Acous­tic En­ergy AE1 Ac­tive

FOR Bal­anced, de­tailed, ex­cit­ing sound; dy­namic range AGAINST Noth­ing of note

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

We like tra­di­tion.

It’s what puts sprouts on our plate ev­ery Christ­mas.

In hi-fi, tra­di­tion gen­er­ally means plenty of stand­alone boxes and a lot of clut­ter; but it can also mean finely tuned sys­tem­match­ing and broad­ened hori­zons for up­grad­ing. All of which, in turn, means a sys­tem that of­fers ver­sa­til­ity, of­ten a bet­ter per­for­mance. And, frankly, that tra­di­tional sys­tem keeps peo­ple like us in a job.

Nice and easy

Ac­tive speak­ers are hardly a gar­gan­tuan step from tra­di­tion, but it’s rare to find a pair at this price that leaves us strug­gling to think of sep­a­rates that match their tal­ents.

Acous­tic En­ergy’s AE1 Ac­tives are rel­a­tively ba­sic in terms of their set-up and func­tion. Con­nect them to your source via ei­ther their RCA or bal­anced XLR in­puts and you’re ready to go. There’s no Blue­tooth but at­tach­ing a sep­a­rate mod­ule would be far more cost ef­fec­tive than for AE to have in­te­grated the tech­nol­ogy it­self.

Ded­i­cated power units

Each drive unit is driven by a ded­i­cated 50W class A/B power am­pli­fier mod­ule, while di­als at the back of the cab­i­nets al­low for tre­ble ad­just­ment and bass cut up or down by 2db. And it’s all wrapped up in a charm­ingly unas­sum­ing, 30cm-high box avail­able in Piano Black, Piano White or Piano Cherry real wood ve­neer fin­ishes.

We test the AE1S pri­mar­ily us­ing the bal­anced XLR con­nec­tion to our ref­er­ence Gamut pre-amp and Naim NDS/555PS streamer, but the con­sis­tency of their char­ac­ter ir­re­spec­tive of source (as long as it’s good) is worth cel­e­brat­ing from the off.

The AE1S de­serve de­cent, hefty stands. Their pre­sen­ta­tion is for­ward and punchy but that’s not to say they lack sub­tlety or di­men­sion, just that they’re en­dear­ingly ex­citable. We play Soul­wax’s From Dee­wee, and the ris­ing syn­the­sizer phrases of Pre­set

Tense ring with clar­ity and climb with vigour; there is gran­u­lar de­tail here along with an irrepressible sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion.

With Master­planned, we get a sense of the AE1S’ fine in­te­gra­tion and bal­ance. The synth hook stabs away at the low end, com­ple­mented by sub­stan­tial body in the midrange to show­case the vo­cal melody and con­trol over per­cus­sion in the tre­ble.

Tim­ing is spot on but, equally, the dy­namic ex­pres­sion is sub­tle enough to spot­light dif­fer­ing in­ten­si­ties of beats.

Punch­ing above

Sim­ply, these AE1S do ev­ery­thing down to a tee. Not only for what they are, but to the stan­dards we could ex­pect from any amp and speaker com­bi­na­tion. So, yes, we love tra­di­tion, and we love hi-fi sep­a­rates. But it would be a much more ex­pen­sive pair of com­po­nents that would see a marked im­prove­ment on these ac­tive speak­ers.

“Sim­ply, they do ev­ery­thing down to a tee”

They’re only 30cm high but each driver has its own ded­i­cated am­pli­fier in­side

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