A luggable hi-fi system for all-over-the-house use, Paul Rigby does just that while he reviews the Acoustic Energy Aego³
The latest incarnation in the desktop speaker system Aego series, the Aego³ can be hooked up to a computer as a 2.1 subwoofer/satellite, near-field system or used as part of a low cost hi-fi set up for anywhere in the house.
The new release retains the basic design of the Aego but adds new aluminium composite satellite speakers that angle upwards when sitting in their operating position. The subwoofer pumps out 65W and a new switch mode power supply is said to reduce noise.
There’s plenty of connections on offer around the back including an analogue line-in, optical digital and Apt-X capable Bluetooth 4.0.
The indicator lamps on the subwoofer reflects information such as the chosen input, the bass setting and the volume, standby and Bluetooth pairing status.
The subwoofer chassis offers very clean lines but the reason for it raises a point of order. There is a problem here: there are no controls on the front of the unit or anywhere on the satellite speakers. This is an issue. The remote control is the only way to control the Aego³. The issue grows because the supplied remote control is tiny and easily lost (replacements will cost you £10 per remote). To save you a tenner, I would recommend storing the remote on the side of the sub with some Blue Tack. Another option might be those magnet pads found in stationers or hobby shops that feature a magnet on one side and double-sided sticky tape on the other. Put one on the surface of your choice, another on the remote and you have a reusable storage point.
Spanning 350 x 195 x 307mm with the satellites spanning 105 x 75 x 85mm, the system weighs in at 9kg.
One of the benefits of this sort of system is its inherent flexibility. The inclusion of Bluetooth meant that I could stream music direct from my iPhone 6S and so I did with an MP3 of Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me. Setting up was very easy as the Aego³ appeared on my Bluetooth list immediately while pairing was almost instantaneous. There was a slight stutter while the music first emerged from the small speakers but, after that, the stream poured successfully.
In sonic terms, I decided to reserve judgement on the Aego³ because the source was a MP3 (an inherently crippled format, at best) via a streamed smartphone (which is not the most audiophile of delivery modes). Nevertheless, using the Aego³ as a room-filling, low cost, hi-fi system, the combo performed efficiently and well, filling the room with music without any stress or strain. In this mode, the Aego³ is great as background music, if you’re getting on doing something else, moving around the listening room. On that basis, the choice of control via the included mini remote control or your smartphone is another handy choice to have. The angled speakers and the sub provide a good spread of frequencies so you never really feel that you are losing out of the performance, as you might if you walked away from the typical stereo speaker system of more traditional design.
Retaining the room-filling sound option, I plugged my Astell & Kern AK120 into the digital port at the rear of the sub and played a high resolution, 24bit/96kHz version of Bob Marley’s I Shot the Sheriff, casting a more critical eye upon the Aego³’s sonic capabilities. In this mode, the Aego³ exhibited a superior tonal balance from the improved source material with bass taking a larger and more integrated part in the music. Marley’s voice offered admirable diction and a texture that provided welcome emotion in his performance. Granted, the rhythm guitar was slightly prominent as if this guitar was positioned too close to the microphone while everything else was played at a distance and so the imaging seemed a touch skewed and off kilter. That said, for this low cost system, such sonic criticism was nit picking. On the whole, the music was very enjoyable and musical. There was no sound-based nasties, no obvious smearing or bass bloom.
The Aego³ does offer upgrade possibilities, though. One obvious target are the ‘sonic strings covered in PVC’ speaker cables bundled in the box. Replacing those with low cost QED cables transformed the upper mids providing far more detail in terms of voice presentation while the bass moved into the mix instead of sounding stuck on as an after thought. Secondary percussion had a great degree of character while noise reduction provided a canvas for both subtle musical effects and a more rounded bass guitar. Other cable replacements plus sorbothane-type isolation mounts under the speaker units will also benefit sound. The moral is, don’t see this Aego³ as the final picture: it is tweakable.
Before I ended the test, I wanted to hear the Aego³ as a ‘near field’ system and so hooked it up to my iMac computer, enjoying a brief game of Lego Star Wars (a classic piece of software, it has to be said). The differences were plain once the iconic theme tune sprang to life with strings being far more realistic in tone, the orchestral score being rich and strong because of the extra bass and the imagery offering a grander, rather epic feel.
In-game experiences were also enhanced, sound effects adding subtle extra dimensions not heard previously while background music exhibited new character and extra dimensionality that increased the enjoyment of the game. Why? I suppose the enhanced sound added to the sense of occasion immersing you deeper into the gameplay.
Of course, playing music through the iMac benefitted broadly from the same ingredients. Carol Kidd’s 16bit/44.1kHz WAV rip of How Deep is the Ocean provided a sonic balance, combining an easy going bass beat and, because the speakers were positioned much nearer to the ear without having to reach for details at higher volumes, a new confidence in terms of detail retrieval.
A value for money system (that offers plenty of scope for later upgrades), the Aego³ benefits from its connectivity options, providing a wide variety of choice in terms of source and potential placement. Whether as a background sound system, a low cost hi-fi or a near field set-up, the AE Aego3 provides admirable sound quality, for the price, from a compact system.
ACOUSTIC ENERGY AEGO³ SPEAKER SYSTEM
Price: £200 (at the time of posting this review, Amazon sell it for £189)
Tel: 01285 654432
GOOD: value for money, admirable overall sound quality, near field performance
BAD: no physical controls, tiny remote