If you look back at the comments I’ve just made, you’ll see that they represent a blend of thoughts on technical performance (involving accuracy, tonal purity, and realism), but also on the speaker’s ability to expose the emotional content embodied in the music. This ability to deliver both a strong technical performance and one that lets the music live and breathe is what makes the Aon 3 very special—and quite exceptional for its price.
Some of you may wonder whether the Aon 3, which is really a pretty small speaker, can possibly deliver satisfying bass. For me the question was answered unequivocally by putting on the title track from master bass guitarist Dean Peer’s album Airborne. “Airborne” showcases the dizzying array of bass guitar playing techniques Peer has at his disposal and shows Peer accompanied only by percussionist Bret Mann, who performs on a lovely old-school German Sonor drum kit. Even though this track features plenty of moments where Peer gives the low B string of his five-string fretless bass a workout, complemented by potent kick drum and tom-tom “thwacks” from Mann’s drum kit, most of the bass content I know to be part of this album came through intact with the Aon 3’s at play. True, deep bass aficionados might notice that a very slim layer of low-frequency underlayment winds up being under represented by the little GoldenEars, but not by much. What is more, the bass that is presented is offered up with tautness, speed, snap, and a healthy measure of punch. This, then, is the key to the Aon 3’s low-end performance; the bass you do hear is pretty much choice stuff, while the bass you don’t hear falls low enough in the spectrum that—for the most part—you won’t miss it (or at least will not feel there’s much of substance lacking from the presentation).
As you listen to the Aon 3 in a holistic way, you might feel, as I do, that it comes across as being deeper, richer, more vibrant, and more full-bodied than a speaker its size and price has any right to sound.
Consider this speaker if:
• You want an extremely capable, audiophile-grade bookshelf monitor that, to use sports terminology, plays way “above the rim.”
• You want a monitor that produces deep enough bass that you’ll rarely if ever find yourself wishing for a subwoofer.
• You place a premium on openness, transparency, and overall coherency.
• You like the idea of a monitor that puts the emphasis on sound quality—not on styling flourishes that look cool but do nothing to improve the sound.
Look further if:
• You absolutely, positively have to have true full-range bass: to achieve that goal, you’ll need to look at GoldenEar’s Triton models.
• Down deep, you want a speaker that has some “bling” factor and serves as an audio “status symbol” of sorts. The Aon 3 can look a bit plain alongside some of the exotic wood-finished, high-dollar monitors we’ve seen. But if you remember the old saying that “beauty is as beauty does,” we think you’ll find the Aon 3 is a lovely thing to behold.
• Tonal Balance: 9.5
• Smoothness: 9
• Frequency Extremes: Bass 9.5/Treble 10
• Clarity: 10
• Soundstaging: 9
• Dynamics: 9
• Sensitivity: 9
• Value: 9.5 (a bargain, to be sure, though the smaller and less costly Aon2 might be an even bigger “steal”)
The Aon 3 is a brilliant little bookshelf monitor that, if heard from behind a visually opaque but sonically transparent scrim, could easily pass for a far more costly speaker than it actually is. Several things make the Aon 3 lovable: its transparency and detail, the seamlessness of the integration between its tweeter and mid-bass driver, and its very impressive bass output (for such a compact speaker).
While GoldenEar’s flagship Triton Two arguably has broader capabilities and can comfortably fit more varied applications, the sheer openness and focus of the Aon 3 may make it the Golden Ear model most likely to win the hearts and minds of many discerning audiophiles. And did we mention it also offers remarkable value for money?
GoldenEar Technology Aon 3 Bookshelf Monitor
Type: 2-way, dual-driver bookshelf monitor with dual passive radiators
Driver complement: one HVFR (high velocity folded ribbon) tweeter, one 7-inch cast-basket mid-bass driver, and two 8-inch side-mounted passive radiators.
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 90 dB
Dimensions (H x W x D): 14” x 9” x 11”
Weight: 23 lbs.
Warranty: 5 years, parts & labor