• The Aon 3 features an enclosure shaped like a “truncated pyramid”—a design said to offer “significant performance advantages” in the form of “non-parallel cabinet walls” and “reduced baffle area around the tweeter.” In keeping with established GoldenEar design aesthetics, the Aon 3 is offered only in black, where the cabinet sports gloss black top and bottom caps, while the sidewalls of the enclosure are wrapped in black designer fabric.
o Gold-plated speaker binding posts.
o Recessed keyhole hanger on the rear panel facilitates wall mounting.
In just a moment I will talk in some depth about the sound of the Aon 3, but before I do, let me invite you to take a look at a pair of reviews I have written on GoldenEar’s Triton Two floorstanding speakers. The first is a review of a stereo pair of Triton Two’s published in The Absolute Sound (click to read the review) while the other is a two-part review prepared for The Perfect Vision covering a Triton Two-based surround for The Perfect Vision (click to read Part 1, and Part 2). As you will discover in a moment, the Aon 3 and Triton Two share some strengths in common, so that these past reviews can provide some background context for my remarks.
One of the strongest design elements in the Aon 3 is GoldenEar’s superb HVFR tweeter—an exotic Heil-type tweeter that offers excellent high frequency extension, superb detailing and transient speed, and is blessedly free from apparent edginess or problems with overshoot and ringing. In listening to the Aon 3, it rapidly becomes clear that the HVFR tweeter sets a very, very high performance bar that the rest of the speaker in turn attempts to match. The fact is that the HVFR tweeter is so agile and finely focused that it becomes a real challenge to build a midrange driver that can keep pace. But frankly, it is in the area of midrange driver development that I think the GoldenEar team has done some of its best work in creating the Aon 3.
In previous models such as the Triton Two, GoldenEar has solved the problem of tweeter-to-midrange matching by using relatively small and light mid-bass drivers designed to provide “smooth linear frequency response extending above 20 kHz,” a high-frequency benchmark rarely achieved by most midrange drivers. The reasoning was that only such an ultra-wideband midrange driver would offer the speed and responsiveness necessary to merge seamlessly with the blazingly quick HVFR tweeter. Consequently, GoldenEar made serious R&D investments in midrange driver technology—R&D efforts that led the firm to use computer-optimized diaphragms, rigid open-basket chassis, specialized high-temperature voice-coil assemblies, and their distinctive multi-vaned phase plug. The resulting drivers did, as promised, merge beautifully with the HVFR tweeter.
For the Aon 3, GoldenEar followed much the same design philosophy in developing a new ultra-wide bandwidth mid-bass driver for the Aon 3, but with a twist. Unlike the Triton Two’s dual mid-bass drivers, the Aon 3 mid-bass driver not only goes high, but also goes surprisingly low—low enough that no separate active woofer is required. Instead, GoldenEar cleverly fits a pair of 8-inch passive radiators, which help supplement the speaker’s bass output, on the sloping sides of the Aon 3 cabinet. The result is a remarkably versatile mid-bass driver, one that seems to possess the speed, detail, and extension of a small driver, while also providing the kind of bass output normally associated with a much larger one. As result the Aon 3 offers a wonderfully seamless blend between its mid-bass driver and tweeter, but also offers something more: namely, unexpectedly deep bass from what is, after all, a very compact two-way bookshelf monitor.
In practice, this means you get a speaker that offers many of the virtues you would expect to find in much higher priced monitors: good midrange-to-treble balance, terrific openness and transparency, and plenty of subtlety and detail. But you also enjoy bass solidity and depth that are rare in small bookshelf monitors of any price. While I won’t tell you the Aon 3 has the low-end clout of, say, the Triton Two, which would be untrue, I will tell you the Aon 3 offers enough bass that—in small-to-mid-size rooms—its low-end performance should satisfy most listeners, on most types of music, most of the time. That is saying a mouthful, given how small and relatively inexpensive the Aon 3 is. What is perhaps even more impressive than the quantity and depth of the Aon 3’s bass is the quality of its bass, starting from the lower midrange and ranging right on down the lowest frequencies the speaker can reproduce. What is more, the low end (and lower midrange) of the Aon 3 is every bit as agile, detailed, and nuanced as the speaker’s midrange and top-end are. This is the quality that, in my view, may make the Aon 3 an even more appealing speaker for some audiophiles than the Triton Two is.