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Audio Note UK AN-E/SPx AlNiCo Loudspeakers Review

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I will start this review with a big dose of reality.

The Audio Note AN-E/SPx AlNiCo speakers are clearly not for most readers reading this review. This is a two-way loudspeaker with an 1-inch silk dome tweeter and an 8-inch woofer. It isn’t ten feet tall, doesn’t have beryllium or diamond or electrostatic tweeters, nor is it made with 300-lb steel bracing or other rocket ship materials. One look at these speakers and another look at their price will put the AN-E/SPx AlNiCo in the land of crazy no matter what I say about them. And yet you can put me in this land of crazy as I wound up buying them. Yes I bought them even without them having a myriad of technobabble or having multiple 15-inch Kevlar woofers or piston tweeters. They don’t have built-in servo subs or massive ceramic horn mouths or white papers from the National Research Council or various pundits on forums raving about the superiority of ribbons. This isn’t to say that terrific results can’t be attained with those impressive designs and materials, but this speaker is an evolution on a platform that I have ultimately found to sound just plain right.

This review is largely for the people who have bought into the sound of Audio Note and are deciding which of the seventeen versions (more on that later) of the Audio Note E model they should consider.  The AN-E/SPx AlNiCo is largely, if not completely, designed for people who own complete Audio Note stereo systems.

But we live in an inclusive society, so I shall endeavour to include the folks who may tiptoe in the land of crazy or who are new to Audio Note UK.

The Audio Note UK AN-E range of loudspeakers has been around in one form or other for about forty years, starting way back as the Snell Acoustics Type E. Snell Acoustics under Peter Snell created the Type E speaker along with their Type J and Type K, and the famous Type A. Unfortunately, Peter Snell passed away, leaving the company to a new engineer. Peter Qvortrup (the founder of Audio Note UK) was dissatisfied with replacement models from the new Snell Acoustics and bought the rights to the original designs. Peter and his team worked on the speaker over the years, using vastly better cabinetry and drivers and changing the port dimensions to create what are now the Audio Note K, J, and E series of loudspeakers.

The AN-E speaker has been reviewed time and time again over the decades from reviewers all around the world. Indeed, I reviewed the AN-E/Lx not that long ago as well as the slightly smaller AN-J/Spe, which I happily enjoyed for thirteen years (

An Audio Note AN-E in high gloss finish

Why another AN-E speaker review?

Quite astonishingly Audio Note UK makes, at the time of this review, an incredible seventeen versions of this loudspeaker. Yes, you read that correctly, seventeen! On top of that is a dizzying number of finish options offered for all of the models except the base AN-E/D, which comes in any colour you want so long as it is black.

There are over twenty wood finishes available as well as any of the RAL solid colours at additional cost. So if you have your heart set on an AN-E in Hot Pink you will be pleased to know that you will be the only person on the planet, one would hope, with that speaker finish. Oh, and you can also order them in either High Gloss or Satin (matte). Needless to say, with so many permutations of these speakers,you generally need to order in advance.

Reviewers have covered the history of the company several times so I will not cover it at length again. In short, Audio Note UK does things a little bit differently than the rest of the audio industry in that they control everything inside their products down to the component parts. They design and make the majority of their wires, resistors, capacitors, cartridges, tone arms, volume pots, transformers, etc.

Most other companies buy off the shelf parts (often out of China) and rely on secondary company quality controls. This is fine for budget products of course, but less acceptable in high-priced stereo equipment running into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars when purporting to be handcrafted products.

The AN-E/SPx AlNiCo currently sits 5th from the top of the line in the AN-E stable. Yes, that means there are four models above this one.

For simplicity, models are differentiated by what follows the (/). In this case Spx refers to the internal wire inside the loudspeaker. Spx cabling is 31 strands of Silver Litz. AlNiCo refers to drivers employing the iron alloy called AlNiCo (often written as “Alnico”), which, in addition to iron, is composed primarily of aluminium (Al), nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co). Peter Qvortrup noted that there are about a half a dozen grades of AlNiCo that can be used when making tweeters and woofers and that Audio Note uses the very best of these. So just because a maker claims to use AlNiCo doesn’t mean it will be better.

A further designation, HE, refers to whether or not the speaker uses the Audio Note Higher Efficiency woofers offering a gain of around 3dB to the speaker’s sensitivity. AN-E speakers range between 94.5dB to 98.5dB sensitivity depending on the model and drivers chosen. The model under review  is rated 96dB sensitive and is an easy speaker load for amplifiers as low as 7 watts, though, in a smaller room, 3 watts from one of Audio Note’s own SET amps would offer enough power. All speaker cabinets from the AN-E/Lx model on up are made from 15-ply no void Russian Birch and all offer stunning finishes and construction quality. The AN-Es are hand built in Austria in a stream-powered facility, getting more than a few points for being a green speaker. Most models come with your choice of either standard black paper woofers or blue hemp woofers.

Here are side by side photos of the woofers and tweeters. Bottom left = standard bass paper driver / tweeter, bottom right = High Efficiency Hemp bass driver / silver tweeter, top middle = Alnico bass driver / Alnico tweeter.

6 Responses to Audio Note UK AN-E/SPx AlNiCo Loudspeakers Review

  1. Timmo says:

    Cha..Ching : )
    The ever ascending…stratospheric pricing of this loopy hobby…
    JMHO…but ain’t it the truth…

    • mcnubbins says:

      If you want AlNiCo magnets and hemp cones at a tenth the price, check out Omega… another not-made-in-China speaker company.

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks…I have heard about Omega…will look into that…
    I just like to support US companies even though some are at lofty prices…
    Regards, Tim

  3. DD says:


    Is the OTO good for the Alnico unit?


    • Richard Austen says:


      The OTO is a good amplifier. I’ve had mine for 14 years. However, to get the most out of the speakers I would be looking at their level 3 or higher amplifiers such as the Meishu Tonmeister. If that is too expensive – what you could do is buy the OTO SE as “separates.” Audio Note integrated amps are two separates – an M1 Preamp combined with a P1SE power amp. It’s exactly the same thing as the OTO but sounds better because you are getting two separate power supplies. Then later you can upgrade more easily.

      The M1 preamp is also the preamp in the SORO – but the SORO uses the P2SE power amp. The best thing about the M1 Preamp is that you can choose different power amps for different occasions. Want a big rocking party at loud levels? Then buy a good SS power amplifier. You can pick up second hand ones for cheap. And because power amps have no moving parts they last decades. So for less money than an OTO you could buy a brand new M1 preamp or M1Phono Preamp and get yourself an older much less expensive P1SE.


  4. Earl Z says:

    Great review of the Audio Note AN-E SPx Ainico speaker. Which amplifier did you use for listening, tube or SS and how many watts per channel? Which preamp and cables too. What is the size of the room you did the review in?

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