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Review: The Q Acoustics 3030i takes one of my favorite budget speakers and adds bass

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The Q Acoustics 3020i has been one of my top bookshelf speaker recommendations under $500 since I reviewed them last year. They ticked most boxes you could ask from an affordable compact speaker, including classy design, solid build quality, and most of all: good sound.

But like any compact bookshelf speaker with a 5-inch woofer, the 3020i had its limits in the bass and power department. So Q Acoustics took the 3020i and supersized it into the new 3030i, featuring a 6.5-inch woofer and a larger cabinet. The price remains comfortably within reach for most audio enthusiasts at $400.

Naturally, as it digs significantly deeper into the bass — Q Acoustics claims 46 Hz — it will likely strike a better balance between size and low-end for many users not wanting to opt for larger towers.

In fact, the 3030i may look a lot like the 3020i, but it borrows more from the tower sibling, the 3050i. Q Acoustics says it’s based the all-new woofer from the design used on the tower model, but used an ‘optimized’ motor to reach surprisingly low for a budget standmount without sacrificing too much efficiency.

Throughout Q Acoustics’ product pages, you’ll also see a lot of talk about eliminating resonances, which seems to be a particular pride point for the company.

Resonating speaker cabinets can have a particularly nasty impact on the sound, as they color all the music you play through the speaker. You want resonances when playing a guitar, but on a speaker, they usually just tell you you’re listening to a pair of boxes rather than live music.

Some companies try to embrace resonances, but Q Acoustics goes to lengths to eliminate them. Using fancy techniques like Finite Element Analysis and Laser Interferometry, the company is able to pinpoint resonances and apply bracing at specific locations most effective at eliminating the harmful resonances.

What I heard

All this translates into speakers that belies their budget pricing. As usual, I write most of my listening notes before performing measurements to compare what I hear to the data.

Compared to the 3020i, the 3030i just feels like “more.” More bass, more dynamics, a more realistic soundstage. They sound bigger than you’d expect from what is still a fairly compact speaker. This illusion is aided visually by the fact the speakers have a small visual footprint, opting for a deeper cabinet rather than a tall and wide one.

Bass is a particularly pleasant surprise, reaching deep enough that I didn’t find myself missing my subwoofer as much as expected. I keep the speakers about a foot or two away from the wall behind them and find them to be nicely balanced at that distance. Your mileage may vary depending on the acoustics of your room, but Q Acoustics includes a foam bung to cover the speaker‘s port should you find the bass a bit too boomy.

As with the 3020i, I found the mids on the speaker to be enjoyable in an ever-so-slightly in a laid-back fashion. If you’re the type of person who likes an up-front, in your face type of sound, the 3030i might not be for you, but I suspect most people will find the 3030i’s tuning agreeable.

The  highs seem balanced just right to my ears – never too harsh, and with detail presentation I think is on par with more expensive speakers. The 3030i seems to perform quite well at presenting details at low volumes too, which is a quality I appreciate as I do most of my listening at don’t-bother-my-neighbors volumes.

Q Acoustics says it ‘decouples the tweeter’ from the rest of the cabinet to minimize stray vibrations. I’m not able to quantify how effective this treatment is, but subjectively, the speaker surprised me with its level of detail.

In terms of their spatial presentation, the 3030i are the type of speaker that have an expansive, soundstage with a fairly wide sweetspot, but aim more for envelopment over than pin-point precision. Rather than transporting you into the recording space as speakers with narrower directivity tend to, the 3030i seem to invite musicians into your home.

Which style is better is largely a matter of preference, but once again, their soundstage size belies their size, aided by impressive dynamics that are definitely a notch above its predecessor. I personally consider this presentation more realistic than speakers with front-row, pin-point imaging on, but this can also vary by recording.

As usual, you can affect the speaker‘s soundstage by angling the speaker forward or straight at your listening position – I found the 3020i sounded best somewhere in between, about 15 degrees off-axis.

I felt the 3030i are speakers with mostly neutral, slightly laid back tuning that sounded good with just about everything I threw at it.

What the data says

The 3030i’s performance is evident in its measurements too. Using a technique that allows me to remove room reflections from my measurements, I can approximate the speaker‘s “true” sound without the influence of my room.

Below is a graph colloquially called a ‘spinorama,’ so-called because it involves rotating the speaker to capture its sound at a whole bunch of horizontal and vertical angles — 70 total. The spinorama distills all that data into a more digestible form, giving us a detailed overview of a speaker‘s performance. 

Q Acoustics 3030i Spinorama, measured from tweeter. Most measurements truncated below 200Hz due to limitations in my measurement technique.

Explanations of how to interpret these graphs are provided over at Speaker Data 2034 and Audioholics, but here are the general truths you should know:

  • The On-Axis and Listening Window curves should be relatively flat. They represent the ‘direct’ sound of the speaker before any reflections. The On-Axis is measured with the speaker aimed directly at the microphone, while the Listening Window is an average of a few angles to account for the fact most people don’t sit still or centered. These have the biggest impact on our perception of timbre.
  • The Early Reflections curve averages various angles to estimate the very first bounces off your walls, floor, and ceiling to reach your ears. These reflections, which are mostly in the front hemisphere, significantly affect timbre too. We want the ER curve to tilt down but otherwise be pretty similar to the Listening Window response. This curve also best predicts the final in-room response.
  • The Sound Power curve represents an average of the speaker‘s sound in all directions, but it’s not as useful as the ER curve for speakers that mostly radiate sound forward.
  • The Directivity Index and Early Reflections DI curves tell us how similar the off-axis sound is to the direct sound. These are calculated by subtracting the Sound Power and Early Reflections curves from the Listening Window, respectively. Smooth DI curves suggest the off-axis and direct are similar, which bodes well for the soundstage.
  • Bumps that persist in both the direct and off-axis sounds suggest an audible resonance. Resonances remind you you’re listening to boxes as they color all music equally.

For the speaker nerds, the below gallery includes more data, including a more detailed breakdown of horizontal and vertical directivity.

Overall, I think the 3030i put up an admirable performance for the price. The direct sound is a bit jagged, but the overall shape of the curve shows a mostly neutral sound, with a few minor anomalies. There appears to be a resonance at about 1,200 Hz, but otherwise the speaker seems to control such anomalies pretty well with the budget cabinet.

The horizontal off-axis behavior is impressive too, considering the design lacks a large waveguide to ensure a smooth transition between the woofer and tweeter. While large waveguides often narrow the soundstage; Q Acoustics seems to have preferred aiming for an overall wide off-axis using a minuscule waveguide instead. Note the wide and decently controlled horizontal directivity up to about 7 kHz.

As with most speakers, it’s the vertical portion that seems to be the speaker’s biggest weakness, so make sure to align these at the proper height, with the tweeter at ear level.

As a consequence of the vertical response, we see a bit of a scoop in the crossover region of the spinorama, where the woofer transfers its sound over to the tweeter, but it is not as exaggerated as I’ve seen on other models with similar designs; in fact, it appears to be less substantial than the one on the smaller 3020i.

That said, the measurements suggest the presence region from 4 kHz to 6 kHz may sound a little bright, though I didn’t find this to be the case in my listening. In any case, I am usually willing to sacrifice some even-ness in the off-axis sound for a wider soundstage.

Lastly, you can also see the speaker’s solid bass extension here; Q Acoustics’ claim of -6dB at 46Hz seems honest. In a typical room, which will reinforce the bass, you should get a decent amount of sub-bass too.

The 3030i are not perfect, but these are $400 speakers – I’ve seen far more expensive speakers that measure worse. I already thought the 3030i were great performers for the price, but the 3030i both sounds and measures better – even before you factor the extra bass.

Another strong performer from Q Acoustics

Q Acoustics seems to have done what it set out to do with the 3030i – it created a bigger and better version of the 3020i, or alternatively, a smaller version of its towers. The 3030i improves on the frequency response of its smaller sibling, adds more bass, keeps the classy looks, and is priced at a very reasonable $400. What’s not to like?

The 3030i is available directly from Q Acoustics for $400. The company isn’t currently shipping units due to COVID-19, but is taking pre-orders to ship as soon as its warehouse re-opens.

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Published April 10, 2020 — 00:38 UTC

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Apple reportedly planning two MacBooks with ARM processors for 2020

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Prolific Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo is at it again with another prediction on Cupertino’s upcoming products. Specifically, Kuo believes Apple is planning to launch a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and a new MacBook Air with the newfangled chips as early as this year, as well as 14 and 16-inch Pros next year. In a research note, Kuo says(via MacRumors):

We predict that Apple will launch new MacBook models including the new 13.3-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ equipped with the ‌Apple Silicon‌ in 4Q20, the new ‌MacBook Air‌ equipped with the ‌Apple Silicon‌ in 4Q20 or 1Q21, and new 14- and 16-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ models equipped with the ‌Apple Silicon‌ and all-new form factor design in late 2Q21 or 3Q21.

Apple is also rumored to announce a redesigned iMac with a design more akin to the iPad Pro this year, although it probably won’t feature an ARM processor in 2020.

The company has developed an expertise in ARM processors since the inception of the iPhone, launching devices with processors that are often a generation ahead of competitors in performance while being more efficient to boot. At WWDC, the company claimed its silicon will both be more powerful and use less power than existing desktop processors, although the announcement was light on specifics.

Developers were offered a new Mac Mini featuring an A12Z Bionic process — essentially a tweaked iPad Pro chip — after WWDC. While we may see that chip in the new MacBook Air, being Apple’s entry-level laptop, we expect to see a big leap in performance on the new MacBook Pros, as those will have to compete with the existing Intel Models.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say — we’ll (hopefully) find out more later this year.

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on
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Published July 10, 2020 — 19:05 UTC

Napier Lopez

Napier Lopez

July 10, 2020 — 19:05 UTC

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Far Cry 6 details leak, and our fingers are crossed for a female protagonist

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Ubisoft was apparently planning to reveal a new Far Cry game at its weekend E3 replacement event. Today, a leak gave away most of the major details about the game, including a look at the main villain. Ubisoft has also confirmed we’ll be seeing the game at the show.

Anton would not be pleased. See you on Sunday at #UbiForward. pic.twitter.com/HieToJzDxp

— Far Cry (@FarCrygame) July 10, 2020

We already suspected there was going to be a Far Cry game at this weekend’s event. Ubisoft allegedly has five games coming out this fiscal year — we could already account for Watch Dogs LegionAssassin’s Creed ValhallaRainbow Six: Quarantine, and Gods & Monsters. All we knew about the fifth game was that it was allegedly a new release in one of Ubisoft‘s major franchises. Far Cry is really the only other big series Ubisoft has that’s not already represented on that list. So here you go: Far Cry 6.

Far Cry 6 page just show up on PS HK Store. 🧐 pic.twitter.com/LXZ1EhGykG

— anjohn0422 (@anjohn0422) July 10, 2020

The game’s cover image and details leaked via the PlayStation Store, where a listing for the game appeared, presumably a few days ahead of schedule. The description that accompanied the picture describes the game thus:

Welcome to Yara, a tropical paradise frozen in time. As the dictator of Yara, Anton Castillo is intent on restoring his nation back to its former glory by any means, with his son, Diego, following in his bloody footsteps. Their ruthless oppression has ignited a revolution… Play as Dani Rojas, a local Yaran and become a guerrilla fighter to liberate the nation…

Wow, that sounds like it could almost be a description of a Just Cause game. When does Rico Fucking Rodriguez (yes, that’s his full legal name) show up with the hookshot to help Dani out?

Read: Microsoft may get Mortal Kombat and LEGO if it buys WB Games

All that said, I’m pleased that the player character will actually be a character this time around. After Far Cry 5 and New Dawn hamstrung their villains by making them menace faceless, mute player characters, we might finally get to see some more of that fun hero/villain interaction that makes Far Cry games so memorable. Also, with a name like Dani Rojas, I think there’s a good chance the hero could be a woman or at least have a selectable gender. I sure hope Dani’s a woman — it’d certainly add a new spin to things.

The other thing you’ll probably have already noticed is who they’ve cast as Anton Castillo: Emmy nominee Giancarlo Esposito. Ordinarily I’m not a fan of game characters made the face and voice of a well-known actor — the ability to unbind characters from what their actors look like is one of the things I love about games (and animation). In my humble opinion no game has thus far benefited from the inclusion of such an actor’s conspicuous presence, though I’m willing to revisit that when Cyberpunk 2077 comes out and we can see how much of that game actually features Keanu Reeves. That said, I’m willing to let the man who played Gus Fring have his shot at playing a great game villain, so we’ll have to see if he changes my mind.

Expect to see the game officially unveiled at Ubisoft‘s show this Sunday. If the PlayStation Store leak is accurate, it’ll be released on February 18, 2021.

Read next:

Apple reportedly planning two MacBooks with ARM processors for 2020

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Holy Sheet: Apply Einstein’s ‘8th wonder of the world’ to your money in Google Sheets

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“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it… he who doesn’t… pays it,” Albert Einstein once said. For those who aren’t financial gurus, allow me to put this quote in layman’s terms: everyone who’s able to save up a little, and is patient enough, can get wealthy. It’s not how celebrities get rich, it’s how the millionaire next door gets born.

So how does it work?

To become this achievable millionaire next door, you don’t have to win the lottery, or have an IQ as high as Einstein’s. All you have to understand is one investment concept called compound interest, and of course make it work for you.

It works as follows. Say you invest $1000 in the broader market, using a relatively low-risk index fund (a basket of a broad range of stocks) such as the S&P 500 or an even more diversified total world stock market index fund, and you gain 8% in a year on capital gains and dividends (sort of the average annual return). After a year, your capital has grown from $1000 to $1080. Your profit is $80 after the first year.

Now let’s say you choose to keep the $1080 invested (including reinvesting the dividends). After the second year the $1080 grows another 8% (again, this is hypothetical, as the annual return fluctuates) to $1166.40, meaning your annual profit has gone up from $80 to $86.40.

Your money is growing faster because you’re not just growing your principal of $1000, but also last year’s earned interest of $80. You’re making interest on interest, in other words compound interest. On average your yearly earnings will grow, just by keeping it invested, and thus making it work for you.

How can we simulate this?

The main ingredients for generating compound interest are:

  • Investing money, preferably adding a steady amount each month. This is called dollar-cost averaging, and prevents you from going all in at the wrong time (i.e. the market’s low).
  • Time, lots of time, for your money to grow by reaping the benefits of compound interest generated by the market. You’re aiming for the so-called hockey stick effect to kick in, which means the longer you let your money work, the faster it rises.
Hockey stick effect for doubling your money each year, on a $10,000 principal

That’s all there is to it. So you’re probably wondering what would happen if you actually put aside say $500 a month for say 30 years, while the market’s 8% average return would continue to occur. Well, we’ve created a template for you just for that.

All you have to do is head over to the Google Sheet document, make a copy of it for yourself by heading to the menu and hitting File -> Make a copy. Then, change the main parameters on the right under ‘Capital already invested’ if you already have money invested in the market, ‘Extra savings invested per month’, and optionally tweak the ‘Average monthly return’ to increase the annual return (in red) if you expect a lower or higher annual return than 8%.

So there you have it. Money doesn’t necessarily just have to be for the few, as long as you have patience and perseverance.

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