I was drawn to the Aego M because it is built by a serious British speaker designer, and because its price is a modest $199. Don’t be misled by the large box in which the system arrives; the M’s main speakers, in their reassuringly solid alloy cabinets, are actually diminutive. They require the least desktop acreage of any model in this survey. The sub accounts for the bulk of the packaging. It’s nearly the size of a PC tower, but still fits easily under a desk. Overall, setup is a snap, and I found that the Aego’s satellites sound their best when facing straight ahead rather than being toed in.
In terms of features and convenience, the M lags well behind others in this survey. For example, balance between the sub and the satellites is handled not by a continuously variable control but by a far cruder three-position switch. Further, the master volume control sits at the top-front of the subwoofer; using it means a blind reach under the desk. Meanwhile, the M supports a center-channel speaker, which seems of questionable value in a PC context.
Ergonomic carping aside, the Aego M quickly established itself as a far more satisfying transducer than either the stock HK speakers or the only slightly less expensive Klipsch. Even with MP3 source material, the Aego has enough dynamic range to sound dramatic. And on the Richard Thompson track I could hear expressive flourishes that the others had missed. Vocals are clear, and resolution is quite high. The Aego easily renders details like individual guitar strings. But MP3s also do the Aego several disservices: Bass exists, but is rather soft and mushy and does not integrate well with the satellites; the sound is tied rigidly to the boxes, preventing a soundstage from materializing; and there is always a slight hollowness to the entire presentation.
However, with higher-quality material such as the Mary Gauthier CD track, the Aego rises to the occasion. These speakers have the chops to create air and at least a vague 2-D soundstage. Bass tightens up nicely and resolution, of course, is just that much better. The Aego, unlike the Klipsch, made it easy to discern the differences between the two versions of “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.” And though that mild hollowness and light tonal balance are evident even with high-res material, the Acoustic Energy handily bests the Klipsch in dynamics, resolution, and overall balance. These virtues render the Young Person’s Guide finale much more thrilling, and make differentiating the various instruments, well, child’s play. Furthermore, the Aego is an admirably low-noise system that doesn’t induce a trace of listener fatigue. At $199, it is easy to recommend.