We unbox Acoustic Energy’s AE120 floorstanders with no small amount of excitement. They emerge to reveal a tweeter and three relatively large drivers, all within a slender and unobtrusive chassis. The bijou dimensions and true three-way configuration has piqued our interest already.
The AE120 floorstanders are the largest in the firm’s most affordable 100 series. They pack a 25mm soft-dome tweeter, a dedicated midrange driver (housed in its own enclosure) and twin bass drive units – that latter trio featuring the company’s bespoke 11cm paper cones – they’ve got a lot going for them.
You get a choice of two finishes. The model we’re testing has a black satin wrap, which costs £50 more than the walnut vinyl veneer option.
Once placed on the spiked plinths, these speakers would fit happily into even the smallest of rooms.
Frequency range 40Hz – 35kHz
Finishes 2 (satin black, walnut vinyl)
Dimensions (hwd) 90 x 20 x 30cm (incl plinth)
Weight 19kg (each)
Their cabinets use 18mm thick panels and come mass-loaded from the factory, weighing in at 19kg each.
That 25mm tweeter includes the company’s Wide Dispersion Technology (WDT) waveguide and, at the back, you’ll find a slotted bass reflex port to augment those bottom two bass drivers.
Once run-in, the AE120s are relatively unfussy regarding placement, making them an ideal proposition for the space-deprived. We eventually settle on placing them 30cm from the wall of our testing room, which shows them at their best.
We cue up Hootie & The Blowfish’s Hold My Hand from the album Cracked Rear View on Tidal and immediately note how well-balanced the AE120s are. Anyone used to traditional two-way standmounters will notice a big difference here, especially in the opening-out of the midrange.
The placement of the strummed rhythm guitar is delivered with clarity. Hootie’s voice is central, with the bass sitting just to his right in an impressively mapped-out, three-dimensional stereo imaging display.
The album continues to Let Her Cry and our heart flutters as we note where the tambourine is being shaken in relation to the guitar – which is accurately delivered with more distance from the mic than in the previous song. It’s a similarly expansive, layered presentation.
There are strands of melody through the midrange here that speakers at this level are rarely able to reveal. The AE120s are resoundingly listenable and undemanding too, never displaying harshness.
We play Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes and the Boss’s vocal in American Skin (41 Shots) is as clean and tonally textured as we could ask at this level. The bass is refined rather than punchy, but it is nevertheless clean and agile. We become aware of a shortfall, though. The dynamic build from the outset of the track is not as pensive, brooding or sombre as it could be.
Backing vocals, keys and percussion are all present and given ample space to shine, but the rising tension, which builds from barely audible strings to musical crescendo, is a shade off what we had hoped for in terms of dynamic resolution. Just Like Fire Would begins, and again it feels as if the AE120s are playing a little safe – touching on, but not celebrating, the more dynamically stirring aspects of the music.
We play the same album through our current favourites, the Dali Oberon 5s, and find the songs more exciting, emotive and entertaining. The Dalis slightly edge the AE120s in terms of low-level detail resolution too, revealing certain subtleties in the bass frequencies not dug up by the AE120s.
Back to the Acoustic Energy speakers, we cue up The Hobbit (An Unexpected Journey) by Howard Shore. There’s tonal accuracy and plenty of volume, including a flute melody through the refined treble frequencies that never comes off harsh. When the foreboding male choir advances during An Ancient Enemy however, we don’t feel the requisite amount of fear. It’s a restrained performance that, while listenable, occasionally borders on sanitised.
The Acoustic Energy 120s are well made, slender and unfussy, and they offer an accommodating and musical sound. There’s a sensible bass weight and admirable stereo imaging. The drivers are well integrated, telling the whole story across the frequencies and there’s good detail resolution overall.
If you're after an unfussy but easy-going pair of floorstanders, you can do a lot worse than these.
- Sound 4
- Compatibility 5
- Build 4
Read our Dali Oberon 5 review