Acoustic Energy 300 Series 5.1 speaker system review

hcc_recommendedSteve Withers rediscovers the simple joys of well-designed speakers

British speaker brand Acoustic Energy has gained its reputation through a simple but effective approach of getting the basics right, as opposed to reinventing the wheel. This ethos worked well with its entry-level 100 Series – a range of speakers delivering quality performance at an affordable price.

The new 300 Series, tested here, follows that trend. It offers an upgrade over the entry-level range and provides a more affordable alternative to AE's flagship 500 Series.

Updates include new bespoke drive units designed for improved dispersion, reduced distortion, extended bass slam and better overall power handling. These are a 25mm aluminium dome tweeter featuring the company's wide dispersion technology waveguide to shape its acoustic output and create a wider sweet spot; and a re-designed 5in midbass driver with a ceramic aluminium sandwich cone and long-throw motor system.

A seamless cabinet design is employed, with internal bracing of the 18mm high density MDF material to reduce colouration. The boxes certainly feel extremely solid, with a lovely inert sound as you give them a tap. As well as a single set of binding posts at the rear, on each speaker there's also a slot-shaped duct port that augments the bass output. All the speakers are rated at an impedance of 6 ohms.

Acoustic Energy's range isn't extensive. What you see here is all that's available – the AE309 floorstander, the AE307 centre speaker, the AE300 standmount, and the AE308 subwoofer. There's a choice of piano-grade high-gloss black or white lacquer finishes, and a more expensive real-wood American walnut veneer option. Magnetic black fabric grilles keep the drivers away from trouble, and the AE309 and AE308 are supplied with 8mm floor spikes.

Pricing It Up
The AE309 (£1,000p/p in the standard finishes) features a tweeter and two midbass drivers, and claims a frequency response of 38Hz-30kHz and a sensitivity of 89dB. The two-way standmount AE300 (£600p/p) claims a low-frequency reach of 45Hz from its 5in midbass driver, and a sensitivity of 86dB. Finally, the AE307 centre (£400) reverts to dual midbass drivers, and a horizontal configuration. This claims a frequency response of 42Hz-30kHz, and a sensitivity of 89dB.

The AE308 subwoofer (£900), like the other speakers in the range, is about simplicity and performance. So you get a basic sealed cube, with a 12in high-excursion downward-firing driver that uses a doped and stiffened paper cone. The Class D amp is rated at 500W, and frequency reach down to 26Hz. Again there's a black fabric grille, and carpet-piercing spikes that include rubber caps for use on hard flooring. Note that if you buy these speakers and sub as a package, the asking price is £2,500 (or £2,750 for the walnut veneers), a saving of nearly 400.

Energy By Nature...
The first thought that springs to mind when listening to this system (in conjunction with my usual Arcam AVR850) is that Acoustic Energy has really got all the fundamentals right (although the gloss white finish of our review samples wasn't ideal for my blacked-out home cinema...). There's excellent tonal balance from the identical drivers, although as is always the case with horizontally mounted centre speakers, pans across the front of the room are more noticeable.