Q Acous­tics M3 Re­view

By all rights, the new Q Acous­tics M3 sound­bar should have a five-star re­view in the bag.

SoundMag - - Contents - By What Hi-Fi?

Af­ter all, it builds upon the Q Acous­tics Me­dia 4, which has been our favourite bud­get sound­bar (and Award-win­ner) since 2014.

An up­dated and sleeker de­sign, ex­tra fea­tures such as an HDMI in­put, and a clearer, more de­tailed sound should all point to the M3 eas­ily beat­ing its older sib­ling.

And yet there’s only $100 dif­fer­ence be­tween them, which means that things haven’t quite gone the way Q Acous­tics would have wanted for this $599 sound­bar.


That said, the new Q Acous­tics M3 im­proves on the Me­dia 4 in many ways, the most ob­vi­ous of which is the de­sign. The M3 looks sleek and mod­ern.

It’s an im­prove­ment upon the Me­dia 4’s rather awk­ward trape­zoid shape, which has been slimmed down to some­thing more sen­si­ble and bar-like in the new ver­sion.

Build qual­ity is suit­ably sturdy, and the svelte shape is all the more im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing the M3 houses the same large el­lip­ti­cal sub­woofer driver from the Me­dia 4 in the back of the unit. This negates the need for an ex­ter­nal sub and keeps things tidy.

Two BMR (Bal­anced Mode Ra­di­a­tor) driv­ers han­dle the left and right chan­nels, and though a touch smaller than those in the Me­dia 4 (5.8cm in­stead of 6.5cm), they con­tinue to pro­vide a wide dis­per­sion of sound.


Any­one dis­ap­pointed in the lack of HDMI in­puts in the Me­dia 4 will be pleased to know that the M3 has one in­cluded on the back of the unit.

It sup­ports Au­dio Re­turn Chan­nel (ARC) as well, so you’ll be able to feed sound from the TV di­rectly into it and sync up con­trol so you need use only one re­mote.

Other con­nec­tions in­clude an op­ti­cal in­put (which can sup­port up to 24-bit/96kHz mu­sic files), a pair of ana­logue RCA in­puts and a 3.5mm socket to plug in other sources.

For those want­ing to stream songs wire­lessly from their many smart de­vices, aptX Blue­tooth makes the process fast and pain­less.

The LED around the bar’s power button lights up with dif­fer­ent colours depend­ing on the in­put used: pur­ple for HDMI, white for op­ti­cal, blue for aptX Blue­tooth, and green for line in. It’s a nice touch. The top con­trol but­tons have been re­designed as well, but they re­main re­spon­sive.

The M3 comes with a tiny credit card-style re­mote. It’s vir­tu­ally un­changed from the old re­mote, but that’s a good thing: the sound­bar is bliss­fully sim­ple to use and the re­mote, while ba­sic, is re­spon­sive with all con­trols.

One new ad­di­tion is the ‘MoviEQ’ sound mode, which is claimed to en­hance movie sound­tracks (trans­la­tion: more ‘oomph’ to the bass).

Con­sid­er­ing the M3 al­ready has an abun­dance of bass that doesn’t need ex­ag­ger­at­ing, we’d steer clear of this mode - the nor­mal ‘stereo’ mode works just fine.


We start with the John Wick Blu-ray and in­stantly find our­selves drawn into the big, rich sound that goes well be­yond the sound­bar’s mod­est pro­por­tions.

The M3’s full-bod­ied char­ac­ter means there’s plenty of meat to sink your teeth into when bul­lets fly and punches are thrown.

Di­a­logue is clear and di­rect, too, with enough nu­ance com­ing through to dis­cern the dead­pan de­liv­ery from the hard­ened as­sas­sins.

The M3 de­liv­ers the brood­ing sound­track’s crunchy gui­tar riffs and thump­ing drum beats with plenty of power.

At this price, the M3’s clos­est ri­val is from within Q Acous­tics’ range of sound­bars, namely the Me­dia 4.

While the pierc­ing edge of shat­ter­ing glass, squeal­ing tyres and ping­ing bul­lets sounds crisp and at­tack­ing through the M3, the Me­dia 4 sounds even clearer and more de­tailed.

What lets the M3 down is a boom­ing qual­ity to the sound that spoils the oth­er­wise de­cent bal­ance. Clar­ity and or­gan­i­sa­tion isn’t en­tirely com­pro­mised, there’s just a lit­tle tub­bi­ness around the midrange that sounds a touch un­gainly.

It’s present through­out, and sticks out like a sore thumb, re­gard­less of the type of mu­sic you lis­ten to. There’s no such sonic tub­bi­ness on the Me­dia 4.

The M3 also fal­ters on rhyth­mic abil­ity. The edges of notes don’t stop and start as pre­cisely as they do on the Me­dia 4, nor does it han­dle dy­namic shifts with the sub­tlety needed to build up ten­sion in songs like The Dead Weather’s 60 Feet Tall. The Me­dia 4 sim­ply times bet­ter. It has a bet­ter sense of rhythm, and of how in­stru­ments should gel to­gether.

It’s that ef­fort­lessly mu­si­cal and sub­tle touch that ul­ti­mately makes the Me­dia 4 a more en­gag­ing and im­mer­sive lis­ten with movies and mu­sic alike.


The Me­dia 4’s con­tin­ued dom­i­nance means that the M3’s short­com­ings are un­der in­tense scru­tiny. If it weren’t for that boom­ing bass, the new M3 would have fared bet­ter.

Then there’s the mat­ter of price. The Q Acous­tics M3 costs $599 – just $100 shy of the Me­dia 4. As the M3 isn’t a di­rect re­place­ment for the Me­dia 4, it’s a bit baf­fling that they are al­most the same price. In a straight com­par­i­son, the Me­dia 4 is still the sound­bar we’d rec­om­mend and is well worth that ex­tra $100.

The M3 has plenty go­ing for it in terms of its smart de­sign and clear, rich pre­sen­ta­tion. It’s def­i­nitely a step in the right di­rec­tion in some re­spects - but it needs to of­fer a bet­ter over­all per­for­mance to step out of the Me­dia 4’s long (and dis­tin­guished) shadow.


Price: $599

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