This is my look at the excellent Acoustic Energy AE1 Active speaker pair. They are really very flexible and a good sounding analogue solution.
The Acoustic Energy AE1 Active speakers are bookshelf style speakers and they are… active. This means they each have their own separate analogue 50W Class A/B amplifier in each cabinet (they are both plugged in, therefore). Active speakers have the advantage of having less distance between source input and amplification and delivery and therefore less fuss about interconnects and cable choices. Some will find this a good thing, myself included.
There is no remote control but if your input source has an App, for example, the Bluesound App, you can control the volume anyway in real-time. Each speaker has its own gain control setting (which I have set to full, on advice) and also you can push up the bass (in my case, or treble) by a couple of dBs if you need to, depending on the room.
There are no digital input options here and there is no Bluetooth.
The tweeter is an all-new AE designed 27mm metal done unit designed to work in harmony with AE’s Wide Dispersion Technology (WDT). This is good news as a metal tweeter does need driving hard and it will take volume happily. The AE1 Active design uses AEs unique pure piston ceramic aluminium cone technology. This technology has evolved over the years and it is a 125mm ceramic hard-anodised spun aluminium cone that offers exceptional stiffness at low weight.
The cabinet is an extensively braced heavyweight 18mm MDF fibreboard construction with internal damping panels. There is a slot port at the back of the AE1 design for the first time to let the air escape backwards.
The speakers are really nicely presented and a piano black finish always looks and feels good. The proof is in the pudding with this quote from my 14 year old daughter.
They actually look really cool
The rear panel is neat and tidy and there’s plenty of space. It all has a very nice feel. The grills are magnetic but I’ve not used them.
The full spec is here on the site.
Each cabinet is 300mm x 185 x 250 (HxWxD) and they weigh in at 18kg (pair).
The AE1 is available in Piano Black, Piano White and Piano Walnut real wood veneer.
I’ve had a good listen with the brilliant Bluesound Node 2i. I have a very heavy pair of borrowed speaker stands on which each AE1 is firmly mounted.
With Bluesound Node 2i and Atlas Mavros cables
The easiest set-up is with a Bluesound Node 2i using Phono leads to each of the speakers. I was advised to set the full gain on each speaker, I’ve added 2 dBs on the bass by turning the setting at the back of each speaker with a coin because of the size of my room and the open position of my speakers (i.e not near a corner or wall). I was using the Bluesound App to control the volume on my Pixel 2.
First impressions are incredibly favourable, I went for a few standards in my listening review playlist to get a feel. ‘Alice’ by Tom Waits has a classy grainy vocal you can hear the air in the clarinet, the snare drum detail is terrific, so there is plenty of vocal detail here.
Next up a bit of ‘Telegraph Road’ and there is loads of bounce and rhythm here, as is the same with ‘All I Wanna Do’, I can really hear the scratchboard in the left-hand speaker. I’m getting a great stereo image here and you feel the energy from the speakers, they have been very easy-listening over a period of time.
I’m quite into a new track I’ve heard called ‘Make Us Stronger’ by Ghost Rider and Vini Vici. It is a precise and complex track for a speaker or other output to get right. But here the AE1s present a really good fast strong sound.
with Chromecast Audio and a Pixel 2xl and Tidal
Using a Lindy Chromo power USB B to power a Chromecast Audio you can really get a good sound from for a very respectable price here, I’m using the 3.5mm jack with a split cable to each speaker.
The output is great and there is plenty of resolution from tracks like “Free Fallin” by John Meyer, ‘Oil Rigs at Night’ by Delines with the lovely soft cymbals. It is so easy to play with, thank goodness Tidal has sorted out its App in the last few months.
This set-up is so easy to put together and how cheap would this system be? How could you match this quality of output with separates?
It is hard to think about how you can get as good a sound like this with these Acoustic Energy AE1 Active speakers at this price in a separates set-up. How do you get near this, a Rega Brio with a pair of Dali Zensors? I guess the only issue may be for some whether this is a long term system to build on?
Certainly, the solution here, with a Node 2i (or even the Chomecast Audio), is a terrific sound. I would not hesitate to recommend this system to someone looking for a compact, high-quality active system.
Value for money
Look good in piano black
Flexible bass treble option
Nothing of note