Acoustic Energy Aelite 5.1 review

A throwback to the days when speakers were speakers

Our Verdict

A superb loudspeaker package that makes you realise just how much mini sub-sat systems miss out


  • Great looks

    uperb build

    Big, silky smooth sound with music and movies


  • Relatively big boxes for most living rooms

With more miniature sub-sat AV speaker packages on the market than you can shake a silver pod at, the Aelite comes as a pleasant change of scenery. It's a real loudspeaker system with gorgeously curvy styling and a sleek finish.

Each speaker boasts a heftily built, ported cabinet with gold-plated bi-wire terminals. You have a choice of cherry, clear maple or black ash real wood veneers and detachable black grilles.

The chunky subwoofer keeps the curved side-panel theme going and packs a genuine 200W RMS amplifier feeding a 220mm cone. It has remote control motorised volume pots for volume and cut-off frequency that allow you to tune the system bass response from the comfort of your listening position.

The curvaceous cabinets are not just for show either. The shape reduces internal standing waves, which can adversely influence the sound quality. Foam plugs are supplied to tune each bass port, meaning the system can be fine-tuned to suit all rooms. This makes set-up a little more complex than true satellite and subwoofer systems, as finding the best combination of plugged ports and distance from rear walls is subject to much trial and error. However, once you hit a winning combination the rewards are great.

Let rip with an all-action movie like The Day After Tomorrow and the sheer scale and dynamics are breath-taking. The Tornados that rip through LA fill the room with a gutwrenching roar and put you right in the heart of the action. Compared to the likes of Mordaunt-Short's Genie package, the Aelite's are like upgrading from a village hall cinema to the Odeon Leicester Square.

The AE's smoothness and integration around the room encourages zealous use of the volume control and it's a little too easy to find the limits of the subwoofer. Admittedly you would have to be a bit of a bass fiend and like concert-level SPLs, but the sub can fall into distortion before the main speakers run out of puff. Moreover, gung-ho action is only part of the story. The centre channel might be fairly chunky to accommodate under the TV but it's worth it for the added depth.

Switch to music and the Aelite's hi-fi heritage shines through. From moody mellow moments like Alison Moyet's Voice CD to the multi-channel mayhem of Linkin Park's Reanimation DVD-A disc, there is a great sense of rhythm and 'musicality'.

AE's Aelite speaker system certainly bucks the current trend for miniature satellites. But if you want speakers to look as good as they sound, give you a taste of real cinema dynamics, and send goose bumps up and down your spine, then this gorgeous system makes a whole lot of sense.