A wallet-friendly portable speaker package that can handle MP3 music sent by Bluetooth, and it sounds pretty good too
Value for money
Good sound quality
Overly minimalist design hampers ease of use
Why you can trust TechRadar
No prizes for guessing this system's USP. Yes, as the name suggests, Acoustic Energy's new stereo speaker package can connect with Bluetooth-enabled devices such as mobiles, PDAs, PCs and MP3 players for wire-free music playback.
Its design is extraordinarily simple: a black, understated housing, a central volume control and a single multifunctional button beneath a solitary LED.
There's no docking port anywhere in sight and no informative display whatsoever - you have to interpret the Morse code-like flashing LED to determine the system's status. But it's rather more flexible than it looks, and beneath the plain exterior lurks a respectable 20W amplifier and wireless technology enabling it to pair with any advanced Bluetooth device within a 10m range.
It's a three-box system with stereo speakers either side of the slim central unit, which can easily be unhooked and spread out for a room-filling stereo sound. The gently reclined casing suggests that the model would be equally at home as a desktop PC speaker system as it is with a portable music player, and it's compact enough to easily be moved from room to room.
Unhook the speakers from the central unit and they feel a little plasticky - but we can hardly grumble too much, given the price. Internally, the drivers are constructed from robust Kevlar, and various sonic enhancements reflect the brand's considerable audio expertise - it sounds very good indeed.
Connection to a Bluetooth device is straightforward enough, so long as it supports the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) format for wireless audio streaming. For non-compatible devices, such as a desktop computer or an iPod, there's a 3.5mm mini-jack socket at the back. Sadly, the interconnecting lead isn't supplied.
Wireless is more
MP3s sent via Bluetooth from a compatible mobile phone sound surprisingly good. Our downloaded Kaiser Chiefs' Ruby track proved very listenable.
True, there's some quality degradation, but it's no worse than listening to a portable DAB radio, and the Bluetooth connection remains solid so long as you stay within range. Bass is a bit lean, but you can squeeze more punch from the speakers by simply adjusting the EQ settings on your source device.
This AE system takes portable speakers to the next level. Its Bluetooth capability means it'll appeal to those with the latest music-storing mobiles - and you can also simply hard-wire it to an iPod or a computer. An exciting add-on at a surprisingly affordable price.
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