Q Acoustics M20 HD Review: Big Sound, Small Money

Sometimes, you fall in love with a sound signature from the moment the first note sounds. The midrange is full of soft, mellow golden details; The upper register is bright and clear, with easy extension; And the bass is pleasantly clean and refined.

After aiming the speakers towards the listening position, I was treated to a well-defined soundstage. The central channel stood out in front of the computer screen with impressive precision and proportions. The vocals seem to come to life right in front of your face, while the other instruments are tactfully placed throughout the stereo picture both vertically and horizontally, creating an impressive soundscape for complex synthesizers and simple vocal tracks alike.

My favorite thing about the M20 HD’s sound is how easy it is for the speakers to create useful textures and colors. They seem to actively enjoy sculpting guitar riffs, from the shimmering acoustic solos on Nickel Creek’s “Out of the Woods” to the dusty crunch of Mason Jennings’ electric melodies on “Machines.”

There really isn’t a tool that speakers don’t handle with care. The waterfall piano on Brian Eno’s “Burning Airlines Give You So Much” is silky and fluttering but still impressively clear, allowing you to relax and let it flow over you. The drum skins in Snarky Puppy’s “Go” exude a papery texture. Even John Lennon’s thunderous shrieks on the intro to “Two of Us” feel special, glowing with expressive hesitation. The speakers also do a great job with the song’s powerful dynamics, popping with a crescendo as the live, chunky guitar spits ringing notes into the microphone.

Bass output is the only element that some listeners may lack. Total frequency response is listed at 55Hz-22kHz, but that 55Hz minimum is a stretch. There’s definitely some punch, but if you’re looking for massive hip-hop and electronica flourishes, this falls short of what you’ll get with the Prime Wireless Pro; KEF LSX II; Or even a Klipsch-powered pair, The Fives, once you get below 70Hz or so. If you listen to a lot of bass-heavy music, you’ll likely want to add a subwoofer.

This also applies to TV content. If you connect speakers to your TV’s optical output, you’ll find they’re much brighter at the top than when listening at your desk, and you don’t get the kind of room-chilling blasts you’d find with larger speakers without some help. But the speakers still do a great job with TV, movies, and games, delivering authentic dialogue and excellent detail across the board. (I often find myself fascinated by the oboe part in a file 30 rock Ring.) The stereo spacing is still a standout here, with details from a ramming ice cube to crashing waves appearing on the sides of the soundstage for impressive immersion.

The M20 HD speakers are an especially great choice for those looking to set up a streamlined record system without shopping for both speakers and a separate stereo amplifier. There’s no dedicated phono input, so you’ll need to purchase a preamplifier, but the analog inputs and internal amplifiers create a great bowl for enjoying the warmth of your favorite vinyl.

My only slight hesitation in recommending the Q Acoustics M20 HD is that as I write this review, Klipsch’s The Fives are available for the ridiculously low price of around $500 online (down from $800). The Fives aren’t as precise as the M20 on top, but they do offer a phono input, a Settings app, and HDMI ARC for using your TV remote for power and volume.

But while the M20 HD speakers may not integrate as seamlessly with your home theater as today’s more advanced options, they’re often cheaper than powered competitors, and there’s no denying their sound quality. For the right buyer, especially those looking for a great pair of desktop speakers or something simple for a new turntable to use between Spotify sessions, the M20 HD speakers are a serious bargain.


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