This is my review of the rather beautiful looking Q Acoustics Concept 500 floor standing speakers. I would ordinarily associate Q Acoustics with bookshelf and cinema AV speakers systems so a higher end product makes this very interesting. I saw the Concept 500s at Bristol this year and they were certainly very eye catching physically with their immaculate piano finish, at the time they were being driven by a Naim NAP 300 DR.
Of note are the beautiful speaker terminals
There is a lot going on with these Concept 500 speakers. Because Q Acoustics were coming from a higher turnover end of the speaker world they have engaged the services of Speaker gurus Fink Audio Consultants and IDA to develop their first forays into the high end of the market. Karl Heinz Fink has been involved in the development of these speakers, he has Naim for Bentley to his name amongst other very notable projects.
Concept 500 design features include a Gelcore adhesive that binds the triple layered MDF cabinet construction. The gel does not set, lending itself to absorption of tiny resonances in the cabinet, contributing to the refined audio output; the gel actually resonates itself, this generates heat that dissipates the resonant energy. Additionally, there are numerous bracing points in the tall structure designed to lend rigidity to the cabinet whilst minimising low end frequency vibration. The speaker cones are cunningly mounted from the rear, removing the need for screws at the front of the speaker, contributing to the aesthetics of these speakers.
There is a rather large rear port to facilitate air movement which presumably compliments the array of bracing and pressure equalisation that is managed in these tall and very heavy floor standing loudspeakers. Of note are the beautiful speaker terminals, that may received bi wired cable if needed. They are very neatly designed with the terminal screw tightening around the cable terminal itself.
There is also a jumper for adjusting tweeter output by half a decibel up or down, which gives it a degree of room tuning capability; I have played with this and have not actually found it to make much difference if I am honest, albeit I am in not near the walls in the room (I gather the jumper is more useful if you are closer to the wall where bass gets accentuated).
The speakers come with a choice of silver metal spikes or balled feet, I love spikes. I have the piano black finish but there is also a white finish (main picture). I am bound to say such is the polished finish of the split veneer and lacquer black speakers I have I’m having a bit of fingerprint nightmare when I’m fiddling with the sound in the room (otherwise known as a ‘Middle Class’ problem!!).
Concept 500 Specification
Frequency Response – 41 Hz – 30 kHz
Average Impedance – 6 Ω
Minimum Impedance – 3.7 Ω
Recommended Power – 25 – 200 W
Distortion (120 Hz – 20 kHz) – 0.2 %
Crossover Frequency – 2.5 kHz
Mid Bass / Driver – 2 x 165 mm
High Frequency Unit – 28 mm
Size (W x H x D) – 400 x 1150 x 350 mm (excl. spikes)
Weight – 42 kg
I just wanted to add that, although the frequency range ‘looks’ a tad low-end ‘light’ there is certainly no problem here with the beautifully controlled bass. Also worth mentioning is that although the speakers are pretty heavy, and they are definitely a ‘two man’ lift, the solid aluminium base lends itself nicely as a ‘handle’ leaving the heavier speaker end to a more capable carrier (I assume the base can be used a carry handle, Q Acoustics?).
I have tested these speakers with first a Rega Planar 3 turntable into a Roksan K2 integrated amplifier which was a very pleasant experience indeed. I’m using QED Supremus loudspeaker cables. Therafter I used the Oppo UDP-205 as a CD Player (review to follow) directly into the T+A AMP 8 then into the T+A DAC 8 & AMP 8 combination. There is tons of power from the AMP 8 so this has produced a really nice image. I have an Atlas Mains Conditioner for general plugging in of sources, pre and power amplifier, etc.
I have, as a point of fact, had a bit of a fiddle trying to get the best sound from these speakers, although I am very happy with the outcome. The speakers are ‘toed-in’ more than I expected as they are not transmission line in design.
Without getting into the music thing, I generally use the same tracks for most of my listening as I am trying to listen particular things. For example, ‘Everything’s Not Lost’ for Pianos, etc. Although I have noted elsewhere on this site, Fasil Say’s Chopin Nocturnes are hard to beat if you want to hear very beautiful pianos.
Vinyl reproduction with Rega Planar 3 and Roksan K2
Although this is the least likely set-up you are likely to have with these beautiful speakers I nevertheless feel it worth seeing how they perform with a more, let’s say, ‘standard’ integrated amplifier that packs a punch. The sound is indeed crisp, powerful and very satisfying indeed. I went for the B Side of ‘In Rainbows’ for its detail, complex structure and yet simple production. Indeed the sound is crystal clear, deep and beautiful. Obviously with several thousand pounds of cables and the rest in loud speaker design and build this is a crystal clear reproduction from the needle confirming the versatility of the K2 in all conditions. ‘Faust Arp’ is such a mesmerising track and the resolution from the record confirms why vinyl is the most perfect analogue source. The speakers present such a huge amount of detail and depth that you can almost see Jonny Greenwood with his guitar sat between the speakers, just to the right on ‘House of Cards’.
Digital sources with Oppo CD, T+A DAC 8/AMP 8 configuration
This is the set-up I have listened to most closely with the Q Acoustics Concept 500 loud speakers. The T+A DAC 8 AMP 8 combination is a very digital solution but one more appropriate for the speakers on show. As a source I have used the Oppo UDP-205 CD player and an MQA’d Bluesound Node. The CD Player is absolutely amazing, delivering an open signal that is to be heard to be believed. With the Oppo CD Player configured to the AMP 8 as balanced output the AMP 8 just does its job amplifying a beautiful source. From London Grammar to Taylor Swift, the CDs are as good as they can be with the speakers breathing beautifully across all ranges. Most notable at the outset (and with the Rega too) is the bass control. For example, the basic bass thump on Taylor Swift’s ‘Style’, whatever you think about it as a piece of music, is not an easy sound to reproduce but the Concept 500 controls the pulsing beat perfectly with no hint of blurring that can occur with this track. There is plenty of depth at the very low frequencies too, with the low end rumble at the end of London Grammar’s ‘Rooting for You’ getting right in your sternum.
Tonally, I have found the 500s to be brighter in the treble range. Having said that, I have felt no undue fatigue from listening to these speakers after expended periods. I think the bass is very nicely controlled and it is certainly to my liking.
Dynamically, I find these speakers very open and easy to listen to. On Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’ the speakers keep up comfortably with the track and with the changes in direction and tone. The detail is great too. I find the sound stage always wide and deep. The feeling of listening to a dominant sound prevails, all good.
Naim NAP 250 performance
The sound stage from Concept 500s …is dominant and wide open
I have now put the speakers into my lounge to hear them driven by a Naim NAP 250 (not DR) with a NAC-N 272 source. The outcome is, as I was hoping, very comfortable indeed. The sound stage from Concept 500s with this set-up is again dominant and wide open. Again, I’ve had a fiddle getting them exactly right (I’m thinking this is me now, tbh). The detail in the music is again terrific, Fazil Say’s pianos are absolutely beautiful with the Chopin Nocturnes and Radiohead’s ‘House of Cards’ is again absolutely spot on. I note I have the QED Supremus cables here and I have no need to turn up the volume as much as I might do in other setups, the speakers are very sensitive with a 90.5db sensitivity quoted.
The speakers are especially pleasant at lower volumes which is where I tend to listen to most of my music, the bass control is certainly working for me
We all know speakers are a very emotional thing, I for example swear by my KEF R700s which are old, well run in and were one of my earliest HiFi purchases. However, directly in their place these Q Acoustics Concept 500s have really made me think about how old they are and how good cabinet and speaker technology is these days (although the Qs are at least twice the price). The speakers are especially pleasant at lower volumes which is where I tend to listen to most of my music, the bass control is certainly working for me. I think these speakers demand a listen, if you are in this price bracket. Whether you are driving them with a powerful Naim amplifier or another, they can cope admirably. Indeed, have just taken delivery of the Auralic Polaris ‘all-in-one’ system which I expect will have no bother at all driving these very sensitive and controlled floor standing speakers.
The split veneer/piano gloss finish
The rear terminals
Low mid range to bass
I’ve got them for a couple more weeks!
For nothing more from these
They were a bit lighter, although of course that does not work
The Q Acoustics Concept 500 are retailing near £4,000 for the pair and are now available. Check your Q Acoustics retailer for more details.
Take a look at the Concept 500 brochure here. The are also technical papers on the site.