Published On: February 15, 2007

AAD PL-100 / PL-200 / PL-200C / SD-10 Loudspeakers Reviewed

Published On: February 15, 2007

AAD PL-100 / PL-200 / PL-200C / SD-10 Loudspeakers Reviewed

Our reviewer explained that great speakers involve you in the music and make you forget about speakers. "While I was listening to two-channel music, these were great speakers." The vocals were "very natural, open and airy." Overall, these speakers are "well built" and "offer high value..."

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While I have been around Audio and Video for many years, I have to confess having never heard of American Acoustic Development LLC (AAD). So I can evaluate their product with no preconceived ideas. Now Phil Jones, the founder and technical director of AAD, is no newcomer to this game. A musician with a gift for mechanical and electronic invention, he is extremely well respected, and has long been sought after by many to assist in, or to develop outright, some very innovative products. For most, perhaps the most recognizable name Phil has been involved with is Boston Acoustics, but there are many others who can thank him for his contributions. At one point, Phil Jones developed Platinum Audio. The flagship $175 K Platinum Air Pulse was so astonishing in both performance and physical beauty that the Japan Audio Society called it the most innovative product offered since the invention of the loudspeaker!

Unique Features
AAD sent me a complete surround setup of their new on wall speakers intended for use with Plasma or LCD wall mounted displays. The system consisted of two PL-200 main speakers, one PL-200C center, two PL-100s for surrounds, and an SD-10 subwoofer. This review will focus on the PL-200s and the PL-200C, but it will also include my experience of the system as a whole.

The first thing I noticed was a confidence-inspiring "feel" to the product. There is a definite heft to every speaker, as they are heavier than their size would lead one to believe. The fit and finish is above average at their price point, and there are some elegant touches. The grill fits very tightly, and when removed, there are four silver "pins," which appear to be metal, left exposed for the grill to be fit back to. The face of the speaker with the grill removed is of a black, textured vinyl material. For the purist who believes grills totally mess up the sound, this makes for a nice-looking speaker sans the grill.

The speaker cabinet is a slim 4.25 inches. Two grills are included--one silver, one black. The speaker cabinets themselves are silver, and finished in a way that gives them a brushed metal look, but they are MDF or another very similar material. The cabinets also have several edges or angles to them. While the owner's manual only describes using them in a wall mount situation, the D'Appolito design of the speakers should allow for shelf mounting on their side if your furnishings make this necessary, and the angles of the cabinet will allow the speakers to be angled up or down as the situation dictates. Attached to every speaker is a very robust mounting bracket. The mounting screws and materials, along with the necessary tool, are included in every box. My initial reaction to this bracket was that it was too limiting, without enough adjustment. After playing with it for a little while, however, I discovered it wasn't all that limiting, was very easy to use, and very secure.

On the PL-200s, there are two 4-inch woofers and a 1-inch Titanium dome tweeter, and as mentioned above, the tweeter is positioned in between the two 4-inch drivers. The PL-100s use the same components, less one 4-inch driver. The SD-10 has a look I particularly liked. It is a front-firing 10-inch subwoofer with two rear-firing ports. The grill is perforated steel and is shaped to give the appearance of a woofer itself. At first glance, the grill appears to be a massive ultra long-throw "super woofer." As with a great many modern speakers, the surrounds are all rubber. All of the satellites have the quality binding posts expected on good products and needed for use with high-quality wire and connectors. The Sub has low-level outputs, which certainly add some flexibility. As with many Subs, however, there is no crossover bypass.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
My listening room is a little odd shaped, but it is basically a 15 ft. x 20 ft. room with carpeted floors and standard Sheetrock walls. There are two windows, one small and curtained, and the other has blinds I keep closed when I am in the "laboratory." A Denon AVR3805 was used to power these speakers; and AudioQuest CV6 was used on all the front speakers, with CV4 on the rears. All interconnects were also AudioQuest. Two DVD players were used; both were Panasonic.

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Revealing my age a little, I pulled out some Pink Floyd, Chris Isaak, Sarah McLachlan, and some recent Norah Jones. Right off the bat, I was kind of "So what, just another decent speaker." I am a professional after all, and I do love this stuff, so I kept plugging along. As I mentioned above, I should have known that when I wasn't immediately struck by something, it was important, but maybe I enjoy discovery. As I continued to listen, I became more and more involved with the music. I did not tire of listening and found it very pleasurable. Good speakers sound...well, like good speakers. Great speakers involve you in the music and make you forget about speakers. While I was listening to two-channel music, these were great speakers.

When it came time for movies, I had to get creative. Suffice it to say that I did come up with a setup that I felt would very closely approximate the application the product designers intended, and what the owner's manual indicated as the proper use. I spent most of my time using the system in a three-channel mode; that is, I set up the receiver without rear speakers.
I watched clips from several movies and was not as impressed on movie soundtracks as on two-channel music. Where I found the vocals in music very natural, open, and airy, on movies they seemed compressed and a little dull. There is no issue with understanding dialogue at all. Things were clear, but seemed to lack the dynamics I am so accustomed to hearing in many of the spots I listen to regularly. It was almost as if I were listening in a mode intended for late-night viewing, where the dynamics have been intentionally limited. Perhaps this can be attributed to the relatively low-efficiency rating of 88 dB for the PL-200 and 200C.

What I did get were very accurate renderings of soundtracks I have nearly memorized by now. The opening scene of The Fellowship of the Ring contained all the very subtle little sounds many never hear--on the battlefield for example. After Sauron's defeat, the wonderful LFE effect was there, but again lacking the impact I have come to expect. During Bilbo's birthday celebration, and the ensuing fireworks, once again the detail and clarity were exceptional. Unfortunately, the dynamics I was counting on just didn't materialize..

Final Take
Though I did not have great things to say about the movie performance of these speakers, I think it was due to how very impressed I was by what I had heard in two-channel stereo. Even though the power rating on these speakers is not extreme-given their relatively low efficiency-a high-quality, high-power, separate amp would probably coax much better dynamics from them and allow one to hear all the wonderful things I know these speakers can do. Despite some-less-than glowing comments, I give them a very high recommendation because they are well built, offer high value, and most importantly, I heard and felt them make magic.

MSRP: System as tested $2,325
System as recommended (by reviewer) $2,625

American Acoustic Development LLC (AAD)

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