To my shame, I'm a total Trekker. Captain Kirk is one of my heroes.
I even have the coffee table compendium book. Yet, just as I was wading through the 19th disc of the three-season DVD set, I caught an advert on the internet. I should have been working. It was promoting the HD DVD/DVD set of the first Star Trek season, with all-new remastered and digitally-enhanced images and 5.1 sound. I am a purist, but I will have to have these when they come out.
Just like a remastered and modernised classic TV series, the Acoustic Energy Neo range has some elements of the original Aegis lineup, plus a fat slice of new technology.
Most obvioulsy, the Neo's exhibit the structural DNA of AEs previous Aegis incarnations - and by that I mean the madly pistonic, no-flex rigid cone, coupled with a fabulous low power compression sound due to intensely fast drawing of heat away from the drive coil. This is done with the use of alloy cones thermally bonded to the coil.
The pointy dustcap is traditional Acoustic Energy, and harks all the way back to its very first speakers. They look a bit like the turned end of a thick rod of alloy. If you put your fingertip in harm's way when they are running under huge drive, the legend was that the cone assembly could break your finger bone, as it was so rigid, and the 'shove' was so hard and brief. But, like a straw being rammed through corrugated iron in a hurricane, it's probably apocryphal.
The other thing that bears genealogic scrutiny is the use of the best tweeters AE can get its grubby mitts upon.
Way back, I recall being at a hi-fi show when the AE designer and a chap well known for his work with Monitor Audio were having an argument in a hotel corridor as to the success of the then-storming AE1 being down to his tweeter. The AE designer cried 'no' and that it was his midbass driver that was the source of the success. It was, of course, the marriage of both, and AE continue to use a Top Item tweet.
In this case it's an annular ring design, known for being a better way to make superb high frequencies. It is rated upto around 40kHz, so is simply walking it at normal tones that any fit human can hear.
Each speaker has one 25mm Neodymium-magnet ring radiator tweeter and either one or two of their 130mmm pressed alloy cones. The rears (Aegis Neo Ones) are straightforward bookshelf designs; the taller, be-spiked and plinth-mounted Aegis Neo Three serve as left and right and the centre speaker is, of course, a truncated Neo Three and is called, not surprisingly, Aegis Neo Centre.
Bass is courtesy of a 200W amplifier driving a 220mm paper pulp cone in a sealed box.
I played some different things through the Aegis Neos but settled, randomly, upon Sphere, pure mid-90s underwater sci-fi twaddle. The disc isn't especially powerfully laid down but the soundtrack is filled with watery FX and some hysterical use of crescendoic, orchestral blaring to really lift you out of your seat.
The first impression is one of intense detail. Every tiny click of machinery or splish of water cuts through. The trumpets blaring at 21 minutes in were fast and well parpy, and the sudden lift at 26:30 shifted me off the sofa. From the 30th minute to the 31st I was blown away by the detail, precision, depth and weight. This is a movie filled with sudden surprises and the AEs deliver them all as director Barry Levinson intended.
The bass weight is bizarrely good for such a small sub with 'only' 200W.
The box is just big enough and the woofer just bouncy enough to really set up some pressure. It has plenty of grip, too, adding a serious underpinning to the powerful output of the whole system.
Despite claiming to be really quite efficient, I found I had to send a lot of power to the AEs to wake them up, but then that was also a feature in the past. The original AE1 loved monster amps.
Now this set pines for a bit of muscle and yet when running they have very big dynamics. They can go from merely loud to suddenly startling with great speed and almost no power compression, which is only really noticeably by its absence.
The Aegis Neos don't have the breathy ethereal beauty of Acoustic Energy's high-end speakers, but for £1,000 these are excellent, adding up to a bit more than the sum of the parts and offering wicked value-for-money. Good-looking, powerful and accurate-sounding - well worth considering.