Q Acoustics Q Active 200 review: This high-end powered bookshelf audio system delivers impeccable performance

Q Acoustics builds mighty-fine fine loudspeakers, and for its first self-powered offering, the company could have modified any of its existing designs by bolting on an amplifier and calling it a day. What it has wrought instead is a complete high-end audio system that can accommodate nearly any source: analog or digital, wired or wireless, streaming or locally sourced; one that can be incorporated into any of the most common home-audio and smart-home ecosystems.

The Q Active 200 system consists of a pair of self-amplified, wireless two-way bookshelf speakers and the Q Active Control Hub (the company will soon offer the same technology in a tower speaker system, the Q Active 400). The broad range of audio sources the Hub can handle range from a server on your network, to most of the popular streaming services, to a turntable equipped with a moving-magnet cartridge. It can then send that music both to its own speakers and to other audio systems on your network, using Apple AirPlay 2 or Google Chromecast.

The company will soon offer a Works with Alexa variant of the Hub that will enable the speakers to be incorporated into Amazon’s smart home and multi-room audio ecosystem as well. The company tells me it might eventually produce a Hub that supports both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa in one box. As it stands, you can swap Hubs and keep the same speakers if you ever switch smart home ecosystems. The Hub by itself sells for $400.

This is an in-depth review. If you care more about performance than a deep dive into specs and what makes the system tick, just click here to go to the review’s performance section.

Bluetooth is just one arrow in the Q Active 200’s quiver, but it is nonetheless part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

q active hub front Michael Brown / IDG

There are touch-sensitive buttons on the front of the Q Active Control Hub, but most people will hide this component in a cabinet and not think about it once the system is set up.

The Q Active Control Hub

The Hub has an onboard Wi-Fi 5 network adapter, plus an ethernet port if you have the infrastructure to take advantage of a wired network connection. Audio inputs include HDMI with ARC, a Toslink optical digital audio, and analog stereo RCA. Connect a turntable equipped with a moving-magnet cartridge to these last inputs and you can flip a toggle switch to activate an onboard phono preamp. You can also connect your turntable to the Hub’s grounding terminal to prevent ground-loop-induced hum.

The only music source not supported is a USB storage device. The speakers deliver plenty of low-end oomph (I’ll get into their specs and performance later), but the Hub has a subwoofer output if that aspect of the system just doesn’t scratch your itch.

While the HDMI port supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), this is strictly a stereo audio system; the Hub won’t decode Dolby Digital or any other soundtrack formats. That said, the speakers’ incredibly wide sweet spot tends to present dialog as centered in the sound stage. HDMI CEC support means you can use your TV remote to control the volume when you’re watching the TV. The Toslink input auto-senses incoming audio and will power the system on as soon as a signal is detected.

q active hub Michael Brown / IDG

The Q Active Control Hub can handle just about any audio source, digital or analog, including a turntable.

In addition to wired inputs, the Hub can play music via a UPnP server on your local network (e.g., a NAS box), and it supports all the leading streaming-audio services, including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Spotify (via Spotify Connect), and Tidal. There’s also a Bluetooth 4.1 radio on board if you want to play music stored on your smartphone. The Hub can accept bitstreams with up to 32-bit resolution and 192kHz sampling rates, although it will downsample them to 24-bit/96kHz before sending the digital audio to the speakers.