Acoustic Energy AE1 Active Review: Extremely balanced speakers
Tech Week score:
The AE1 Active has the same body dimensions as the classic version – 30 x 18.5 x 25 cm, and the design is the same – two-way, with a 125 mm mid-bass driver and a large tweeter. But that’s where the similarities end. Each head in the Active model is powered by its own 50-watt Class AB amplifier. The power supply is also “analog” – from a linear source with a mains transformer.
The bands are divided at 3500 Hz by fourth-order active Linkwitz-Riley filters (24 dB / octave). This is the main advantage of an active system – there are no bulky coils and capacitors between the amplifier output and the speaker, which worsen the damping and absorb some of the energy. In addition, it is cumbersome and expensive to implement the fourth order on passive elements (and they must be of high quality). Finally, it is easier to make active filters phase-linear, and they are much more flexible in setting.
And in our particular case, there is also the ability to adapt the monitors for specific conditions in terms of LF and HF within -2, 0, +2 dB using three-position switches on the rear panel. The signal can be fed through both a balanced XLR cable, and through a conventional RCA jack. Volume is controlled by a separate knob on the back. When a 1 volt RMS signal is applied, a sound pressure of 105 dB is obtained, so you can connect a CD player with a fixed output and set the volume on the monitors. Not very convenient, but the path will be as short as possible.
Now let’s look at the heads themselves. Diffusers of mid-bass drivers are made of sintered aluminum powder with the addition of ceramic chips. Optimal combination of mass, stiffness and damping of internal resonances. The tall, tapered dust cap is immediately recognizable and has become the hallmark of all AE1 models. The driver works in a bass-reflex design, and the port is not round, but is made in the form of a narrow slot on the back wall.
The 27mm aluminum dome of the tweeter is housed in a proprietary WDT (Wide Dispersion Technology) waveguide, which expands the directivity pattern. If you look closely, you can also see a small round sticker on the inside of the safety net. This is the so-called. aperture body for phase response optimization. By the way, in all my practice I don’t remember that the manufacturer indicated the dispersion of its acoustics.
In AE1 Active, it is declared with a solid span – 130 degrees horizontally and 120 vertically. Inside the case, glued from 18mm MDF boards, there are screeds and damping panels.
I must say that the British specialists, having paid so much attention to the spatial characteristics of monitors, have achieved truly phenomenal results. The sound field is rich in detail and completely homogeneous no matter how far away you are listening. The picture is felt as voluminous both in the near field, and in three to four meters from the front line, and the depth of the stage is almost independent of the volume level.
This is the merit not only of the WDT waveguide, but also of the crossover filters with minimal phase shifts. On passive elements, it would be extremely difficult to achieve such an accurate alignment of the bands without time errors.
Accordingly, the musical balance is perceived as a whole, without an emphasis on individual instruments or groups. Wood and brass winds, strings, percussion – everything is in complete harmony and, while listening, you don’t even think that all the richness of the spectrum is reproduced by two small speakers.
We listened in an acoustically processed room, there was no excess HF, but if you have a loud room, the TREBLE switch is set to -2 dB – and no problem.
But the main advantage of active band gain is felt in the lower register. The first is control. The speaker is shunted by the output impedance of the amplifier, which is set by the depth of the feedback. Going too far with this is also not good, the sound will turn out to be dry, unnatural. The AE1 Active has a well-chosen damping coefficient – the attack is fast, not smeared, which is especially felt on plucked instruments.
The blow is biting, with powerful bass notes the diffusers move like pistons with a frightening amplitude, but within a well-controlled zone.
It is possible that the low-frequency amplifier has an infra-low frequency filter: the speaker honestly fulfills the range assigned to it, but does not try to go deeper, where the recoil drops sharply and distortions grow. And what is valuable, the slotted port does not whistle – only light rustles are heard at high volume, if you bring your ear closer to the back wall. I will not say that the dynamic potential is unlimited here, but with such dimensions of the case, the volume of the undistorted sound can puzzle an inexperienced listener.
From all these technocratic moments, the overall impression of the new Acoustic Energy systems is formed. It is quite obvious that the main goal in their creation was precisely monitorability, i.e. extremely accurate and at the same time comfortable presentation of musical material.
This is also indicated by the fact that neither DACs nor wireless modules were built into the AE1, preferring pure hi-fi classics. This is how they sound: balanced, high resolution across the full range, dynamic and confident across all genres of music. Clear separation of instruments, excellent sense of rhythm, high intelligibility on phonograms with a rich spectrum. But to get the most out of this pair, it makes sense to choose network cables, they affect the transmission of the atmosphere and the localization of imaginary sources in the upper range.