There are few good options for improving the sound of a panel TV, but Q Acoustics have delivered one.
THE Q-TV2 SPEAKER system from Q Acoustics is probably a strange product to review on Witchdoctor. After all, this site deals with a lot of dedicated hi-fi and home theatre gear aimed directly at enthusiasts. That said, we totally get the fact that not everyone is able to implement the audio-visual solution of their dreams, or our megabuck dreams for that matter. Between financial pressures, significant other issues and space constraints, there are times when less is more and less is always better than nothing.
Which is where the Q-TV2 comes in. Compared to a powerful home theatre receiver, five or more discrete speakers and a subwoofer, it’s very much in the “less” category but for some people, it’s going to be a perfect fit. Case in point is my brother, who favours a minimalist décor at home and doesn’t really have space near the TV for a set of stand mounts, let alone floorstanding speakers. He owns an LG ultra-thin LED TV, which is great from an interior design perspective but woeful from a audio point of view. A panel this thin leaves very little room for the speakers, and it seems that LG has fitted a pair of drivers borrowed from its MP3 player earphone range.
The Q-TV2 promises to solve this problem, offering a big, powerful sound from a unit that somehow remains virtually invisible and thereby visually inoffensive. The unit is basically an inch or so thick metal box containing a speaker and amplifier unit, which attaches to the back of the panel using the standard mounting points. Two wide dispersion, side mounted speakers sit on rails just behind the edge of the panel; they’re sealed cabinets with passive radiators and are adjustable for width, angle and height. The main Q-TV2 box contains the “subwoofer” module but in truth, this is best described as a woofer. It uses “Force Canceling” technology to minimise vibrations and resonance. There’s 25 watts being fed to each speaker and 50 watts being sent to the woofer. The Q-TV even features digital “lip-sync” adjustment in the event of a signal delay getting vocals and video out of whack.
The QTV2 is supplied with a veritable shedload of bolts, tools and doodads, and while the manual is reasonably clear, it’s likely to be a bit of a pain for non DIY minded types to figure out how to set everything up. Still mentally scarred from helping out on a job that involved mounting twelve 55-inch plasma panels to the ceiling of a gym in Atlanta, and occasionally seeing mounts and bolts in my sleep, I still found getting the unit set up to be somewhat complex. The basic principle is simple enough but getting clearance for the HDMI cable at the back involved shuffling the Q-TV2 off-centre and using a combination of spacers to get enough distance to clear the LG’s own stand. The layout of your TV will dictate exactly how easy it will be to get a Q-TV2 in place and you really won’t know until you get it home but in most cases, it will work one way or another. There are also options for wall mounting the Q-TV2 if necessary.
Getting sound from the TV to the Q-TV2 is best done with a 3.5mm to 3.5mm lead from the TV’s earphone jack. This has the advantage of allowing the sound levels to be controlled from the TV’s remote control. Here’s where we hit another snag – the LG doesn’t have an earphone jack, so we had to shoot off to buy an optical cable and run that instead. The volume in this case is then controlled from the Q-TV2’s supplied remote but we chose to run the optical cable from the MySky box, which allowed us to control the volume using the Sky remote.
Once the Q-TV2 was set up and the TV back in its place, we gave it a listen. The first thing I noticed was big bass. Way too much bass, in fact, as it was booming all over the front of the room. The TV sits up against a wall unit, which was boosting the bass mercilessly but fortunately, Q Acoustics has taken this possibility into account and has fitted a three-way bass attenuation switch to give owners some degree of control. With the switch set to its lowest level, the bottom end stopped playing the fool and got in line.
The audible difference between the TV speakers and the Q-TV2 was dramatic, and it made for a far more pleasant viewing experience, especially with material like Star Wars or the excellent music documentary Pearl Jam Twenty. With only the TV speakers in action, I seriously wouldn’t bother to stick around to watch this type of content but with the Q-TV2, both proved very enjoyable indeed. It goes commendably loud as well, delivering real impact but stays quite controlled to all but the highest levels.
There’s no faux surround sound as provided by most soundbars, but angling the speakers a certain way widens the soundstage nicely and allows people seated at the far sides of the couch to not feel left out. The bass response reaches pleasingly low, while the mid and treble are clear without sounding artificially boosted or being brittle at the top. It’s very easy to get used to the presence of the Q-TV2 and when it’s not turned on, the proceedings are somewhat insipid. Even my young nephew prefers the Q-TV2 to be turned on when he plays TV games.
The price is going to be a bit of an objection to many, especially in light of the fact that once the unit is in place, you don’t really get to see it but that is after all, the point of the entire escapade. I’d much rather have the Q-TV2 than an equivalently priced home theatre in a box and while a soundbar of some description may be a viable alternative for some, if you want a simple, effective yet vanishingly subtle solution to improving the sound of a flat panel TV, there are few other options. The proof as ever, is in the pudding and my notoriously audio visually ignorant brother is keeping the review unit, which is a powerful recommendation. ASHLEY KRAMER