In its short life, Q Acoustics has blown through the budget speaker market like a tornado. As it focuses entirely on this segment of the market it has no technologies to “save for best” or distractions of high end, it has carved out a significant chunk of the market. Of course this hasn’t gone unnoticed or unopposed from rival brands and they have been hard at work improving their product to compete.
Undaunted, Q Acoustics has been hard at work updating their product range to try and hit the ball further out of the field. The 2000 series imaginatively enough replaces the 1000 series and offers a range of standmount and floorstanding speakers. Anxious to keep things ticking over, the 2000’s have received a midlife update and become 2000i’s. What you see here is the 2000i Cinema that combines two pairs of the 2010i standmount, a 2000CI centre and 2070i subwoofer in an official grouping. Priced at £625 in walnut and graphite and £785 in the gloss black of the review sample or gloss white (with street prices usually rather lower), on the face of it, the Q Acoustics offers considerable bang for your buck but can it deliver?
The 2000i Cinema is a 5.1 package comprising four 2010i standmount speakers, a single 2000CI centre speaker underpinned by the 2070i subwoofer. Although this set is grouped together, they arrive in separate boxes and it is possible to both to add extra speakers for rear surround or height duties and also to choose different speakers for various positions.
Like the proceeding 1000 series, there is nothing intrinsically revolutionary about the design of the 2000i’s. The same drive units are used throughout- always a bonus in terms of sonic cohesion- and neither of them is especially space age. The main driver is a 100mm doped paper unit- each 2010i featuring one and the 2050i two while the tweeter is a 25mm soft dome.
While this is not the sort of stuff to get Tomorrow’s World put back on the air, there are some positives to going with tried and tested materials. A well implemented soft dome tweeter is still a fantastic high frequency generator and in many regards at the price that the 2000i’s are being offered at, I’m happier to see these drivers being used than something wildly ambitious that has had to be built down to the cheapest point to make it work. The paper drive units are equally robust and as a material paper often provides very benign characteristics that often get forgotten in the determination to produce the stiffest driver possible.
Each 2010i is a two way standmount that is a positively dinky 24 centimetres tall. Mounting one mid bass driver and one tweeter apiece, the 2010i manages to feel impressively substantial considering the small size. Bass is augmented by a small rear port which means that they should be placed a little way from the wall, although the amount of energy that the port generates is not that high. If you are wall mounting, you will really need to choose the dedicated Q Acoustics bracket as the upper and lower edges of the 2010i have a pronounced curve which limits the amount of traction that a wall mount might be able to gain on the base. This shouldn’t be an issue unless you are replacing an existing pair of wall mounted speakers though.
The other interesting design feature is that the terminals are fitted to the underside of the speaker. This makes for a neat looking design but the angling of the terminals themselves is a bit odd. I found that connecting speaker cable with 4mm plugs on led to me twisting the cable at slightly unusual angles and this is especially curious given that the cabling and plugs are QED which is sister brand of Q Acoustics under the Armour Home Electronics portfolio. The terminals themselves are sturdy and up to the job of handling most speaker cable you are likely to use with a speaker in this price bracket.
The 2000CI centre offers the same basic design cues as the 2010i and uses the same drivers. The 2000CI has two bass ports (presumably each mid/bass driver is designed to function with one in a modular setup rather than there being a single rear port for both) so anyone looking to place the 2000CI in an enclosed cabinet will need to pay attention to this. The speaker terminals are once again on the underside of the unit and the same curiously angled fittings also apply.
Of the units that make up the pack, the 2070i subwoofer is the most unusual. Like its predecessor, this uses a pair of 170mm drivers in a forward firing configuration. This makes for an unusual looking device but the thinking is that the radiating area of two 170mm drivers is almost the same as a single ten inch (250mm) one but each driver requires less energy to move and should be easier to start and stop. Bass is further assisted by a large rear port. Internally it makes use of a class D amp rated at a claimed 150w.
The result is a slightly odd looking device but a well specified one. The 2070i has settings for level and crossover as you might expect but is also fitted with a full analogue phase adjustment which even in these days of relatively sophisticated room EQ can still be very useful getting a sub to work in certain locations. Additionally there are switch settings for “AV and Music” modes, input sensitivity, a simple phase invert and the ability to switch the port out of the circuit. This is a very clever and exceptionally well specified device for the asking price. I can’t pretend I am completely sold on the looks but given the mix and match nature of the Q Acoustics range, you could substitute the prettier (and still exceptionally capable) Q7000 subwoofer.
Distinctive looks of the subwoofer apart, this is a very attractive and beautifully assembled system. In the cost option gloss finish that the review set were finished in, this is a very room friendly set of speakers and the size of the 2010’s is not significantly larger than many satellites so (slightly harder wall mounting apart), they are not really any harder to accommodate. Build quality is good and the attention to detail is genuinely impressive for the asking price. All the speakers are supplied with handling gloves for unpacking (although in the time that companies have been supplying these, I still generally use them for Michael Jackson impressions rather than keeping fingerprints off things).
I used the 2000i’s in my lounge with a Cambridge Audio 551R and 751BD as primary electronics and a PS3, Sky HD box and NAD DAC1 as secondary sources. I placed the 2010i’s on Soundstyle Z2 stands and experimented with the subwoofer on axis and rear placed as well.
Any set of AV speakers in situ in the lounge is used all the time (I don’t use the TV speakers) but I specifically used Mission Impossible; Ghost Protocol, Unstoppable and Super 8 on blu-ray as well as the Pink Floyd Pulse DVD. Additionally, I used a variety of music from compressed on demand services such as Spotify all the way to high resolution audio all via my Lenovo ThinkPad into the NAD DAC1..
The review samples were brand new on arrival so I didn’t make any serious judgements for a few days. Despite this, the Q Acoustics demonstrated some key characteristics from the outset and most of these are very likeable. The first is that with identical drivers all round, the hoped for cohesion across the front and from front to back is well realised. There is absolutely no tonal alteration between centre and left and right (which is not something that consistently achieved by more expensive speakers) and the result is a very even and cohesive soundstage.
The other amenable feature of the speakers is that they have a very smooth tonal balance and even when you wind volume levels up to the high end of domestic acceptability (I get on very well with my neighbours and have no desire to undo this happy arrangement) they don’t push over into harshness or brightness. Given that I find that many sub £500 AV receivers will lean toward harshness when pushed hard, this is an ideal trait for the speakers to have. I think that much of this comes down to the choice of driver materials. It is much harder to provoke a soft dome tweeter than it is a metal dome one and the civility that it lends the 2000I’s is very welcome.
Settling back for some films, the 2000I’s use this cohesion and smoothness to excellent effect. With Ghost Protocol the chase in the sandstorm in Dubai is powerfully reproduced with blowing sand effectively placed all around the listener and while there is a fury to the wind it is the fury of the mix and not five tweeters taking umbrage with the treatment you are giving them. The overall effect is extremely “grown up” for want of a better phrase. In a demonstration environment I can see some of the competition coming across as more initially exciting but where the Q Acoustics really comes into its own is that it is absolutely unfatiguing to listen to. You finish watching a film, fired up and ready for the next one rather than wrung out and looking to do something else
The presence of a dedicated center speaker pays dividends with the control and clarity that the system has with voices. Even when all hell breaks loose on screen, dialogue is clear, realistic and easily distinguished from background noise. The ability of the 2000Ci to lock dialogue on axis with the screen is absolutely spot on and this is a particular area where the package shows ability over smaller sub/sat systems.
The most boisterous member of the set is the 2070I sub. Any reservations I might have had about using a pair of smaller drivers to achieve reasonable bass extension seems pretty groundless in practice and there is no shortage of low end shove. Where I am not quite so convinced of the benefits of the twin drivers is in terms of control. Having recently tested the Q7000S in the same environment, I do think that the single large driver in the 7000 is in many ways the faster and more agile of the two designs.
This is not a big problem with films though. Once JJ Abrams has unveiled his monster in Super 8, the very distinctive noise it makes is fantastically reproduced and the section that falls to the subwoofer is no exception. Impacts and explosions are impressively visceral and for a budget subwoofer this is an impressive bit of kit. Where my reservations start to make themselves felt is with music. The 2070i has a “music” setting on one of the rear panel switches but even with this firmly selected, this never feels fast enough to really do justice to any up-tempo music piece. Where the 7000S starts and stops with a tight “thud”, the 2070I will generally produce a “whoomph” that is slower and simply less musical.
The reason why this matters is that the 2010i’s on their own don’t really go low enough to be completely convincing without the sub being present. This is a shame because there is a huge amount to like about the 2010i. It presents a full and expansive soundstage and has a real knack with vocals that is exceptional for a £120 speaker. The laws of physics can’t be ignored completely and there are distinct limitations to what it can do below 70Hz. I’ve never been a truly stand up fan of subwoofers with music but in this instance one is going to be required.
This being the case, I’m not completely convinced that the 2000I is a genuine step forward over sub/sat packages because the same basic limitations apply to it while it takes up more space. I’ve used the 7000 system as a 2.1 and although it is more expensive that the 2000I’s it is equally talented and rather smaller. There is no shortage of competition outside of Q Acoustics either.
I don’t want to be unduly negative on a system that is very likeable though. Because the 2000I series is also sold separately (as is the Q7000), there are some obvious “mix and match” solutions to turn this into a better all rounder. Substituting the Q7000 with the same speakers would give the package the same low end authority (and with both available in a gloss finish, there are no real issues with decor). Equally, choosing either the 2020I or the 2050I as fronts would likely help the system generate enough low end extension to do without the sub for music leaving the 2070i to thunder its way through films and prove immensely enjoyable while you do.
- Detailed, refined and entertaining sound
- Excellent build quality
- Very competitively priced
- Lacks a little agility with music
- Concealed cable mounts aren't perfect with 4mm plugs
- Subwoofer is relatively bulky
Q Acoustics 2000I 5.1 speaker package.
As a package, there are many very likeable aspects to the 2000I Cinema. It is a detailed, rich and lively performer with film and TV. The most impressive part of this performance for me is how smooth and refined it is. You might be able to secure some more superficially impressive packages at the price but it is rare to encounter one that combines excitement and impact that is tempered with the sort of refinement that makes using it for hours on end a pleasure.
Perhaps because it is so assured with films, the limitations of the 2070i with music are a bit of a shame and do rule this out from being the perfect all rounder. With this in mind, you do have some options to improve musical performance thanks to the modular nature of the system and the other options in the 2000I range, you are not “tied in” to only using these speakers. If you are looking for a film package though and aren’t too concerned about music, this is a beautifully realised bit of kit.
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