The set comprises 6 bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer and has been put together to offer a full size speaker quality experience but in a compact easy to live with size, and at a good value price. Pretty much the holy grail of loudspeaker design then!
Despite the lofty ambitions though, the set does get off to a good start…
Compact but tastefully styled
The speakers are well finished, the review pair we tested were finished in a tasteful dark ‘vermont’ walnut colour (a black gloss finish is also available) and certainly looked the part. Bookshelf speakers are not small enough to hide away so do need to look good, and the AE Compacts would certainly look right at home in any a modern, or traditional lounge.
Sized at 150mm wide by 220mm high and 200mm deep, the bookshelf speakers are as the name suggests, compact, but still large enough to provide a little more power and depth than smaller satellite speakers.
Around the back of the speaker we have a bass port which comes with a foam bung to help control the bass if you need to position the speaker in a tight space; and a single set of binding posts as is common with speakers in this price bracket. You can use banana plugs with them if required.
You’ll also notice the marker holes for the included wall mounting brackets. This is a fairly simple affair – simply screw the supplied brackets into the rear of the speaker and attach to a single screw mounting point on the wall.
They are also just as happy on a shelf though (which is where tested them). Weighing in at 3.5kg each the speakers are still quite heavy so if you’re planning to use posts, make sure they’re a respectable size and quality.
The set does not have a specially designed centre speaker and instead makes do with a normal bookshelf speaker. We would rather see a dedicated design because, acoustics apart, they are just easier on the eye, but this may not bother you.
A Subwoofer with real ambition
Listening to the first scenes in our first reference disk, Inception, we were met by an accomplished, albeit easy going feel to the sound. The speakers did much to convey the atmosphere in most of the scenes especially the quieter ones, and there was a pleasant warmth and cinematic feel to the sound that made the film easy to listen to and absorb.
Although the 100mm paper cone mid and 28mm fabric dome tweeter of the Compact 1’s performed an admirable job, they were not quite as forward as we would have liked, with some of the mid range lacking depth, and some of the more dynamic scenes seemed to lack a little bit of sparkle and punch at times.
If the Compact 1’s were showing a slight lack of ambition though, the subwoofer certainly made up for it. The power of the sub was immediately apparent with a tight and well controlled bass that was deep and full of impact when it needed to be. Despite being from a different range the sub really blended in well and was the shining star in this whole set.
Sized at 410mm high by 360mm wide and 325mm deep, the 17.5kg subwoofer will be reasonably easy to position, and despite being from a different range, does look very good with the speakers, especially in the walnut finish shown here.
What to consider…
It’s hard not to like the effortless way in which the Compact Neo set about it business, but for those looking for a more ‘in yer face’ dynamic sound will be disappointed. We would really liked to have seen a dedicated centre speaker design – maybe it’s just us, but it just doesn’t look right having a standard speaker in the middle.
Why you should buy…
The Acoustic Energy Compact Neo 6.1 speaker set is certainly easy to get on with – the overall sound is relaxed and controlled, without ever getting too showy or over the top. But it is the subwoofer that really wins the day and the fact it comes from a higher set in the AE range is obvious. If you like your movies to have a warmer and more cinematic feel, this set could be ideal. Rating: /5