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.