Just Add Music
Sound & Vision|December 2021 - January 2022
Q ACOUSTICS Q ACTIVE 200 LOUDSPEAKER
Daniel Kumin

IF THERE were any doubts that we are well into the Age of Stream, the recent proliferation of just add music" audio systems should lay them to rest. Whether toaster-sized Bluetooth portables or full floor-standing systems, wireless all-in-one speakers conceived around high-quality streaming are definitely a thing, and one of the latest examples comes from Q Acoustics.

The British maker's new Q Active 200 is interesting on several fronts. First, it receives 24-bit/96kHz resolution music wirelessly via a 5GHz link from its supplied paperbacksized hub. Second, the Q A200 looks like no other speaker I've seen, and that's cool. Third, its electro-acoustic design is unusual, highlighted by a pair of Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers in each speaker, supported by a rear-firing woofer of conventional cone form.

BMR technology evolved from the late NXT (another Brit outfit) family of distributed-mode flat-panel drivers and has been getting a good bit of attention in the speakerdesign world lately. Briefly, a BMR driver is a round (usually), more-or-less flat transducer that, while driven by a conventional voice-coil motor, emphatically does not maintain the pistonic, linearly in-out motion of conventional cones and domes. Instead, as the reproduced frequency increases, its surface “breaks up" into multiple vibrational modes, something like a flat-panel driver of the ribbon, electrostatic, or planar-magnetic type used in speakers.

BMRs are full-range drivers that reproduce higher frequencies almost as effectively as lower ones within the context of their overall diameter (the dual 2.25-inch BMRs in the Q Active 200 operate from 150Hz on up). And a BMR is an almost hemispherical radiator at all frequencies: unlike pistonic cone or dome midrange drivers and tweeters, a BMR driver does not tend to "beam" increasingly as the reproduced frequency ascends, but instead spreads its sound evenly into the forward half-space. This means that listeners will receive a notably spatial stereo effect from almost any position in front of a speaker pair, even one substantially off-center. Also, any colorations induced by room reflections should be lessened, since the reflected sound's spectral content is nearly identical to that of the direct sound.

The Q Active 200's driver complement highlights the dual BMR units, which are vertically arrayed off center on the front baffle. This arrangement promotes two potential setup options: "innie" and "outie," while the single 4.5-inch woofer fires aft, radiating from a false rear panel spaced an inch or so off the driver with a single ovoid port venting the enclosure. Each driver is individually driven by its own onboard amplifier. Q Acoustics' states only “100 watts continuous” and “280 watts peak” power, with neither figure evenly divisible by three, so I presume these are distributed to the BMR/woofer units along the lines of something like 20/20/60 watts. The 150Hz crossover between the BMRs and the woofer is about 10 times lower than most conventional two-way speakers, which means that a large-diameter woofer diaphragm is not forced to reproduce and, willy-nilly, narrowly beam-midrange content. The crossover, and the boundary EQ options I'll discuss below, are presumably implemented in the digital domain, as all audio signals, whether digital or analog, are internally converted to 24-bit/96kHz PCM.

It's an unusual package to be sure, one with a somewhat unusual look I found very appealing. The speakers are available in black or white and sport a very nice fit 'n' finish. I preferred the white of my review sample, which highlights the asymmetric front baffle look, but then I'm a sucker of long standing for white speakers.

SETUP

Okay, let's put away the pocket-protectors and set up the Q Active 200s. The two speakers are identically featured, with a small rear panel proffering a two-prong IEC power connector, a USB type-B port marked “Update Only," and two mini-toggle switches. One of these sets the speaker's left/right status, while the other is used to select boundary-compensation EQ settings for corner, wall, or out-in-theroom placement. On top of each speaker are volume up/ down, and input-select touch "buttons" (bumps, really) plus a set of LEDs to identify the active input and power status.

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