Acoustic Energy AE1202 Review

Tall Story

Acoustic Energy’s AE1202 loudspeakers stand tall but cost little. Noel Keywood listens. Read our Acoustic Energy AE1202 Review.

Big floor standers at a low price? Great if you want to shake the room – and Acoustic Energy’s AE1202 loudspeakers appear a tasty proposition for this purpose with their array of drive units and retail price of £.That’s well below most big floor standers, if not rivals from Q Acoustics and Wharfedale – a small rival field then. And I liked these ‘speakers, as I’ll come to explain.

Standing 960mm tall, 165mm wide and 290mm deep the AE 120^2 s appear tall and slim.To aid stability a plinth adds width at cabinet base and spikes can be attached to make firm contact with the floor – if you don’t mind holes in the floorboards.This comment applies to all manufacturers who use spikes of course, as most do. Of course, you can use stick-on rubber pads, BluTack or pennies under the spikes. Spikes are good for stability if bad for floor boards. Weighing 9kgs the cabinets feel heavy so have to be walked into place.

As you might expect for what is a budget loudspeaker, the veneer finish is a vinyl wrap, with slim open weave black cloth grilles attached by magnets to cover the drive units. Connection is monowire only through a single pair of terminals that accept bare wire, spade terminals or 4mm banana plugs. All satisfactory if a little uninspiring.These are very sensitive loudspeakers so need little amplifier power: they’ll go very loud with 40W.

As with most modern floorstanders what you get is a two-way comprising 25mm (I in) soft dome tweeter with 130mm (5.2in) treated paper cone bass/midrange drive unit directly below it, crossover between them at 2.7kHz. Our measurements showed the bass/midrange unit worked down to low frequencies, being supplemented by the two bass units below it that came in around 300Hz and peak at I 20Hz. The rear slot port extends output down to 40Hz.

SOUND QUALITY

The AEs best suited our PrimaLuna EVO 300 Hybrid amplifier with its fast, detailed sound, since they are mild mannered by current standards -unusually so in fact. I used Chord Company Signature Reference cables for connection. Signal source was our Oppo BDP-205D silver disc player with its ESS ES9038 Pro DAC and a MacBook Pro with the Audirvana+ player app, connected via USB to the Oppo, to play hi-res including DSD.

Antonio Forcione’s Tears of Joy (CD) sounded slightly warm and muggy at low-ish listening levels, with some apparent lack of detail and insight. Had I not measured 

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The tin (25mm) silk dome tweeter fires out through a shallow horn that helps raise sensitivity and smooth response.

the AEs first I would have suspected a crossover suckout. In use they sounded a lot different to what measurement had predicted. This was an easy going, mellow presentation where his guitar strings were no threat to bats – as they can be with some loudspeakers – and guitar body had firm presence. Some of the bass whoomphs from guitar body that exist in this recording were captured well enough, giving useful depth and strength to the sound. No lack of bass here then.

With the bigger performance of Skunk Anansie’s Hedonism (CD) it was time to turn volume up and this made quite a difference.The AE1202 then started to move the room nicely and show their mettle.Their lack of bite or sharpness made high volume an easy listen and things started to happen. Drums took on good strength and had a decent snap to them, the distorted guitars didn’t grate, and Skin was clear centre-stage, her vocals satisfyingly clear yet without shout.That made high level Rock an easy experience if not one that was fierce or challenging.The fulsome balance and a small sense of box warmth (colouration) brought a big, meaty delivery into action – more so than most others out there at present. So as to say, as I ploughed through a wide range of music the AEI202s had their own distinctive sound that is different to the norm, but not necessarily worse than the norm.They are not loudspeakers to jump out at you, until volume goes up, then they get motoring in their own confident way.

The rear carries a slot port that loads the lower bass units. The terminal panel allows mono wiring only, with terminals that accept bare wire, spades or 4mm banana plugs.

With classical the issue of box colour was occasionally more obvious, giving an enclosed ‘from the box’ feeling to the Trondheim soloists backing Marianne Thorsen playing a Mozart Violin Concerto (24/96) where cellos of The Trondheim Soloists were invoking a small degree of chamber echo (“box whoomph”).This was not woodenness from cabinet colouration so much as returns from an undamped chamber behind the bass/mid unit it sounded to me, having wrestled with this issue in the past. All the same, I enjoyed the basic delivery here, there was plenty of insight into violin and a big space behind the Trondheim soloists that came over as convincing.Also, Marianne Thorsen’s violin sounded smooth and natural, lacking coarseness or screech – a problem with metal dome tweeters that are given prominence. Acoustic Energy specif

“Marianne Thorsen’s violin sounded smooth and natural, lacking coarseness or screech”

ically and consistently avoid this problem, even if so many others are deaf to it.

Mercedes Sosa singing Misa Criolla was convincingly chiselled at centre stage, with the backing Creole Singers clearly laid out behind him as backing.This was just one time I noticed how well ordered and defined was the sound stage: the ‘speakers have superb imaging, a feature that struck me across much classical where imaging is usually more mellifluous than Rock, but well established here.

Bass quality? There was all the sense of strength and solidity I hope for from floorstanders; the AEs sounded big and ran deep, with strong definition to drum and bass lines: with the synth kick drum of Safri Duo’s Samb Adagio the speakers thundered, remaining clean and relaxed as volume was cranked up.

Acoustic Energy’s treated paper cone drivers have a neutral sound. The central cone handles high frequencies smoothly.

CONCLUSION

Acoustic Energy’s tall, slim AE1202 loudspeakers have a different take on things to most else. But that’s good. Not everyone wants overemphasised treble from metal dome tweeters, for what is described as “detail” in the show room. I’m very biassed toward sonic accuracy and this means the balance on offer 

here, our measurements showed. The sound was certainly on the mild side yet with a bit of volume applied it is big bodied and easy on the ear.The sound stage was unusually tidy and stereo images clearly focussed.

A relaxing and tidy sound then that has its own merits, including the sense of scale a floor stander is expected to provide. Well worth an audition.

The tweeter and associated bass/midrange unit at top are closely spaced for best phase matching. Below this pairing lie two additional bass units for extra low end punch.

EXCELLENT – extremely capable.

VALUE – keenly priced.

VERDICT

8 Total Score
Acoustic Energy AE1202 Review

A big bodied, smooth sound. Mild mannered but entertaining.

PROS
  • smooth, mild sound
  • powerful bass
  • superb imaging
CONS
  • some boxiness
  • lack detail at low volume
  • mediocre finish
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Acoustic Energy

+44 (0)1285 654432

www.acousticenergy.co.uk

MEASURED PERFORMANCE

Our frequency response analysis shows a reasonably flat response from 600Hz up to 20kHz, with no upper midband dip at crossover to the tweeter (3kHz) nor any lift or peaking at high frequencies, suggesting naturally balanced treble free from sharpness. There is an unusual downward shelving effect below 600Hz that lowers output by a few dB and forward output from the drive units drops away fast below 80Hz, the port taking over below this frequency. The two lower bass units peak at 120Hz and output is strong here, a dip in the impedance curve showing extra current being drawn. The port is tuned 45Hz and its output is strongest at this point, but acoustic output is broad all the same (red trace) suggesting good acoustic damping. Overall, the AE1202 doesn’t look to be warm or bass heavy but it may well suit smaller rooms with a lot of low frequency room gain, meaning around 17ft long or below. Smooth extended upper treble suggests an amenable high frequency delivery.

Sensitivity was on the high side at 88dB sound pressure level for one nominal Watt of input (2.8V), making amplifiers of >=40W suitable. Overall impedance, measured using pink noise, was 7 Ohms and lowest value (d.c.r.) 5 Ohms, all normal enough values.

The AE1202 measures well if with some slightly unusual characteristics that will likely give it a dry sound but with fast bass and smooth treble.

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