What is the Acoustic Energy 100 Series package?
This puts the 100 Series into a smaller grouping of speakers but one that goes up against an elephant in the room in the form of the newly released Q Acoustics 3000i Series. At the time of writing (June 2018), we haven’t tested these but given that the 3000 Series were outstanding until the day they finished production, it won’t be too great a stretch of imagination to guess that they’ll be good. As such the 100 Series has its work cut out.
Not only does the 100 Series have this stiff challenge, it also represents Acoustic Energy’s continued repositioning in terms of the materials and some aspects of the design of their speakers. The 100 Series has the tricky job of doing the things that the brand’s faithful like while also broadening the appeal to a wider audience. To this end, there are a number of design touches and features that hark back to the earlier years of the company while plenty of others that are all new. Does this work out and can this AV pack challenge the established order.
This is partnered with a 4 inch doped paper mid bass driver. 4 inches is pretty small for a driver of this nature but there are a few things in its favour. The first is that the measurement itself is taken edge to edge of the dish of the driver rather than edge to edge which puts it closer to a 4.5 inch design. The second is that the 100 Series is geared around extracting the maximum bang for your buck from the driver itself. The throw is extremely long which should aid bass response while the smaller radiating area should allow for faster transient response.
Giving the driver a further useful boost is a slot type bass port that is intended to offer a significant radiating area while controlling the air movement and allowing for a clean throughput of air. All the passive models in the range make use of the same basic port arrangement and all of them boast some impressively deep claimed frequency roll off figures. This is further aided by extremely solid feeling cabinets that ensure that none of the driver activity is wasted.
Given that the passive speakers claim a very low roll off point, the AE108 subwoofer can look a little on the small side- and indeed only claims to increase the absolute frequency response of the package by 10Hz or so. The configuration is traditional enough; a single downward firing 8 inch doped paper driver powered by a 150 watt internal amp. There is no port or passive radiator which means that placing the sub is pretty straightforward, helped by the sturdy spiked feet. The controls are fairly limited- volume crossover and a phase switch which means that where possible, you’ll want to hand over control to your AV receiver.
Aesthetically, the 100 Series is rather clever. In terms of their design, they share precious little in common with the speakers that they hark back to- and whether that is a good or bad thing is going to come down to a healthy dose of subjectivity, as we’ll come to - but they still look and feel like Acoustic Energy products. The pointed dustcap, the narrow but deep cabinet design and the general proportions are exactly in keeping with what you expect. Other touches are more modern but no less appealing like the magnetic grille fixings, the sturdy terminals and the very pleasing addition of a remote control for the sub.
The mass loading of the AE109 cabinet also has the neat side effect of considerably improving its performance in stability tests that in turn means that you can attach spikes directly to the underside without needing to use feet or outriggers which helps keep the footprint commendably small. This compact arrangement applies to the whole range and there is a sense- conscious or otherwise- that with full size speaker packages under threat from smaller options, Acoustic Energy has ensured that the 100 Series takes up as little room as possible.
How was the Acoustic Energy 100 Series pack tested?
And there is much to like about the way that they perform. Selecting Jurassic World and letting rip with the attempts to corner and handle the Indominus Rex are handled extremely well. The task of handling dialogue when on screen action goes crazy is done with commendable ability and even when events go ballistic, there is a sense of order and cohesion that is very pleasing and makes them easy to listen to for extended sessions. One thing that helps this is the extremely good sense of panning both across the front arc of and from the front to back of the room is very impressive for a collection of monopole speakers. Part of this is down to the exceptionally even handed manner in which the NAD goes about its business but the 100 Series clearly has some skills of its own.
There is also a well judged sense of refinement that helps this sense of being able to listen to them for long periods. Acoustic Energy speakers of old could tend towards the thrilling but at the expense of being a little fatiguing when used long term. The present generation is undoubtedly a little smoother and softer but this makes them rather easier to live with and the balancing act has been worked sufficiently well that this is still a lively and dynamic set of speakers to listen to. The Thunder Hollow demolition derby in Cars 3 has a sense of life and, well, energy that is extremely encouraging. Really push them to stupid levels and they harden up a little but not chronically so and certainly no worse than their rivals.
For two channel music though, you’ll simply want to turn the sub off and let the AE109 strut its stuff. This is a really well realised compact floorstander that hits impressively hard for something the size and shape it is. The fabulous Caer by Twin Shadow sounds potent and lively with a real sense of drive and dynamics to the music and an ability to engage on an emotional level as much as a cerebral one. If the Q Acoustics 3000i turns up to be an improvement on the outgoing version, it is likely that the AE109 might have to give a little ground in terms of sheer accuracy but there’s a joy to the way it makes music that is very hard not to like.
- Outstanding balance of drive of refinement
- Well made
- Usefully compact
- Sub lacks some outright punch
- No upward firing option
- Harden up slightly at high levels
Acoustic Energy 100 Series 5.1 System Review
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