Much has been written and many glowing reviews have been penned about the GoldenEar Aon 3 speaker, but its smaller sibling, the Aon 2, doesn't get as nearly as much press. Why? Probably because a pair of Aon 2 speakers ($798 per pair) are only $200 less than a pair of Aon 3s ($998 per pair). For most room applications, that extra $200 is money well spent; the Aon 3 speakers will deliver more bass and higher SPLs without stress than their smaller siblings. So why would someone opt for the Aon 2 speakers? Two little words: desktop use. If you want to put together a dynamic, rollicking yet musical system for nearfield, desktop, or a small listening room, the Aon 2 is a savvy option. For less than $800 per pair, the GoldenEar Aon 2s offer a unique combination of good looks and mellifluous sonics.
The Aon 2 is a two-way design that features GoldenEar's proprietary High Velocity Folded Ribbon Tweeter (HVFR), which uses high-power neodymium magnets to move the high-density Kapton film diaphragm. Similar in basic design to the Heil "Air-motion" driver, the GoldenEar tweeter squeezes and pressurizes air rather than pushing it, with the results being higher efficiency and lower harmonic distortion. GoldenEar uses a single six-inch-diameter midrange/woofer driver. This driver features a "cast basket" design that GoldenEar developed originally for its floor-standing Triton Two tower speakers. This driver also features a special "multi-vaned" phase plug, which controls energy near the center of the driver, as well as minimizing diffraction generated by the driver's cone.
Although the Aon 2 is a two-way design, meaning there are two active drivers with a crossover, it also has two additional 6.5-inch-diameter passive drivers located on the sides of the cabinet. GoldenEar calls these two passive drivers "planer low-frequency radiators," which are designed in a "dynamically balanced configuration in order to properly load the bass/midrange drivers for an open, box-less midrange." The two passive radiators also extend the low-frequency range of the Aon 2 by altering the cabinet's free-air impedance so that the active six-inch driver performs as if it were in a much larger cabinet.
The Aon 2 eschews the usual wood laminate-covered sealed or ported box for a black fabric sock-covered enclosure with a glossy removable top cover. With its two passive side-mounted 6.5-inch drivers, the Aon 2's enclosure is far more open and less prone to cabinet resonances than conventional box designs. You can even remove the sock if you wish, but the Aon 2 looks far slicker with it on. The rear panel has one pair of robust five-way binding posts that will accept virtually any termination, including spade lugs, banana posts, or bare wire.
Read about the Hookup, High Points, Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2
Hooking up the Aon 2s for nearfield or desktop use isn't as simple as putting them on your work surface, connecting them to a power amplifier or receiver, and powering them up. For the most even frequency response, it's best to have the Aon 2's tweeter at approximately ear height. Placing the Aon 2s directly on most desktops will put your ears quite a bit higher than the tweeter, which will result in some upper frequency roll-off. I used a combination of a high-density foam block and Ultimate Support's desktop speaker stand to raise the Aon 2s about eight inches higher. This put my ears approximately an inch below the bottom edge of the Aon 2's tweeter. Usually I find that angling a desktop or nearfield monitor so that I can see very little of the sides of the speaker from listening position is an optimal setup, but with the Aon 2s, I found that they gave me a larger listening window with no loss of image specificity by pointing them straight forward, with no angling toward the inside or outside.
Because of its bass extension, blending the Aon 2 with a subwoofer is a bit trickier than with some small speakers. I used a lower crossover point to my subwoofer than usual: 55 Hz. I also found that I needed less output from my subwoofer to deliver satisfying low bass.
I've often heard people complain that nearfield listening doesn't give them a complete and fully fleshed-out three-dimensional soundstage. That's not a problem with the GoldenEar Aon 2 speakers. Even when situated less than two feet away on my desktop, the Aon 2 monitors do a convincing disappearing act. When I close my eyes and try to locate the exact location of the speakers, I can't - that's a good indication that the speakers don't suffer from any negative diffraction effects that would limit their ability to image properly. They also do an excellent job of retaining most of a recording's depth information. On my own live convert recordings, most of the stage is well-represented, with only the last back row of musicians homogenized slightly.
For their size, the Aon 2s do a fine job of retaining dynamic contrasts. On extremely dynamic recordings, such as the Toy Matinee's "Last Plane Out," the startle factor on the gunshots was extreme. Micro dynamics through the Aon 2 were pretty good, but not as refined as you would get if you start going up-market in the competitive matrix of more expensive small speakers.
The Aon 2 is fairly efficient, with a published specification of 89 dB with one watt at one meter. Its power handling was very good. At no time, even when playing at maximum levels, did I get any sense that the Aon 2 was compressing dynamics or straining to meet high SPL levels. If you are the kind of listener who is hard on speakers volume-wise, the Aon 2 should fare much better than many smaller and more delicate speakers, such as the Audience "The One."
• The Aon 2s have excellent imaging, even when used nearfield.
• The speakers have wide range dynamic contrast.
• They can be used without a subwoofer for nearfield applications.
• Even a modestly powered amplifier can drive them easily.
• The Aon2s are not quite as extended on upper frequencies as some small monitors.
• The Aon 2s may not be sufficient for a large-sized room.
• For true full-range or home theater applications, the Aon 2s should be mated with a subwoofer.
Competition and Comparison
There are many speakers that can be used as nearfield monitors; practically any small two-way speaker will work. The GoldenEar Aon 2s differ from most of the competition because of their bass extension, courtesy of their two passive woofers. Even the $2,200/pair ProAc Anniversary Tablettes don't have the bass response of the Aon 2s.
The Aon 2 has excellent dynamic contrast, rivaling many full-range room-based speakers. Even when hooked up to a modestly power amplifier, such as the venerable Adcom 535 II, the Aon 2 had a slightly greater jump factor than the self-powered Audioengine A5+, and the Aon 2 could play louder with no signs of strain.
One area where the Aon 2 is not state-of-the-art is low-level definition. Extreme low-level details are not quite as easy to hear as through the Aon 2 as with Audience's "The One" speaker. "The One" also manages to disappear even more completely and generates a more three-dimensional soundstage, but it doesn't have the bass extension or the ability to play as loudly as the Aon 2.
If you are in the market for a pair of speakers for desktop or nearfield listening, the GoldenEar Aon 2 should be on your audition list. It delivers substantial bass extension for a speaker of its size, as well as generating a big, well-defined soundstage. On a desktop, the Aon 2 can play loudly, even when driven by a modestly-powered amplifier. In the audiophile world, these speakers represent a pretty fantastic value, and in a home theater, you are going to be in for a treat. If you need a lot better performance than the Aon 2s, be prepared to buck up at your local stereo shop, as this is one hell of a pair of speakers.