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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003


acoustic energy

Aegis Evo One loudspeakers

as reviewed by Francisco Duran and Larry Cox


ae.jpg (8336 bytes)





ProAc Response 2 with Osiris 24" stands.

Monarchy SM-70 (ran as monoblocks), Antique Sound Labs MG-SPM25DT monoblocks, Canary CA-301Mk-II amplifier, and Reference Line Preeminence lA passive and Canary CA-601Mk-II preamplifiers.

NAD T531 and Antique Electronic Supply CD-1 (temporary) CD players, and a Taddeo Digital Antidote Two.

Superconductor+ and FX interconnects, a double run of JPS Ultraconductor speaker cables, and Monarchy and various DIY AC cords.

Balanced Power Technologies BPT 4SE, Brick Wall Series Mode Surge Suppressor, Audio Prisim Quiet Lines and Noise Sniffer, Vibrapods, Black Diamond Racing Boards and cones, Final Labs Daruma-3II Isolation Bearings, various ferrite rings, Target rack, Yamaha KX-380 cassette deck, custom made wooden cable lifters by Mr. Clark senior, and all the NOS tubes I can afford!


one.jpg (6551 bytes)If you read the British hi fi magazines, you can't help but notice the budget speaker "face-offs" they do from time to time. These contests usually feature speakers in the $200- to $300-dollar price range. Speakers in this price range will handle many duties, whether in a 5.1 system, a second system, or in, say, a vacation home. Perhaps they could be a first set of speakers for the budding music lover. This is where the little Acoustic Energy Aegis Evo Ones come in. At $299 a pair, they certainly qualify as budget speakers. Each Aegis One is just over 14 inches high and weighs just 14.7 pounds. The Evo Ones come from a company that makes small speakers with big heart and sound.

I paired the Evo Ones with a number of amps in my stable. Although they are rated as 90dB efficient, they did not partner well with my 25-watt Antique Sound Labs monoblocks. They fared better with my Canary 301Mk.II and the Monarchy SM 70. In fact, I found an exceptionally musical combination with the Ones mated to the Monarchy SM70 and the Canary tube preamp. This combo reminded me of the Soliloquy 5.0/Monarchy pairing that I made a few issues ago. The Aegis/Monarchy combo really sang. It was the kind of match-up that lets the audiophile forget about soundstage, detail, and bass response and really get into the music.

Do the Evos do bass? Oh yes they do. In fact, bass reproduction seems to be their strong suit. On Bill Holman’s "Right Now," a track off of a JVC XRCD sampler, I heard bass that was taut, very dynamic, and able to show the shifting dynamics of the piece with ease, though I did notice that the two little metal woofers were working overtime, and a candle could be blown out if you put it directly behind the port. Usually, a small speaker will have a midbass bump to make up for its lack of depth in this range. This is not the case with the Evo Ones. Their tonal balance is pretty even. Bass sounds full and authoritative for such a small speaker, and music was definitely satisfying.

Of course I did some comparing while I had the Aegis speakers in my system. The Silverline 15s were passing through when I had the Ones in house. Both the Silverlines and my Response Twos sounded leaner, not as full and rich as the Aegis Ones. Despite this, the Ones displayed very good pace, with no lagging of rhythm in the lower notes. Acoustic bass sounded just that much more full. Those metal woofers paid dividends here. It was in the treble region that the differences were more obvious. The Ones' treble was not as clear, clean, or grainless as that of the other speakers. On the other hand, while I found the Silverlines to have a very clear and clean top end, they were too bright for my taste, even with my tube amps. There was less atmosphere or air in the Evo Ones’ treble performance. I got past the third grade, and realize that the price difference between these speakers is way out of sync, but the little Aegis speakers held up quite well in the overall picture. Much good music came through them, though in the back of my mind I kept wondering how the Aegises would sound with a more sophisticated tweeter and some premium caps in the crossover. With their authoritative bass, very good midrange, and a cleaner treble, look out, you kilobuck monkey coffins!

For the most part, vocals came through these speakers intact. The lyrics on my new CD, The Derek Trucks Band’s Joyful Noise, were easy to follow. This disc features four very distinguished vocalists–Solomon Burke, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ruben Blades, and Susan Tedeschi—and comes highly recommended by me. The recording has a diversity of talent and musical styles, but there is a cohesiveness and musical flow to the album that is anchored by Derek Truck’s excellent guitar playing. While the vocals on the CD had a kind of pinched quality at times, the Evo Ones neither colored over nor masked any imperfections in the recording, and seemed to add very little of their own character to the midrange.

I know that I have dissected the sound of these little speakers, but that happens when you listen and compare two or three pairs of speakers. Also, I am accustomed to the performance of my own speakers, and any variation is quickly noticeable. If you can forget about performance in individual areas and concentrate on how the Evo Ones play music as a whole, their report card is pretty good. They are a little on the warm side, and are a little rolled off at the top, with a slight restriction of air. The midrange was honest and true to timbre. Their bass performance was surprising. I could play them almost as loud as my ProAcs before they would run out of steam. Their dynamic abilities are better than average for small speakers. I also enjoyed the wide and deep stage they threw in my 12 x 20-foot room.

I did feel that the Ones were not as easy to drive as the specs would imply. SE amps need not apply, but find the right combination of ancillary gear and these cute, solidly built, inexpensive speakers just sing. In the Monarchy/Canary system they had the ability to make me forget about the details of sound and fall into the music. So if you are engaged in your own face-off of small, affordable speakers, be certain to include the Aegis Evo Ones. I think they will surprise you, too! Francisco Duran

Aegis Evo 1






Majeel Labs Pristine S-10 amplifier and E.A.R 864 preamplifier.

Audio Note CD3 CD player.

Ensemble Dynaflux and Calrad balanced interconnects. Speaker cables made from Belden 1219A wire & IXOS 6003a.

API Power Pack. BDR cones.


two.jpg (6646 bytes)I wasn’t looking for a second pair of speakers, but about a year ago I heard the Acoustic Energy Aegis at CES and was just floored that such little speakers could sound so big and open. They were so darned cool that I wanted a pair, just because I thought they would be something I’d want around. Like sand in an oyster, that thought, unaccompanied by a need, ramped up into wanting to have a second system.

I first heard Acoustic Energy speakers around 1988, at the Los Angeles Stereophile show. In a strong dissent from the magazine raves, I thought the metal-tweetered AE1 speakers were awful—bright and tinny. I’ll concede they had clarity, but it was the clanging clarity of a tin roof. At the time, I owned Vandersteen 2Cis, which were poles apart from the AE1 sound. Now, however, Acoustic Energy has transformed its sound at least as much as I’ve transformed my taste.

I perused the ASL Group, Inc. website, saw the bottom-of-the-line Aegis Evo One speakers, and reasoned that as a reviewer, having Evo Ones would be the smart way to go. Happily, Gary Warzin at ASL Group in Indianapolis is a great guy, and we made arrangements to get me a pair for listening and review. Plopping a $300 speaker into a five-figure audio system seems odd, but that is what happened, as I still haven’t arranged to have a second system. Buying a house dried up funds for extra toys.

The Evo Ones are about half the size of my reference speakers and about a quarter of their weight. They are also about one-thirteenth the price. Every aspect of the ATCs’ performance exceeds that of the Evo Ones, including the capacity to do bombast and filigree. It should be that way, yes? Nevertheless, something special has crept into the light. (Well, perhaps I should say that the spotlight has found something special to look at.) Yes, my $4100 speakers sound better, but for $350—actually, the price dropped to $300 during the course of this review—you get a lot. For part of a week I once again toyed with selling my big-buck speakers and getting a simple, cheap system and having a regular non-audio-weenie life. Of course, I didn’t.

I didn’t get the resolution and "there-ness" from the Evo Ones that I get with the ATCs. The Evo Ones saw off the final bits of detail, and polish them. Is that a coloration? Yeah. Is it one I could live with? Yeah! The Evo Ones have a slightly "politened," slightly slick sound, but at $300 they sound GOOD. These speakers are over-achievers, and ones you can easily recommend to your non-audiophile friends, or buy for your mom or that student you’re sending off to college. You get gobs of bass. I was dumbfounded by how big these can play. They fall short in macro-dynamics, but for less discerning listeners, they can pass lots of scrutiny in this regard. I loaned these for a weekend to friends that have one of those Japanese rack systems with the equalizer and speakers that let everyone know they have large woofers. The tiny Evo Ones were a nearly transparent transplant of the sound of those monster speakers. In fact, this was a little off-putting to my friends. What were they going to do with all that extra space? That’s their problem.

You won’t find the AEs at Circuit City, Best Buy, etc., but it would be nice if you could. Economies of scale could make speakers like my SCM 20s much cheaper, and that would be good for everyone. It would also be good to spread the word to the masses Imagine hearing good sound at Macy’s instead of the anonymous glop that is piped in by people who just want background noise for the customers, rather than the joy of music.

The Evo Ones are slightly larger than speakers such as the PSB Alphas and Paradigm Atoms. They are also, for my money, a step up. What more do you get for $300 instead of $200? More speaker—more bass, a greater sense of the wholeness of music, a presentation more like a full-sized, adult singer versus an over-achieving child. You also get a bit more bass extension and a greater sense of freedom or, I should say, the capacity to deliver real-life macro-dynamics. There is simply more going on. I’m guessing that the Ones will fill a larger room more easily, without straining.

The Evo Ones did a remarkable job of playing loud, not on par with my reference ATCs, but then, few speakers play as open and easily as the 20s do at live volume levels. Never did the Evo Ones present a grainy or gritty picture, as one might expect at the price. Perhaps because I knew their price, I never really cranked up the volume levels, but I was still getting plenty of sound.

For $300 you usually get something boring and homogenizing. Or you get something that tries to be audiophile-like and pierces your ears. Not so the Evo Ones. These are balanced, affordable speakers that could make a lot of people happy. They would shine brightly for the picky audiophile in a bedroom system. The Evo Ones are also an easy choice for someone wanting to enter the hobby. Very highly recommended. Larry Cox




Aegis Evo Ones
Retail: $299 pair

Acoustic Energy
web address:

North America Distributor
ASL Group
web address: