Faithful readers know that this author once started with a set of Acoustic Energy AE301. The AE301 was a compact, affordable speaker (funds were limited) that looked good and that you could place close to the back wall. Everything we were looking for in a speaker. Today, the successor to that AE301 is shining in the listening room. The Acoustic Energy AE300 bookshelf speaker. One ‘digit’ down indeed. The AE301 has been sold but we are curious how the 300 series has evolved in those ten years. Let’s check it out!
Over the past few weeks we’ve received comments from a number of readers that we haven’t been testing enough affordable gear lately, and we’ve taken that criticism to heart. By the way, the most enjoyable tests are those of products that are attainable for many people, including us. We think these speakers belong to that category but if the price of the AE300 is still a bit too high, there’s the AE100 MK2 (349 euros the pair).
Acoustic Energy divides its speakers into three series: The 100, 300 and 500 series in which each a bookshelf and a number of floorstanding models are and where you usually also find a center speaker or a subwoofer. In the AE300 series you have respectively the AE300 bookshelf, the AE307 center, the AE308 sub, the AE309 floorstander and the larger AE320 floorstander. In our opinion, that’s all you need to go completely bonkers.
Each speaker is, rather exceptionally in this price range, available in high gloss white and high gloss black. Something that was already the case ten years ago with the AE301! In addition, there is a version in walnut veneer for those who prefer a more classic look. By the way, the lacquer applied is excellent and identical to that of the more expensive 500 series.
In recent years, Acoustic Energy has regained its own stature and is bringing their speakers to the attention of the public with appropriate regularity. They make their speakers in the UK but keep their prices incredibly competitive. The Acoustic Energy AE300 is a two-way bass reflex speaker and 30 cm high, 17.5 cm wide, 26 cm deep and weighs 6.5 kg each. The same size as the AE301 if we are not mistaken. The AE is made from 18 mm high density MDF and the edges are slightly rounded giving it a slightly softer look The 28 mm aluminum tweeter and the 130 mm aluminum mid-driver fit nicely into the cabinet.
Aluminum is a material Acoustic Energy has been working with since the beginning. It is only recently that they have switched to carbon on the 500 series. Both around the tweeter and the mid-driver there is a silver line that provides an extra accent. The logo at the bottom is quite present but all in all the AE300 has a quiet look.
At the back we see at the top the characteristic elongated bass port, a so-called slot port, which Acoustic Energy has sworn by for years and below that 1 pair (yes!) of solid speaker clamps.
The AE300 is a 6 Ohm speaker with a sensitivity of 86 db. On paper this is a somewhat more difficult speaker to drive and in practice it shows. We have to turn the volume knob a bit further to the right, and aluminum is a material that requires stable watts to play controlled and tight.
The frequency range goes from 45 Hz to 35 kHz with the crossover at 2.8 kHz, normal figures for this kind of speaker The original model, the AE301, also had an aluminum tweeter and it could sometimes be a bit aggressive. Therefore, Acoustic Energy developed a special waveguide called Wide Dispersion Technology (WDT) to maximize spread and minimize (phase) distortion. So, best of both worlds.
The aluminum mid-driver has its origins in the legendary AE1 but has been continuously developed over the years. The motor, cone and profile have all been rethought and refined to create a coherent speaker.