Working in the audio industry for the past 33 years I have seen many speakers come and go but some become absolute icons. Back in late 80’s/early 90’s I fondly remember the AE1’s from Acoustic Energy. They were a high performance small bookshelf speaker that really shook the Hi-Fi world. If memory serves me well, although the AE1’s were compact they were super power hungry and at the time we would partner them with large power amplifiers from Musical Fidelity etc. The AE1’s really sounded great and had a cult following with audiophile’s searching for the holy grail in compact speaker design.

Roll on to 2022 and with me getting nostalgic in my old age, I was keen to re-connect with and old friend but this time around with the AE1’s being active-powered speakers. So what is an active-powered speaker and what are the key benefits. The clue is in the name as an active speaker has a power amplifier built into the speaker cabinet. There are clear advantages with the main one being the power amplifier is perfectly designed to match the speaker drive units and crossover. The second advantage is this reduces the amount of audio boxes you need to create your Hi-Fi system, saving you plenty of space and creates a very clean and minimalist solution. Essentially all that is required is to connect one source directly to the AE1’s using either the single-ended RCA plugs or Balanced XLR’s. The key benefit of using a Balanced XLR connection is you can run very long interconnects from your source/pre-amp to the AE1’s (reduces inherent noise), some very high end audiophile products offer XLR output, more on this later.

The AE1 Active are available in 3 different finish options: *Piano Black or *Piano White £1050 | **Piano Walnut Veneer £1260.

The very smart and well built dedicated stands are £370 but if purchased at the same time as the active speakers *£1260 (save £160) or **£1460 (save £170).

We have been playing with different ways you can connect a source to the AE1 Active’s, here are just 6 great recommendations on demo in the showroom:

  • Escape M1 Air £199 | This is the most affordable source at just under £200. The M1 Air can receive streamed music wirelessly via your smartphone/tablet using popular music services e.g. Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Qobuz etc. The M1 Air is both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled and for those using a Roon Core the M1 Air can act as a Roon Endpoint. Simply connect the M1 Air using a 3.5mm stereo jack to 2 RCA interconnect (AE1’s).
  • Rega Planar 1 Plus £385 | This award-winning turntable has a phono stage built internally that cleverly converts the phono signal to line level signal this makes it easy to connect directly to the Active AE1’s and it truly sounds amazing! The only downside is the volume can only be be manually  controlled/adjusted on the rear of each speaker but otherwise this is a simple 3 box vinyl playback system. Playing the Door’s ‘Riders on the Storm’ was an absolute joy!
  • Bluesound Node £550 | The Node IMHO is the perfect partner for the AE1 Active’s but also could act as an audio hub if you wanted to connect other sources e.g. Turntable, TV, CD Player etc. The key attraction here is if you just want to stream music and control from the comfort of you sofa, The Bluesound App is well designed and joy to use. A future optional upgrade is to add a powered subwoofer as the Node has a subwoofer input too. Although the bass out of the AE1’s is impressive with bass and treble adjustments on the rear of the speakers, this ensures you can maximise performance wherever they are placed in your listening room. The headline benefit here is a simple 3 box uncluttered solution that takes up minimal space ensuring your Hi-Fi system does not have to overtake the room.
  • Chord Electronics Mojo 2 & Poly £990 | This is my personal favourite as you get the best of both worlds great music at home and also on the move as the Mojo 2 and Poly combination is small and mobile, connect them to your headphones for discrete audiophile listening. Also ideal for Roon users as this Chord duo are Roon Ready so it makes for the ideal 2nd system too. For just over £2000 (£2040) the AE1’s partnered with Chord Mojo 2 & Poly is really hard to beat, quite possibly the best modern Hi-Fi system for today (see youtube review below).
  • Naim Atom Headphone Edition £2699 | The Naim Atom HE streaming pre-amp has received excellent press and awards but one of the key features applicable here is you can find Balanced XLR pre-out on the rear, perfect for connecting to the AE1 Active’s. If your main listening is via high-end headphones then secondary casual listening could be to listen out loud using these superb AE1′ Actives.
  • Chord Hugo TT2 £4750 | The Hugo TT2 is one of my favourite sounding products in the showroom due to it being very versatile as it has three main applications 1- DAC 2- Headphone amplifier 3- DAC + Pre-amplifier. The Hugo TT2 has Balanced XLR connections again perfect for the AE1’s.

The AE1 Actives come with a 3 year warranty, which can be extended to 5 years by simply registering your Vinyl Groove Audio purchase with Acoustic Energy UK.

A full list of AE1 Active product specifications can be found here.

Press & Social Media Reviews

If you would like to hear the Acoustic Energy AE1’s why not book a demo at our Preston showroom.