Featuring a desktop speaker system on Audio Appraisal is a rare occurrence. Such systems will only be featured if they adhere to high fidelity design principles, or if they incorporate a number of useful features or technologies that differentiate them from the thousands of such speaker systems on the market. The Acoustic Energy Aego3 fits nicely into both categories, and coming from the company responsible for the introduction of the classic AE1 studio monitor, not to mention their more recent hi-fi offerings, it has some serious heritage to live up to.
Designed in the companies 15,000 foot Cirencester facility, the Aego3 is a compact 2.1 system incorporating 2 miniature satellite speakers and a high power sub woofer and featuring analogue, digital and aptX Bluetooth connectivity. As is common with systems of this type, the units amplifier is housed within the sub woofer, in this case outputting 65W RMS of total output power and featuring a multi-voltage switch-mode power supply allowing the system to be used anywhere in the world. What is less common however, aside from the generous 2 year warranty, is the availability of an alternative version featuring a soundbar in place of the 2 satellites which can be placed beneath a monitor or mounted on the wall.
In the box, you’ll find the speakers and sub woofer along with the remote, some documentation and a full complement of cables including a pair of 3 m speaker leads, a 2 m digital optical lead and a 2 m 3.5MM analogue minijack cable. You’ll also find a 1.8 m power lead with the correct plugs for the UK, EU and US.
Take a look at the system and you’ll immediately notice the design of the satellites. Their tiny (105x75x85 mm) enclosures are fashioned from aluminium with an angled black rubber base that tilts the speaker upward toward the listener’s ears when it’s sitting on a desk. The design is finished off by a neat black grille, protecting the composite aluminium drivers beneath. The design of the satellites blends seamlessly into any modern setup, fitting especially well along side the Apple Mac that is being used to bring you this review.
The sub woofer is a more traditional affair finished in a textured black wood, though with a black mesh grille and curved top edges designed to match the satellites. Above that grille sits a display panel providing coloured LED indicators that show the chosen input, the bass setting and the volume, standby and Bluetooth pairing status.
The sub is relatively large in size measuring 350x195x307 mm. The rear connectivity is hidden within a recess, the cables pointing downward to facilitate easy cable management and to allow the sub to be placed close to a wall if necessary.
That connectivity includes both 3.5MM and optical input jacks, and a pair of speaker-level RCA outputs. Each satellite features a substantial RCA connector in a recess underneath, which connect to the corresponding RCA jacks on the sub using the included speaker cables which are also of excellent quality. Power is supplied via a standard figure of eight connector, with an acceptable voltage range from 110 to 240V at 50 or 60Hz.
With the system connected up, you’ll soon notice the lack of physical controls on the unit. The Aego3 is controlled entirely via the remote, with no physical controls on either the satellites or the sub itself. For this reason I would’ve preferred a more substantial remote as the one provided feels a little flimsy, with a particularly cheap feel to the buttons themselves. It takes a coin cel battery which slots into a cover on the end opposing the sensor which is intended to be aimed at the sub, though i was pleased to find it very non directional in operation meaning that the sub can still be placed out of sight without negatively affecting the operation of the remote.
The remote offers controls for power, mute and volume, as well as a pair of controls that allow you to toggle between 4 settings which define the bass output of the sub woofer, indicated by LEDs on the sub itself. Acoustic Energy recommend settings 2-3 for use in most environments which I found to be adequate, though I did appreciate the ability to back off the bass when I wanted the system to provide background music with little distraction. The unit will emit a beep when it reaches its maximum volume, and features a protection circuit which will automatically send the Aego into standby mode if the speakers are overloaded.
The other controls are reserved for input selection and Bluetooth pairing. Selecting the Bluetooth input for the first time initiates pairing mode, making the Aego discoverable to any Bluetooth device. Successful pairing is confirmed by a beep, at which point any audio on the device will be transmitted through the Aego and, if supported, the volume control of the device can be used to control the overall volume of the system.
If another input is then selected, the Aego will remember the most recent Bluetooth device and automatically attempt pairing when the Bluetooth input is once again selected. Multiple Bluetooth devices are supported, though only one can be used at a time, and additional devices can be paired using the appropriate control on the remote. I experienced no dropouts when streaming hour after hour of music from my iPhone to the system.
The other inputs work exactly as you’d expect. In my case a CD transport was used to feed the optical input using the included cable and the 3.5 mm jack was tested with a couple of devices including a MacBook Pro, an iPhone and the line output of my amp, via which the Aego3 was fed the signal from my Technics SL-1200 turntable.
The Aego3 is designed to be positioned on a desk. In such a position it’s inevitable that you’ll be sitting in close proximity to the speakers. I positioned the Aego3’s satellites so as to achieve an equilateral triangle between them and my comfortable typing position, and angled them straight ahead. The angled base allows the drivers to tilt upwards to fire the sound directly into your ears. Ideally the sub should be placed in the middle, though I found it to work equally well when placed off to the side.
Immediately I noticed the residual noise of the Aego system. While unobtrusive with music playing, it’s loud enough so as to be audible in a quiet environment. It manifests itself in the form of a faint hiss, which persists regardless of the chosen input.
Noise aside however, the Aego offers up a clean and cohesive presentation. The satellites integrate well with the sub woofer, particularly on bass settings 2 and 3 where the low end doesn’t become overpowering, but prevents the system sounding thin and tinny due to the tiny enclosures of the satellites. Detail levels are excellent, and the dispersion of the satellites extends both to the sides and from top to bottom, creating a wide sweet spot so as to be unaffected by your seat height.
In summary, at £199 the Aego3 could bee seen as a pricy proposition for many seeking a desktop speaker system, especially given that the same money will get you a very reasonable pair of budget active monitors, and far less money will get you a system that may on the outside at least appear similar. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and thanks to a blend of modern day technology, exquisite styling, carefully selected components and rigorous attention to detail, the Aego3 is a premium class desktop speaker system that is leagues ahead of its rivals.
I would prefer a more substantial remote control, and perhaps a reduction in the background noise level of the system when idle. Nevertheless, despite those minor deficiencies, I still feel that the Aego3s will delight anyone serious about their audio, and are therefore deserving of a wholehearted recommendation.