After a brief hiatus, AirPulse is back in the USA with two new models and is now being distributed by Edifier, the Chinese OEM manufacturer that loves quality. They also own Stax but that’s another story. Essence is an official dealer. Designed by the legendary Phil Jones, the new A300 is an evolutionary descendant of the AirPulse 7001 studio monitors that sell for $5K a pair. Phil is best known as the genius engineer of a powerful compact monitor in the late 80’s. He founded the UK’s Acoustic Energy brand and his AE-1 compact monitor became a legend in its own time, considered by many audiophiles and recording engineers to be the best small speaker of all time.
Phil also owns PJB (Phil Jones Bass), his line of amps and speakers for bass players that’s already a big brand in the musical instrument stores. The best bass players in the world use PJB equipment.
The top-of-the-line model is called the AirPulse A300. It sells for $1099 a pair with free shipping in the USA (lower 48). It features the Phil Jones Signature 6.5″ woofer. This driver is made of hard-anodized aluminum combined with an under-hung, edge-wound voice coil, fully immersed within the neodymium magnetic field. Other speaker manufactures use cheaper magnets with over-hung voice coils which increase distortion and limit SPL.
The difference in sound quality is quite audible, the AirPulse speakers can play louder and cleaner than their competition selling for twice the price. This is the signature design feature that made the AE-1 legendary. I believe them to be the best engineered dynamic woofer / mid-range drivers ever made and think you will too. When I close my eyes, my brain tells me I’m listening to electrostatic speakers because the sonic signature of these speakers is identical to that listening experience. They’re totally transparent with pin-point precise stereo imaging, with no cabinet coloration of any kind.
Phil combines hi woofer with a new 3″ Horn-Loaded Ribbon Tweeter. This aluminum ribbon has extremely low mass with long excursion. It acts both as a diaphragm and voice coil therefore has no delay on signal output. It has quick transient response, high sensitivity and minimum phase distortion. The Horn design also helps to create a wide and deep musical stage with control. This tall, highly efficient line source design comes as close to an electrostatic speaker as I’ve heard, utterly transparent (linear) with focused directivity to the listener to minimize reflections from the ceiling, side-walls, and ceiling that cause interference to the stereo image.
If you’re seated equi-distant to the speakers as they are to themselves in an equilateral triangle and sit at the apex centered between them, you’ll hear why we call that the sweet spot. The music appears to be coming from an imaginary stage in front of you, the instruments and voices suspended in space between the two speakers. The stereo imaging is precise to our ears when interference is minimized. You can thank our ancestors for that, our sense of hearing is a survival skill, humans are good at locating the source of a sound when heard without reflections, for example out on the savanna, we could hear a twig break in the distance and pin-point its location so we could run the other way and live to fight another day. When we hear the localization cues in the music, the stereo image is palpably realistic.
The cabinet is every bit as good, well damped and braced so it does’nt resonate or vibrate. It’s inert, making no sound of its own. The side walls are 1″ thick MDF finished in real Cherrywood veneer with black baffles. It’s not just a speaker, its an object of desire, a work of art when compared to the competition in this price range and well-above. When all the parts are premium, custom designed and made in-house using state-of-the-art lab instruments, the results are audible and I think visible too, this is one seriously engineered speaker. The fit and finish are first class all the way.
The electronics package is so complete, it defines the architecture of hi res audio systems in the future. Someday everybody will looking for plug and play wireless hi res audio systems completely connected internally and ready to play any source you can throw it it. Analog XLR or RCA? Check. Digital USB, Optical and Coaxial? Check. Bluetooth wireless? Check. Its got its own built-in digital preamp with a 24/192K DAC operated by remote control. The amplifier is Class D digital, 80 watts RMS x 2 which is plenty for all small to medium sized rooms.
AirPulse A300 is ready to play hi res audio streams wirelessly from your smartphone or computer via Bluetooth aptX 4.1 processing, this is the future of listening, any song ever produced in the history of recorded music is at your fingertips now. There are Bass and Treble controls on the rear panel to adjust to your taste. It’s a high end audio performance in every aspect at a price that’s easy to justify, especially when compared to the best sellers in this category. I put together this comparison chart to show you how the AirPulse A300 compares to the best-selling KEF LS50W, Dynaudio Xeo 2, and Focal Shape 65, all very desireable but twice the price and missing a few features.
|Comparison Chart–Active Compact Speaker Systems|
|Models||A300||LS50W||Xeo 2||Shape 65|
|Price||$1099 pr.||$2199.99 pr.||$2199.99 pr.||$1998 pr.|
|LF Driver||6.5″ Aluminum||5.25″ Aluminum||5.5″ Plastic||6.5″ Glass Fiber|
|HF Driver||3″ Horn-loaded Ribbon||1″ Aluminum Dome||1.1″ Soft Dome||1″ Aluminum Dome|
|Amplification||80 Watts RMS x 2 Class D||115 Watts RMS x 2||65 Watts RMS x 2||105 Watts RMS Class AB|
|Freq Response||40 Hz to 40 KHz ±3dB||50 Hz to 28 KHz ± 3dB||40 Hz to 24 KHz ±3dB||40 Hz to 35 KHz ±3 dB|
|Peak SPL||110 dB @ 1m||106 dB @ 1m||N/A||109 dB @ 1m|
|Input Types Analog||1 XLR, 1 RCA||1 RCA||Mini-jack, RCA||1 XLR, 1 RCA|
|Input Types Digital||USB, Optical, Coaxial||USB, Optical||Optical||None|
|Enclosure Material||1″ MDF Damped & Braced||.25″ Plastic||.2″ Plastic||.7″ MDF|
|S/N Ratio||≥ 90 dB (A)||N/A||N/A||≥ 85 dB (A)|
|Wireless Input||Bluetooth aptX 4.1||Bluetooth aptX 4.0||Bluetooth aptx 4.0||None|
|Digital Support||Up to 24/192K Hi Res Audio||Up to 24/192K Hi Res||Up to 24/96K Hi Res||Up to 16/44.1K Standard Res Audio|
|Dimensions||8.9″ W x 15.2″ H x 13.4″ D||7.9″ W x 11.8″ H x 12.1″ D||6.8″ W x 10″ H x 6.5″ D||8.6″ W x 14″ H x 11.2″ D|
|Weight Per Pair||53 lbs||44.5 lbs||18 lbs||28.2 lbs|
|Tone Controls||Bass & Treble||No||No||Bass & Treble|
|All Specs sourced from each manufacture’s website|