I love the AE sound, I heard the 109s many years ago in a fairly modest set up but the upper bass was some of the best I've ever heard, just so tight. I listened to the Riverboat Song by Ocean Colour Scene and the bass guitar has stayed with me ever since. How do the higher end models such as this compare and differ to the likes of the 109?
The 109's, like the AE1's were pretty special speakers - sometimes all the ingredients just work together perfectly and they were a prime example of that. In isolation the fairly cheap tweeter was a little splashy, the paper bass drivers and cabinet both added a little colouration too but the balance and tone they produced together was fantastic. They had bass depth and punch in equal measure and even now I've not heard another speaker that size (no matter what price) hit you in the chest with heavy drum beats the way they could.
We design our speakers to our particular set of preferences which include both computer measurements and extended listening sessions to achieve a sound we're happy with for our tastes. All our speakers will share character traits because of this as every other manufacturer's will too so there will be some of the 109's in all our products.
With so many variables in a speaker no model will sound exactly the same as others - our higher up ranges naturally have less colouration, less distortion etc but this affects the character as well so while they gain in some areas they may well lose other aspects of the sound you like. I'm not one of those who believes more expensive is always better - rather "different" and will appeal for different reasons, some people like certain colourations while some like a very clean sound.
Something I've found interesting with all these active vs passive debates (remembering we make both types) is that some things seem to get overlooked. Voicing, balance and tonal qualites seem to be forgotten. Tonal qualities in particular are a grey area with speakers with many saying they can't be measured the same way as other qualities such as frequency response. The AE1's and 109's amongst others - even the original Aego 2 had wonderful tone, they sounded extremely "right" and natural with voices and instruments and stood out amongst their peers because of that.
The AE1 was raved about when new due to it's power handling and lack of dynamic compression for a "miniature" model, while those qualities were impressive I still find I go back to them as a reference because of their tonal reproduction, probably due in part to very low cabinet resonance and matched aluminium drive units. I find they make instruments sound simply more real than many other speakers do. Interestingly they don't measure particularly well in the conventional sense, they have dips in the power response which should, in theory, ruin the sound - if they were to be designed "by the book" (as many respectable companies do) in an anechoic chamber they would be nowhere near as good as they are.
Apologies for waffling on a bit, once I get going I tend to carry on...
Brand Manager, Acoustic Energy Ltd.
Lovely speakers no doubt, but I seem to recall the originals were very power hungry. Are they still?
I think it's relative to the era - they measure around 85dB sensitivity but modern amps are generally more powerful than those from the 80's so it's less of an issue than it used to be. I've had no problems driving them with anything in the office (Naim Supernait, Krell 300i, Audiolab 8000a and AVI Lab series) but then the 60 Watt Audiolab is the weakest of them and it's hardly weedy. In a shop demo a while back the new Audiolab drove them fine but shut down at high volume on our entry level Compact 1's so make of that what you will!
I would say pretty much anything availalable from the main guys anywhere near the price point would have no issues.
Congrats on the new speakers. What kind of music do you listen to?
Stereo: Amplifiers: Arcam Alpha 9 integrated & 9P power amp (bi-amped), CD Player: Arcam Alpha 9, Speakers: Acoustic Energy AE120s
Telly etc: Sony KDL 40EX-503, Sony BDP S360, Sky+HD
Not at all Jim, I enjoy enthusiasm in people, it is a terrific quality. I’d love to hear these speakers. Just another quick question if you don’t mind! How do the 120s compare to the 109s, are they better? It is my experience that the next model up isn’t necessarily better but wondering in this case? Also I don’t know much about the models say 10 years old that replaced the ones I’m talking about the Evos I think…were these a direct replacement and how do they compare? When I have need for 2nd system I could see me looking for an old cheap pair for nostalgia.
Thanks for the quick reply Jim.
I would say that all things being equal (and at the risk of upsetting 12designs above!) the 109's were a better speaker than the 120's but it would also depend on your room and taste in music. In ideal circumstances the 109's are very well balanced with the 120's being a little "heavier" in sound. If you had to fill a larger space or have a preference for dub reggae/organ music then the 120's which reach down to 30Hz or so might suit better. Even some more reasonably sized rooms with stairs in or many hard surfaces can perceptively suck out bass (or inversely highlight the treble which has the same basic effect) and might warrant the beefier sounding speaker. Horses for courses as they say!
The Evo's were the direct replacement for the 100 Series and compare well. They were slightly brighter sounding (at the risk of using Hi-Fi clichés as mentioned in another thread) where the 100 Series could be perceived as a touch "dark". They are all enjoyable speakers to listen to in my opinion and the Evo's won the WHF Awards for a few years running so are probably a very good bet as a 2nd-hand purchase. I do think they were a small step back in visual design though, looking a little cheaper but in-fact costing more to produce! Something I'm gradually trying to rectify, we were often accused of making our products look cheaper than they really were rather than the other way around!
I hear what you are saying about the AE120's being a bit heavy. Personally I love the way they dig out the lower bass and give a 'sumptuous' presentation of the recording as it suits my ear and much of the music that I listen to. We are moving house soon and wonder whether I will be able to keep the floorstanding AE120's or have to get something smaller. I have listened to the MA BX2s on my set up and they were very nice but if the budget can stretch at the time I would love to hear the AE1s.
Well this is it really, it's just finding something with the sound you like - there isn't really a right or wrong. There's so much choice out there!
I haven't heard the BX2's but thought the slightly older BR5 floorstanders were very good when I was comparing them to the Neo 3's a few years back. It may be that you find the 120's work perfectly well in the new house anyway, it isn't always necessarily the case that a smaller room will be overpowered by speakers with powerful bass and vice versa. Still can't do any harm to audition some other options if you feel the need for change!
Congratulations on the new speakers they are amazing. I too had a long wait having first heard the AE1 in 1987 and it took me until about 2008 to finally get a pair. Yes, it was worth the wait.
That cherry does look nice. I'm in black.
When I saw the photo I was a little concerned about positioning but Jim clleared that up. Interesting, as I'd ruled out AE1s for another room as they'd be nearer the wall than in my main system. Mine are Mk2's and Jim will be pleased to know they're about a metre from rear wall and about 80 cm from side walls (as near to free space as is feasible).
Your amps sound interesting, I've not heard of them being somewhat out of date with current hi fi. I have an EAR (Esoteric Audio Research) 802 pre which is also a tube pre and seems to suit the Ae1s well.
I do think they could benefit from a sub still, but that's just me having worked in clubs too long. The sub would need to be good to keep up though. Don't get me wrong, the bass from these small speakers is fast, tight and deeper than you'd expect. I just like a little more though.
Enjoy them, I'm sure you will.
PC/Musical Fidelity V-Link2/Rega DAC/EAR 802/Biamped Exposure Stereo Super XVIII/ Acoustic Energy AE1 mk2/Partington Dreadnaught
I was using a Rel Strata Sub but as the AE1s run in I find I dont need the sub
The system is now so revealing, my XL pressing of 19 sounds dreadfull, didnt realise it was so bad but my Red Vinyl Japan Quiet life sounds superb.
The only problem I have with the speakers is the finish, there where what looked and felt like scratches on the piano gloss but fortunetly Mr Sheen got rid of them and by one of the grill clips there is a strange mark on the veneer. Im just being fussy here but on a pair of speakers costing £900 it does take the shine off slightly.
Would it stop me buying another pair..no way..the sound is simply stunning, if I had the money Id have AE1s for all my 7.1 system.....now wheres that lottery ticket..
Just continuing from my last post, I had the Morgan Pre and Power Amps custom built.
Robin built the pre with 2 sets of outputs one for full range use and the other cuts off the lower freqencies, I use the full range and Im sure this goes lower than any other amp Ive had.
This suits the AE1s like a charm.
I read alot about the AE1s being power hungry but Ive used them on my Deva 300 (30watt) Harmon Kardon HK980 (60watt??) and the Deva 500s(??watts but the lights dim when I switch it on) and they have sounded great on all of them.
I seem to be building up a speaker collection these days
Roth Oli 3 (not bad, bought them cheap, work well with the Fatman Dock)
Tannoy DCT4 Signature Revolution (Good for vocals, not much bass poor build quality)
AE Linear 3 (IMO a very underated floorstander)
AE100 (the start of my HIFi adventure)
AE1 (My dream speakers for 19 years, living the dream)
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