Q Acoustics M3 Soundbar full review
Q Acoustics' latest soundbar claims to be "simplicity redefined," promising muscular sound from a single unit that you can use for your TV or music, wired or wirelessly, all with minimum fuss and headache.
Despite that promised simplicity, the M3 boasts plenty of features and a variety of available connections (including Bluetooth), EQ presets to make the most of the sound wherever you place it in relation to your TV, and a sleek design that stands out from its boxy competition.
Q Acoustics M3 soundbar: Price and availability
The M3 costs £299/$199, and is available now from Amazon, John Lewis or directly from Q Acoustics in the UK, or simply from Amazon in the US. Right now the UK has a price reduction for Black Friday 2018 too, dropping from £299 to just £229.
That price puts it in line with rivals like the Orbitsound ONE P70, but comfortably below much more expensive options from Bose and Sonos.
If you want to look at how the M3 shapes up compared to the rest of the competition, check out our pick of the best soundbars.
Q Acoustics M3 soundbar: Design
The design is the first area where the M3 immediately stands out from its competition.
That's because while the overwhelming majority of soundbars on the market right now are basically just long, black cuboids, the M3 boasts a sleeker, curved design that somehow brings to mind spaceships more than boring boxes.
The front grille is angled backwards, while the ends of the speaker are tapered, so that the body has a slightly triangular shape when viewed from the top (or, indeed, if you have it wall-mounted - it attaches to the wall via the bottom side, not the back).
If you decide to use it standing on a table or cabinet, it rests slightly off the ground on a wide metal stand, which only adds to the spaceship aesthetic.
There's only one thing that gets in the way of the sleek design: the size. At 1000x125x70mm, the M3 isn't exactly petite, though at 4kg it isn't too heavy for its size. The size probably won't be an issue for wall-mounting, but anyone hoping to store their soundbar inside a cabinet might want to grab their measuring tape first.
The front grille includes a small Q logo, while the top includes the power and volume buttons. The power button's edges light up to serve as the only visual feedback from the speaker itself, to let you know which input it's using: pink for HDMI, blue for Bluetooth, and so on.
This is a pleasingly stripped back solution to the awkward soundbar display, and a clear sign of Q's commitment to simplicity, but be warned: if you keep the M3 too close to your TV, you could end up with that light reflecting back at you from the screen constantly.
The back is recessed to allow easy access to the various ports and connections: AC power, 3.5mm, phono, optical, and HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel). You can also connect a TV or other device wirelessly over Bluetooth aptX, and there's even NFC so you can pair your devices with just one touch.
While there are a variety of inputs, Q is heavily pushing HDMI as the default wired option - in fact that's the only input cable included in the box. Just make sure your TV has an HDMI ARC port so that you can take advantage (most modern models do), otherwise you'll need to use optical, 3.5mm, phono, or Bluetooth to connect.
The back also includes an EQ switch, which allows you to cycle through three different EQ presets depending on where you've placed the speaker: on top of a TV cabinet, inside a cabinet, or mounted on the wall.
Finally, there's a small included remote, which can turn the speaker on, change input, and alter volume. One of the benefits of using HDMI ARC is that it will let you use your TV remote to control the M3, saving you from dealing with two remotes for the most part. Again, it just keeps things simple - turning your TV on or off does the same to the soundbar, so you just never have to think about it.
Q Acoustics M3 soundbar: Performance
The design might be nice, but what really matters is whether the M3 can has got it where it counts: the sound. And let's cut to the chase: it does.
The 100x150mm Dual Voice Coil subwoofer delivers deep, resonant bass tones that are plenty impressive for a soundbar in isolation. Anyone looking for earthshaking bass should naturally look at a separate subwoofer unit, but for an all-in-one the M3 does the job well.
It's backed by a series of 58mm Balanced Mode Radiator drivers, which are designed to offer almost 180-degree sound dispersion, widening the spread of sound, and avoiding sweet spots - or the dead zones that tend to accompany them.
In practice, we found that the M3 pulled off the trick, and we struggled to notice any variation in sound quality as we moved around the room or changed seats - we had to go behind the speaker before we noticed any difference, which is probably an unfair test for a TV speaker anyway.
Audio quality is consistent at a variety of volumes, and the M3 should happily go loud enough to fill even a large living room.
In addition to being a great TV soundbar, thanks to the Bluetooth input the M3 can also serve as a handy music speaker. Again, the included subwoofer won't rival a good multi-speaker setup, but as an all-in-one the M3 does very well.
Pairing is quick and easy, and the Bluetooth range is impressive - I was able to keep my phone connected from almost anywhere in my flat. Conveniently, the sound also carries similarly well, while the use of Bluetooth aptX preserves audio quality well.
Q Acoustics M3 Soundbar: Specs
- Multipurpose soundbar
- HDMI ARC
- TOSLINK optical digital input
- 3.5mm minijack aux input
- Phono inputNFC
- 100 x 150mm subwoofer
- 58 x 58mm drivers
- Weight: 4.0kg
- Dimensions:70 x 1000 x 125mm (HWD)
- Infrared remote control
- Wall mount kit, HDMI cable (2m) and mains cable included in box