Acoustic Energy AE22 Active review

Breathtaking performance; you won't find better sound for less than a grand Tested at £899.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

An unusually talented pair of speakers. Judged solely on sonic ability per pound, they’re very hard to match


  • +

    A breathtaking all-round performer

  • +

    goes loud and deep

  • +



  • -

    Appearance is divisive

  • -

    forthright presentation is not for all

  • -

    easily marked finish

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.

Get past the rather blunt looks and easily marked finish of these AE22s and you have one of the finest sounding speakers under £1000.

We were impressed by the passive version of this studio monitor back in Dec '07. Active operation doubles the price and adds 160 watts of power amplifier per side: 60W for the ring radiating tweeter with the rather prominent pole piece and the rest for the 20cm pressed alloy mid/bass driver.

Active operation brings a range of adjustments. There's a sensitivity control to help with preamp matching - more a studio thing - and individual controls for bass, midrange and treble levels.

The speakers are unfussy about positioning. The well-controlled bass behaves well even when the speaker is placed close to a back wall, and stereo imaging stays precise and focused over a wide range of positions.

The mirror image, offset tweeters should be on the outside if you listen below tweeter level, inside if you sit high.

Fine detail, impressive cohesion

Once properly set-up on solid stands, these speakers produce a breathtakingly insightful sound. Given their studio bias you'd expect to get loads of detail, and you get it.

What sets these speakers apart from most alternatives is their impressive cohesion, crisp timing and expressive dynamics. The mid/bass driver delivers impressive scale and authority, and digs low enough in the bass to satisfy all but the most hardcore bass-head.

Complaints? Those after an easy listen would do better going elsewhere. The AE22s are too forthright in their presentation, and too revealing of recording and system shortcomings to satisfy such listeners. Those looks are rather brutal, too.

That said, we're smitten. Judged solely on sonic ability we can't think of a better alternative.

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.

Read more about how we test