Acoustic Energy AE309 – Good Manners
Acoustic Energy has been designing and manufacturing loudspeakers since 1987. Their first loudspeaker model was the iconic AE1 monitor, which received numerous awards and achieved such high standards of excellence that it became the benchmark monitor for many recording studios.
This blazing success allowed them to position themselves in a market as competitive as budget “sensible” Hi-Fi and to build an established reputation with other models in their portfolio.
As has happened to many British Hi-Fi companies Acoustic Energy, hereinafter AE, also fell in the crosshairs of investors who injected capital in 1994 and turned the small national factory into a multinational company. They then focused their market line on entry-level loudspeakers and products such as Bluetooth speakers and Wi-Fi Internet radios. It was then that they moved from London to a larger facility in the Cotswold town of Cirencester where they continue to this day.
Fortunately for the firm – like other British brands – it has once again been taken back by British hands and talent. Thus, since 2017 it has been run by names related to the English company for more than two decades. 34 years of existence also allow us to gain a lot of experience and even to hit the table again, open many ears and why not close a mouth in passing and all this “for the love of music.”
AE currently has five lines of loudspeakers in its catalog. Thus we have its three lines AE100, AE300 and AE500, all of them composed of floor boxes, monitors, centrals and subwoofers. A highly awarded and celebrated active monitor their AE1 Active and another series called AEGO dedicated to desktop speakers to support desktop and laptop computers and televisions that feature mini-monitors, soundbars, and small-sized subwoofers.
Acoustic Energy also manufactures its own monitor stands.
For this test we have the Acoustic Energy AE309 floor boxes and, according to the manufacturer, they promise to perform both in medium and large rooms.
- Speakers: 2 x 130mm Aluminum Ceramic Sandwich Cone in Mid Bass and 25mm Dome in Treble
- Sensitivity: 89 dB
- Peak SPL: 115 dB
- Power handling: 175 W
- Crossover Cuts: 296Hz / 2.56kHz:
- Impedance: 6 ohms
- Design: 2.5 way
- Magnetic grids
- Dimensions (mm): 900/175/280 mm
- Weight: 22 kilos
- Finishes: Piano gloss white, Piano gloss black and Real walnut wood veneer.
The Acoustic Energy AE309 is a slimline column type loudspeaker with compact dimensions. There is nothing else to see the AE309 floor box on the granite base on which I seat my Usher Mini Dancer DMD2 to see the difference in plant and volume, something essential when you do not have much space or do not have a dedicated room or even both. The AE300s have the same constructive quality and sound footprint as their monitor version, but the AE309 columns mount an extra driver added in 2.5-way mode, which together with the larger volume of the enclosure, provides a plus in bass performance both in depth as in punch, something that causes a sensation from the first minute of listening. Hear to believe.
According to the English firm, the Acoustic Energy AE309 column uses two latest generation 130mm mid-bass speakers. Featuring a new ceramic aluminum sandwich cone with an ultra-shallow profile and an ultra-high-force, long-throw motor system. This new transducer features improved dispersion, extended bass punch, and better overall power handling.
For the high end of the spectrum they are fitted with a new 25mm aluminum tweeter that mounts the entire 300 Series. It offers high power handling and low fundamental resonance to reduce distortion. They have also concentrated their Research and Development efforts on the waveguide surrounding the tweeter. This technology improves sound dispersion. Go ahead, we are not dealing with “selfish” boxes in the sense that they only allow a very narrow point of optimal listening. Let’s say they are more sofa boxes than armchair boxes. These waveguides not only allow for a more flexible listening point, but also make the sound more coherent along the vertical axis by harmonizing the sound waves from the tweeter with those from the woofer.
As for the enclosure itself, it mounts an inert 18mm MDF cabinet that uses a proprietary reinforcement technology derived from its Reference series to reduce enclosure coloration. It is a sandwich construction with two layers of MDF and an inner layer of bituminous material. They certainly feel sturdy when you hit them with your knuckles. The cabinet has a slot-shaped bass reflex port on the top rear of the speaker, which enhances bass output and reduces perceived distortion. Enclosure base is installed with an inert mass material that adds cushioning and reduces cabinet staining. It also comes with 8mm decoupling tips. These spikes not only fulfill their obvious function of decoupling the box with the ground to avoid vibrations, but also allow the tweeters to be pointed a little upwards, looking for the height of our ears, thus allowing a fine adjustment in the position of the boxes.
Details of Acoustic Energy AE309
The boxes that have been kindly loaned for testing come in a piano white finish and are offered in piano black for the same price. Although for just over 100 euros extra we have a version in authentic walnut veneer so finely finished that it rivals the finish of boxes that double its price. Of course, if the budget is limited, welcome are those hundred-odd euros of savings since the piano black and white versions are also beautiful.
Another detail to be appreciated is that the acoustic fabric grilles are magnetic, something that makes it easy to remove and put them on without having any visible anchors that break their polished and minimalist aesthetic. But the best thing about the grilles is that they are soundly transparent so they can be left on. In addition, they occupy the entire front of the acoustic box, not only the upper area where the drivers are, so if we are going to install them in a home theater system with a video projector, we avoid polishing the boxes and especially that of its front can cause annoying glare.
A winning design is that the connection posts of the boxes are inclined upwards since it greatly facilitates the connection without having to bend down or adopt positions that greatly punish our delicate and suffering audiophile lumbar.
Pop – David Bowie – Black Tie White Noise (CD)
Blackstar was not the first album where David Bowie flirted with jazz since in 1993 he published his album Black Tie White Noise, a work with which the chameleon tried to raise his head from the shipwreck and anxiety that his pseudo-band Tin Machine supposed and that has with real pearls with a refined production.
One of my favorite tracks is the one titled “I know it’s gonna happen someday.” In Bowie’s own words, it is the version of a song that Morrissey wrote in the Bowie style. Then we have Bowie imitating the style of a Morrissey imitating Bowie in a magnificent set of parallel mirrors. The song features the masterful orchestral arrangements of Chico O’Farril and the colossal guitar of Tony “Wild T” Springer.
The drum intro sounds followed by the bass and the piano and I note that the Acoustic Energy AE309 have the weight and packaging of larger boxes. I do not mean to say that they have a rock punch, but that area of the 80 hz where the bass kick is is well present. Below those 80 hz the boxes get enough presence to be able to fill the room as if they were mounting larger drivers.
The middle zone with Bowie singing slightly shifted to the left sounds flush with the snare line. They are not boxes that throw music in our faces but rather have a relaxed presentation. The female backing vocals sound a bit more backward than Bowie’s voice, which by the middle of the song has already taken center stage.
The strings and brass sound silky and not at all tiresome or lacerating. The backing vocals accompany the guitar solo that is marked Wild T Springer and by then Bowie’s voice tears and breaks showing that he does not need to reach four octaves and a note from his youth to move and communicate.
Another pearl of the album is the instrumental “Looking for Lester” with Nile Rodgers in production, Lester Bowie’s trumpet, David Bowie himself playing the sax with such a personal style that at times it seems like a guitar out of tune and his usual pianist Mike Garson. All of them achieve a jazz-house theme that is light years away in quality, style, production and substance from what just three or four years later was going to be undercooked in the disco music industry. I would call it Intelligent Jazz House Music because it is more listenable than danceable, but above all to differentiate it from the brush that came later.
The whole track is a fun delight, where the solid and pounding rhythmic base is countered with an arsenal of sax, trumpet and brass solos that dresses marginal house with an elegance unheard of to date. Without being boxes that primarily seek resolution, the truth is that they do not perform badly at the time of unblocking the noise turmoil of this complex and overloaded track.
The highs in this song can be especially tiring or lacerating depending on the amplification or boxes, but with the Acoustic Energy AE309 at no specific moment or passage have they made me irritating. Not even Bowie’s sax that plays with cacophony applying the Miles Davis maxim that a note is not badly played if we confirm it with the next note we play; not even the pounding of the highest notes of the gifted pianist Mike Garson’s right hand makes it squeaky and they stroll playfully and cheeky across the stage.
Jazz – Stanley Turrentine – Comin ‘Your Way – (Blue Note Tone Poet Series reissue LP 33 1/3 RPM gatefold)
If I had to recommend jazz artists or albums for a general or neophyte audience, I would stick with Freddie Hubbard, Coleman Hawkins and of course with the prolific and accessible Stanley Turrentine. It is not that with pop rock loaded with instruments and previous production the Acoustic Energy AE309s were having a bad time, since they have exceeded my expectations by giving a sound with more body and presence than could be expected considering its liters and its drivers, but with jazz, oh how good they sound with classical jazz! You can turn up the volume that a surly trumpet or an overpowering saxophone will never sound. The instruments maintain their size and tonal balance due to their relaxed and silky presentation which recreates an atmosphere conducive to the intimacy of small jazz bands. But that they do not give an advanced sound does not restrict them to report a sensation of 3D since they achieve a prodigious and praiseworthy depth,
Sure they could have a more revealing high and mids or a more clinical and dry low, but when I think about the price of these columns and the enormous competition in the market in Their fringe reaffirmed me how formidable these Acoustic Energy AE309 are. So musical and addictive that one takes away even the desire to waste time turning the record over and putting the same face on again. Zero fatigue, zero squeaks. It could be attributed to them that they are somewhat shy, but it would be an error of interpretation since what these boxes already have in abundance is what in English they are called “good manners” or good manners in Spanish and that I like more to translate more literally as ” good manners ”because it is his delicate, discreet and sweet way of presenting music that makes it possible to use hours and hours without any fatigue.
I am not saying that the boxes do not show vigor, because I insist that they have a very surprising bass for their size but this – in accordance with the middle and upper part of the spectrum – seems to be projected into the room just behind the boxes giving a sensation of spatial depth that leaves me at times not only ojiplático but allow me the license: ojiplático.
Let’s not forget that due to the limitations of the shape and size of my room, I have the boxes on the wide wall. They are 190 centimeters apart between tweeters and the same distance between tweeters at listening point, forming an equilateral triangle. There are 90 centimeters from its front to the wall even less if I measure flush with the CD shelves.
The version of the standard “Someone to watch over me” that the good old Turrentine marks on the second side takes me to those wooden benches in the park covered with dry leaves, the first time I flew a kite, to that warm and fluffy that all of us who already comb gray hair have in our souls. For me that is the most important thing and it is not measured in hertz or decibels but in the number of bristly hairs per square centimeter. In that, the English women pass the test with flying colors.
Rock – Dire Straits – Dire Straits (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab LP 2 x 45 RPM Gatefold)
If there is a song that I remember from my earliest childhood, it is the Dire Straits Sultans of Swing. Omnipresent on commercial radios, I remember it playing on my mother’s Sanyo radio cassette, but the funny thing is that I have a vivid memory of listening to it at a butcher’s stall in my town’s food market. Unforgettable that butcher’s happy face when he saw that they put it on the local station. I remember him turning the radio a little louder while giving me a wayward and knowing half smile.
I was of an age when my mother sat me on the kitchen bench while unloading the shopping cart and I didn’t dare to get off by myself from the height that I wanted. That was how small I was and already music gave me its first coat of paint to soak up my pores forever and ever.
The Acoustic Energy AE309s place Knopfler’s voice alongside his guitar in the center of the stage. Together but not mixed. The cymbals of the drums and hi-hat, without being effervescent, the truth is that they manage to have their own entity and brightness. It’s funny because with non-critical listening, everything sounds like a harmonious block, but if you tune your ear, you realize that microdynamics and detail are also there, although not in such an obvious way and even less ostentatious.
The bass has that punch that makes the song almost danceable due to its groove. If I look at the drivers, I see that they manage to provide more weight and punch because they are subjected to a lot of excursion without this being at the cost of taking them out of their linear performance.
The next cut “In The Gallery” sounds and the same goes for the kick drum, which together with the toms provides a very convincing mini-kick. The five plus five inches of its double ceramic aluminum drivers do not add up to ten inches in punch and air movement but they do achieve the thrust and presence of a seven inches and all this in an enclosure that is only 17.5 centimeters wide. When there are limitations in the room due to size, proportions and location of our system, I once again verify that maxim that says that: “the laws of physics cannot be broken but they can be bent.” Well, there is a lot of engineering work here to make these small columns sound like others twice as large and twice as expensive.
Ambient – Harold Budd – The Serpent (In Quicksilver) – LP – 45 RPM Redition
Harold Budd, another veteran Californian musician of the ambient and alternative scene, was a composer, poet, keyboardist, sculptor, and soundscape artist. Famous are his collaborations with Brian Eno and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. As a pianist he developed a technique that he himself baptized as “soft pedal.”
His album The Serpent (In Quicksilver) was released on the artist’s own label in 1981. It is a short album in which piano, pedal steel guitar and subtle layers of post-processing take us through the landscapes of the Mojave Desert in the that Harold spent his childhood.
In this case, the reissue starts from a digital re-mastering that is dumped onto a 45 RPM vinyl record that helps somewhat with the dynamics but is far from having the warmth and quality of an original first edition. Good work, bad editing.
Here the Acoustic Energy AE309 help to make the album more digestible, since the calm highs they have eliminate somewhat the digitalitis that this reissue suffers, not fatal but very improvable.
The pedal steel guitar sounds liquid and expansive without crushing the eardrums. The piano sounds dreamlike because of that wonderful analog reverb that Budd always uses masterfully and that makes the notes have a languid and nostalgic tail that is preceded by a stretched decay. Minimalism in its purest form. Here the rests, no matter how tiny they are, matter as much or more than the notes themselves. In the second cut titled Wanderer this becomes evident.
In the third cut entitled “Rub with Ashes” where Harold plays exclusively a Bösendorfer piano it is impossible not to establish an allegory with the strokes of the French impressionist painters. Here the natural reverb of the piano box is another instrument on its own and the AE309s with their good manners and their refinement almost make a DDA album unfortunately almost AAA for us and they do it without looking like they are putting a gauze of cotton in our ears, they achieve this by accentuating the virtues of recording.
Conclusion Acoustic Energy AE309
The Acoustic Energy AE309s have earned my respect and consideration with every hour of listening. We could say that the AE309s are AE300s in the mid and upper zone but with an extra bass in extension and punch that makes them more versatile. They are not selfish boxes with the sweet spot. They have a delicate English sound that prioritizes moderation over analysis, although without sounding mochas or blunt in any way. With pop rock they defend themselves quite well thanks to their double driver and their 2.5 tracks, getting decent doses of punch but without actually rocking out. But with vocal music, small jazz formations and acoustic music in general they achieve a coherent timbral and a surprising stage in width and depth.
With 89 dB of sensitivity and its 6 ohms, they are not difficult to amplify either by topology or by amplification power, although for price and characteristics its natural ally would be an integrated solid-state amplifier class AB of at least 50 watts per channel and neither I would rule out any class D amplification, because the polite character of the cabinets would muffle any metallic or sharp sounds. They can even be installed in a 5.1 set with a multi-channel amplification since their nominal 6 ohms does not make them excessively current-guzzling, with the current delivery capacity being a point against the vast majority of said multi-channel receivers.
It is worth the simile that these boxes would be like a movie projector. It seems that the sound comes from behind the listening point and that we only have to put our eyes and ears to the front of the room to enjoy what happens without the sound being thrown from the boxes towards our face. On the other hand, other boxes that were initially more attractive and seductive project the sound from their drivers and advance the scene. They emit their mids and highs in a much more analytical way, yes, but also at times more lacerating and sharp, so much so that in prolonged listening they are burdensome. This has never happened to me with these competent AE309s. They are enjoyed for what they are, because of their nature and design without one having the feeling of consciously or unconsciously comparing them with other boxes, whether or not they are in the same price range.
They are elegance, finesse and discretion but with a certain amount of body and attack when necessary.
With this price and the sound they offer there is no but that is worth it. If you have the opportunity, do not hesitate to listen to them. If you can, get the version in real walnut veneer. A finish that makes them not only a delight for the ears but also for the eyes.
EQUIPMENT USED FOR TESTS
- Yamaha CD-S3000 CD / SACD Player
- iMac mid 2007 Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHZ and 6 gigabytes DDR3 RAM with internal SSD hard disk for operating system and software
- Macbook Pro Retina Early 2015 with 2.9GHZ Intel Core i5 8GB 1867MHZ DDR3 RAM and 500GB SSD Internal Hard Drive
- Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2.5 ”and 2tB hard drive for music library
- Acoustic Solid Turntable Solid Wood model with Rega RB-303 Arm and Ortofon MC-3 Turbo capsule.
Wiring and others
- Rogoz brand rack model 4QG3
- Base for 3 cm granite turntables mounted on 4 silent-blocks.
- 2 Bases for 8-centimeter granite speakers mounted on 6 silent-blocks.
- Furutech e-TP80e power strip with Furutech G-314AG-18E power cable
- Supra Classic 6.0 speaker cables in bi-wiring with 4mm Qed Airlock bananas origin crimped on both ends
- QED Silver Anniversary XT / CF speaker cables with 4mm Qed Airlock bananas origin crimped on both ends
- Furutech G-320Ag-18-E power cable in SACD
- Cardas Golden Power Cord in Amplifier
- Audioquest Carbon USB Cable on Macs / SACD
- Groneberg Quattro Reference RCA Modulation Cables
- RCA Modulation Cables Better Cables
- Hivilux XLR modulation cables
22 m2 dedicated room acoustically conditioned with thick natural wool carpet, four EQ Acoustics 50 mm fiberglass panels located on the wall behind the listening point. 2 EQ Acoustics brand 100mm polyester panels on the back wall. 2 150 mm rock wool panels on the back wall and two quadratic diffusers of residual type T. Akustik model SC Diffusor. 5 2D diffusers from T.akustik model Spektrum D20 on the wall of the speakers.
Eight Auralex Lenrd model bass traps. Thick fringed curtains and double aluminum closure with thermo-acoustic bridge break. 2 Hofa baby membrane bass traps behind the listening point. Rock wool bass trap of 80 kg / m3 density of 200 cm x 35 cm x 70 cm.