good audio quality that will attract consumers to the M3. It is up against some very tough competition at the price point from the likes of Yamaha, LG, Samsung and Cambridge Audio to name a few, and they all offer good value when it comes to replacing the speakers on your TV. The Q Acoustics M3 does it by sounding very good indeed with excellent stereo and TV sound reproduction that is natural and clear with a decent underpinning of bass. It comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £299.99
Ease of use9
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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