Today being the end of the tax year (and a happy new financial year to one and all), you may detect a financial sub-theme running through this column: my main items are all, dare I say it, rather good value. Don’t panic, though. All these products are of a supremely high standard, yet also happen to be decently priced.
Take these exceptional £350 Concept 20 hi-fi speakers from Hertfordshire’s Q Acoustics. They are simply amazing. In the correct setting, they are as good as – and in some cases better than – models costing 10 times as much. And that correct setting is one in which you listen to them at close range. If you have a den or an office where your head can form roughly a 4m x 4m x 4m equilateral triangle with the speakers, prepare to be knocked out by the Concept 20s.
What makes these speakers sound so effortlessly classy is a unique construction. A common weakness, even with expensive speakers, is resonance within the cabinet, which makes them sound fractionally imprecise. The rarely seen ideal is a speaker with an enclosure that has no audible effect at all on the sound produced by the parts within. So the Concept 20s use a box-within-a-box design, comprising a glossy cabinet that is isolated from the workings by a layer of a neutral substance called Gelcore, which damps all resonance to near zero, dissipating it as heat (although not at a level you would detect).
But the thing I loved even more than the Concept 20s’ basic sound handling was the superb spatial nature of their output, especially when you can create that ideal equilateral-triangle set up I mentioned earlier. The stereo imaging – and I’m told the Gelcore has a role in this, too – produces an incredibly wide sound stage. Close your eyes and you will have difficulty working out where the speakers are – there seem to be instruments everywhere. It’s wonderful.
I should also mention the stands for the Concept 20s, which likewise use Gelcore to keep them isolated from vibration – and hence as silent as the cabinets. The hi-fi magazines, which have already plastered the Concept 20s with multiple “best speaker” awards, say the stands (which I didn’t test) improve the listening experience still further. In my view, while not ugly, the stands are not particularly pretty, either. Judge for yourself on the Q Acoustics website, or in the many upmarket hi-fi stores where the Concept 20s are available.