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Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package Review

Born to fun!

SRP: £2,500.00

What is the Acoustic Energy 300 Series?

Acoustic Energy has built its reputation by producing simple but well-made speakers that get the basics right. This approach has served the British company well and was extremely successful when it came to the entry-level 100 Series, which delivered a quality performance at an affordable price. The new 300 Series builds on that success, offering an upgrade over the entry-level range and providing a cheaper alternative to the flagship 500 Series.

The system reviewed here is composed of the entire range, which features the AE309 floorstander, the AE307 centre channel speaker and the AE300 standmount speaker, all backed up by the AE308 subwoofer, which is doing the heavy lifting at the low end. If you fancy putting together a similar system, you’ll be delighted to hear you can buy all these speakers and the sub in a package for £2,500 (or £2,750 for the walnut veneers), a saving of nearly £400.

Related: Best Home AV Products 2019 – Editor's Choice Awards

Acoustic Energy AE309 Floorstanding Speaker

The Acoustic Energy AE309 is a floorstanding speaker that uses a tweeter and two mid/bass drivers, resulting in a claimed frequency response of 38Hz-30kHz, a claimed sensitivity of 89dB, and a rating of 6ohms. It features new bespoke drive units that are designed for improved dispersion, reduced distortion, extended bass slam and better overall power handling.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

There’s a 28mm aluminium dome tweeter featuring the company’s wide dispersion technology waveguide that shapes the acoustic output to match the woofer and provide a wider sweet-spot. The woofer is a re-designed 130mm mid/bass driver with a ceramic aluminium sandwich cone and long-throw motor system.

The seamless cabinet enclosure uses 18mm high density MDF material with proprietary internal bracing to reduce cabinet colouration. They certainly feel well made, with extremely solid and inert cabinets. There’s a slot-shaped duct port at the rear that augments the bass output by reducing the effect of air turbulence.

  It features new bespoke drive units that are designed for improved dispersion, reduced distortion, extended bass slam and better overall power handling

Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

The AE309 measures 175 x 900 x 280mm (WxHxD), weighs 22kg and has 8mm floor spikes to provide stability and improved isolation. There's a single set of binding posts at the rear and magnetic black fabric grilles. There’s a choice of piano-grade high gloss black or white lacquer finishes at £999 a pair, along with a more expensive real wood American walnut veneer finish at £1,099 a pair.

Acoustic Energy AE307 Centre Speaker

The Acoustic Energy AE307 is a dedicated centre speaker that uses a 28mm aluminium dome tweeter with waveguide, and two 130mm mid/bass drivers in a horizontal configuration. As a result, it has a claimed frequency response of 42Hz-30kHz, a claimed sensitivity of 89dB and a rating of 6ohms. It also features the same bespoke drive units as the AE309.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

The AE307 has the same seamless cabinet enclosure and 18mm high density MDF construction, along with a slot-shaped duct port at the rear to augment the bass output by reducing the effect of air turbulence. It measures 460 x 175 x 260mm (WxHxD), weighs 9kg, has a single set of binding posts at the rear and uses magnetic black fabric grilles.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

When bought on its own, the speaker costs £399 for the gloss black and lacquer white versions, or £449 for the walnut veneer.

Acoustic Energy AE300 Standmount Speaker

The Acoustic Energy AE300 is a standmount speaker that uses a 28mm aluminium dome tweeter with waveguide, and a 130mm mid/bass driver. It has a claimed frequency response of 45Hz-30kHz, a claimed sensitivity of 86dB, a rating of 6ohms and it features the same bespoke drive units as the AE309.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

The speaker also has the same seamless cabinet enclosure and 18mm high density MDF construction as the rest of the range, along with the same slot-shaped duct port at the rear. It measures 175 x 300 x 260mm (WxHxD), weighs 6.5kg, has a single set of binding posts at the rear and uses magnetic black fabric grilles.

  They certainly feel well made, with extremely solid and inert cabinets

Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

A pair of AE300s on their own cost £599 for the gloss black and lacquer white versions, or £649 for the walnut veneer.

Acoustic Energy AE308 Subwoofer

The Acoustic Energy AE308 is an active subwoofer that uses a basic sealed cube, with a 12in high-excursion downward-firing driver that uses a doped and stiffened paper cone. It has 500W of Class D amplification and has a claimed frequency range of 26-120Hz. There’s a black fabric grille and carpet-piercing spikes that include rubber caps for use on hard flooring.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

In terms of connections, the sub has an LFE phono input, low level stereo phono inputs and high level stereo binding post inputs. There are level, crossover and phase controls, along with an auto on/off feature. The AE308 costs £899 for the black or white version, and £949 if you choose the walnut finish. The sub measures 360 x 360 x 360mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 16.5kg.

How was the system tested?

The Acoustic Energy AE300 Series 5.1-channel speaker system was tested in a dedicated home cinema. The AE309 floorstanders were positioned at the front of the room on either side of the projector screen, the AE307 centre speaker between them, and the AE300 standmount speakers were located at the sides and just behind the main listening position. The AE308 subwoofer was placed at the front, and to the left of the centre speaker, away from the wall and corner.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

Testing used a mixture of material ranging from Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-rays, CDs, DVD-Audio discs, SACDs and music streaming services. The primary source was the Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player, and amplification was provided by the reference Arcam AVR850 AV receiver in a 5.1-channel configuration.

Performance

The first thought that springs to mind when listening to AE300 Series system is that Acoustic Energy has sensibly concentrated on getting the fundamentals correct. The company has used identical drivers in all the speakers, and this results in an impressive tonal balance. The only time this isn’t true is with pans across the front of the room, where the horizontal centre speaker does sound slightly different, but this isn’t a major issue.

Acoustic Energy has also tried to ensure these speakers are sensitive enough to not present a problem for all but the most under-powered of AV receivers. The frequency response also looks good on paper, although those numbers at the lower end appear rather optimistic. However, bass shouldn’t prove an issue, because the system as a whole has the subwoofer to lay a foundation of bass.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

The attention to build quality also results in cabinets that are well made, and this ensures they are free of any unwanted discolouration. Overall, there’s a definite feeling of refinement when it comes to these speakers, and this is reflected in the performance. The aluminium drivers retain a pleasing neutrality, while the clarity and high frequency detailing is also impressive. There’s a definite cohesion to the soundstage that creates a sense of power and scale.

  Acoustic Energy has also tried to ensure these speakers are sensitive enough to not present a problem for all but the most under-powered of AV receivers

The system’s delivery has a thrilling sonic signature, and this is revealed during the opening scene of the Hellboy. As Nazi scientists attempt to open a portal into another world, a powerful storm is unleashed on them. The speakers pick out the details of the wind and the rain, while the sub ensures the thunder is suitably deep and threatening. The speakers operate in unison, ensuring a dynamic performance that matches the visuals.

As the inter-dimensional portal is opened, the system produces a low hum that perfectly captures the sense of uncontrolled power. There is some excellent steering of effects as all hell breaks loose (literally), and sounds move seamlessly from speaker to speaker. And yet within all this chaos, the dialogue remains clear and focused on the screen. What is especially evident, is that the AE300 Series manages to combine accuracy with a definite sense of fun.

  This is especially true of the subwoofer, which struggles to mine the depths of comparable models

There’s a playfulness to their delivery, and if you crank up the volume these speakers are sure to please. This combination of power and pleasure is perfectly revealed when watching the famous ‘bullet time’ sequence in The Matrix. This scene is ideal for testing the accuracy of a system’s steering, but it also allows it to have fun with the delivery, rendering little details such as the turbulence caused by the bullets moving through the air around a shifting Neo.
Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package

The 300 Series is ideal for a multichannel system, but these speakers have also been designed to sound good in a Hi-Fi setup. There’s a wonderful musicality to their delivery, as evidenced when watching Rocketman. The rollicking rendition of The Bitch is Back is given an added boost by the system’s ability to add a driving intensity to the guitars and drums. Conversely, there’s a surreal feeling of distance when the title song is sung at the bottom of a swimming pool.

As good as the speakers are at handling transients and giving a toe-tapping rhythm to music, a film like Godzilla: King of the Monsters does reveal its limitations. This is especially true of the subwoofer, which struggles to mine the depths of comparable models (some which are actually cheaper). It lacks the full low-end extension needed to handle the city-levelling destruction of the film’s climactic battle. So while it still sounds good, it isn't quite as seismic as it should be.

  The results speak for themselves, with a highly accurate performance that produces a fantastically cohesive soundstage

Verdict

Pros

  • Impressive sound quality
  • Great sense of fun
  • Simple but attractive design
  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • Bit pricey compared to the competition
  • Sub could go deeper

Acoustic Energy AE300 5.1 Speaker Package Review

The Acoustic Energy AE300 Series is an excellent range of speakers, although they are slightly more expensive than many comparable systems. This is probably because Acoustic Energy doesn’t benefit from larger economies of scale, which also explains why there are no dedicated surround speakers or upward-firing modules.

The company has sensibly decided to concentrate on what it does best, which means high quality speakers that can be used in a Hi-Fi or multichannel system. The results speak for themselves, with a highly accurate performance that produces a fantastically cohesive soundstage. These speakers are refined, dynamic and above all fun, with a classic look and an impressive level of build quality.

The only real weak link is AE308 subwoofer, which doesn’t go deep enough to fully support the rest of the system. However, if you pair these speakers with the BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR, you’d have a superb midrange system with a fantastic multichannel performance. Acoustic Energy has stuck to its guns, and in doing so has produced a set of speakers that are great fun and come highly recommended.

Highly Recommended

What are my alternatives?

If you're looking for something a bit cheaper, then take a look at the Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series. These gorgeous speakers boast the company's usual attractive cabinets and superior build quality, but also sport its new Continuum driver. The result is a transparent and hugely entertaining performance from these well-designed speakers, and a system that's cohesive and tonally balanced. There's also deep bass and a dynamic delivery, making this a refined multichannel system that comes highly recommended.

If you can stretch your budget a bit further, you might want to consider the Elipson Prestige Facet range. It's a superb package, that delivers a winning combination of build quality, performance and value. The speakers themselves are attractively designed, extremely well made and have a gorgeous choice of finishes. The performance retains both neutrality and fidelity, but also offers a focus that really lends itself to today's multichannel soundtracks. There's a dynamism to these speakers, with a forceful performance that is sure to please.

Scores

Sound Quality

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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