AE's Aego P5 system really is quite unusual. For starters it's a complete add-on surround sound system with good connectivity rather than a built-in source.
Hook up your own TV, DVD player, Media PC or even iPod and it will give you stereo or 5.1 sound in a package more compact, sexy and stylish than a BMW 1 series. This latest Mk II version is updated and upgraded with better electronics and improved speaker grilles, and comes with deeper sub response and nicer accessories. Better still, it has had a sexy silver makeover and costs £100 less than the best selling original.
The main decoder has been widened to match most DVD players on the market and now sports a rather sumptuous sloped silver fascia with vivid blue LCD. It offers both co-axial and optical digital inputs for your DVD player and/or Sky box, plus three more analogue inputs.
You can enjoy these in either plain old stereo sound or engage the Aego's Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Pro Logic II processing for 5.1 surround sound. As there is no video switching on-board, the set up and controls are very simple with just channel balance and delay time to adjust before letting rip with a movie.
The Aego Mk II sub is a compact active unit with a sealed cabinet to keep bass tightly controlled rather than booming and is claimed to dip some 5Hz lower than the original. Its small footprint cabinet houses all six channels of amplification, a multi-pin connection to the processor and terminals for the satellites.
And it is these metal-cased units that really grab the attention. Despite being smaller than a coffee mug and constructed from zinc alloy, they weigh more than some bookshelf speakers and are built to withstand small nuclear explosions at close range.
Thoughtfully the package comes supplied with five little wall brackets that are hidden by the speakers when installed, and suitably long dedicated flat profile speaker leads for slipping under the carpet or wall-papering/ painting over. Very neat. Unfortunately the designer clearly went on holiday the week the mind numbingly dull remote control was on the drawing board.
We can think of no other serious 5.1 sound system on the market that looks this discreet when installed. Some of Bose's Lifestyle speakers are marginally smaller but are often finished in hard-to-disguise black and don't come with the funky flat cable. Spend some time putting the P5 MkII together and it becomes near invisible in the room - ideal for those with partners who have been staunchly resisting surround sound on aesthetic grounds.
If the design disappears mutely into the decor, the sound certainly doesn't. Place the sub in a corner for a little room-assisted boost and the system really sings. The dinky satellites are fast and tight sounding, and 5.1 soundtracks project superbly around the room. Dialogue is spectacularly good for such a small centre speaker with even Ron Perlman's Hellboy having a suitably mischievous and gravely depth.
With more popcorn pulp like Alien vs Predator the Aego P5 MkII packs a surprisingly solid punch. Bone crunching special effects have plenty of sickening detail although the sealed-box sub is never going to knock you off the sofa. It does however keep bass remarkably tuneful with music, making this a system for all seasons. The Californian punk sound of Green Day's 'American Idiot' romps along with a fine pace and power while The Wedding Present's Take Fountain CD is rendered suitably moody and enveloping.
Compared to one of our other favourite miniature speaker systems, the MS Genie, the Aego is a little light in the mid-bass and not as natural sounding - but it's not too far behind. Considering the Genie plus an entry level amp would set you back over twice as much as this package, and not look so neat into the bargain, it's churlish to complain. Clearly the MkII version of the Aego P5 is a great update of the original classic add-on movie system.