Acoustic Energy AE1 Active £1000
In some ways, it’s a shame that this particular category of speaker is not price specific, because the AE1 Actives outperform many more expensive components. In fact, in this case we’ve been struggling to come up with alternative separates that can match the Acoustic Energys’ talents.
They’re relatively straightforward when it comes to set-up and function. Simply connect them to your source via either their RCA or balanced XLR inputs and you’re ready to go.
Each drive unit is fed by a dedicated 50W class A/B power amplifier module, while dials at the back of each cabinet allow for treble adjustment and bass cut – up or down by 2db – which is handy if your placement options force you into a sonic compromise.
The AE1S deserve decent, hefty speaker stands. They never cross a line with our lighter speaker stands, but the sturdier the better – and they’re well worthy of more than an MDF bookshelf.
Their presentation is forward, but that’s not to say they lack subtlety or dimension; they’re just endearingly excitable. We get through a hefty chunk of our library over a number of days, and with each album the AE1S’ response is absolutely a delight.
Play Soulwax’s FROM DEEWEE and the speakers’ character reveals itself almost from the outset. The rising synthesizer phrases of Present Tense ring with clarity and vigour – there is granular detail to their waveforms and an ever-climbing 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, with substantial body in the midrange to showcase the vocal melody, and control over potentially coarse percussion in the treble.
We’re also treated to these speakers’ impressive punch and drive. Rhythms jab as much as time well, able to contrast often quite ghostly vocal lines with the verve and swagger of their synth-led polyrhythmic accompaniments.
Frankly, once we’d sat down to reacquaint ourselves with these delightful speakers, it didn’t take us long to decide that they should be winners in their class. If you’re looking for active speakers, you owe it to yourself to audition these.
The AE1S aren’t particularly fussy with placement, but are well worthy of decent stands