Q Acoustics 3030i review: These bookshelf speakers will have you wondering “Where’s the subwoofer, Waldo?”

Building a sound system on a tight budget and high hopes? Cast your eyes and ears on Q Acoustics’ newest and biggest passive bookshelf speaker, the 3030i. These stylish speakers deliver an acoustic performance way out of proportion to their $399-per-pair price tag.

Designed in Britain, the Q Acoustics 3030i deliver detailed and robust audio reproduction accurate enough that they could be used as studio monitors. Be forewarned, however; such honest articulation and dynamic range also has a downside: They will lay bare any performance or production weaknesses present in a recording. And with added oomph comes the potential for real-world environmental issues, as these mighty mites could expose the quirks of smaller listening-room resonances, demanding a bit of sleuthing (and tweaking) to resolve. Not to worry, mates. We’ve cracked the case! 

Birds of a feather

A bump-up from the $299-per-pair Q Acoustics 3020i speakers that got me frothing in an earlier review, the 3030i share the same shapely looks and two-way reflex speaker design—only with the sturdy MDF cabinetry bulked up an inch or two in each direction: 12.8 x 7.9 x 13 inches (HxWxD). That depth could be challenging to anyone who deploys them on an actual bookshelf, since those planks tend to measure just 9 to 11 inches deep. Weight is up by a couple pounds as well, to 14.1 pounds per box.

q acoustics 3030i black and white Jonathan Takiff /IDG

Note the close family resemblance between the Q Acoustics 3020i (left, in Carbon Black) and 3030i (in Arctic White). Both models are also available in Graphite Gray and English Walnut finishes.

The 3030i uses the same 0.9-inch decoupled dome tweeter found in the 3020i, with the crossover circuit set at 2.4kHz, but there’s a 6.5-inch stiffened, coated-pulp mid/bass driver in the larger speaker. You’ll find this same driver in the Q Acoustics floor-standing model 3050i. Compare that to the 5-inch driver in the 3020i. The additional 1.5 inches of diameter might not seem like a lot, but when combined with a cabinet that’s effectively doubled in volume—from 6.1 to 12.5 liters—you can expect it to move a lot more air, delivering much bigger, deeper, and wider-dispersing bass.

A pal invited in to listen (at a safe distance) wondered “Where’s the subwoofer hiding?” With good reason. The 3030i kick almost as much bass butt on their own as the 3020i do when I have them augmented by a big ‘ol MB Quart subwoofer. Opting for the more muscular model is like getting a serious sub thrown in for a Benjamin. You’ll be de-cluttering the joint, too.

Q Acoustics specs the 3030i’s frequency response as 46Hz-30kHz (+3db, -6dB), whereas nothing stirs below 64Hz in a 3020i. And with sensitivity of 88dB, these puppies will sound good with as little as 25 watts of amplification (that’s all that my ancient B&O Beocenter 9000 can muster.) The 3030i delivered a wallop with both of the streamer/amps I also tested them with: a Sonos Amp (billed as 125 watts per side into 8 ohms), and a Bluesound PowerNode 2i. While the BlueSound component has a lower power rating—60 watts per channel into 8 ohms—I perceived its performance with the 3030i to be both louder and sweeter sounding than the Sonos.

q acoustics 3030i back Jonathan Takiff /IDG

The rear speaker terminals are flush for banana plug connections; plug-in extenders are provided for bare wire or pin-type connections.

Ready to party hearty

After living with the 3030i for several weeks—they do require about 50 hours of break-in—I can testify to their versatility under fire. Whatever you throw at them, these things can handle with aplomb, so long as you have them set up properly. (See the cautionary tale below.)

Liking to stay current, I’ve put these things to the test with a variety of recent releases streaming on the high-res streaming services Qobuz and Tidal. Take nuevo-punk rocker Machine Gun Kelly (Tickets to My Downfall) and swirling psychedelia from my Philly homies The War on Drugs (Live Drugs), both good for heady, out-of-body experiences.