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Acoustic Energy 301 review

The 301s are terrific and the most competitive Acoustic Energy speakers we've heard in years Tested at £425

Our Verdict

The 301s are terrific speakers and the most competitive Acoustic Energy speakers we've heard in years

For

  • Balanced, detailed and engaging sound
  • Fine build and finish
  • Unfussy about positioning

Against

  • No shortage of great rivals

It's fair to say Acoustic Energy has fallen off our radar of late. The company's recent products, while worthy in many respects, just haven't set our world alight.

The manufacturer's new Three series range aims to change that, and it has every chance of doing so if the entry-level Acoustic Energy 301 standmounters are any guide.

Acoustic Energy 301 review: Design
As convention dictates, these speakers have a two-way, ported design. In this case the port takes the form of a front-firing slot rather than the usual plastic tube. The aim of the slot-port design is to reduce air turbulence, and the front-firing aspect is there to make the speakers less fussy about positioning relative to a rear wall.

The drive units are a mix of a relatively large 28mm soft-dome tweeter and an 11cm aluminium cone, hard-anodised on both sides to create a really rigid structure.A great deal of care has been taken to get the phase of the two drive units properly matched through the crossover point. Connection is through a single pair of decent-quality terminals.

Acoustic Energy 301 review: Performance
These really are talented speakers for the money. They have a pleasingly even-handed sound with no part of the frequency range taking undue prominence.

The 301s sound crisp, clean and very detailed. There's a good degree of attack with the likes of Nirvana's Nevermind and an equally persuasive handling of rhythms.

Move to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and the 301s respond with strong dynamic shifts and a decent dose of low-end authority for their size.

Move away from sound and these speakers continue to impress. Their build and finish - buyers are offered a choice of gloss white or black - shows plenty of care, and they're not particularly fussy about positioning or partnering kit.

Acoustic Energy 301 review: Verdict
All in all these are fine speakers for the money and, although rivals are plentiful, they're good enough to worry the best in the class. It's a long time since we've said that about any Acoustic Energy speaker.

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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 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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