Q: Your travel camera recommendations are too expensive for me. Can you recommend a pocket camera with a long zoom that sells for under $300 that takes better pictures than a smartphone?

A: Actually, I can’t. A modern smartphone has much better picture quality than any $300 camera I’ve seen. The $369 Sony RX100 will take great pictures and provide the convenience of a shutter button, but it has a short zoom range. The Panasonic DMC-ZS100 will do everything you want, but it is $450.

Super speakers

When I wrote about the $100 Cambridge Audio Topaz AM5 amplifier deal a couple of months ago, I also suggested speakers and components that could be used to complete a system. I have another pair of speakers to add to the list, and they quickly have become my favorite speakers selling for under $300.

British manufacturer Q Acoustics recently entered the U.S. marketplace with a full line of speakers and soundbars, most of them very affordably priced. The $299 3020i bookshelf speakers have been racking up awards and winning comparison tests, so I decided to take a pair for a spin.

The speakers are small from the front, though quite deep. They are available in four finishes. I had them in English walnut and liked the look a lot.

For my listening tests, I placed them on stands a few feet from the back and side walls. They use a special tweeter that combines a dome tweeter with a concentric ring tweeter. Unless you are an audio enthusiast, you probably have never been exposed to speakers this good. Audio reviewers are often accused of going overboard with their gushing, But I’m not sure that it’s possible to overstate things in this case. These speakers have an uncanny richness and wonderful tonality that causes you to hit the back button on your CD remote because you want to hear the song again and again.

The Q Acoustics 3020i speakers combine the best characteristics of British speakers (outstanding 3-D stereo imaging, warmth, richness and the ability to get your toe tapping with the music) and American speakers (an excellent sense of space, clarity, neutrality, accuracy and the ability to rock ’n’ roll when you crank them up) into a tremendously satisfying whole. It seems paradoxical to have a speaker that sounds both warm and rich while being neutral and accurate at the same time, but they somehow pull it off. The speakers need about 10 hours of break-in for the bass to sound their best, but once they are broken in, you will not want to stop listening.

At only $299, the Q Acoustics 3020i bookshelf speakers are one of the best values in audio. Now that I’ve heard them, I have to check out their soundbar and tower speakers. (qacoustics.com)


Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.