Q Acous­tics M7

FOR Big, bold sound; strong sense of rhythm and tim­ing AGAINST Midrange and tre­ble need more ex­pres­sion

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

You don’t al­ways need large dimensions to be pow­er­ful, and a first lis­ten to the Q Acous­tics M7 is cer­tainly proof of that. A 2.1 sub-sat pack­age, the M7 in­cor­po­rates two satel­lite speak­ers and the sub­woofer from the Q7000i 5.1 pack­age (which we de­scribed as a 'sub­stan­tial leap for­ward in mu­sic and movie sound qual­ity' when we re­viewed it in 2013) and pairs them with the new QAVA com­pact stereo amp.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing set-up that an­gles it­self to­wards both a TV au­di­ence and those look­ing for a pow­er­ful stereo set-up with­out the bulk.

Blast­ing out the bass

The small satel­lites re­main un­changed from what we’ve seen be­fore, each pill-shaped unit stand­ing just 24cm tall and pack­ing two 75mm long-throw mid/bass driv­ers and a 25mm tweeter. The speaker ter­mi­nals are hid­den in the base, which also swivels around to al­low you to wall mount them, should you wish (though this is more likely to be of use in a 5.1 set-up).

The sub is the only size­able part of the pack­age, and boasts a 20cm bass unit sup­ported by a 150W Class D am­pli­fier. It uses Q Acous­tics’ own In­ter­nal Fir­ing de­sign, which blasts the bass against a sound­ing board to de­flect it evenly into the room. The up­shot here is that it is less fussy about where you po­si­tion it.

At the heart of the pack­age is the new QAVA stereo amp which, at just 17.5cm wide, won’t de­mand much rack space from you. The con­nec­tiv­ity op­tions are mod­est too, fo­cus­ing on two op­ti­cal in­puts (which sup­port files up to 24-bit/192khz), a sin­gle 3.5mm ana­logue in and aptx Blue­tooth, but goes big on power, with a quoted 50W per chan­nel (into 4 ohms).

In­puts can be cho­sen and mon­i­tored via the sim­ple front panel (or in­deed us­ing the in­cluded re­mote con­trol), with the se­lected in­put lit up in blue.

Se­ri­ously im­pres­sive

The vol­ume con­trols get a sim­i­lar treat­ment, with an arch of blue LEDS mov­ing up and down with your com­mands. The fi­nal but­ton on the front panel is the Movieq but­ton, which aims to give the bass a boost for when you are watch­ing movies.

Set­ting up the M7 is rel­a­tively straight­for­ward. We place the speak­ers on stands, slightly toed-in to our lis­ten­ing po­si­tion and put the sub in the mid­dle on its spikes. We would rec­om­mend you don’t use the in­cluded spike pro­tec­tors how­ever, as us­ing them has a damp­en­ing ef­fect on the sound. If you need to pro­tect your floor­ing, a good hi-fi hack is to try plac­ing a coin un­der each spike in­stead.

We keep the phase set­tings at 0° by plac­ing the sub hor­i­zon­tally, with the grille fac­ing to­wards the back – if your set-up re­quires you to place it dif­fer­ently, you’ll just need to en­sure you switch the phase set­tings to 180° in­stead.

The QAVA amp has a high-pass fil­ter set to 125Hz so we set the cross­over to match and turn the level to a few notches be­low halfway, and we’re ready to go.

We de­cide to give the Blue­tooth func­tion­al­ity a try and load up Tidal for some high-qual­ity stream­ing. The first thing that strikes us about this lit­tle sys­tem is its sheer scale and power. It’s se­ri­ously im­pres­sive just how big a sound it's ca­pable of, and one that’s spread across a broad sound­stage too.

Head-bang­ing in line

We play Waves by Kanye West and the stir­ring choral loop that forms the song’s base fills our test room with plenty of head­room to spare. There’s real space be­tween the in­stru­men­tal and vo­cal tracks too, with a great stereo im­age that stretches it­self in front of us in an ex­panse of sound.

There’s great clar­ity here too, with no part of the fre­quency range mud­dy­ing others. This is partly down to the great sub­woofer in­te­gra­tion, which passes lower fre­quen­cies be­tween sub and satel­lite speak­ers seam­lessly.

It goes low too, with real weight and im­pact be­hind ev­ery drum kick. There could per­haps be a touch more punch there, but de­tail-wise it’s de­cently tex­tured, and pro­vides real so­lid­ity to the sound.

It can’t man­age to dip to the sub-bass rum­ble of James Blake’s Limit To Your Love, but that’s a tough level of bass for any sys­tem at this price to get right – it’s much more com­fort­able and ex­pres­sive as you go a lit­tle higher up the fre­quency range.

It’s fast and ag­ile bass though, and that char­ac­ter con­tin­ues all the way up the fre­quency range, with an up-front and ex­cit­ing sound that takes on even the most com­pli­cated of rhythms.

We lis­ten to Tox­i­c­ity by Sys­tem of a Down and the M7 doesn’t hold back here ei­ther, man­ag­ing to bal­ance drive, or­gan­i­sa­tion and tim­ing in a way that sounds nei­ther un­ruly nor overly pre­cise. The cho­ruses are big and dra­matic, and the M7 man­ages to de­liver on that while still en­sur­ing the ac­com­pa­ny­ing frenzy of gui­tars and drums falls head-bang­ingly into line.

“Use it with your TV and there’s no doubt the Q Acous­tics M7’s bold char­ac­ter works in its favour, de­liv­er­ing a big­ger, wider and more open sound than most sound­bars at this price”

We would like more ex­pres­sion through­out the mids and tre­ble though, which aren’t as de­tailed as we’d like. Voices lack the level of in­sight you’ll hear on the very best sys­tems – the M7 tends to gloss over the sub­tler nu­ances, while the tre­ble doesn’t al­ways sound as nat­u­ral as it should.

A stream of Mozart’s Moon­light Sonata lays this bare. The M7 is just not ca­pable of enough de­tail in the tre­ble to give a re­al­is­tic sense of depth and tex­ture to the pi­ano notes as they’re played, leav­ing them sound­ing more like a key­board than they do a real pi­ano.

Fo­cus on the small stuff

A stream isn’t the best source to judge a prod­uct on though, so we switch in­puts to the op­ti­cal and hook up our Cyrus CDI to try out some CDS. We put on The Di­ary of Ali­cia Keys and play You Don’t Know My Name. There’s cer­tainly more de­tail and ex­pres­sion de­liv­ered than via Blue­tooth, but it still feels lacking in ab­so­lute terms.

It’s a mu­si­cal lis­ten, and the scale and so­lid­ity in the M7’s arse­nal feels greater still, but, when it comes to lis­ten­ing more crit­i­cally, we just want it to tell us more.

This is ev­i­dent with another piece of pi­ano mu­sic, Gymno­pe­die No.1 by Erik Satie, and though it of­fers more dy­nam­ics and gives the pi­ano a more full and nat­u­ral sound, it’s still not ex­plicit as we’d like.

We de­cide to try the QAVA amp out with our ref­er­ence ATC SCM11 speak­ers to see how much of this is down to the amp, and we’re greeted with a very sim­i­lar sound. There’s still drive and scale to spare, even with speak­ers much big­ger than those the QAVA is made for, but we don’t feel like we’re be­ing told much more through the midrange and tre­ble than we are with the small Q7000is.

The amp just needs a sub­tler touch to make this hap­pen – it puts a large, open and im­pres­sive sound front and cen­tre, but could do with a bit more fo­cus on the small stuff to be a re­ally com­plete pack­age.

Ex­plo­sion of sound

Use it with your TV and there’s no doubt the Q Acous­tics M7's bold char­ac­ter will work in its favour, de­liv­er­ing a big­ger, wider and more open sound than most sound­bars at this price.

The Movieq but­ton is a cin­ema equal­i­sa­tion set­ting that aims to push this fur­ther still, pulling back the tre­ble and boost­ing the bass by about 4db. This has the re­sult of putting more oomph be­hind ex­plo­sions and ac­tion scenes.

It cer­tainly dishes out more bass with it switched on, but it loses some of its de­tail and taut­ness in the process. We pre­fer to keep it turned off – there’s plenty of solid bass as it is – but if you want more im­pact, try it out. Just make sure you turn it off for mu­sic, as the oth­er­wise well-bal­anced sound strays a lit­tle into 'too rich' ter­ri­tory.

Flex­i­ble propo­si­tion

The Q Acous­tics M7 is a de­sir­able lit­tle pack­age at a good price, de­liv­er­ing a huge sound from a small, com­pact sys­tem that should fit into most home set-ups. Put it like that and there seems to be lit­tle wrong

It’s an im­pres­sive and en­ter­tain­ing sound, but that lack of trans­parency in the midrange and tre­ble does knock our ini­tial en­thu­si­asm for the sys­tem when we sit down for a more crit­i­cal in-depth lis­ten.

It’s hard to know ex­actly what the com­pe­ti­tion is for the M7 – if it’s a sound­bar or all-in-one so­lu­tion, a big­ger, more open sound with a wider sound­stage is a given here (with a few more wires to hide), while a pair of ac­tive speak­ers like the Dy­nau­dio Xeo 2 de­liver more on the de­tail and dy­nam­ics, but can’t match the M7 for scale.

The Q Acous­tics M7 is an in­ter­est­ing and flex­i­ble propo­si­tion then, though un­for­tu­nately it's not flaw­less. But if you’re look­ing for a big, en­thu­si­as­tic sound with­out the bulk, we’d still thor­oughly rec­om­mend giv­ing the M7 an au­di­tion.

How­ever, if it were to take pride of place in our home, we'd need more ex­pres­sion to keep us re­ally en­ter­tained. It is for this rea­son we can't give it the full five stars.

We wouldn’t use pro­tec­tors on the sub­woofer spikes – they can dampen the M7's sound

Usual sub­woofer con­trols plus an un­usual de­sign make for a highly flex­i­ble unit

VER­DICT A big, bold sound from a small sys­tem at a rea­son­able price, but we are le want­ing more dy­nam­ics and de­tail

The Q Acous­tics M7 comes with a neat, sim­ple and easy-to-use re­mote

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