There's nothing budget about the performance
What is the AEGO Soundbar?The Acoustic Energy AEGO Soundbar or Sound3ar as their marketing department would rather you called it, is a budget soundbar and subwoofer system. The Sound3ar is the latest addition to Acoustic Energy's AEGO range which also includes the AEGO 3 2.1-channel system. The defining factor of this range is a central subwoofer that provides all the amplification and a superior build quality based on an aluminium composite construction. The Sound3ar uses the same subwoofer but instead of two passive front speakers it includes a passive soundbar that is connected to the subwoofer with provided cabling. The Sound3ar has been designed to a specific price point and can be picked up for £199 as at the time of writing (October 2016). That's certainly an attractive price and if the AEGO Sound3ar can deliver the performance it promises it might be a real bargain.
DesignThe AEGO Sound3ar is composed of a soundbar and a matching subwoofer and the two share similar styling and build quality. The soundbar itself is especially impressive considering the price point, with an aluminium composite construction and rubber end pieces. The metallic construction, with its silver body and black grille, not only makes the soundbar more robust but the curved styling also makes it rather attractive. It sits at a 30 degree angle, allowing it to fire up towards the listener from under their TV. There are also keyhole fixings at the rear if you want to wall mount it instead. The soundbar is quite small, measuring 500 x 70 x 70mm (WxHxD), which makes it ideal for sitting under today's slim TVs or even on your desk in front of a monitor.
The soundbar is passive, which means all the amplification and the connections are actually with the matching subwoofer. You connect the soundbar to the subwoofer using a provided 3m long stereo analogue cable using RCA connectors. This does mean you need to keep the subwoofer within a certain distance but it also means there are minimal connections on the soundbar itself, which keeps things tidy around your TV. The subwoofer is forward-firing and includes 65W of built-in amplification, it uses a typical MDF construction making it suitably solid and has black styling to match the soundbar. There are LEDs at the front and connections at the rear and the subwoofer measures 195 x 350 x 307mm (WxHxD).
Considering the price the build quality is excellent thanks to the aluminium construction
Connections & ControlAside from the stereo RCA inputs on the soundbar, the rest of the connections are all on the subwoofer, at the rear and facing downwards. Here you'll find the stereo RCA outputs for connecting the soundbar, along with an optical digital input and a 3.5mm auxiliary analogue input. The connections are limited and although there's no HDMI that's typical at this price point, however the AEGO also has built-in Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX. Finally there's a two-pin connector for the power cable.
If there is one area where the price point of the Sound3ar is evident, its the remote control which is a tiny and fiddly plastic number. The buttons are simply the raised bump variety but at least everything you need is there to effectively control the system. There's on/off, volume up/down, mute, bass up/down, digital, aux, Bluetooth and a pairing button. Just make sure that you have line of sight with the subwoofer because that's where the IR receiver is housed and don't drop the remote down the back of the sofa!
Features & SpecsThe AEGO Sound3ar isn't exactly feature-packed but then no one is expecting that at this price point. However it does have everything you'll need to boost the sound quality of your TV well beyond the capabilities of its built-in speakers. The number of connections is limited but Acoustic Energy rather helpfully include an optical digital cable and a 3.5mm analogue cable, so you can get everything connected right out of the box.
In an AEGO system it's the subwoofer that is the main unit and all the amplification and connections are housed in it. Since the soundbar is physically connected to the subwoofer you won't be able to opposition it too far away and, as mentioned, you'll need line of sight for the remote control. However you can adjust the bass level to ensure it integrates nicely in your room. There are also small LED indicators showing that the subwoofer is on, which input is being used and changes in volume or subwoofer level.
The AEGO Sound3ar has limited connections and the remote is fiddly but it's simple to set up
Setup & TestingThe AEGO Sound3ar is simple to set up, all you need to do is connect the soundbar to the subwoofer with the provided cables and plug the subwoofer in. You will need to position the subwoofer at the front and within 3m of the soundbar, unless you customise some longer cables, and the bass level can be adjusted on a scale of 1 to 4. You then just connect your sources to the subwoofer, also using the provided cables, and you're good to go. If you want to connect a Bluetooth device, simply put your device into pairing mode and press the pair button the AEGO's remote control, the two devices will be connected in seconds.
The LEDs on the front of the subwoofer will show which input is being used – white for digital, orange for analogue and blue rather appropriately for Bluetooth. In terms of sources we connected a YouView box, a Blu-ray player and an Apple TV to the Sound3ar using various connections and we also used a Bluetooth connection for our iPhone 6. We tested the AEGO with TV, film and music content. When using the Sound3ar, the four white LEDs indicate when you turn the volume up or down and there is an audible beep when the maximum volume has been reached. The same four white LEDs are used when adjusting the bass level.
AEGO Sound3ar Video Review
PerformanceThe AEGO Sound3ar might well be a budget product but there is nothing budget about its performance. The superior level of build quality and the addition of a decent subwoofer meant it could deliver a level of sound quality rarely heard at this price point. We started off by testing the AEGO with normal TV programmes and we were immediately impressed by the clarity of dialogue, which was effectively anchored to the screen. The soundbar exhibited a well-rounded mid-range and nicely defined higher end that resulted in a suitably balanced sound and the amplification was capable go delivering a reasonable sense of dynamic range. The subwoofer produced plenty of bass that was seamlessly integrated, thus underpinning the overall soundstage effectively. The often bombastic musical scores that seem to accompany nature documentaries these days were reproduced with great verve.
The Sound3ar also gave a good account of itself when it came to movie soundtracks, with the soundbar and subwoofer combination delivering the effects with some style and producing some lovely bass energy. We pulled out a few big hitters like Pacific Rim and San Andreas and the little AEGO handled both surprisingly well. The bass was controlled and never over-powering, complimenting the soundbar itself with a good sense of cohesion. However the small size of the soundbar did result in a rather narrow front soundstage, that lacked the immersive quality of larger soundbars. The sound certainly seemed to emanate from the TV but you rarely got a sense of the sound expanding on either side of the screen. In addition, whilst the Sound3ar has enough amplification for a small room, it will struggle in larger sized living rooms where the 65W just isn't enough.
The Sound3ar didn't only impress with TV programmes and movies, it also managed to sound very good with music as well. In fact it is one of those rare soundbars that actually could be used for listening to music in a critical way and not be found wanting. There's no doubt that Acoustic Energy's experience in this area has paid dividends and we certainly enjoyed listening to David Bowie's Backstar with the AEGO. The diminutive nature of the soundbar itself did limit the amount of stereo separation but the clarity and detail that it managed to deliver from the complex arrangements of Bowie's last album was certainly impressive. There's no doubt that the AEGO Sound3ar makes a great all-round soundbar for anyone on a budget and although it is aimed at smaller screen sizes and smaller rooms, we used it under a 55-inch TV without any issues at all.
Aside from a lack of width, the Sound3ar delivers a balanced audio with decent bass
- Nicely balanced sound
- Decent bass presence
- Great build quality
- Simple to set up
- Narrow soundstage
- Limited connections
- Will struggle with larger rooms
- Remote is a bit rubbish
Acoustic Energy AEGO Soundbar Review
Should I buy one?
The Acoustic Energy AEGO Sound3ar is a great budget soundbar and subwoofer combination that delivers a winning combination of performance and value. The design is attractive and the build quality is excellent, whilst the smaller size of the soundbar means it can fit easily under the majority of modern TVs. The subwoofer houses all the amplification and connections, which means there are only two cables running to the passive soundbar, keeping things tidy around your TV. The connections are limited but Acoustic Energy do include cables, which is handy, and although the remote is a bit rubbish, it does get the job done.
Setting up the AEGO Sound3ar is very simple and once everything is connected there are LEDs on the front of the subwoofer that indicate which input you are using and the volume setting. Acoustic Energy may have built the AEGO to hit a specific price point but they certainly haven't compromised in terms of sound quality, with a performance that is anything but budget. The Sound3ar delivered a lovely detailed sound, with a nicely balanced tonal quality and plenty of bass. The mid-range and high frequencies are also well rendered and the sound had plenty of dynamic range, considering the size of the soundbar.
The smaller dimensions of the soundbar did mean that the front soundstage was a bit narrow, lacking the enveloping nature of larger models, and the amplification will struggle in larger rooms but in a normal sized living room it has more than enough power. Overall we found the Acoustic Energy AEGO Sound3ar to be a very capable performer with TV, movies and music, making it a great choice if you have a limited budget and worthy of recommendation.
What are my alternatives?
The sub-£200 soundbar market is a competitive one but models with subwoofers are relatively rare, giving the AEGO Sound3ar an advantage in terms of performance. The lack of HDMI is also standard at this price point, so Acoustic Energy have certainly positioned themselves well in terms of features and the build quality is a cut above the norm. In terms of alternatives, the Yamaha YAS-105 is an obvious contender because it also costs £199 and has a similar set of connections but you do get a better controller and a handy remote app. The YAS-105 doesn't include a subwoofer, so the Sound3ar has the edge when it comes to the low-end, but the Yamaha has a much wider front soundstage and more power.
However in terms of pure bang for buck, the Samsung HW-K450 is the soundbar to beat. It currently costs £199 but includes HDMI, along with a wireless subwoofer, great build quality and plenty of features. It has an open front soundstage, excellent bass and plenty of amplification, making it an impressive all-rounder. For sheer value for money, the Samsung remains the soundbar of choice but in terms of build quality and performance, the AEGO Sound3ar punches well above its weight.
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