Great building block for your Budget Hi-Fi/Audiophile System!
The Q Acoustics 3020i is the new “improved” sequel to the very well regarded 3020 budget bookshelf speaker. The original was known for its natural, warm, presentation which won a lot of fans in the press. However, the budget bookshelf market is cutthroat, and one can’t afford to sit on one’s laurels.
About a year ago, Elac upgraded their budget Debut line, adding internal bracing to the cabinets, new wide dispersion tweeters, along with other improvements, raising the ante on what a $300 bookshelf speaker could do. So it only makes sense that the 3020, widely considered to be the “other” king of low-cost audiophile speakers release a new and improved version. So here we are.
Note: These speakers were purchased by myself with my own funds, and therefore I own them outright.
Like the Elac Debuts 2.0, the 3020i adds a new internal bracing scheme to the cabinets, aiming to reduce coloration from vibration and provide a more accurate sound. Q Acoustics calls it P2P or “Point to Point” bracing, and it’s supposed to make the cabinets rigid as well as improve the soundstage. The cabinet has also increased 25% in size over the originals, with the new model almost a half inch taller, and a little over two inches deeper. This is said to allow for greater scale and enhanced low end.
I was a fan of the original 3020 design, finding it to be very modern and clean, and while they haven’t changed the design a whole lot, I find the new “i” version to be even more modern and clean with the silver chrome accents around the drivers on my English Walnut model, along with the silver chrome accent on the larger yet minimal “Q” logo at the bottom of each speaker.
The “i” version also has a new set of low-profile binding posts set almost flush into the back of the speaker which I found made it very easy to plug in my banana plug terminated speaker cables. The plugs fit completely into the back of the speaker sliding in with a nice soft click when they were fully seated. The 3020 is rear ported, so the ports are situated right above the binding posts, with the model number and specs listed around them.
In the box, you get the speakers, magnetic grilles which I didn’t use since I really liked the way they looked without them, some foam bungs which I also didn’t use since I positioned the speakers on stands about 2 feet from the wall. There is also a user manual which gives some tips on placement and usage of the bungs which are intended to control bass response when the rear of the speakers are closer than 200mm or about 8 inches to a wall. This will keep them from being boomy.
Overall I find the tonal balance of the 3020i to be very balanced, I tried them in two setups, both with the Chromecast Audio as source streaming MQA and CD-Quality FLAC from Tidal. First I tried them with the very balanced, neutral, $399 NAD C316 BEE, and the sound was just that, very balance, with smooth treble, detailed mids, and slightly lean but tight, articulate bass.
The second amp I tried the 3020i’s with was the $749 Cambridge Audio CXA60, which is a more energetic amp, displaying a more warm, open, sound with more rhythm and timing than the NAD, and the Q Acoustic speaker was ready to play, coming alive with a wider and taller soundstage, plus a lusher, deeper bass performance. Basically, the speakers came across as very refined for the price and the two different amps showed their ability to scale well, play deep when needed, then give a nice amount of detail, especially in the midrange, when called upon.
When listening to the NAD, I noticed some awesome imaging, and even though the performance was close and intimate, I was able easily to pick out instruments in space. This is something that really wowed me on “These Things” from Luciana Souza, where there is a set of what sounds like maracas playing in the right channel and man, they sounded so natural playing right in front of me next to the vocalist.
On the CXA60, Kendrick Lamar’s “Duckworth” showed the 3020i’s ability to party, staying perfectly composed when banging out the heavy rhythm of this hip hop track, while beautifully rendering the background vocals of singing ensemble.
For $299, I don’t think you can ask for more from a pair of speakers. The smooth, natural, treble and midrange combined with the articulate bass is remarkable. The detailed imaging rendered by their transparency also lets you know this a serious product was designed with the audiophile in mind. The sound alone is worth the price of admission, but then you throw in the modern, attractive design, there is no question you have a winner here.