Acous­tic En­ergy AE1 Ac­tive £1000

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

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.

Ever-climb­ing an­tic­i­pa­tion

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

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