What all the slick new speakers in the Acoustic Energy Neo Max amount to is a system performance that's frighteningly potent and heart-meltingly silky all at once.
The extra grunt afforded by the addition of the Neo Fours is instantly clear – they fire out frenetic action scenes with greater ferocity, pumping the room full of sound. As a result, the scale of the soundstage is immense. But despite that, the entire sonic spectrum is delivered with a sophisticated tone and few rough edges to sully your listening pleasure.
With the remarkable tracking shot during the refugee camp siege at the end of Children of Men, the Neo Max hi-fi speaker system shows the full range of its talents. When the army blows up the tower block, the explosion is brutal, conveyed with tautness and depth by the superb subwoofer. And as the debris rains down, it shows its ability to handle delicate high-frequency detail, relaying the popping and rustling as little showers of rock hit the ground with pin-sharp clarity.
The soundstage the Acoustic Energy Neo Max conjures is wide and spacious, with distant voices and gunshots drifting in and out of earshot from all over the room.
It's a dynamic, engaging performance, demonstrating audio power, agility and subtlety from every speaker and throwing considerable force behind the effects that really need it.
And despite the disparity in speaker sizes, Neo Max ensures tonal consistency across the system, creating a wonderfully coherent, tightly-locked sound that immerses you in the action. You can also push them loud without distortion or high-frequency edginess, and they handle everything with a level of composure befitting a far more expensive set of speakers.
I switched over to Hellboy II's 7.1-channel DTS HD Master Audio movie soundtrack and was equally bewitched. There isn't a weak link in the chain. The Neo Threes at the back offer levels of detail insight and bass depth that almost rival the Fours at the front, making the thumping effects during the battle with the Golden Army feel weighty and solid.
The Neo Ones are smooth operators too, handling the eerie ambience of the movie's fantastical settings with sparkling clarity, while the centre channel delivers dialogue with openness and authority. The subwoofer doesn't let the side down either, resulting in an overall listening experience that borders on an epiphany at this price.
Used as a stereo pair for music, the strength and poise of the Neo Fours again pays dividends. As well as reproducing kick drums and basslines with terrific depth and agility, it digs out nuances higher up the scale and produces vocals that you can really believe in.
This wonderful performance makes the 7.1 Acoustic Energy Neo Max speaker system an absolute winner in our eyes (and ears), and the fact that you're getting it for under £2,000 is an even more compelling reason to check it out.
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