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Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2: Budget compact two-way bookshelf speakers

Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2
Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2

The Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 are compact two-way bookshelf speakers that fall into the budget category and are equally well suited for both stereo systems and multi-channel sets. The design of the speakers traces the proprietary concept of creating acoustics. The original AE100s were released in the 1990s and, together with the larger floorstanding AE109s, established Acoustic Energy as one of the leading manufacturers of truly affordable speakers.

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Unlike the AE1 Active, which, although similar in appearance, is a different type of speaker and has different hardware, the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 is a further development of the inexpensive compact Acoustic Energy speakers, many of which were really good. The Aegis models that replaced the original AE100 were excellent speakers, as were the AE101 that arrived in 2015. However, even with such a proud past, Acoustic Energy has a responsibility to develop new acoustics.

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Until recently, the design of affordable speakers was more or less the same. The explanation for this is quite simple. With a modest budget for design and creation, the use of any exotic components and materials was out of the question. By 2020, the situation had changed a little – production technologies had been improved so much that if models were produced in large quantities, the savings on design might no longer be so severe. And it is the components used in the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 that make it more interesting than the previous version.

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This mainly applies to speakers. In recent years, Acoustic Energy has been transitioning from using its traditional metal diaphragm drivers to speakers made from other materials. The Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 speakers feature a 4-inch paper cone woofer and a 1-inch soft dome tweeter. We can’t say that this sounds intriguing, especially since the same speakers were in the AE101 model, and they performed well. It’s also worth noting that despite the variety of materials used to make speaker cones, paper has some advantages that make it an excellent choice. One of them is that unless special measures are taken to adjust the sound of the speaker, it will be close to neutral. In this regard, older Acoustic Energy models were more difficult to use, as they required a specific selection of system components.

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To provide a rich and compelling sound from a relatively small speaker, Acoustic Energy has equipped it with a powerful magnetic system, which, combined with a large cone stroke, allows bass reproduction from 45 Hz, although without specifying the amount of roll-off. One of the factors in achieving this figure is the use of a slotted bass reflex, which is already becoming a kind of calling card of Acoustic Energy. Its shape, unlike traditional round bass reflex ports, allows the same volume of air to pass through, but without audible noise. In the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 speaker, the bass reflex is placed on the rear panel, as in the AE1 Active model, although in the AE101 it was located in the front. This doesn’t seem to have a major impact on the speaker’s placement in the room, and the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 can be placed on a bookshelf if required.

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There are other design solutions here that we have seen in Acoustic Energy models. The tweeter is placed in a sound guide, which expands the polar pattern compared to what would be obtained by simply installing it on the front panel. The signal to the speaker is supplied via a pair of reliable screw terminals – to be honest, Acoustic Energy has never been particularly committed to a two-cable connection. The speaker body is made of 18 mm thick MDF, and, like the AE1 Active, its corners are rounded.

Having moved away from metal speaker cones, Acoustic Energy still had to take steps to ensure that the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 speaker retains some recognizable features. One way this was achieved was through a large dust cap in the center of the woofer. This is a clear visual connection with the company’s old models and a good solution. Indeed, the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 can be seen as a fine example of industrial design. The speakers look laconic and modern, and at the same time are fully associated with the Acoustic Energy brand. This also sets the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 apart from the slightly dull Mission LX-2.

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In terms of build quality, the speakers exceed the expectations you might have for a model that costs around $450. The exterior finish, either black like our test unit or walnut, suits the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 well. There are small nice touches in the design of the acoustics, such as magnetic holders of the protective mesh or chrome edging, which combines well with the black coating and allows the Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2 to look more expensive than its cost.

Characteristics of Acoustic Energy AE100 Mk2

Configuration: 2 drivers, 2 bands
Acoustic design: bass reflex
Frequency range: 51 – 26000 Hz
Nominal impedance: 6 Ohms
Crossover frequency: 2.9 kHz
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Peak SPL: 112 dB
Finish: matte black , American walnut vinyl
Dimensions: 290 x 160 x 250 mm
Weight: 9.2 kg

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