I love the months that follow the CES show in Las Vegas. First because I get to re-coop from the crazy late-night hours and way too much food and alcohol that normally accompanies any trip to Las Vegas. But mostly because that’s when all the cool new electronics that we see and hear for the first time at the show actually make their way into our anxious little hands. First it was Sony’s remarkable new 4K projector, a real game changer that we can’t stop drooling over. And now comes the second of three items that got my heart racing at the show: GoldenEar Technology’s AON, their first bookshelf speakers.
The GoldenEar Triton Two’s are one of our best selling speakers. And they are also one of the best reviewed speakers, ever. And they are one of the best reviewed speakers that mere mortals can actually afford. Don’t believe me? Google them. It’s almost like the reviewers go out of their way to out-do each other with their praise for these speakers!
But the Triton Two’s are not for everyone. While audiophiles scoff at their ridiculously low price of $1500 each, that’s still not exactly cheap. And not everyone is a fan of their look (basically a tall pedestal covered with a black sock.) But considering that for $3000 you get a pair of floor standing speakers with built in powered sub-woofers that make the speaker truly full-range (even for home theater) these a real bargain.
The folks at GoldenEar recognized that the Triton Two’s were not for everybody and created a speaker call the Triton Three’s. While 3 is a higher number than 2 (yay – all the schoolin’ finally paid off!) the Triton Three’s are actually the baby brothers of the Two’s. They are a bit smaller and $1000 a pair less expensive, but have managed to capture most of what everyone loves about their bigger brother. But they still have that look. And while I agree that this was a smart move on GoldenEar’s part, they are not the speaker that got me excited.
Hopefully this doesn’t come back and bite me in the back section some day, but while I really, really like the Triton’s, I don’t love them. And I really want to. Especially every time I read a new review that tells me that I should love them. But that’s OK – each and every one of us hears things very differently. What sounds good to me may not sound good to you, though you would be wrong. I’m just kidding of course, but there was a time in my younger days when I could have said that and meant it! I was a bit of a snob, and if music wasn’t coming from an electrostatic speaker – well then it just wasn’t for me.
So what a complete surprise it was to step into the GoldenEar room at CES and hear everything I loved about the Triton’s sound and nothing that I didn’t. What a bigger surprise to discover it coming from a bookshelf speaker. What an even bigger surprise to find out the price that these babies would be selling for. More on that later.
The new speakers are called the Aon 2 and Aon 3. GoldenEar calls them “ultra-high performance compact bookshelf monitors.” And that is exactly what they are. They utilize much of same drivers and technology found in the Tritons, but without the built in powered sub-woofers. Let’s start with the tweeters, the driver that put GoldenEar on the map. They call it a high-velocity folded ribbon tweeter. I could go into boring details about what it is and how it works, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, this is what gives these (and all GoldenEar speakers) their unique sound. These tweeter produce sparking highs that fill the room without the harshness of many traditional tweeters.
The Aon 2 then adds a 6” mid-bass driver, while the Aon 3 adds a 7”. This, combined with a two side-mounted low-frequency radiators (6 ½” in the 2’s, 8” in the 3’s) give this bookshelf speaker remarkable bass. Do they go as deep as the Tritons? Nope. Do you need a sub-woofer for music enjoyment? Nope. The bass is very impressive, especially for a speaker that stands a whopping 12″ (Aon 2) or 14” (Aon 3) tall.
Unfortunately, they do have the grill sock fabric that covers the majority of the speaker. But in such a small cabinet, I don’t mind the look at all. Plus, these are not your traditional box-shaped speakers. Goldenear calls them truncated pyramids, and in addition to making them look cool, the shape also helps improve the sound. No, really.
Within minutes of receiving our first shipment, I had a pair of Aon 3’s on stands and breaking in. It’s only been 24 hours, and I know they are going to continue to sound better over the next few weeks. But what I hear now is what I heard at the show. This is a small, good-looking speaker that produces a huge soundstage, way beyond the width and height of the speakers. Yet it also produces a rock solid phantom center (where the singer sounds like he or see is standing between the speakers) – something that is important to me. It gets just about everything right. It sounds sweet and airy when it should. It sounds deep and commanding when it should. I guess the best way to sum up the sound is, when listening to well-recorded music, the speakers disappear and you are left with a deep, wide wall of gorgeous sound.
And the price for all this audio goodness? $399.99 each for the Aon 2’s, and $499.99 each for the Aon 3’s. That, my friends, is the frosting on the cake. I will be ordering a pair for myself very soon. Good thing I’m not one of those reviewers who fall over themselves praising the latest GoldenEar offering. I need to maintain my street cred, after all.