The handsome AE509 is the more living room-friendly model of the two floorstanding loudspeaker designs in Acoustic Energy’s flagship 500 series. Showcased at The Bristol Hi-Fi Show in 2019, the top-tier series introduces carbon fibre drivers to the Gloucestershire-based loudspeaker specialist’s continuously evolving portfolio.
The company believes that the lightweight material delivers a step up on pistonic power and precision over its ceramic/aluminium drivers. Its low weight to strength ratio brings improved driver self-damping and the material has been used in mid and bass driver designs elsewhere. Acoustic Energy is one of a few to also use it in the design of its 25mm dome tweeter. This decision presumably helps to achieve cohesive voicing between the tweeter and the dual 125mm drivers in the AE509’s two-way, mid-tweeter-mid/bass (MTM) configuration.
At the time of launch, 500 Series designer and managing director Matt Spandl commented: “We have spent considerable time developing the carbon fibre transducers and perfecting our unique cabinet technology. The results have been proven and I’m confident we’ve developed a new flagship range with exceptional sound, build and value.”
The new series introduced the AE500 standmount priced at £1,050 (£1,250 with dedicated stands) and AE509 floorstander at £2,400. The range has since been bolstered by the AE520 floorstander introduced last year priced at £3,650 – an imposing 1.13m tall six-driver arrangement in a three-way configuration offering greater power handling.
Lust for life
The AE509 claims 175W power handling and is suitable for medium to large-sized listening spaces. It feels understated in my living room and I love the eye-catching lustre of the black high-gloss finish and the way the slim, modern styling contrasts gracefully with the decor of my home. White piano gloss and American walnut wood veneer finishes are also available.
The compact tower stands 1m tall and the 185mm-wide front baffle has gently rounded edges as does the rear of the top surface. These add an elegant touch and helps make the cabinet appear even more slender than the dimensions suggest
Texture and light
Removing the cloth grille held in place by magnets hidden beneath the surface of the front baffle reveals twin 125mm drivers at the top section of the cabinet. Each driver has a 35mm voice coil and a metal dust cap. One driver is located above the 25mm tweeter (with surrounding waveguide), and the other below. The texture of the carbon fibre cones shimmer under my living room lights and the overall aesthetic is one of understatement, with no flashy accents to unbalance the speaker’s style.
The 18mm-thick cabinet is a three-layer composite sandwich construction comprising MDF and rubber. The resonance reducing technique evolved from the company’s Reference Series and requires less internal bracing. A bass reflex slot port sits at the top of the rear baffle helping to make the AE509 unfussy about placement, making it flexible enough to be sited within close proximity to boundary walls.
The crossover circuitry is housed in a carefully tuned separate 3l box section at the base of the cabinet. The AE509’s frequency response is quoted at 32Hz – 28kHz (+/- 6dB) with the handover between mid/bass and tweeter drivers at 2.9kHz. Speaker impedance is rated at 6ohm.
The aluminium bracing at the base of the cabinet incorporates four large spikes to aid floor decoupling and reduce room interaction. This also widens the speaker’s footprint to help stabilise the cabinet’s slightly top-heavy proportions.
With the floorstanders in position in my room and a gentle degree of toe-in applied, my initial thoughts turn to how the AE509 handles high frequencies. Track details are all there but there isn’t any sense of over brightness during the piano on Craig Armstrong’s My Father or Balcony Scene (Romeo and Juliet). There’s a smoothness to the way this speaker presents music and a complete lack of harshness to its delivery, sounding refined and engaging even at high volume levels. I suspect that the level of treble clarity is a result of the carbon fibre material used in the tweeter and its finesse is applauded.
The transition between treble and midrange drivers is seamless and mid-frequency openness and stereo imaging are among the AE509’s greatest strengths. In fact, what I enjoy most about the AE’s presentation is the sense of recorded acoustic and the way it conjures up the three-dimensional space and location around instruments and voices, clearly capturing notes as they decay into the acoustic space.
There’s some loss to the sense of richness that I know to be present in particular recordings but this is very material dependent. Spin Donna Summer’s disco inferno I Feel Loveand the hypnotic just doesn’t have the energy to get my feet off the sofa let alone moving on the dance floor. Some tracks from this era are undoubtedly a bit bass light and, although clean and incisive through the lower midrange, some high-energy disco or seventies American pop/rock by the likes of Blondie, for example, lack gravitas. If you like your music with plenty of get up and go with older or lesser recordings, then you may want to consider AE’s multi-driver AE520 flagship.
The smaller mid/bass drivers and narrow front baffle means there’s some minor loss of dynamic bass energy but with the right tracks, the AE is very capable indeed. Playing Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy or Black Magic by Jonasu or Daft Punk’s and the AE509 is supremely effective at communicating a funky beat. The captivating rhythms shows just how low this compact floorstander can go as it fills my listening room with taught and deep bass lines without any sense of over bloat.
I’ve had a lot of fun with Acoustic Energy’s mid model design from its flagship series. The elegant cabinet design and use of carbon fibre in its drivers results in an extremely cohesive communicator across the frequency range. Bass is tight and goes deep with the right material and without augmentation but ultimately favours well-recorded material. Smooth treble handling and mid frequency openness are where the AE509’s strengths truly lie and mean it should be on anyone’s shortlist at the price.