When UK distributor Armour wanted a loudspeaker brand they could sell at modest prices, they engaged one of the best European designers and gave him a clean sheet brief. The result is the Q Acoustics 1000 series - an outwardly conventional, but surprisingly well engineered, 5.1 channel system.

The Q Acoustics 1000 series quite deliberately sticks with conventional compact satellites rather than the matchbox satellites that have become so fashionable in some quarters, and all component parts are bespoke. Most of all, the mix of price and performance mix really takes some beating.

The system is available in various forms at different price levels: you can have, for example, small satellites all round, or with floor standing main front speakers. Our chosen combination consists of four small two way satellites, and a centre speaker which uses similar drivers in a wider enclosure and with two bass units to deliver the increased power handling necessary in a home cinema centre speaker.

Attention to detail is remarkable given the price, and includes heavy and well damped low resonance enclosures, elaborately designed crossovers and unusually thick baffles which give a stable working platform for the drive units to work against.

Wall brackets are available for all satellite speakers. The subwoofer is a simple and relatively lightweight design which (perhaps inevitably at this price level) uses bass reflex loading. As it turns out, this subwoofer is of strictly limited ability.

Not too loud now

If you keep its contribution to the sound at a modest level, it behaves well enough, filling out the sound and adding warmth and scale, though not without some damping of dynamics. But if you increase the level considerably, or use too high a low pass crossover frequency, the sound quickly becomes unruly with a bloated (and eventually a boomy) on-note feel, if you keep turning the volume control clockwise.

If Q Acoustics hasn't pulled the rabbit from the hat with the subwoofer, it is dangerously close to having done so with the rest of the system, which is excellent. So much so that Wharfedale (whose Diamond system is in the firing line) will have real cause for concern. It works with film soundtracks and makes a fair stab with music too.

The system is clean and articulate, and generally sounds consistent and neutral, with impressive clarity and image precision. The satellites err towards being lean and dry in balance, which may not be ideal given the limitations of the subwoofer. It also needs to be driven quite hard - puny amplifiers shouldn't apply for the job.

Overall, the subwoofer would be a candidate for an upgrade, especially in larger rooms or where high replay levels are on the menu. But the rest of this impressive system is truly capable, and all at a throwaway price.