AIRPULSE A100 ACTIVE SPEAKER SYSTEM REVIEW

Following the release of the Airpulse A200 and A300 speakers (which we reviewed a couple of years ago), the all-new Airpulse A100 small bookshelf speaker with a 5” woofer joins Airpulse’s family of active loudspeakers. Linette Smith has a listen.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

The Airpulse A100 has a lovely piano lacquer appearance, our review pair comes in an attractive lipstick red. The brand says that the A100 inherits the appearance and sound characters of their flagship model 7001 near-field monitor speakers designed by Phil Jones, the founder of the British loudspeaker brand, Acoustic Energy.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

The Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System

The A100 features the same XMOS core as its bigger brother A300 and continues to use Airpulse’s horn-loaded aluminium ribbon tweeter and a proprietarily-designed 5” aluminium chassis low-distortion bass and mid-range driver. They are housed in an 18-mm thick high-strength MDF cabinet. The oval vent to the rear has been designed to minimise wind noise.

The analogue front end uses specially configured components from Texas Instrument. The chipset works at 96 KHz to offer a frequency response up to 40 KHz. To avoid cross-talk between the two analogue ports, A100 uses a relay instead of a semiconductor switch. The SPDIF receiver is the PCM9211 also from Texas Instrument, which supports an input sample rate up to 216 KHz. The Bluetooth audio receiver is built on Qualcomm’s Bluetooth chipset, which supports APT-X decoding.

Internal cabling in the Airpulse A100 is by the high-end American brand, Transparent. The active speaker has a high efficiency Class D amplifier with digital signal processing (DSP) system, powered by an efficient power supply. The system in the A100 supports multiple inputs, including Bluetooth, AUX, PC, USB and fibre optic. It supports Hi-Res high-quality audio playback and has obtained a Hi-Res official certification. Bass, treble and volume controls are located on the back panel and the A100 come with a remote control too, which is at the nicer end of mini plastic remote quality. A subwoofer can also be connected if required.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

The Airpulse A100 master speaker which features the control panel and connections

MID-WOOFER DESIGN

The Proprietary Aluminium Alloy Cone (PAAC) of the mid-woofer was designed after an in-depth analysis of all types of cone geometry and materials using a Klippel Laser Doppler Interferometer. The 35mm diameter voice coil is unusually larger than many loudspeakers of this size, it was chosen as it runs at a cooler operating temperature. The cooler running temperature of the voice coil also has the benefit of a more reliable loudspeaker since a cooler voice coil means much less chance of speaker failure. Instead of using round copper wire in the voice coil, the Airpulse uses a single layer edge-wound copper-clad aluminium ribbon. The mid-woofer features an under-hung high power neodymium motor to provide a high magnetic flux to cover the whole voice coil of the loudspeaker. The A100 woofer uses a hyper-rigid cast-magnesium alloy frame. Its rigidity is designed to reduce speaker colouration, and its material helps to dissipate heat quickly and efficiently from the voice coil.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

The Airpulse A100 slave speaker

AMPLIFICATION

The power amplification of the Airpulse A100 is built with 2 pieces of TAS5754 Class-D amplifier from Texas Instruments, which combine high input sample rate support and high output PWM carrier frequency. The input sample rate is up to 192 KHz and the amplifier’s 768 KHz output PWM carrier frequency is twice the 384 KHz of a traditional Class-D amplifier. One TAS5754 is connected in bridge mode for the left and right channel woofer and the other amp is connected in bridge mode for the left and right channel ribbon tweeters.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

The Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System come with ‘wedge’ foam stands for on your desk

The Airpulse A100 come with a selection of cables, the remote, instructions etc and as a nice touch, a pair of white gloves and a cleaning cloth. Also included are a pair of high-density foam ‘wedge’ stands – these would be very useful if using the speakers on a desk so they fire up towards ear level.

SETTING UP

This was nice and simple, I popped the Airpulse A100 in the same position as the Electrocompaniet Tana 2 system that I reviewed last, on an IKEA unit that houses records in our main listening room and divides it from our living space. It was just a simple matter of plugging in the ‘master’ speaker to the mains and connecting the two speakers with the supplied cable, which then tucked away out of view.  All in all, the speakers looked really cool and made a good visual statement in their glossy red finish.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

Airpulse A100 in bright red gloss

SOUND QUALITY

I started in Bluetooth mode and went straight in with Amazon Music on my phone.

First up was Disclosure’s Settle. This deep house album has a laid back, late at night feel to it but with a good bass thump, and I was immediately impressed by the playback from the A100s. The bass had a nice tight quality and I adjusted it slightly with the controls on the rear of the speaker to give me the right level. ‘White Noise’ showed a great balance between the vocal and the driving bass and ‘Stimulation’ was danceable and funky.

The clarity of the high frequencies came across well on the Pet Shop Boys ‘Always On My Mind (2003 remix)’ with the sharp synths sounding just right. I then let Amazon Music go with a 90’s Dance Mix featuring tunes like DJ Jean ‘The Launch’, Stardust ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ and Robert Miles ‘Children’. I was impressed with the sound quality, not really a ‘High-End HiFi’ sound but much, much better than one would expect from Bluetooth speakers.

However, I quickly got a bit bored with the free Amazon music service and their ‘you have reached your skip limit’, so I decided Roon would be a better option.

‘But these speakers don’t have a built-in streamer and are not Roon Ready’, yes, I hear you. But rather than lug the speakers upstairs to pop them in the second system (running them off the very high-end system would not really have been a fair comparison) I do something that I wouldn’t normally do and add the little PolyVection DAC 32 that we have just reviewed, switch to the AUX input on the A100s ….et voila, the speakers are instantly Roonified

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

The Airpulse A100 paired with the PolyVection DAC32 becomes a streaming system that can run Roon

I’m still feeling a dance vibe so start with Freestylers ‘Raw As Fuck” followed by Dizzee Rascal ‘Bonkers’. There is plenty of bass here and no need for a sub to compliment the sound. The tops and mids have clarity with a warmth to the midrange that is very enjoyable. This is evident in my next musical choice as I sample some female vocals. Greentea Peng’s Man Made has a wonderfully laid back but street feel to it, she describes her music as ‘Psychedelic R&B’ and it’s a perfect summer album, whether your summer is baking hot or on rain-soaked city streets. She has a gorgeous voice which comes across really well on the Airpulse A100s. The mark of good HiFi is that you can push it loud, but you don’t have to. The Airpulse A100 are equally happy cranked up loud or at more conversational/work levels.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

The PolyVection DAC32 is perfect to pair with the Airpulse active speakers

As this kind of speaker lends itself to being multi-use I then moved them into the TV lounge and popped them onto our Solidsteel SS6 tripod stands, which they looked perfectly at home on. Placed either side of the TV I connected them with an optical cable and they were immediately a hit. Great for standard TV with voices sounding very natural and no syncing issues. I had them in place for a couple of films too. Interstellar came across with a wonderfully full soundtrack and Inception was also a pleasure to watch with a real cinematic feel to it. We usually use the Acoustic Energy Aego 2.1 small speakers and sub but the Airpulse A100 without a sub did home cinema as well as you could expect from using a stereo setup. The tone controls were perfect allowing you to give that bit of extra bass that is needed for the cinematic experience.

While I had the Airpulse A100s on the Solidsteel stands I switched back to some more music. Dipping into some jazz the quality of the midrange really became apparent as did the surprisingly wide soundstage.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

The Airpulse A100 fit well on the Solidsteel SS6 tripod speaker stands

Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong ‘Duke’s Place’ came with a lovely, honeyed mid-tone of the trumpet, deep double bass and lively piano. It had that fantastic ‘skipping along click your fingers’ jazz sound and a  fantastic placement of the different instruments, you really could Close your eyes and hear exactly where all the musicians were.

Daft Punk Random Access Memories, of course, came out to test these little speakers. Biiiiigggg sound from the little Airpulse A100s which didn’t disappoint. They really sing on a pair of stands with proper placement in a fairly small room. The disco bass on ‘Giorgio’ was all there and the ultimate test of ‘Contact’ came over as well defined with balance between the hi-hat and the deep symphony of bass that builds to a crescendo. They coped remarkably well, obviously not the best I have ever heard this tune as I have listened to it, both in our listening rooms and at shows, on many high-end systems and components, but they really didn’t let their side down.

Airpulse A100 Active Speaker System Review

Airpulse A100 rear port and rear panel

CONCLUSION

The Airpulse A100 are much more than a ‘pair of Bluetooth speakers’. They will work well on your desktop for you to play tunes via Bluetooth from your phone or tablet, but they are equally at home in a HiFi system. Simply pairing them with a streaming DAC opens up a whole world of HiFi potential without breaking the bank, and very enjoyable sound quality.

I would definitely recommend them to someone starting off on a HiFi journey, they would be perfect for teenagers or anyone wanting an affordable and listenable no-fuss system that will grow with you and your listening preferences.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality:

Solid and well made, look and feel good quality. Good range of accessories in the box.

Sound Quality:

A full and detailed sound. They are not the last word in Hi-Fidelity but you wouldn’t expect them to be, neither do they come up lacking. Bass and treble controls add the ability to tailor the sound to individual tastes.

Value For Money:

A ready to go HiFi in a box for under £700, good value as not just a one-trick pony, they are easily adapted to different situations and uses, whether on the desktop, with the TV or stand mounted.

We Loved: Versatility and build quality along with great for the money sound quality.

We Didn’t Love So Much: Bass and treble adjustments have to be done around the back of the speaker without the option to do so via the remote, which is a bit fiddley if you have them against a wall.

Price: £659 or $799

Elevator Pitch Review: An almost perfect ‘HiFi-in-a-box’ starter system, these speakers are adaptable enough to start you on your musical journey, growing with you from Bluetooth off your phone to adding streaming capabilities and getting you into ¨proper HiFi’. Very good sound for money ratio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linette Smith

Supplied by Airpulse

Review Equipment: Solidsteel SS6 speaker stands, Chord Company Anthem reference RCA interconnects, Apple iPad mini, Google Pixel 3XL, PolyVection DAC32, Qobuz, Roon.

SPECIFICATIONS

Tweeter: Horn Loaded Ribbon Tweeter

Mid-Woofer: 5 inch Aluminium Cone Underhung Design Neodymium Power

Total Power Output: L/R(Treble):10W+10W, L/R(Woofer): 40W+40W

Signal to Noise Ratio: L/R: ≥90dB(A)

Frequency Response: 52Hz –40KHz

Input Sensitivity: AUX:450±50mV, PC:550±50mV, USB:400±50mFFs, Optical:400±50mFFs, Bluetooth:500±50mFFs

Inputs: AUX, PC, USB, Optical, Bluetooth. The USB, Optical Inputs Support Up to 192KHz Input Sample

Mains Voltage: 100-240 V AC/50-60 Hz

Active/Passive: Active

Cabinet Size: 160x283x255mm

Made in China

Read more reviews from HiFi Pig here

 

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