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Mid-level Bookshelf shootout

PrimeRib

New member
Jun 1, 2013
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Hi all.

In the market for a pair of mid-sized standmount speakers and have narrowed it down to the Monitor Audio Silver 2 and the Acoustic Energy 301. I have heard the Monitor Audios and like them a lot. Impressive bass and open detailed sound for the size.

Thoughts on the 301s V Silver 2s?

I also heard Dali Zensors which were nice but not as open as the Silver 2s. The Q Acoutics I also heard just because of the rave reviews on here but were truly awful. What's up WhatHiFi?

My main concern is overly bright or harsh treble.

To be paired with Primare I20, Arcam AirDAC and premium Chord and AudioQuest cabling - which I'm aware is a quite clean / clinical set up?
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
PrimeRib said:
Hi all.

In the market for a pair of mid-sized standmount speakers and have narrowed it down to the Monitor Audio Silver 2 and the Acoustic Energy 301. I have heard the Monitor Audios and like them a lot. Impressive bass and open detailed sound for the size. 

Thoughts on the 301s V Silver 2s?

I also heard Dali Zensors whcih were nice but not as open as teh Silver 2s. The Q Acoutics I also heard just because of he rave reviews here but were truy awful. What's up WhatHiFi?

My main concern is overly bright or harsh treble.

To be paired with Primare I20, Arcam AirDAC and premium Chord and AudioQuest cabling - which I'm aware is a quite clean / clinical set up?
According to the great and the good? Q acoustics are the best thing since sliced bread! mmmm..i use acoustic energy speakers and think they very fine...im sure the shining ones will troll out the usual suspects..dali, tannoy, kef blah blah...get a home audition..if shop wont do this? Find a shop that will..one of my customers has a arcam solo set up..just moved in and his monitor audio silver speakers were sitting on a couple of cardboard boxes! They sounded brilliant! When i got home i decided to change my kit...as it sounded quite pedestrian by comparison..
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
163
49
18,620
I'm sure either will give you much enjoyment, but you really need to find a way to try both in your setup.

PS. I see Richer Sounds have the AE for £199 which is surely a clincher? Are the MAs £400 plus?
 

BigH

New member
Dec 29, 2012
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The AE 301s are less than £200 so hardly mid range? I agree you need to hear them yourself, make sure they work on a wide range of music that you play. WHF test speakers with high end amp. in a specially treated room.

Tannoy Precision 6.1 at £399 must be worth a try, they were £900.
 

PrimeRib

New member
Jun 1, 2013
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It's frustrating as I've heard a few speakers at RS and they said they no longer do AE yet there they are at £199 on their site. Every other supplier has them at £400+.

Problem isn't just hearing them at home it's also that I haven't found a dealer in London that has all the speakers I'm interested in - and home auditions are usually based on a purchase then try.

I can't live with the look of the Tannoy or the equivalent KEFs.

So, any experience with the two speakers outlined much appreciated.
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
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All speakers at this level are different and everybody has there own views, you are unlikely to get a concensus.

It looks like Richers have stopped doing the 301s, there are a handful left in dealers, check the wibsite for availability. Otherwise keep trying to audition.

Personally I would simply decide on my best/favourite dealer, take in my amp and try what he has, choose whichever sounds best to you. Trying to hear everything that has had a half decent review will just tie you up in knots, try and keep it simple.

Don't be tempted my massive price reductions either, prices are cut because a product is not selling (enough) or because the original price was inflated for marketing reasons. The only price that matters is what you pay. You get this much speaker for this much money, base your decision on that.
 

knaithrover

Moderator
Nov 24, 2013
159
56
10,670
The Q Acoustics Concept 20's are excellent (to my ears anyway) they are on the bright side and therefore need to be paired with a warmer amp. Mine work great with my old Nad C320 in a small room, they struggled a little in a bigger room with my D3020. They sounded better to me than Kef Q300's and Dali Zensor 3's with the same amps. Best stand mounts I've had or heard so far are my little known and unheralded Boston Acoustics M25's, they are fine looking things which combine power and finesse to really nice effect.
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,232
4
19,195
I thought the title said "Medieval Bookshelf shootout"! (Expecting images of strange jousting tournament; knights slapping each other with planks of pine etc.)

I'm off to Specsavers.
 

unhalfbricking

New member
Jan 18, 2013
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According to Richer Sounds website, only their Cardiff, Eton , Guildford, Lichfield and Reading branches still have the AE 301s in stock...and each store only has one pair left, so you'd better be quick!

If memory serves, these speakers used to retail at £425 and they were one of the reasons that 'What Hi-fi' docked the Kef Q-300 its fifth star -- beacuse they felt that the AE provided at least as good sound for less money. So £199, on the face of it, seems like a real end-of-line bargain.
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
unhalfbricking said:
According to Richer Sounds website, only their Cardiff, Eton , Guildford, Lichfield and pReading branches still have the AE 301s in stock...and each store only has one pair left, so you'd better be quick!

If memory serves, these speakers used to retail at £425 and they were one of the reasons that 'What Hi-fi' docked the Kef Q-300 its fifth star -- beacuse they felt that the AE provided at least as good sound for less money. So £199, on the face of it, seems like a real end-of-line bargain.
this a bargain is...im a fan of acoustic energy speakers( my main kit a pair sits proudly) and they are built like battleships..ps i use QED xt -40 too....brilliant..if you believe cables make a difference which i do..
 

AEJim

Well-known member
Nov 17, 2008
68
2
18,545
Once you get to mid-level speakers there shouldn't really be many "bad" designs out there from established companies, more a case of choosing what suits your needs or taste.

Acoustically the 301's were designed to work in the average living room, quite compact (and not too deep) with front-facing slot port to enable placement closer to walls/corners if ideal free-space positioning isn't an option, but large and powerful enough not to need boundary reinforcement. As with most AE speakers we gradually roll the treble off to work in what we'd consider a "normal" room with a mixture of hard and soft surfaces - this may result in a slightly duller sound in a heavily softly furnished room but on the flip-side shouldn't get too bright or aggressive in a room with hard flooring/large windows etc.

Room acoustics play a huge part in the sound of a system and are often overlooked but most likely the reason for very differing experiences between people of otherwise similar set-ups. I was actually a little surprised by the WHF review of the 301's as their listening room is pretty dampened down so more suited to a brighter sound in my experience, there are no uncovered hard surfaces or windows in there. (or rather wasn't, I haven't seen the new rooms since they moved offices yet).

As with all things Hi-Fi it's always best to get a home demo if possible, not always easy though...
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
AEJim said:
Once you get to mid-level speakers there shouldn't really be many "bad" designs out there from established companies, more a case of choosing what suits your needs or taste.

Acoustically the 301's were designed to work in the average living room, quite compact (and not too deep) with front-facing slot port to enable placement closer to walls/corners if ideal free-space positioning isn't an option, but large and powerful enough not to need boundary reinforcement. As with most AE speakers we gradually roll the treble off to work in what we'd consider a "normal" room with a mixture of hard and soft surfaces - this may result in a slightly duller sound in a heavily softly furnished room but on the flip-side shouldn't get too bright or aggressive in a room with hard flooring/large windows etc.

Room acoustics play a huge part in the sound of a system and are often overlooked but most likely the reason for very differing experiences between people of otherwise similar set-ups. I was actually a little surprised by the WHF review of the 301's as their listening room is pretty dampened down so more suited to a brighter sound in my experience, there are no uncovered hard surfaces or windows in there. (or rather wasn't, I haven't seen the new rooms since they moved offices yet).

As with all things Hi-Fi it's always best to get a home demo if possible, not always easy though...

 
i have a pair of your AE1mk3s and they are splendid! I got the flash ones with piano gloss black finish..
 

AEJim

Well-known member
Nov 17, 2008
68
2
18,545
keeper of the quays said:
i have a pair of your AE1mk3s and they are splendid! I got the flash ones with piano gloss black finish..
Great! That's good to hear, they're very nice speakers - the bigger the amp you can put on them the better they get, that small driver digs deep so thrives on power to control it. The best I've heard them was on some 250w monoblocks in the US quite a few years back... :)
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
20
0
0
AEJim said:
Once you get to mid-level speakers there shouldn't really be many "bad" designs out there from established companies, more a case of choosing what suits your needs or taste.

Acoustically the 301's were designed to work in the average living room, quite compact (and not too deep) with front-facing slot port to enable placement closer to walls/corners if ideal free-space positioning isn't an option, but large and powerful enough not to need boundary reinforcement. As with most AE speakers we gradually roll the treble off to work in what we'd consider a "normal" room with a mixture of hard and soft surfaces - this may result in a slightly duller sound in a heavily softly furnished room but on the flip-side shouldn't get too bright or aggressive in a room with hard flooring/large windows etc.

Room acoustics play a huge part in the sound of a system and are often overlooked but most likely the reason for very differing experiences between people of otherwise similar set-ups. I was actually a little surprised by the WHF review of the 301's as their listening room is pretty dampened down so more suited to a brighter sound in my experience, there are no uncovered hard surfaces or windows in there. (or rather wasn't, I haven't seen the new rooms since they moved offices yet).

As with all things Hi-Fi it's always best to get a home demo if possible, not always easy though...
Always good to hear from someone so closely involved.

Interesting about the treble roll off, my experience, mostly with the more expensive models, is that they can sound a little 'shut in', lacking 'air' if you will. That is with more modest amplification, drive them properly though and they open right up.

I had some clients with relatively early AE1s, it was very obvious on these.
 

PrimeRib

New member
Jun 1, 2013
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0
Thanks all.

I'm just trying to use your collective experience with brands / models to thin out the field. I'm afraid they also need to look right so I'm after a white speaker for my front room.

Am listening to MA Silver 2, KEF R300 and I think the Tannoy's for comparison. Ive asked for a neutral / clean amp and will take my DAC in. I'll let you know how I get on.
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
If i ever got myself into gear with my little gadget! For ipods ill be using my AE speakers for demonstration purposes and one will be very surprised how good they sound fed by six or so watts!
 

spiny norman

New member
Jan 14, 2009
293
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Yes, good to see that some trade members consider themselves exempt from the House Rules Joe posted here the other week.

"11. The site must not be used to solicit business of any kind – this includes any information in signatures and biographies, and specifically prohibits trade users from linking within forum posts or their signature to their websites, special offers, etc.."
 

BigH

New member
Dec 29, 2012
97
0
0
AEJim said:
keeper of the quays said:
i have a pair of your AE1mk3s and they are splendid! I got the flash ones with piano gloss black finish..
Great! That's good to hear, they're very nice speakers - the bigger the amp you can put on them the better they get, that small driver digs deep so thrives on power to control it. The best I've heard them was on some 250w monoblocks in the US quite a few years back... :)
Good to see you back on here Jim. I have argued that WHT should also test hifi is a "normal" living room as well as hardly anyone has a fully treated room at home. Good point that their room may favour brighter sounding systems.
 

AEJim

Well-known member
Nov 17, 2008
68
2
18,545
spiny norman said:
Yes, good to see that some trade members consider themselves exempt from the House Rules Joe posted here the other week.

"11. The site must not be used to solicit business of any kind – this includes any information in signatures and biographies, and specifically prohibits trade users from linking within forum posts or their signature to their websites, special offers, etc.."
Didn't see that so I'll remove it now. Not been here in a while.
 

BigH

New member
Dec 29, 2012
97
0
0
Vladimir said:
199 at RS and 400 elsewhere. Perhaps that is 199 per box at RS.
Per box?

Its for a pair, I see its gone up, someone must have been reading this post.
 

AEJim

Well-known member
Nov 17, 2008
68
2
18,545
BigH said:
Vladimir said:
199 at RS and 400 elsewhere. Perhaps that is 199 per box at RS.
Per box?

Its for a pair, I see its gone up, someone must have been reading this post.
I haven't said a word! *secret* I didn't even realise Richer still had any 3-Series to be honest, was only going round some of their stores last week and didn't see any!
 

AEJim

Well-known member
Nov 17, 2008
68
2
18,545
davedotco said:
Always good to hear from someone so closely involved.

Interesting about the treble roll off, my experience, mostly with the more expensive models, is that they can sound a little 'shut in', lacking 'air' if you will. That is with more modest amplification, drive them properly though and they open right up.

I had some clients with relatively early AE1s, it was very obvious on these.
Yeah there are a lot of variables with tuning, crossover frequencies and drive units that come into play in different ways - the original AE1's were quite "hot" in the mid treble around 8kHz or so and that's why they were often referred to as bright and revealing. The mkII version from the mid-nineties was actually far better balanced in that regard and a better speaker for it, just a touch less character and more neutral.

Most 2-way speakers using a 5-6"+ driver (especially metal cone) need to cross over fairly low (2.5kHz is usual) and benefit from a larger dome but can lack air at the very HF (12kHz+) because of it, a smaller dome would offer more air but struggle to crossover with anything less than a complicated, high order crossover at the lower end, introducing distortion which can add harshness and a nasty nasal quality. It's all a balancing act really and the better engineered the drivers (usually with cost associated) the more leeway you tend to get at the extreme ends of the frequency range of a drive unit. It's a really interesting process to be involved in developing a speaker from scratch.
 

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