Bookshelf Speakers

GoldenEar Technology Aon2 Bookshelf Speakers


The GoldenEar Technology Aon2 Bookshelf Speakers In Use

After letting the Aon2 sit around for a week due to other commitments I finally set it up one Saturday night. After hooking it up and spending a few seconds positioning it, I just grabbed the first CD I had on hand to fire it up and make sure it worked fine before getting off to sleep. Using the remastered Let It Be from The Beatles, I jumped across the first few tracks before getting to the title track.

After a few seconds of listening, I realized that bedtime had to wait. Paul McCartney's voice hung there between the speakers, hovering right over his piano and in the center of my room. His vocals were clear and crisp, and the notes of the piano had wonderful weight and decay to them as the song continued. The Aon throws a deep, wide soundstage and really brings Let It Be to life. It was a very impressive start for the Aon2s.

I moved onto some of my favorite recent albums from Radiohead. I love the music from Radiohead, but the CDs are mastered poorly compared to the vinyl editions, but I thought I would give them a try on the Aon2s. I am actually a bit disappointed that the Aon2s render the content that is on the album far too clearly: The top end is really harsh, everything is too loud, and I get to hear exactly what is on the disc. For poorly mastered CDs like this I often play them back through the cheapest system I have, as the hardware will mask the flaws of the CD better, but the Aon2 is too resolving to use for this.

Moving to a much better mastered title, the recent SACD release of Counting Crows' August and Everything After… the Aon2s could finally shine. Now I don't hear anything harsh at all, but I have a large, wonderful soundstage coming out from between the speakers. Adam Duritz's voice is as clear as it can manage to get, and instruments are located with pinpoint accuracy. The bass is nice and deep, bringing out the drums on the album, though not as tightly controlled as a powered woofer is. The harshness that is present on the Radiohead recordings was gone thanks to much better source material.

One area that the Aon2s are sensitive about is the vertical dispersion of the tweeter. I have them on 30" tall Sanus Ultimate Foundation stands that do a very good job of isolating them, but the tweeter height is a little too low in my regular chair. Switching to a different chair brought the tweeters in-line with my head and produces a much better sound. The horizontal dispersion is not nearly as sensitive to my ears, but to get the best out of them you really need to get the tweeters very close to ear height.

Moving from my two-channel integrated system, I installed the Aon2 into my home theater system as the front channels, with a Marantz AV7005 preamp and a Halo A31 power amp in front of them. The Aon2 really does benefit from the Halo A31, as they open up more with a larger, more defined soundstage and a bit better definition in the bass. The soundstage was wide and deep, though the vertical height of the tweeter relative to the ear remains important to get right.

The Aon2 also really benefits when paired them with a subwoofers. Passing off deep bass duties freed the Aon2 to concentrate on everything above 100Hz and opened up the picture even more. The tweeter remained as detailed and smooth as before, but the midrange and bass really benefitted. Not having to strain as often let the notes they handed be better controlled, and the lower octaves were stronger and tighter from the sub.

This difference became clear when listening to tracks with multiple low-bass sounds are once. When you'd have a pair of instruments occupying the woofer and radiators on the Aon they could get a bit muddled and some smaller details could get lost in the mix. "Shadowboxer" from Fiona Apple's Tidal showcased her vocals, which were clear and natural through the folded motion tweeters, but some of the accompanying instruments managed to get a bit lost. "Layla" off of Clapton's MTV Unplugged album was clear and detailed in the guitar and vocals, but once again wasn't quite as well defined as the very bottom.

The Aon2 performs very well without a subwoofer for a two-channel setup, but you can upgrade it later by pairing it with one and get a very noticeable improvement. But seriously, for $800 a pair, the performance of the Aon2 is exceptional in my listening tests, with or without a subwoofer. Compared to the $350/pair bookshelf speakers I had on hand, which were really well reviewed when available, the cheaper pair had a harsh, metallic treble and no bass response when compared to the Aon2. After a couple of tracks, I just stopped the comparison since there was really no point in continuing an unfair fight. The value that GoldenEar has packed into the Aon2 for the price is really remarkable.