The Audiophile Apartment

Acoustic Energy AE100 Speakers

Listening to a 24bit/192khz file of Jeff Beck’s There and Back, the tiny AE100s instantly impress with a massive soundstage and incredibly good dynamic range. Thanks to their wide dispersion, the AE100s sound great, no matter where you’re sitting, making them versatile performers. Paired up with a vintage PrimaLuna ProLogue One and a modest pair of Tellurium Q Black speaker cables (about $20/foot), I’ve built a hell of a core system here.

Initial listening has my little 35-watt per channel PrimaLuna running out of juice before the AE100s do, so switching to their HP Premium integrated (nearly 100 wpc with KT150 tubes) really lights these speakers up in a way that the lower powered amplifier did not. Should you be considering a pair of AE100s, and like to crank it up now and then, don’t be shy with the power. Equally excellent results were had with the new IN-100 integrated from Gold Note.

Small speakers are always a no brainer for a small room, and the AE100s excel in a modest size room, yet they are not at a loss in my 16 x 26-foot main listening room. About ten feet apart on 24-inch stands, the AE100s produce a big sonic picture and perform admirably, holding on to the bass groove in the Pretenders “Waste Not, Want Not.” Letting ROON wander as it’s known to, the next track up is AC/DCs “Evil Walks.” A major twist of the volume control produces incredible results – this relatively dense recording just comes to life and I’m not hunting for a subwoofer. And we’re talking loud. A few friends that managed to experience the AE100s were, shall we say, thunderstruck. Ok, crappy AC/DC puns finished.

Finding the sweet spot

Unlike a panel speaker where the window for good listening is narrow, these speakers wide dispersion eliminates this issue, but you’ll need to find the perfect alignment to achieve stunning bass response. Should you place the AE100s on a stand perpendicular to the floor, they will sound small, flat and thin.

The key is to get a few degrees of upward tilt, so seek out stands with feet allowing for some adjustment. Proceed with care, going a half turn at a time and you’ll catch the sweet spot. You’ll know when you hit it (roughly around 4-5 degrees upward tilt) because it sounds like someone added a subwoofer. You’ll only need a few bass heavy tracks to find it and when you go too far, everything disappears, bass and treble.

More than woof and tweet

Just the frequency extension and dynamic capability of these speakers would be more than enough for them to earn their keep. In addition to a very uncolored midband, the soft dome tweeter is resolving and never harsh. Moving the AE100s to the main system, they render enough fine detail to hear differences in fairly expensive phono cartridges, though not at the minute level that my reference speakers do. Keep in mind this is a test many $1,000 speakers can not pass.

Plugging back in to my Focal Sopra 3/REL 212 reference, I’m instantly reminded of what the AE100s aren’t capable, yet these little speakers nail so much of the fundamentals, you’ll never feel left out of the music. Should you be a newcomer to the world of audio and make the AE100s the anchor of your system, you’ll be spending a lot more on speakers come upgrade time. If and when you do, this is a pair of speakers you should hold on to forever.

Quite the accomplishment

Entry level audiophiles complaining that all the good choices cost megabucks, look no further than the AE100s. These small monitors will only set you back about $495 a pair and deliver stunning performance. Combining a 4-inch paper cone woofer and 1-inch dome tweeter, Acoustic Energy claims these to be “small speakers capable of high output.” They fulfill this promise and more.

It’s easy to get spoiled listening to top line gear every day, and easy to lose track of what things cost. Though we make it a point to seek out sub-$1,000 components in this column offering higher performance than you might expect, the AE100s are more than worthy of one of our Exceptional Value Awards. Beyond that, these are the most impressive pair of $495 speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, in nearly 100 issues of producing this magazine. The fun factor the AE100s offer is off the chart.


The Acoustic Energy AE100

$495/pair (factory) Distributor)