Strong audio performance with rich, full bass and sculpted, bright highs. Sweat- and water-resistant build. Secure fit.
Humdrum design. Inline remote has some dubious features.
- Bottom Line
The Que Q3E are exercise-focused Bluetooth earphones that deliver solid audio from an unexciting design.
The Que Acoustics Q3E are neckband-style Bluetooth earphones with an exercise-friendly design. At $109, they deliver a solid audio experience, with powerful bass response and crisp high frequency presence for balance. There's little to complain about, other than the fact that Que does little to help the pair stand out in a field crowded with better-designed options. A lower price would add incentive, but for $100 you can get more attractive earphones with comparable sound quality.
Available in black, the Q3E's design is resistant to water and can be rinsed off, making the earphone suitable for exerice although there is no official IPX rating. Magnetic ends on each earpiece allow them to snap together when sitting around your neck and not in use. When in your ears, small ridges on the edge of each earpiece help to achieve a very secure, stabilized fit. The neckband, which sits behind the neck when worn, includes a cable cinch for tightening up slack. The design is no-frills, for sure, and quite frankly a bit boring.
An inline control compartment along the right end of the cable houses a central multifunction button and plus/minus buttons for controlling the volume and, if held down longer, for skipping tracks forward or backward. The volume works in conjunction with your mobile device's master volume levels. We're not huge fans of assigning volume and track navigation to the same buttons—it makes it far easier to accidentally skip a track than it would be if the track navigation were assigned to the multifunction button. The central button controls playback and call management.
Another design element we don't care for is the double click of the central multifunction button to auto-dial the last person you called. Yes, if you accidentally tap the button twice, you'll be calling someone even if you were just listening to music. There's no way to disable it, and it's an easy mistake to make often—especially if the music you're listening to takes a second to start up and you're unsure whether you successfully pressed play or not.
The earphones ship with a rounded hard shell, zip-up carrying case, a micro USB charging cable (which connects to a covered port on the inline remote), and three pairs of silicone eartips in small, medium, and large sizes.
Que rates battery life to be approximately five to seven hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels. It's possible to connect the earphones to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, allowing you to field calls on one device and use the other for music playback.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the earphones deliver solid low frequency response. At top, unwise listening levels, the bass doesn't distort and at more moderate levels is still quite substantial on this track. Que does a solid job of balancing out the intense bass depth of this track with the higher frequencies in the mix.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in it mix, gives us a better sense of the Q3E's general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on earphones with heavy bass boosting, but through the Q3E, they have a natural fullness and roundness that is never over the top. Callahan's baritone vocals are delivered with a pleasant low-mid richness that is complemented by the Q3E's presence in the high-mids and highs—the vocals get some added crisp treble edge and the guitar and higher register percussive hits also get a bright presence. This is a balanced sound that doesn't boost any part of the frequency range too crazily—there's some solid bass depth and some sculpting in the highs, but nothing out of hand.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop receives an ideal high-mid presence, pushing its punchy attack forward in the mix, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat have a strong, but not overly intense, delivery. The vocal performances throughout the track are delivered with laudable high-mid and high frequency clarity, and there isn't much added sibilance.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get a pleasant added bass presence—again, nothing too strong, but enough to bring out the richness of the lower register instrumentation. When there is an occasional moment of sub-bass in this recording, it's delivered with a pleasant fullness that doesn't undermine the clarity of the mix—the higher register brass, strings, and vocals are still crisp, bright, and in the forefront of the mix.
Sonically, Que Acoustic's Q3E earphones do a solid job—you get a full, but never too intense, bass response, paired with a clear, well-balanced high-mid and high frequency response. The sound is on par with some of our favorites in this price range and category, but the design is less than stellar—the earphones fit quite securely, but the controls can be irksome. Design quirks aside, the only major flaw is that the pair doesn't really stand out from similarly priced competition. The JBL Reflect Mini BT, Skullcandy XTFree, Jaybird X3, and JBL Reflect Fit all offer similar or better audio experiences and superior designs, both visually and functionally.
About the Author
Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear.