Acoustic Energy's original Aego P5 system garnered critical acclaim (we gave it a Best Buy badge back in our July 2002 issue), so it was with some anticipation that we received the upgraded P5II package.
This is an all-in-one sound system, with amplification and a 5.1 sub/sat speaker system, yet it comes in a small box that might cause you to doubt its power. Those doubts disappear when you pick the box up - it is very heavy, thanks in large part to the extremely robust and weighty satellite speakers.
The compact enclosures house pear-shaped drive units with a frequency response of 200Hz-15kHz. Tweaks have been made here compared to the original satellites. There is more of a gap between the grilles (which are now softened cloth) and the drive units, theoretically helping with sound dispersion and, AE claims, boosting high-frequency response by 2kHz.
The subwoofer is an unassuming box, just 190mm high and packing a modest 120mm driver. However, it also carries a 130mm x 190mm passive radiator to boost bass levels and has a frequency response of 40Hz- 250Hz.
This is 5Hz lower than the original P5 sub and comes partly from the extra litre of internal space, thanks to a reduction in the unit's electronics (the volume control and auto on/off circuitry have been removed).
AE doesn't like to give power ratings per channel for this package, but the system as a whole gets 120W from the subwoofer, leaving the main unit free to decode signals.
The design of the decoder is striking, with a sloped fascia and a central, blue LED display. This is attractive, but does become hard to read when seated a short distance away. The width of the unit has been increased to 430mm to make it sit more happily when stacked with other devices (the fact that amplification is housed in the sub means that overheating shouldn't be a problem).
As with the original decoder, there is decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS signals, with the welcome addition of Dolby Pro-Logic II. There are optical and electrical digital audio inputs, as well as stereo phono connections.
Speaker hook-ups are unusual. Unlike the springclip terminals usually found on sub/sat systems, the P5II features RCA connections. This is certainly more convenient than fiddling about with thin wires and there is a generous amount of flat cable supplied (ideal for laying under carpet).
The whole system is controlled by a remote that is functional and easy to use, but it sadly doesn't match the design standards of the rest of the system.
It is difficult to convey how much power this system delivers, but it makes a mockery of the petite dimensions of the satellites and the sub. You can get a really considerable level of volume without the system straining, and there is a surprising level of bass.
You aren't going to start rattling windows, but you are going to get a full, warm home cinema sound with some genuine muscle at the lower end. The elements merge together extremely well, with no sense of bass output being divorced from higher frequencies.
There is a genuine mid-range, which helps out with dialogue, and this carries over into music delivery, which is far better than you would expect from such a system.
Overall, this is one of the best integrated sub/sat set-ups we have seen. If you want to save space without sacrificing power, or if you are just a sucker for micro technology, this is a really serious option. David Smith