Acous­tic En­ergy AE100

FOR Clear, driven sound; tim­ing; agility; sonic bal­ance AGAINST Sound short on sub­tlety and a sense of space

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If speaker aes­thet­ics re­flected their sonic char­ac­ters, these Acous­tic En­ergy AE100S would be bright and colour­ful things. You may even need to don a pair of sun­glasses be­fore read­ing this re­view. Which is an­other way of say­ing that these bud­get speak­ers are charis­matic, fun-lov­ing per­form­ers.

But in fact, there’s lit­tle cor­re­la­tion be­tween the som­bre ap­pear­ance and the sound here. The AE100S could hardly look any more unas­sum­ing, with their typ­i­cal wal­nut- or black-fin­ished boxes, two-way driver ar­range­ment and low-key dis­play of the brand badge.

Small box, big sound

The AE100S’ small pro­por­tions – they’re just 27cm tall and 16cm wide – po­si­tion them as phys­i­cally dis­creet so­lu­tions. They have been de­signed to achieve high sound-pres­sure lev­els from a small en­clo­sure, which the engi­neer­ing team claims to have achieved with three key as­pects: a 10cm mid/bass driver built around a long-throw mo­tor sys­tem; a rear slot port for en­hanc­ing bass; and a 28mm soft-dome tweeter fea­tur­ing the com­pany’s Wide Dis­per­sion Tech­nol­ogy. We place them in their pre­ferred spot, near a rear wall, though not right up against it. The AE100S rely on a wall for ex­tra so­lid­ity and full­ness, and do­ing this also takes ad­van­tage of that rear-ported de­sign.

Sprightly en­thu­si­asm

We be­gin with Pub­lic Ser­vice Broad­cast­ing’s Ga­garin, and the AE100S put their best foot for­ward. They ea­gerly lay their sprightly side bare in jazzy cel­e­bra­tion of the world’s first cos­mo­naut (the track’s theme), driv­ing the play­ful bassline and mul­ti­ple riffs with en­thu­si­asm and keen-eyed fo­cus.

That readi­ness resur­faces as we roll into Ray Wylie Hub­bard’s Dust Of The

Chase – as does the speak­ers’ stand-out tal­ent: their midrange. The open­ing acous­tic plucks brim with tex­ture, the Acous­tic En­er­gies tak­ing in each strum of a string. The coun­try leg­end’s dis­tinctly gut­tural vo­cal is pro­jected with stark clar­ity and full­ness, and de­liv­ered with his sig­na­ture twang and rough, raspy elo­cu­tion. That midrange in­sight cap­tures the sense of mus­ing in the song’s poignant vo­cals.

De­spite their bold, if a lit­tle for­ward, pre­sen­ta­tion, their char­ac­ter is con­trolled as well as care­free. There’s de­lib­er­a­tion to the tim­ing dur­ing the rich in­ter­play be­tween the dron­ing electrics, shak­ers and har­mon­ica. Bassier notes rear their head just as much as the fre­quen­cies above them.

Their ex­e­cu­tion isn’t quite as con­sid­ered as the Award-win­ning Dali Spek­tor 2s, which are a lit­tle tighter in terms of tim­ing and dy­namic vari­a­tion. The Acous­tic En­er­gies also don’t have the same di­men­sion or breadth of sound­stage as the Dalis or Q Acous­tics 3020is, nor do they in­ject as much space in be­tween in­stru­ments as their ri­vals.

While the AE100S could do with a sub­tler touch, their in­sight isn’t in ques­tion. We fin­ish up with Per­fume Ge­nius’s Run Me Through, and the sober­ing mood­i­ness of Hadreas’ softly spo­ken lyrics and the breathy wood­wind that ac­com­pany it sound suit­ably un­set­tling through the Acous­tic En­er­gies.

Up with the com­pe­ti­tion

Their ab­sorb­ing qual­i­ties par­tic­u­larly hit home here, as do those of the five-star Dalis and Q Acous­tics. But de­spite an abun­dance of com­pe­ti­tion around the £200 mark, the AE100S hold their own. They may not be the most re­fined or trans­par­ent per­form­ers out there, but they do de­liver a good time.

Plugged into equally en­ter­tain­ing kit, such as the Onkyo A 9010 am­pli­fier or Denon D M41DAB mi­crosys­tem, they will sing along as com­fort­ably to your ’80s disco col­lec­tion as they will to your clas­si­cal com­pi­la­tions.

“They ea­gerly lay their sprightly side bare in jazzy cel­e­bra­tion of the world’s first cos­mo­naut”

The AES were de­signed to achieve high sound­pres­sure lev­els from a small en­clo­sure

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