Q Acoustics M20 HD review: powerful, compact, and versatile wireless bookshelf speakers

One of the best-sounding, most feature-packed pair of active bookshelf speakers around

T3 Platinum Award
Q Acoustics M20 HD product, two black speakers sitting on a yellow background
(Image credit: Q Acoustics)
T3 Verdict

The Q Acoustic M20 HD speakers offer a high-end audio experience and plenty of features for a fair price that won’t absolutely destroy your wallet. If you want to get into hi-fi without the hassle, they're a superb buy.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Superb, balanced, punchy sound

  • +

    Good connectivity options

  • +

    Excellent build quality

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No Wi-Fi streaming

  • -

    Lacks HDMI eARC

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The Q Acoustics M20 HD wireless speakers are, simply put, some of the best bookshelf speakers around, especially for their £399/$599/AU$899 price tag. Their compact size, sturdy build, superb sound quality, and plethora of connectivity options make them a perfect choice for anyone looking for a pair of speakers that deliver on sound and functionality, with no extra equipment required.

While the speakers aren’t entirely wire-free, they do have some clever design features and offer a huge upgrade to built-in TV speakers and lower-end audio systems. All in all, they’re an ideal choice for those looking to enter the high-end audio world, without spending thousands on various pieces of equipment.

Q Acoustics M20 HD review: price and release date

The Q Acoustics M20 HD wireless music system has an official price of £399/$599/AU$899. It's relatively recent entry into the world of bookshelf speakers, and was released in the UK in September 2021, with a US release in November 2021.

Another pair of high-quality bookshelf speakers that challenge the M20 HD in the same price range is Ruark’s MR1 MK2, which can be snapped up slightly cheaper. Their more compact size makes them better suited for smaller desks and shelves, with their handsome walnut and fabric design are arguably more stylish and eye-catching. 

Having said that, they lack an RCA connection and are missing the clever switch options found in their Q Acoustics rival (more on that in a sec). While they sound great, they can’t quite match up to the M20 HD in the power department either – you pay more, and get beefier speakers that serious hi-fi fans will probably appreciate more. Which means they're good value in the overall scheme of things.

Q Acoustics M20 HD review on a shelf in a living space

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

Q Acoustics M20 HD review: features

The standout feature of the M20 HD speakers is their flexibility for physical connections. Brimming with options including aux and optical in (an optical cable is included), to USB and RCA (handy for turntables). And then you've got aptX HD Bluetooth, meaning most bases are covered, though Wi-Fi streaming (such as Spotify Connect, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, etc) and HDMI ARC support are both sadly absent.

The extent to which this might be a dealbreaker depends on your use case. For our review, the M20 HD system was used as a primarily desktop setup, connected to a PC for movies, Tidal, Spotify and gaming, with the occasional streaming via aptX Bluetooth when we wanted quick and easy Spotify streaming from our phone. Lack of Wi-Fi streaming, for us at least, hasn’t been a major issue. While HDMI ARC support is nice if you want to control the speakers with your TV remote, but given the inclusion of an optical port and the M20 HD’s own solid remote, you’re reasonably covered for TV use too.

The speakers themselves consist of one powered active speaker, which connects to its passive partner with an included speaker cable (the M20 HD’s wireless moniker only really refers to its Bluetooth capability). The rear of the active speaker hosts the business end of things, with the aforementioned ports all present and accounted for, along with a uniquely brilliant feature to boot – a switch which lets you specify whether or not the powered speaker acts as the left or right channel. This is incredibly useful when it comes to placing your speakers near the most convenient plug socket, and it sets the M20 HD apart from rivals.

Q Acoustics M20 HD speakers on stands in living space

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

Q Acoustics M20 HD review: sound quality

On the audio front, both speakers serve up 65W of power, with each sporting a 2.2cm tweeter and 12.5cm mid/bass driver, with rear bass ports. You’ll find some cylindrical foam pieces in the box to insert into these ports if your speakers are placed close to a wall, to help muffle and dampen the bass. A second switch on the rear also lets you handily adjust the bass levels to low, medium or high, depending on how close the speakers are placed to the wall. 

As for how they sound? In short, superb. Listening to 24bit/192kHz music via a PC with a USB-B cable (an annoyingly choice of cable that’s not included), is a delightfully pleasurable experience. If these are your first foray into more serious speakers, you’ll find yourself closing your eyes and losing yourself in the details and fullness of tracks that you’ll more than likely have never noticed before. And while Bluetooth streaming over aptX HD might not match the wired option, even non-high-res sources like Spotify still sound polished.

Overall, the balance is exceptional, with no one element overpowering the rest. From picking out nuanced snare brushes amidst beefy jazz bass lines, to creating a delightfully full and airy experience with live, intimate vocals, this is a pair of speakers that will treat your ears without breaking a sweat.

The inclusion of a sub output suggests that bass fans might feel the low end is lacking, but if you’re firmly in the neutral and balanced camp like us, you more than likely won’t be left wanting for more. Still, it’s nice to have the option to build out the capabilities with a dedicated sub in future, especially if you want to feel earth-shattering explosions in films and games .

On that note, you’ll find plenty to love outside of music. Connected via an optical cable, the M20 HD transforms into a formidable upgrade for your TV’s built-in speakers, with impressive stereo imaging ensuring a proper balance and clear dialogue presented in the centre. Gaming too, becomes a more immersive experience, while still letting you hear subtle and important sounds like enemy footsteps among the spray of bullets.

Q Acoustics M20 HD speaker sitting on computer desk with controller

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

Q Acoustics M20 HD: design and usability

Looks-wise, the M20 HD speakers are… perfectly acceptable. That’s not a bad thing, mind, it’s just that they’re about as minimal and inoffensive as a pair of speakers can be, and are clearly designed to blend it with their surroundings without drawing too much attention. On the one hand, their all-black colour with silver trim and rounded corners make for a timeless design, but those looking for a statement piece will find their visuals lacking. The included remote looks and feels sturdy too, and it works well with no niggles.

There’s no knock against them when it comes to build quality though — they feel exceptionally well made, with a decent, hefty weight, and very solid structure helped, no doubt, by more premium internal features such as a decoupled tweeter cabinet to help reduce interference.

It’s worth noting that while not particularly high at 27.9cm, they’re just under 30cm deep, meaning you’ll need a rather generous bookshelf and/or desk surface to accommodate their depth.

When it comes to usability, things remain straightforward. Simply connect the passive speaker to the active one, plug the latter in, hook up any cable sources you fancy, and you’re all set. The remote is the easiest way to flick between the sources, though you can also do this with the power button too. 

Our only real gripe is the fact that if you’re connected via Bluetooth without any audio playing for a while, the speakers will automatically power off, and there’s no way to change it. It’s apparently due to EU energy saving regulations, which is fair enough, but it can get a little at times if you're stopping and starting streaming — especially as it doesn’t remember your last used source, so you’ll have to select it again using the remote.

Q Acoustics M20 HD review: verdict

At this price, these are speakers aiming higher than the casual consumer, targeting people who want to take their first steps into the world of high-end audio. For the money, you’ll be hard pressed to find a powered speaker setup that sounds this good, with so many connectivity options thrown in. The ability to connect a turntable straight in with no extra hi-fi gear needed, and to also stream from your phone within the same setup, makes them a deservedly tempting option.

Yes, they could look more exciting. And yes, they could have Wi-Fi streaming and HDMI ARC included. But would that be worth the inevitably increased price? For our use case, we certainly don’t think so, and the gateway to a whole new world of sound that this pair of speakers offers is a beautiful thing for those just beginning their audiophile journey.

And if you’d rather just plug in a pair of speakers to beef up your TV/sound system without worrying about watts, DACs, cabinet materials and the like? Then these will still serve you effortlessly well for years to come.

Esat Dedezade

Esat Dedezade is a freelance writer with a penchant for all things tech, lifestyle and gaming, having worked for numerous online and print tech publications for over 10 years. Previously the editor of Microsoft News Centre Europe and deputy features editor at Stuff, he writes for GQ, Wired, Metro, Stuff, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Decrypt, and more, with countless trade shows under his belt to boot. Special skills of note include the power to instantly summon the perfect gif for any given situation, a vast and frightening familiarity with the strangest and most obscure corners of Reddit, and the ability to befriend any cat that happens to cross his path.