Acoustic Energy AE100
FOR Clear, driven sound; timing; agility; sonic balance AGAINST Sound short on subtlety and a sense of space
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.
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