Acoustic Energy AE1 MkIII SE review

A number of revisions to the AE1 MkIII have resulted in an even more musically involving speaker, with agility, detail and forceful dynamics Tested at £2500.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

If you want a tiny, top-class monitor, these AE1 Mk III SEs are a must-audition


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    Amazing speed and detail resolution

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    class-leading clarity

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    excellent build


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    Small size means sonic authority falls short of larger rivals

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

The original AE1S were Acoustic Energy's first speakers, and established the brand as a high-end force. At the time – we're talking about the mid-'80s – there was nothing else like these little monitors.

However, over the years the design has evolved into the rather slick, pricey and hugely capable speaker under test here.

The Mk III has been around for a few years. We last tested it in 2004 and liked it enough to make it an Award-winner.

These new SEs look similar to the older Mk III. The revisions amount to a simplification of the crossover – the number of components halved – and the option of custom paint finishes for an extra 30 per cent over the standard price.

Inconspicuous, but involving
The idea behind the new crossover is to make the speaker more musically involving – and it works, with the SEs delivering forceful dynamics.

When it comes to agility and detail resolution, we can't think of a better speaker for the cash, and stereo imaging is as precise as you'd hope for from a mini monitor.

You've got to remember these are tiny speakers, so while the SEs are mightily impressive in the bass they produce, they'll never have the authority of similarly priced larger speakers.

You'll also need a pair of solid stands and a powerful, yet articulate amplifier (think three grand upwards). Accept the Mk III SE's sized-related limitations and we doubt you'll hear better for the money.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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