Full disclosure: I absolutely love my Sonos system. I have two Play:5s, a Playbar and a Sub, and not a day goes by where Miles Davis, Alabama Shakes or Alt-J aren’t pumping through my apartment. All my subscriptions (Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal and Hype Machine) are linked. I also stream live radio and music natively from my computer, phone and tablet. The sound is always lucid, rich and plenty powerful. Sonos is a near flawless system, but, for me, it’s almost too clean, too perfect and too cold. Let me explain.

Perfect isn’t always fun. Ask any motoring enthusiast if they’d rather drive the new 911 with Porsche’s PDK automatic transmission or with a five-speed manual transmission. I guarantee you 9.8 out of 10 will pick the five-speed. The ability to mate an analog five-speed to the newest engine, aerodynamics and traction control technology — that’s the perfect pairing.

Specs: Q Acoustics Concept 20s

Enclosure Type: 2-way reflex
Bass Unit: 125mm
Treble Unit: 25mm
Weight: 12kg

Buy Now: $500/pair

For the past few months I’ve been searching for the speaker equivalent of a five-speed to pair with my Sonos system. Paired with the Sonos Connect:AMP, I’ve auditioned a handful of speakers: everything from yard-sale bookshelf speakers to a pair of Polks that could play in concert with Sonos. Nothing compares to the Q Acoustics Concept 20s ($500). The two analog bookshelf speakers pair perfectly with the latest tech and streaming capabilities of Sonos. It’s my five-speed.

Q Acoustics, a U.K.-based company, only came to the U.S. a short while ago. The brand is known for its home audio products, including soundbars, bookshelf speakers, floor-standing speakers and cables. Its cables won the What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year award three years in a row (’05–’07). Despite this prestige, however, the brand is just getting itself acquainted with U.S. audiences. If there was a product to change that, it’s the Concept 20.

There’s a lot of hi-fi sound engineering that goes on in between, but it’s simply a great design.

The pair of Concept 20s cost just as much as a Sonos Play:5 ($499) and provide a warmer and slightly hollower sound. This is in part due to the “cabinet within a cabinet” design that Q calls Gelcore. Essentially, they are two boxes separated by a compound that never fully sets, the idea being that any resonance from the panels is isolated and turned into heat — the only sound comes from the drivers themselves. There’s a lot of hi-fi sound engineering that goes on in between, but it’s simply a great design. The speakers also come in two different colors, a gloss black and a gloss white — the perfect match for a Sonos system.

Of course, if you’re simply looking to build out your Sonos system further, there are other options. Picking up a pair of Play:1s will afford you multi-room streaming capability with a smaller price tag ($398, rather than $499 for the Connect:AMP and another $500 for the Concepts 20s). Going that route, however, won’t give you the analog sound that a standard Sonos system lacks. The juxtaposition of clean, exacting sound with warm analog hi-fi leaves little to be desired.

If there’s one flaw to the Concept 20s, it’s that on their own they’re a little light on bass. That’s fairly common in bookshelf speakers, and certainly not a flaw large enough to detract from a whole-hearted recommendation. If you own a Sonos system and didn’t think that it could be made any better, trust me, it can. The Concept 20s help to round out the dynamic range of a Sonos system and add a touch of warmth and analog-ness — a five-speed transmission.

Note: If you’re worried about connecting the Concept 20s to your Sonos system — it’s simple. All you have to do is run a speaker wire from the speakers to the Sonos Connect:AMP hub. From there, adjust the volume through the Sonos (or Spotify app) and enjoy.
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