Q Acoustics 3030i review: Peppy, party-starting bookshelf speakers

Speaker manufacturer Q Acoustics has been making some great budget equipment since the company first appeared back in 2006, and its latest 3000i series is perhaps its best yet.


  • Huge, detailed sound with plenty of bass power.
  • Tidy, attractive cabinets.
  • Excellent performance for the money.

Don’t Like

  • They take some time to sonically break in.
  • Not as capable with subtle material.

I’ve had some experience with the other entries in the range, which also offer excellent performance for the money. I use the larger 3050i speaker as part of my test system in the CNET audio lab — currently shuttered like the rest of our office during coronavirus lockdown. The bookshelf-size 3030i ($399 at Amazon) offers some of the floorstanders’ power at a more attractive price. This $400 speaker also manages to challenge competitors worth even more, including models from Bowers and Wilkins and the Elac Debut Reference. Unfortunately I’m not able to compare the Q Acoustics against its main competition, the cheaper Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 ($245 at Crutchfield), while I work from home. Still, from my hours of listening to the the Elac Debut I recall a leaner, more detailed sound compared to the bass-richness of the Q Acoustic 3030i. 

While it’s not the last word in refinement, the Q Acoustics 3030i offers tremendous excitement for your favorite movies and rock tracks. It looks great, it sounds great and is relatively affordable.

Design and features


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Q Acoustics 3030i houses a 6.5-inch woofer and 1-inch dome tweeter. While other companies such as B&W tinker with exotic materials for their main drivers, Q Acoustics uses a tested classic: paper. Er, “precision-formed cone made from impregnated and coated paper,” according to the company. It’s the same 6.5-inch driver that previously appeared in the 3050i floorstander.

Also like the 3050i, the tweeter is decoupled from the woofer, and the cabinet uses Q Acoustics’ P2P (Point-to-Point) bracing for a more inert cabinet. The sample I received came in Arctic White with a pleasing matte finish, but the speaker is also available in Graphite Gray, English Walnut or Carbon Black. 


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The front of the 3030i features chrome trim and the white speaker grille attaches magnetically. The back has a bass port and a pair of attractive binding posts. The cabinet itself measures 7.9 inches wide, 12.8 inches high and 13 inches deep.

Specs-wise the speaker is capable of a 46Hz-30kHz frequency response (+/-3 decibels, -6 dB) and can be driven by a receiver rated between 50 and 145 watts.

Sound quality

The new speaker I have on hand to compare to the Q Acoustics, the Elac Debut Reference, is well mannered and looks every bit the premium speaker. What it lacks is rock ‘n’ roll wallop and punch. The spirit of the Q Acoustics 3030i is pretty much the opposite of well-mannered; it fairly shouts “get up and dance!”

I was initially disappointed with the Q Acoutsics’ sound out of the box — bass was disjointed and the top end too bright. Over a period of a week, however, the sound coalesced and resulted in a dynamic, cohesive speaker. I’ve always been skeptical of “break-in periods” because in many cases they’re more about your ears getting used to a new sound than about any change in the component itself. But this speaker needs time to come into its own. Translation: Don’t send them back if you don’t like them straight away.

Songs that were initially unlistenable became better balanced, and in some cases challenged my home reference, the Bowers and Wilkins 685. The first track I listened to on the 3030i was Foals’ Mountain at my Gates and it sounded poor — thin, with a bass drum sound like someone whacking a roll of paper towels. After a week of use the sound firmed up top to bottom. Instead it was the Bowers and Wilkins that sounded a bit trashy — especially during the frantic ending — while the Q Acoustics which was able to keep the track in control.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

I continued with more British fare and the Future of the Left’s stop-start track Bread, Cheese, Bow and Arrow. The Q Acoustics was able to capture the tail of the loud staccato notes in a way that the Bowers completely missed. You could hear the bass drums and guitar disappear into the space the band were recording in (or perhaps the back corner of the reverb unit). Despite missing this detail, the B&Ws offered a more evenhanded presentation while also keeping the excitement factor.

The Strokes’ new album is a welcome return to form. With the down-beat opener The Adults Are Talking, the Bowers and Wilkins was better able to present the band members as a unit. Here, the 3030i’s propensity to extract detail worked against the speaker and the song dissembled into a collection of individual instruments.

Bass-heavy material is where the Q Acoustics performed best, with plenty of rumble audible in tracks like Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy and Life by the Beta Band. These aren’t big speakers, but on a good set of stands they’ll be able to dig deep without too much prodding.

In my review of the Elac Debut Reference I found that the Elac was better than the Q Acoustics at jelling as part of my mismatched home system, and that was still the case after more time breaking in. That said, with a pair of sympathetic rears, like the 3020i ($315 at Amazon), the Q Acoustics 3030i will dig plenty of detail out of your surround soundtracks and deliver crisp dialogue while avoiding harshness. 

Should you buy them?

Sadly, I wasn’t able to test the 3030is alongside the 3020i, 3050i or Elac Debuts, but what I heard was impressive enough. The 3030i offers excellent detail retrieval and a high-level of get up and go, while never straying into fatiguing territory, which is quite a feat. If you want an attractive set of bookshelf speakers with a peppy, enticing sound, the Q Acoustics 3030i is a great option.

source: cnet.com

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