Q Acoustics Concept 20

£350

They look similar to the 2020is opposite, but the Concept 20s have great new-tech under their skin.

Concept 20 stands

We don’t always recommend buying stands from the same people who built the speaker, but not only are the Concept 20 stands (£200 a pair) gorgeous, they also put the speakers at the right height (at least for our listening position) and firm up the delivery impressively well. Also consider biwiring — it makes the sound more open and transparent.

We love the Q Acoustic 2020i speakers. So much so that we gave them an Award in 2012. But if you’d told us then that Q Acoustics was going to offer a version with an improved cabinet at a £150 premium, we’d have been just a little bit dubious. What great benefit could that bring? Yet that’s almost precisely what the Concept 20s are, and what’s most surprising is how astonishingly brilliant they are.

The cabinet here is a box-within-a-box design, where the inner and outer enclosures — both made from 10mm MDF panels — are separated by a compliant compound called Gelcore.

Gelcore might sound like the name of a sub-rate superhero or perhaps an off-shoot of dub-step, but it’s actually used here to damp any panel resonances, turning the unwanted energy into heat. Adding heat to the equation might sound like a bit of a recipe for disaster but, before you ask, no — the Concept 20s don’t run noticeably hotter than average speakers.

Taking the cabinet out of the equation

The whole idea is to silence the enclosure so that you hear only the drivers themselves, and it’s frankly amazing just how much of a difference the new cabinet makes. Given that they’re fairly compact, the Concept 20s are never going to match their bigger rivals for outright bass extension or absolute dynamic reach, but they’re so enthusiastic and so clear through the frequency range that it’s almost impossible to stop listening to them once you’ve started.

They reach deep given the size of the cabinet, and there’s a consistency of character right through the frequency range that’s rarely heard, even at much higher prices. Detail, pace and punch are all supreme, and it makes for an all-rounder of a speaker that’s as happy with the subtle recordings of Bon Iver as it is the scuzzy, driving rock of Dinosaur Pile-Up.

And that cabinet certainly seems to be playing its part. By removing itself from the equation as much as possible, it allows the sound to be more precise, more transparent and better organised. There’s exceptional stereo imaging, too, and yet because the cabinets aren’t contributing much to the sound themselves it’s pleasingly tricky to locate them within the soundstage.

The Concept 20s really are an incredible achievement and a very bold move from the chaps at Q Acoustics, who clearly felt the drivers themselves were capable of sounding so much better than they do in the 2020is. They were right.

That special cabinet

It’s the cabinet-within-a-cabinet design that makes the Concept 20s really special. But those two cabinets are in themselves simple MDF boxes. What makes the unit special is the filling in that seemingly innocuous MDF sandwich: the Gelcore. This special adhesive never quite sets, so the inside cabinet is suspended within the outer.

The still slightly fluid Gelcore allows the kinetic energy generated by the drive units within the cabinets to be dispersed as heat, so preventing them from colouring and degrading the speaker’s musical output.

TECH SPECS

Type Standmounter • Sensitivity 88dB/W/m • Impedance 6 ohms • Max power 75W • Biwirable Yes • Finishes 2 • Dimensions (hwd) 26 x 17 x 28cm

Rating ★★★★★

FOR: Superb clarity; tonally seamless; lots of punch combined with refinement; great build and styling

AGAINST: Dedicated speaker stands are pricey but should be considered vital

VERDICT: We weren’t sure what to expect, but what we got is one of the best speakers available for under £500

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