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Acoustic Energy AE1 Active: Compact active bookshelf speakers

Acoustic Energy AE1 Active
Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

The body dimensions of the AE1 Active are the same as the classic version – 30 x 18.5 x 25 cm, and the design is the same – two-way, with a 125 mm mid-bass driver and a large tweeter. But that’s where the similarities end. Each head in the Active model is powered by its own 50-watt class AB amplifier. The power supply is also “analog” – from a linear source with a network transformer.

The bands are divided at 3500 Hz by active fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley filters (24 dB/octave). This is the main advantage of an active system – there are no bulky coils and capacitors between the amplifier output and the speaker, which impair damping and absorb some of the energy. In addition, implementing the fourth order on passive elements (and they must be of high quality) is cumbersome and expensive. Finally, active filters are easier to make phase-linear, and they are much more flexible in configuration.

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And in our particular case, there is also the ability to adapt monitors for specific conditions in terms of LF and HF within the range of -2, 0, +2 dB using three-position switches on the rear panel. The signal can be supplied via a balanced XLR cable, or via a regular cable via an RCA jack. The volume is controlled by a separate knob on the back. A 1 volt RMS signal produces 105 dB SPL, so you can connect a CD player with a fixed output and set the volume on the monitors. Not very convenient, but the path will be as short as possible.

Now let’s look at the heads themselves. The midbass driver diffusers are made of sintered aluminum powder with the addition of ceramic chips. Optimal combination of mass, rigidity and damping of internal resonances. The tall, conical dust cap is immediately recognizable and has already become a hallmark of all AE1 models. The driver operates in a bass reflex design, and the port is not round, but is made in the form of a narrow slot on the rear wall.

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The 27mm aluminum tweeter dome is placed in a proprietary WDT (Wide Dispersion Technology) waveguide, which expands the directivity pattern. If you look closely, you can also see a small round sticker on the inside of the protective mesh. This is the so-called aperture body to optimize phase response. By the way, in all my practice I don’t remember that the manufacturer indicated the dispersion of their acoustics. In the AE1 Active, it is stated with a respectable range – 130 degrees horizontally and 120 degrees vertically. Inside the body, glued together from 18 mm MDF boards, ties and damping panels are installed.

I must say that British specialists, having paid so much attention to the spatial characteristics of monitors, have achieved truly phenomenal results. The sound field is rich in detail and completely uniform no matter what distance you’re listening at. The picture feels three-dimensional both in the near field and three to four meters from the front line, and the depth of the stage is almost independent of the volume level. This is the merit of not only the WDT waveguide, but also the separation filters with minimal phase shifts. Using passive elements, it would be extremely difficult to achieve such precise convergence of bands without time errors.

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Accordingly, the musical balance is perceived as a whole, without emphasis on individual instruments or groups. Woodwinds and brass, strings, drums – everything is in complete harmony and, while listening, you don’t even think that the entire richness of the spectrum is reproduced by two small speakers. We listened in an acoustically treated room, there was no excess HF, but if you have a loud room, set the TREBLE switch to the -2 dB position – and there are no problems.

But the main advantage of active bandpass amplification is felt in the lower register. Firstly, it’s control. The speaker is shunted by the output impedance of the amplifier, which is set by the feedback depth. It’s also not good to overdo it; the sound will turn out dry and unnatural. The AE1 Active has a well-chosen damping coefficient – the attack is fast and not blurry, which is especially noticeable on plucked instruments. The impact is biting, on powerful bass notes the diffusers move like pistons with a frightening amplitude, but within a well-controlled zone. It is possible that the low-frequency amplifier has an infra-low-frequency filter: the speaker honestly works out the range allocated to it, but does not try to go deeper, where the output drops sharply and distortion increases. And what is valuable is that the slot port does not whistle – only at high volumes you can hear slight rustling sounds if you bring your ear closer to the back wall. I won’t say that the dynamic potential here is limitless, but with such dimensions of the body, the volume of undistorted sound may puzzle an inexperienced listener.

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From all the listed technocratic points, the overall impression of the new Acoustic Energy systems is formed. It is quite obvious that the main goal in their creation was precisely monitorability, i.e. extremely accurate and at the same time comfortable presentation of musical material. This is also indicated by the fact that neither DACs nor wireless modules were built into the AE1, preferring pure hi-fi classics. This is how they sound: balanced, with high resolution throughout the entire range, dynamic and confident in all musical genres. Clear separation of instruments, excellent sense of rhythm, high intelligibility on phonograms with a rich spectrum. But to get the most out of this pair, it makes sense to choose network cables; they affect the transmission of the atmosphere and the localization of imaginary sources in the upper range.

Characteristics of Acoustic Energy AE1 Active 

Configuration: 2 emitters, 2 bands
Acoustic design: slotted bass reflex
Frequency range: 40 – 25000 Hz (+/- 6 dB)
Crossover frequency: 3500 Hz
Crossovers: active Linkwitz-Riley 4th order
Sensitivity ( at 104 dB at 1 kHz): 1 V RMS
Maximum/peak sound pressure: 105/115 dB
Built-in LF/HF amplifier power: 50/50 W
Horizontal/vertical polar pattern: 130/120 deg.
Frequency response correction for LF and HF: -2, 0, +2 dB
Finish: white and black varnish, Piano Cherry Veneer
Dimensions 300 x 185 x 250 mm

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