Q Acoustics Concept 500 audition - bad

I recently went and had a fairly lengthy audition [with my own CD’s with which I am extremely familiar] of the Q Acoustics Concept 500 speakers. Having read all the five star reviews praising them as having the sort of performance that should cost £8k for only £4k, I was intrigued. Even though my system sounds wonderful, I thought the 500’s would be an investment in any electronics upgrades I may do.

All the reviewers, some in the higher end magazines, all described them as being so transparent as to give the effect of the drivers being suspended in mid-air, with no speaker cabinets. They also said that they produced very impressive bass, so much so that one should be careful not to use them in smaller rooms where this might be an issue. The sound was described as being ‘not harsh at all’ and the general consensus was that they were very sweet and exceptional sounding indeed.

I contacted Q Acoustics as I had found it impossible to find a dealer who had them to demo. Q Acoustics emailed me and told me that Richersounds in Nottingham had a pair.

The amp used in the audition was the £6k Cambridge Audio pre power that itself gets very good reviews. This was in a proper purpose built listening room with high end cables. I was ready to be very impressed. Unfortunately this was not the case.

The sound was flat and two dimensional with little or no bass and a slight harshness and hardening of the upper mid and high frequencies. They were a slightly fatiguing listen. I have owned and have been listening to good HiFi since the mid 80’s [I have owned Rogers LS7’s, Epos ES 14’s etc.] and these speakers were not really that good at all. The only caveat is that if they had been £500 a pair then they would have passed as being okay.

So why were they so bad? Why was the sound so at odds with all the reviews? My only thought was [much later] that, was one of the speakers wired out of phase? This was the sound we [my brother-in-law was with me] heard. We were both in full agreement that they sounded bad. They had been on demo for a year or two so were fully run in, so it isn’t that.

I can’t imagine this is how they should have sounded. When we got back I played Rush – Tom Sawyer on my system and it sounded fantastic, infinitely better than with the 500’s.

Do modern day reviewers like this brutal type of sound? Or was there a problem with the demo in some way? Of course I want definition and clarity, but with sweetness and warmth, depth both in sound stage and in bass. No harshness or fatigue with longer listening.

I am interested in your thoughts on this.

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What source was used? Did you ask the shop why they sounded bad to you? It seems a bit strange to ask on here, some while later, why they sounded bad. You are in a better place to answer that, surely? Have you subsequently done a home demo? It’s really the only way to tell if speakers work for you.


I remember hearing Concept 500’s on the end of a Chord DAVE - NAC552 - 300 DR and thought they sounded amazing. Mind you, what wouldn’t?

I have auditioned these speakers at home some time ago, connected to an Esoteric DAC-PRE and Hypex nCore Power Amos, which made my Pioneer S-1EX loudspeakers sing. The result was very disappointing similarly to what you describe. So I ended up sending them back to the dealer and not purchasing them. My wife loved the look, but also was not convinced by the sound.

So yes, similar experience here.

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That’s interesting as I’d like others had read rave reviews. Hard to get here so it’s probably not going to be a problem and I e not heard them. It does highlight how personal the choice of speakers can be.

I would have asked the store to hook up a different pair of speakers so that you have something to compare them to. Otherwise you’ll never know if it was the speakers you didn’t like, or if the source, amp, room or setup was to blame. Or ask for a home demo, which might have given completely different results.

It was the first time I had ever been to Richersounds in Nottingham, so it would be extremely unlikely that they would lend me a £4k pair of speakers. Yes, a home demo is the only way to judge properly, but an in shop demo in a demo room should give an idea of the sound, which it did I suppose as supported by the opinions of others who have heard them and have replied to my post.

The shop Manager seemed to think they sounded rather good, so we felt disinclined to challenge him. We could hear for ourselves in any case and assumed that the store Manager probably knew how to plug speakers into an amplifier after all this time. Yes it would have been a good idea to hear some other speakers at the same time to compare, although we would have no prior knowledge of how they should sound either, so it too would be difficult to know if we are hearing those ones at their best.

As regards seeking opinion on this forum, isn’t that what the forum is for? To be able to raise questions and ideas and to get a different perspective on things.


Richersounds just trawl What HiFi and stock up on 5 star items. They don’t care about matching or anything. Their whole business model as far back as they’ve been around is to just stock what the mags give top marks to and flog it.

Now you can take any old 5 star pieces and throw them together and get a disaster. In fact, you are likely to get a disaster. Similarly, a skilled dealer can take several carefully matched components, some of which may have been trashed in the press, and get music.

Now, I think it is possible the Concept 500 are either not your cup of tea or maybe not as good as they are claimed to be. But I also would mark any demo at RS as null and void to be honest.


That is very interesting afgverhart. The problem with the audition experience we had is that you begin to doubt yourself. When the reviews are so universally favourable, it’s hard to believe your own ears. So I am relieved to hear that someone else had the same experience with these Concept 500’s and at your home as well. This gives me confidence that we did indeed actually hear them accurately, without source or set up problems hindering the sound.

I was told recently by someone in the company, that as a certain retail chain always have a four page ad in a certain HiFi magazine, it means that they always get very good reviews of the products made by the companies that the retail chain also owns. The revenue from this amount of ad space in the magazine makes for a great deal of leverage.

Others in the industry have told me over the years of manufacturers receiving back their demo product from the reviewer after the review has appeared, only to find that the box had not been opened. Difficult to review a product without removing it from the box.

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I think that is right, but in this case it was Q Acoustics themselves who sent me to Richersounds to hear them, as they were by far the closest 500’s to me at over 22 miles away. These speakers are generally not kept in stock and are not sold by many dealers. So there is a real difficulty in getting to hear them. I was told that they keep them hard to get hold of in order to stop the dealers discounting them. They want to keep the price high.
It would be interesting to hear them again in a different setting.

As others have said sometimes there is a complete lack of synergy between products, B& W plus Naim often come up on these pages as being a prime example.

Possibly neither the speakers or amp are bad, just didn’t work together.

As you have a Naim XS2 I would perhaps look at Neat as a good match

Cambridge Audio has, I think, a reputation to be on the bright if not lean side — certainly they have sound signature that is rather different to Naim. So maybe there is no great surprise that you didn’t like what you did hear.

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You are right. The thing is that I am very happy with the Vienna Acoustics Bach Grand speakers. They sound wonderful and look lovely in piano black so I will probably just keep them. It’s just that I have some spare cash sloshing around and was curious as to finding something even better.

There is a YouTube video showing the Chord room at a Hifi show. Chord are demoing their high end kit and are using Vienna Acoustic speakers, which shows just how good they are.

I recently had a home demo of the PCM Twenty5 23’s, lent to me by Moorgate Acoustics in Sheffield whom I have traded with for over twenty years. They were not as good as the Vienna Acoustics I own, but were far better than the 500’s. The PCM Twenty5 23 get rave reviews which don’t seem to fit either. They have a very articulate clear upper bass but they are ‘lower bass’ light, like a bookshelf speaker. The mids are very clear but recessed and the treble has a significant lift/step up right at the top. This was borne out some time after I had auditioned them when I found a frequency response graph online showing the ‘u’ shaped line of the frequency response.

I suppose the moral of the story is never believe reviews. My Nait XS2 is a fantastic amplifier and yet only got a four star review at the time. Having owned one for over six years I can say that the review was inaccurate. I would recommend the Nait XS2 to anyone.

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If you have money sloshing around and you are happy with your speakers you may want to consider an ND5XS or NDX2.

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This is a very good point. It would have been better to have heard them with my amplifier. The problem with this of course is one of logistics. Disconnecting and carting gear around is tedious. With my usual dealer I can either borrow gear or hear something there, but using a Nait like mine. But they only sell what they sell, so this is why I ended up at Richersounds to hear the 500’s.
It here anyone who can demo the 500’s using Naim amplication?

Hello, if you are happy with amplification and speakers - great. The source would be where I would look .

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

@vic575, do you use your Arcam player as transport only? If not, I would put the Qutest into the chain. Arcam and Naim isn’t the most common combination.

Yes I use the Qutest for everything. The Arcam Alpha 8 is 20 years old and whilst it still works perfectly as a transport, the onboard DAC sounds terrible by modern standards. I stream from my laptop into the qutest using Hysolid, free hi res software. It looks very similar to the Naim software using your smartphone as the remote control. It does DSD and is very slick to use. I use the asynchronous Chord drivers in the laptop also.

Ah okay – I just wondered since you wrote earlier that you took your Arcam player to the demo since you know that CD player well.

No, I didn’t take my CD player, I said I took some of my own ‘CD’s with which I am extremely familiar’, some recordings/music.