Publisher Profile

Acoustic Energy AE100² bookshelf speakers Review

By: |

I needed a small pair of desktop speakers after I downsized my office back in 1999, so after a little research, I found one of the many user review sites that gave a $300 per pair of speakers called the Acoustic Energy Aegis One a unanimous 5 out of 5 rating on all reviews. I have never seen a product get a perfect score before, so it piqued my curiosity. I went to my go-to high-end stereo shop, Shelley’s Stereo, to see if they carried the Acoustic Energy line. They did, however, they did not have that model on display for me to audition. But the owner, Alon, recommended the Aegis One, so I purchased a pair without listening to them first. Usually this is not a good idea. These speakers were replacing my Magnepan MMGs, so they had big shoes to fill. To my surprise the Aegis Ones exceeded all of my expectations. The speakers were to be used on the desktop, right in front of my ears, so if they had an aggressive sound, it would be very difficult to listen to all day. If anything, I found the highs a little subdued, which made them very listenable and compatible with the other components I was using. These were great speakers for a small space, especially compared to numerous budget computer speakers out there.

I had not listened to the Aegis Ones in years (that office system was packed up when I retired), but in anticipation of getting the new AE100², I decided to unbox them and replace the Acarian Systems Alon 1 speakers in my main system. I continued using my AR “The AR Turntable” with a Sumiko Premier MMT tonearm. Currently I am using the Sumiko Olympia moving magnet phono cartridge. I continued using my trusty NAD PP1 phono stage connected to the Wyred 4 Sound mINT integrated amplifier with the built-in DAC. All I can say about the Aegis Ones is WOW!! I had forgotten how wonderful these speakers are.

Acoustic Energy, founded in 1987 in London, England, and now in Gloucestershire, made quite a splash with its initial AE1 loudspeaker, which delivered a very surprising performance from a compact enclosure. The design principles that produced the AE1 have continued as the company has grown and evolved its product line since. The AE100² under review here is the latest stand-mount offering in Acoustic Energy’s entry-level 100 Series of speakers.

When the AE100² arrived, they were first inserted in place of the Aegis Ones. The AE100² overall are a little smaller than the Aegis One, although the two drivers are the same size. The build quality seemed very good, especially for a relatively inexpensive pair of speakers. There is a single pair of 5-way connectors on the back. These speakers came in the Black Satin finish. The AE100²s are 87db at 6 ohms while the Aegis One is 90db at 8 ohms.

I started playing a variety of music, including jazz, orchestral, and rock. Through the AE100², the music had an almost tube-like quality and a sound that was similar to the Aegis Ones. I enjoy my tube equipment with my floor standing speakers, but this combination was so enjoyable at a fraction of the price that there was no reason to switch to different components. Right now the music is so engaging that I am having a hard time writing this review. All I want to do is enjoy listening. Someone commented on one of my reviews that they liked my phrase, “When I closed my eyes, I felt the speakers disappearing.” Well, this is true with the AE100²s. Even in a small room with the speakers only 18” or so from the front wall, I was able to get the front-to-back layering that is so important to me when listening to music. There was also a fairly decent side-to-side soundstage. The midrange was very natural sounding. The highs were a little on the sweet side, although not as much as the Aegis Ones. The bass was fairly full, especially for such a small pair of speakers. Top to bottom balance was very good except for deep bass, which was evident when I played a Telarc recording with a loud bass drum whack.

I used the speakers in a two-channel stereo system even though they also seem to be marketed to serve as part of a home theater setup. I find any number of small inexpensive speakers will be fine in a home theater system, whereas they may have noticeable shortcomings when used in a two-channel stereo setup playing music, such as a lack of resolution, a limited soundstage, and a lack of good imaging. The AE100²s does not have any of these shortcomings, despite the inexpensive price. You could use them in a home theater setup and/or a quality two-channel stereo and they would be totally fine. I have stated in the past that speakers, more than any other component, have the biggest impact on the sound of a system. Replacing a pair of inexpensive home theater speakers with the AE100²s will really enhance your music listening experience.

I did hook up the Acoustic Energy AE100²s to my home theater rig and played both records and CDs. They replaced a pair of inexpensive Paradigm home theater speakers that are part of my home theater surround sound setup. The turntable was the newly purchased Music Hall MMF-1.3 turntable with the outstanding Grado Opus3 phono cartridge connected to an inexpensive Yamaha home theater receiver. I also used an old AMC CD player.  I again played a variety of both records and CDs in two-channel mode. Even using these modest components, this system sounded decent. Since this is in my family room, I was able to fill my home with music. I mentioned in my review of the Grado Opus3 phono cartridge that front to back layering of music is very important to me. The AE100²s excelled at taking advantage of the merits of this phono cartridge, especially in a larger room. The speakers also gave a nice side-to-side imaging, which created a realistic presentation of the music and a wide-open sound. This with a very inexpensive home theater receiver.

I finally moved the Acoustic Energy AE100²s to my living room and used my former office system components, which are higher-end than the Yamaha receiver. The room is a bit unbalanced with vaulted ceilings on one side. Here they replaced my Magnepan MMGs and were placed in the same spot as the Maggies, about 4′ from the back wall. The better components in this system really made the Acoustic Energy AE100²s shine. Using the NAD Monitor 1000 preamplifier and the Parasound HCA-1200 high current power amplifier dramatically improved the resolution of the AE100²s. These components were used with the Goldring GR1 turntable, which is a Rega 2 clone, and a Talisman A phono cartridge. A Sony CD player/recorder was also used. I played some of my favorite big band and orchestral records, which was no problem for the AE100²s. Playing this music showcased the pinpoint imaging that always seems to be a strength of small speakers. Again, there was a nice wide-open sound that makes you feel the musicians are right there. Bass also improved with the better amplifier. My house was filled with musical enjoyment. This combination made the music sound real. Rock music on the AE100²s was also a success.

Like some of the other speakers I have reviewed, the Acoustic Energy AE100²s integrated well with every component I used. I have had difficulty matching my Alons to the right components, which is why I started using tube components. I did not have this problem with the AE100²s. I know that bookshelf speakers traditionally have limited bass, however, I did not seem to miss the bass even when playing a large orchestra or big band jazz in a larger room. The wide-open sound you get from small speakers with pinpoint imaging may be a worthwhile trade off.

There are some limitations with the Acoustic Energy AE100² speakers. Deep bass is obviously missing and the mid-bass can get a little congested at times. By comparison, the much larger and more expensive Alons have a little more clarity and a lot more bass. The AE100² also need speaker stands to sound their best. These limitations exist with most small speakers, even those costing substantially more. None of these limitations were enough to prevent my enjoyment of listening to the AE100²s.

I have listened to a number of bookshelf speakers over the years at various audio shows and have been impressed by the wonderful imaging I’ve often heard from them. The Acoustic Energy AE100²s are right at home in that camp.  But most of those speakers at the shows cost between 3 and 10 times as much as AE100². Yes, even though the Acoustic Energy AE100² speakers can be purchased as part of a surround sound speaker package, they are absolutely refined enough to use playing two-channel music. Just make sure you pair them with a quality amplifier.

The Acoustic Energy AE100² speakers at $499 per pair are a fantastic bargain. When you consider the current rate of inflation, it is nice to see another company keeping the prices of their products affordable. These seem like an updated and improved version of my Acoustic Energy Aegis Ones. Similar to some of my other speaker reviews, I used the Acoustic Energy AE100² in different rooms with different components. I found the sound improved as the matching components improved. The 100 series has an accompanying center channel and subwoofer, if you want to use them in a home theater setup. There are also larger floorstanding speakers in the 100 series, if you have a larger room and would also prefer more bass. I initially used the Aegis Ones as desktop speakers and got substantially better results than computer speakers; however, they sound best on stands placed away from the rear wall.

I really enjoyed my time with the Acoustic Energy AE100² speakers. I enjoyed them so much that I plan to start listening to my Acoustic Energy Aegis One speakers on a regular basis, maybe alternating between my office and living room systems depending on my mood. Anyone looking for an inexpensive pair of bookshelf speakers should consider a pair of Acoustic Energy AE100² speakers first. You may not need to look any further.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin

  • (Page 1 of 1)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popups Powered By :