Hardware Reviews

Acoustic Energy AE100


It’s all well and good finding high end products that sound great but let’s face it, with the prices charged they should be good almost regardless of circumstances. The real challenge in audio reviewing and buying of course is finding products that work well and don’t cost as much as a car. And if you are just starting out on the journey to that elusive state known as audio nirvana you need to find components that are affordable, that get you on the first run of the ladder. Entry level speakers are myriad and many are very competent, a few are a bit more than that, they get you into the music and make you want to listen. The Acoustic Energy AE100 is one of those speakers.

The smallest model in the 100 series this standmount or bookshelf (don’t put it in a bookshelf, it’s just a name for small speakers) has a 100mm paper cone main driver allied to a 25mm soft dome tweeter. So far so normal, but what you don’t see is that the main driver is a long throw type with a powerful magnet to control it that was created to deliver high sound pressure or volume if you prefer. You will need a reasonably powerful amplifier to get the AE100 to produce high levels without distortion but such things are relatively easy to come by even in the budget sector. I used a Rega Brio which is hardly a powerhouse but its 50 watts are backed up by a decent power supply so it can drive this speaker without much difficulty if the resulting sound is anything to go by. The specified sensitivity is 87dB at four Ohms impedance which is pretty low for a speaker of this type, so avoid amps that don’t have a bit of grip.


100 Black


The AE100 is available in a matt black paint finish or a walnut vinyl wrap on all faces, it’s a neat and professionally executed budget box with a decent pair of single wire terminals on the back. The only unusual element is a slot rather than tube reflex port, AE states that this provides a large cross sectional area without the turbulence issues of regular ports. In practise it’s still rear porting which means you need a bit space behind the speaker if the bass isn’t going to be unduly reinforced (hence the bookshelf comment). I found that a gap of 48cm between the back of the speaker and the wall was enough but this sort of thing is highly room dependent.

Sound quality
With the aforementioned amplifier and a rather high end source the AE100 produced a small scale but remarkably articulate and well timed result. You need to get the toe-in angle right otherwise the sound tends to stick to the boxes rather but with both speakers directly facing you things come together well. Imaging is not this speaker’s strongest point, at most prices points something has to be compromised and here it’s a sense of scale and depth but that is not as important as coherence or timing. I can’t really get involved in a piece of music if the timing is out but imaging is more of an aesthetic experience that enhances the sense of realism but isn’t crucial to the musical experience. The high frequencies seem quite restrained on this AE, which is another way of saying it has a laid back balance that rarely gets uncomfortable when played at higher levels. Decent tweeters are expensive things so it sounds like AE has tuned it so that the limitations of the tweeter don’t get in the way. A brighter speaker will produce a more open and airy sound but it has to be good to do that and stay clean at high volumes.


AE100 Window


Put a really good recording through these AEs and its quality is fairly obvious, Doug MacLeod’s ‘Too Many Misses’ (Exactly Like This Reference Recordings) has good drive and decent depth, not all that’s on the recording but enough to let you know it’s there. More important is that the feel of the music comes through intact and makes you want to keep listening. There are an awful lot of speakers that have a fabulous presentation with sparkling highs, dynamics and lots of space that fail in this crucial respect. The weightier sound of Esperanza Spalding’s ‘Judas’ has good speed, her bass playing is well articulated and you can play this at a decent level without any hardness creeping in.

James Blood Ulmer’s ‘Crying’ (Live at the Bayerischer Hof, In+Out Records) is a great live recording with a big powerful kick drum, this speaker doesn’t make this as clear as bigger speakers but it reveals the atmosphere of the event with reasonable image scale and a good sense of the power of the band. It’s not refined but you’d have to add a 0 to the price to find something that really is.

For a beer budget speaker the Acoustic Energy AE100 is a highly entertaining piece of kit, it offers impressive volume levels for the money if you have a decent amp and delivers decent timing. In truth you can’t ask for much more at the price.


Type: 2-way, reflex loaded, standmount loudspeaker
Sensitivity: 87dB (2.83V/1m)
Impedance nominal: 4 Ohms
Frequency range: 45Hz – 35kHz
Boxprinciple: Bass reflex rear ported
Crossover: 2 way
Mid/bass driver: 100mm paper cone
Tweeter: 25mm soft dome
Dimensions (W x H x D): 160 x 270 x 240mm
Weight: 4kg
Finishes: satin black, walnut vinyl veneer

Price when tested:
Manufacturer Details:

Acoustic Energy Loudspeakers Ltd
T 01285 654432


standmount loudspeaker


Jason Kennedy

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