When we reviewed Acoustic Energy’s revamped Neo V2 system back in January, its sound quality left us gobsmacked. Since then, the British company has added a pair of flagship floorstanding speakers to the range, Neo Four, which are used as the front pair in the 7.1-channel Neo Max system you see before you (replacing the Neo V2 Three fronts from the original line-up).
Neo Four was introduced off the back of UK demand for a more potent floorstanding design for the Neo V2 system. Therefore its introduction means you’re likely to get more power, detail and bass grunt from the system as a whole, but the jump-up in quality also brings a considerable jump-up in price. Whereas the original Neo V2 5.1-channel system set you back around £1,200 at launch, this one sells for around £1,900 (or less if you shop around online). That may sound like a big investment, but when you consider that you’re getting a full-fat 7.1 system with two of AE’s best floorstanders at the front, the fact that it sells for under £2k is rather laudable.
Design wise let’s start by looking at the new additions. On their own, the Neo Fours cost £699 per pair, but look and feel like they should cost a lot more. And if weight is any indication of quality then the fact that we nearly broke our back hauling them out of the box should be a good sign.
At around 1.2m tall the triple-ported, 70-litre cabinets are imposing and take up a considerable amount of floor space. They’re built like nightclub bouncers but thankfully a lot prettier – the Vermont (walnut) finish of our samples and curved edges makes them look elegant, stately even, and although they come with magnetic grilles to cover up the drivers, they look more stylish without them. It’s a fairly safe and traditional design but one that simply oozes class. You need to screw the supplied black plinths onto the bottom, plus there are isolation spikes in the box.
Their awesome build quality is helped along by a 32mm-thick MDF baffle, which, according to AE’s chief designer Mat Spandl, is required to ensure tight and potent bass response down to very low frequencies. The rest of the system, which comprises shorter Neo Three floorstanders for the rear channels (£409 a pair), Neo One bookshelf speakers on surround back duties (£229 a pair), the Neo Centre (£179) and Neo Subwoofer (£409), is styled with similar elegance and heavyweight build quality as the Neo Fours.
The centre is a hefty unit, measuring 480mm wide and 195mm deep, although conversely the subwoofer is surprisingly compact given the rest of the system is so chunky. Overall it’s a great-looking package, with build quality that easily justifies the price tag.