AEON Monitor review
May 28, 2007
A review of AEON, a 2-way active nearfield monitor with a very wide frequency response (30 Hz to 30 kHz).
Back in the early eighties I purchased my first ever pair of near field studio monitors,
manufactured by a famous Japanese company, they rapidly became the world wide
reference for mixing and recording. Within just a few years it seemed that where ever I
flew I would find a pair to work with. It marked a revolution in the way we mixed
records, at last the freelance engineer was freed from the problems of differing large
monitoring systems that were often totally different in performance and very rarely
calibrated in a precise manner.
The only real disadvantage was that the sound of the speakers changed with different
amplifiers and different rooms. There were a few competitors in the field as but the
Japanese model dominated the market until the 1990's when active (self amplified)
monitors started to appear. The "built in" amplifier was an enormous step forward, the
problems of differing amplifiers had gone forever. Matched amplifiers and speakers not
only optimized performance but made for rapid and easy installation for the freelance
engineer. The next evolution was incorporating filters for the speakers treble and bass
performance to compensate for the positioning of the speakers on or close to the
reflecting surfaces of recording consoles or the acoustic qualities of different rooms.
There are now new market leaders and the field has expanded to include numerous makes
and models but one thing is certain, the near field studio speaker has now become an
essential part of studio equipment and almost every engineer has his favorite.
In my opinion, the principal role of a near field monitor system is to give the engineer a
reference that approaches how people will hear the results of his work in a domestic
environment. Some people may spend time to sit and really listen your mix on good
speakers but the chances are it will more probably be on headphones in the metro, in the
car, the supermarket, elevator, discotheque or cinema etc. etc. Your mixes have to sound
good in all these places.
The public usually listen to music at much lower levels than we do in a studio
environment where we seek a sense of precision and detail across the widest range of
frequencies possible. The human ear is much less sensitive to high and low frequencies at
lower levels and so engineers tend to exaggerate and stretch the frequencies at both end
to compensate resulting in a more exciting sound at lower listening levels. The bass can
still be felt and the groove of the high hat is still there !
The dosage of highs and lows in a mix is a constant dilemma for mixing engineers, we
have to consider constantly how and where our mixes will be consumed and take care not
to over compensate in one direction or another. The mix has to remain musical and
dynamic, the arrangement has to be respected and the public, artists and producers
satisfied … it's a demanding task at the best of times.
If you listen to your mix loud there is a good chance it will sound exciting but making it
work at lower levels is in my opinion the key to a good mix. Those famous Japanese
speakers I mentioned earlier were renown for a strong medium presence and a limited
high and low range frequency response. Consequently engineers naturally exaggerated
these two areas resulting in dynamic punchy mixes that sounded good at normal domestic
listening levels and were the key to the success of the vast number of records. There are
differing schools of thought concerning speakers, should they sound simply good
to listen to or should they be a real acoustic reference ? During the past thirty years we
have seen a major revolution in the way people consume sound, the hi-fi cult of the 60's
and 70's has given way to a world of ghetto blasters, boom boxes and i-pods that often
give 'sensational " sound with added lows and highs rather than the true sound of the
musicians and singers we record.
Professional speaker manufacturers are well aware of this trend and have tended to
release models that are very flattering in the high and low frequencies to seduce the
potential buyer. The new generation near field monitors often sound great but are they
really the accurate reference that mixing engineers need to make a good record ?
When you mix you need to know not only "where you are" in terms of frequencies but
also how the results will sound outside the studio in the real world, that is why the
essential quality I look for in a near field speaker is truly flat and even response. The APS
Aeon gives me the performance I am seeking. It's powerful enough to impress any
musician or client and precise enough to work in a really detailed manner at low levels.
The Aeon has a flat response from 30Hz to 30kHz. and provides exactly the kind of
control reference I am looking for whether I am recording drums and bass, a
philharmonic orchestra or mixing a pop record. The treble level and bass roll off controls
give me the possibility to fine tune the speakers to my taste in different rooms and
An amplifier of 150 watts drives the custom built bass woofer and a dedicated 70 watt
serves the high definition titanium tweeter. The Aeon has a sophisticated optical speaker
protection circuit incorporating a three color warning LED system thats light the logo on
the face of the speaker indicating power status and bass and treble overloads.
An easily accessible fuse on the back panel protects the amplifiers from eventual spikes or
power surges. A nice extra touch is the input sensitivity control, (variable from 30db to –
10db in 7 individual steps) an elegant solution to input level problems that we can find in
different situations that has been ignored by most of APS's competitors. There is even a
ground lift switch to avoid any earth loop or hum problems that may be found in certain
circumstances. Full magnetic shielding guarantees that the speaker won't distort or
interfere with images when used in proximity to video monitors or damage sensitive
recording materials. Another useful and rare feature is the inclusion of a fully balanced
line out XLR socket for multiple or parallel speaker set-ups.
As a final touch the people at APS have made the Aeon available not only in the
traditional matt black but also in a natural walnut finish and a range of custom colors
including a famous Italian sports-car red ! For over 30 years I've been making records in
dark studios surrounded by grey and black hi-tech facades. That's why I have chosen the
red model to brighten up my mixing environment. Feeling fine in a good looking
environment is an important part of making a great record too … in red they look real
To conclude, I find the APS Aeon an excellent working tool for the mixing engineer,
They incorporate the flat response curve reminiscent of many early English reference
monitors yet have the mid-range punch and detail at low listening levels I need for
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