Of course, the Q Acoustics M20 HD wireless music system supports Bluetooth – Bluetooth 5.0 with support for aptX HD, in fact. But if you want to hear the best audio performances this high-end two-channel system has to offer, connect it to your computer and use it as a USB audio device for listening to music, watching movies, or playing games.
The system is capable of streaming music at up to 24-bit resolution and sample rates up to 48 kHz via Bluetooth, with support for AAC, AAC +, and aptX HD codecs. But the maximum sampling frequencies jump to 192 kHz when you use a USB cable or a digital optical cable (Toslink). Analog audio sources are supported through 3.5mm and stereo RCA analog audio inputs. Missing? HDMI and Wi-Fi connectivity, the absence of which could explain the reasonable $ 599 price of the system. More on that in a moment.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers, where you will find reviews of competing offerings, as well as a buyer’s guide on the features to consider when purchasing this type of product.
Connect the M20 to a Windows 10 or 11 Mac or PC with a USB-B cable and you gain access to the lossless, jitter-free, and low-noise data delivery platform that is USB 2.0 High Speed True HD Audio. If you’re hanging from a dinosaur rig, Q Acoustics provides downloadable drivers for operating systems as old as Windows 7 and even Windows XP. If you are paying for one of the high resolution streaming services (Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, Amazon Music HD, Apple Music, etc.) you will get the audio quality you are paying for.
Interestingly, Q Acoustics does not provide the USB cable that you will need to achieve this. Fortunately, such cables are very inexpensive; you may already have one as it is basically a printer cable. I bought a 15 foot meter JSAUX Brand Cable on Amazon for $ 11. By the way, 5 meters (16 feet, 5 inches) is the maximum length you can use without unfolding an “active” USB cable, like this one $ 14 One-price model (which I did not test).
I also got nice results from the M20 system when I hooked it up to high-definition streaming music boxes, such as Andover Audio Songbird and Russound MBX-PRE, the latter of which, unlike the M20 itself, can display MQA tracks streamed from De tide. I also auditioned with a DirecTV tuner, a PlayStation 4 game console, and a Pioneer Universal Disc Player. As near-field speakers, the M20 system sings so sweet and bright that the follicles in my arms danced.
Q Acoustics M20 Specifications
The M20 is a neat system consisting of two 10.98 x 6.7 x 11.65-inch (HxWxD) cabinets that can be placed on a desktop or mounted on optional brackets or wall brackets. Unlike some wireless speaker systems, the M20’s two speakers must be connected with a conventional speaker cable (a 13-foot one is provided); On the plus side, you can flip a switch to designate which speaker works as the left and right channel. This arrangement makes it easier to place your speakers as you have less worry about where to find an available outlet for the powered unit.
A three-way switch on the powered speaker sets the system equalizer to compensate for speaker placement – the up position offers the most bass output, for speakers positioned away from walls or corners. The center position reduces the bass boom when you have no choice but to place the speakers close to the wall. If the only place you can find for the speakers is in the corners of your room, slide this switch to the bottom position and the equalizer will reduce the bass output even further. Finally, you can insert the provided foam plugs into the rear speaker ports if there is still too much boom in your room.
Q Acoustics M20 Feature Set
The M20 system’s powered speakers look a lot like Q Acoustics’ 3020i passive bookshelf speakers. Each has a 0.9-inch dome tweeter and a 5-inch woofer in a rounded two-way cabinet with ports with significant amounts of resonance-absorbing bracing inside. The cloth racks cannot be removed, apparently to protect the cone on a crowded desk.
The 4-ohm speakers are driven by an amplifier in one of the units that offers a continuous power output of 32 watts per channel with less than 1 percent total harmonic distortion. That might not sound like much on paper, but the system kicks some serious butt in practice, embodying a full-bodied, level-headed, and well-detailed sound at low, medium, and room-filling volumes.
Frequency response (with built-in DSP in flat) of 20Hz to 20kHz (+/- 0.5dB), and a signal-to-noise ratio of 81dB (aux, A-Wtd, max vol, ref 1W) delivered a bass response so palpable I didn’t feel the need to hook up a subwoofer. Any buyer who disagrees with that assessment can plug a subwoofer into the M20’s sub-out jack. I hardly noticed the improvement when I did, except during the big movie ka-booms.
What you no get with the Q Acoustics M20
The absence of Wi-Fi and HDMI connectivity means that the Q Acoustics M20 isn’t the best audio system for people who want to connect these speakers to a TV or control them with voice commands, a TV remote, or a mobile app ( apart from the transmission services applications themselves, that is). There’s also no support for Apple’s AirPlay or Google’s Chromecast ecosystems. The system does it They come with their own remote and there are volume control buttons on the powered speaker.
On the bright side, I’ve learned to love the larger screen presentation that a laptop or desktop makes possible. The menus are much more detailed, the lyrics are easier to read, and I can get lost in the excellent editorial content that is available, especially from Qobuz’s music essayists.
I have a couple of complaints, none of which is a deal breaker. Right out of the box, these speakers suffered from a harsh and irritating sonic tone that made me fear that Q Acoustics had lost its charm. With patience, and about 20 hours of ardor, that stridency went away. Totally.
My second problem persists, although I have learned to address it in various manifestations. The system sometimes fails to negotiate a handshake with the computer to which it is connected. To reduce its power consumption, the M20 turns itself off after approximately 30 minutes of being in standby mode. One touch on your remote or the control panel on the active speaker should It wakes him up, and does, three times out of four. But on that fourth time, I found it necessary to restart my idle computer (I tested the system with a two-year-old ThinkPad, a four-year-old MacBook, and a ten-year-old iMac that I brought in mothballs just for this review).
I had similar experiences with various music streaming apps on mobile devices. The components would eventually recognize each other and reconnect. At worst, it was a 90-second distraction, but it was a distraction anyway.
Also, be careful: if you have a MacBook with only one USB port, for power and everything else, you will need to unplug the power adapter from the computer to connect the M20 system. Routing the USB cable through a hub will just get things going. I have to run my MacBook on battery while it is connected to the M20 system.
Despite that classic Rolling Stones song, sometimes you can get what you want and What do you need. The Q Acoustics M20 HD wireless music system is a good example. Delivers pleasant, high-resolution sound at an affordable price by relying on the Internet-connected equipment you already own.