I originally wondered into a hifi store just to have a look at what was on offer at the time, with the intention of buying something only if I was highly impressed . It was the year 2006. Floorstanders have always been my prefered speaker type and I was mostly interested in the Krix Lyrix Gold (to non-Australian readers, these speakers are somewhat of a local hero and extremely highly regarded). I was very impressed with the Krix's and their bass power. Nothing else in the shop really stood out, but then the sales guy said I should have a listen to some speakers they had in another demo room. He said some babble which I couldn't really understand - "acoustic energy aegis evo 3". I thought, 'what the heck did he just say?'. You see, I had never heard of Acoustic Energy. He said these speakers were receiving fantastic reviews and were blowing everyone away. So i asked him to set them up in the same room as the Krix's and set about comparing. After about 30 minutes of switching back and forth between these two sets of speakers I couldn't really decide. I so much wanted to buy Australian and suport one of our local brands but in the end I just had to go with the AE's. They seemed to have only slightly less bass that the Lyrix Gold but just seemed so much clearer, faster and supremely dynamic with amazing attack.
I have been living with my AE Evo 3's now for over 4 years. I am a bit of a speaker collector and have now had the opportunity to own a lot of different brands of speakers. My most recent was a pair of brand new Monitor Audio RX6's. I was expecting a LOT from these speakers and thought they would be a big upgrade from the AE's. The idea was to sell the AE's. Well, I just couldn't do it and ended up re-selling the MA's (yes I am stupid and lost a fair bit of money). I just couldn't justify selling the AE's for the price I would have got for them. The RX6's were emmensely clear sounding speakers but the bass just didn't sound as good as the AE's. This surprised me as they have bigger drivers than the Evo 3's. Maybe they needed to loosen up, I don't know. But there's something about how the Evo 3's lay such a solid bass foundation and then emit this amazingly realistic and clear high end out of nowhere. It's spooky and, yes I know this is tragic, when I listen to some CD's (Annie Lennox Collection for eg) tears form in my eyes thinking how good these damn AE's sound!! I am not exagerating, they truly emote me, what more can I say than that. After 4 years, I now believe the AE Evo 3's will stay with me regardless of what speakers I end up buying in the future and as long as I have the space to keep them.
I wanted a pair of speakers with a big, easy-flowing, transparent and natural sound that would grace my Marantz PM7200 and Marantz CD5000...and I found them.
Replacing little 10 year old B&W 201i speakers, which had served me well over the years, but sounded a bit congested with classical music.
I never auditioned the AE's.
I saw a deal on Ebay, read user opinions on forums and decided to buy them, not able to listen first...I'll explain later why I just went for them without having a chance of auditioning them.
I had my mind pretty much set on a pair of B&W DM602S3's, auditioned them numerous times and liked their balance: slightly restrained midds, tight (but full-bodied) and smooth bass.
A good soundstage and with an easy going, strainless delivery.
The only complaint I had was the bit too obvious treble, metalic sounding at times, though nothing really serious.
The 602's sound is described (with a fair amount of contempt) by real audiophiles as a 'commercial' sound.
In my opinion it's a very well balanced sound for the group of users B&W aims at: owners of budget/midfi amps and cd players.
These speakers will compliment the gear instead of revealing the weaknesses and critize them ("Well if you spend 1000 bucks on a new amp and another 1000 on a cd player I'll consider to sound fine, but no promisses...")
But there was something missing, I wanted a touch more transparancy.
Orchestral music just needs a certain level of openness, midd detail and definition which the B&W's didn't offer.
The Dynaudio Audience 42 and Quad 12L I auditioned did, but lacked the easy going nature of the B&W's, they sounded too tight.
Especially the Dynaudio's seemed to have drunk too much coffee, too focused and controlled: amazing soundstage and imaging, but so (up)tight and dry(-mouthed) - note: with my amp and cd player - that it became a frustratingly fatiguing experience.
But I did like the treble of both the Dynaudio and Quad.
Maybe I shouldn't look for a bookshelve speaker at all?
One of the reasons the B&W's sounded more relaxed was because of the larger cabinet?
I was just about to give the JMLab Chorus 714S a trie when I saw the deal at Ebay's...
First I searched for opinions about and comparisons between the JMLab and AE's, but soon I did a more relevant research on comments about the AE EVO 3 in comparison with the B&W DM602.
What I found was interesting.
The people who had narrowed their choice between the AE's and B&W's all made their final choice for a similar reason:
The ones who went for the B&W's found the AE's midrange a bit "leanish" or a bit too "revealing".
The ones who went for the AE's found the B&W's a bit "muffled" or a bit too "restrained"
And when the treble performance was mentioned the AE's was described as "smooth", "dull" or "rounded", the B&W's as "clear" or "too bright"
I really didn't want to go on auditioning-tour again, there comes a time when enough is just enough, not only concerning myself, but in the case of the audio dealer, formerly known as "Mr. Patience" too I guess.
I chose the AE's.
These AE's come with sand filled at the bottom, so I found out later...
The manual mentions this as an important option:
"Mass loadng will significantly improve the performance of the speakers.
If you decide not to mass-load the speakers, we still recommend fitting the plastic bung to avoid unwanting resonance. Be aware that the plastic bung has not been designed to be removable after insertion"
I searched the cardboard boxes in which the speakers came.
Then after turning on of the speakers up side down, "there is a mass loading compartment at the bottom of each cabinet" I found a plastic bung inserted at the BOTTOM OF THE REAR of the cabinet.
Great, they were sand-filled already!
Or wait just a second...some idiot at the store had the bungs already inserted without filling the cabinets first?!!
"...the plastic bung has not been designed to be removable after insertion"
No these aren't new speakers, they had send me a pair of used ones?!!
I inspected the speakers carefully for screwdriver marks...if they were returned earlier than most likely with some malfunction...
Google search confirmed my first thought, they come sand-filled.
The manual is wrong.
They look great in dark maple finish, although at close view you'll notice that it is no real wood veneer but MDF
Still the finish looks classy, built quality top notch seen from the outside - I haven't opened them though to look inside.
Right out of the box they sounded good, maybe a bit too smooth and shut-in, but they opened by the minute.
So maybe my ears just adjusted to the sound and therefore the so-called "break-in period" might be a fable.
Playing a couple of days I found out that they like a fair amount of free space around them.
A minimum of 70cm from the rear and side walls to avoid booming and to increase the soundstage.
These speakers obviously are no near-field monitors so you need to take some distance, a minimum of 2 metres, from them, otherwise the stereo-image is flat (left speaker - something in between - right speaker) without depth, though with plenty of rock albums this flat wall of sound is very pleasing to my ears!
At very low listening levels there already is a convincing soundstage, maybe not as precise as the Dynaudios I auditioned.
Unfortunately the sweet spot is smaller at low levels and moving away from the sweet spot, closer to the left for instance, the left speaker will claim its attention.
But turning the volume up a bit the speakers will disappear completely with most records, leaving only the music.
The sound is big, solid, room filling and easy flowing.
I never have to turn the volumeknob any further than 9 o'clock, therefore the sound will never be able to distort or harden.
But just out of curiosity I played them very loud, at levels I cannot tolerate and surprisingly the sound simply refused to harden or strain, not even up close.
The treble isn't rolled off and actually not as sweet or dull some people mention.
It is not extended, it just seems to reproduce the source accurately, without adding/extending something or leaving information out.
I wouldn't have mind a slight treble roll-off, but I don't mind the ocassional treble sting either.
It sure is much cleaner and less metalic sounding than B&W DM602's tweeter, though perhaps not as delicate as Dynaudio's and Quad's highs.
But considering the bright source I use the AE's do a pretty good job in keeping things sweet and natural.
Having said that, these speakers are much more revealing than my old B&W 201's and the DM602's, therefore the difference between good and poor recordings are more obvious.
But fortunately the poor recordings do not sound worse compared to the sound of my old B&W's
In fact the sound never gets unpleasant which is remarkable and contradicting with its revealing character.
Classical music sounds so convincing!
Open, detailed, well defined and airy, with a soothing warmth in the lower midds.
The bass is meaty though well-controlled, not too tight and dry.
For some it may be a bit loose, but I like it this way.
And it goes really very deep, making the soundstage even more convincing.
Anyone looking for a budget floorstanding speaker must audition these AE EVO3's.
I do recommend a good source (my Marantz CD5000 probably is not sophisticated enough), because these AE's are pretty transparant and revealing.
But they are more forgiving than B&W DM602S3 in the high midds and highs and much more forgiving than Dynaudio and Quad overall, except for the treble perhaps.
They had a retail price of £350, but are now sold for £260 in the UK and around 600 euro in the rest of Europe.
And probably the prices will drop lower, because a new model will arrive soon.