In Stevenson, Maryland, GoldenEar Technology make affordable loudspeakers with a difference. Each model in their Triton and Aon ranges features a ribbon tweeter; a technology usually the preserve of pricier loudspeakers. Down under, the Aon 2 sell for AU$1345/pair. Stateside you can pick them up for US$400 each. Each speaker ships in its own box.
Formerly of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, Sandy Gross’ High Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR™) tweeter is the key that unlocks GoldenEar’s Aon (and Triton) spooky holography. “The HVFR™ tweeter functions by pressurizing the air, rather than pushing and pulling it”, runs the promotional/expositional website copy. The Aon 2 standmount’s imaging is so good it easily exceeds sticker price expectations. Yes, the illusion of soundstaging is taller and deeper than that of the all-conquering KEF LS50. Music seems to exist in its own space, seemingly independent of the truncated pyramids making it happen.
Getting speccy: 89db sensitivity (nice), 8 Ohm nominal impedance (also nice), 6” mid/bass driver flanked by two side-firing 6.5” passive radiators (unusual), all-wrapped in a sock grille, topped and toed by plastic caps that aim to ape ‘piano gloss’. The wraparound grille sock isn’t for (re)moving. The piano gloss isn’t as sumptuous as the aforementioned KEF or John Blue JB3. Atypically, GoldenEar’s own product shots do the Aon 2 more aesthetic justice than they deserve.
I hope my own photographs show that if you’re getting a more deluxe (read: costly) tweeter type, compromises must be made elsewhere. For me, these compromises of appearance are more than worth it. The Aon 2 sound exquisite. They’re a small portion of the sweetest dessert.
It’ll probably come as no surprise that the magic works itself from top of the frequency range, downwards. The treble is lit-up but pebble-smooth. It never grates or gets on your nerves. Insight is the name of the Aon 2 game (even if low-end impact isn’t). Textural information rides in on the back of bucketloads of detail.
The Aon’s HVFR tweeter really turns up the spotlight on the upper midband and high frequencies. That’s a mixed blessing for vinyl spinners. Surface noise shows up larger than life. Low’s most raucous effort, The Great Destroyer, sounds considerably better on vinyl than it does on CD (rip) but the Aon 2 ensures no pop or click gets away unnoticed. If your record needs cleaning, you’ll know it.
Conversely, playing a near-mint copy of Portishead’s debut really shows off the Aon 2’s strengths: superb depth, ladder-to-the-sky airiness and a pellucid midrange. Synth-lines soar freely and percussion snaps (into place) without obfuscation. Cymbals shimmer and shine in a way that you’d be hard-pushed to find in a similarly-priced dome-tweetered box. The GoldenEars’ clarity with voices is almost unparalleled at this price point. They take you through the looking glass and into the heart and soul of the recording.
Getting real. Bass goes deep enough for a standmount – it’s agile and bouncy but a light-on with impact. The Aon 2 aren’t the weightiest of speaker around; they’re just too polite to shine in larger rooms and lack the overall drive and heft of the KEF LS50. You can’t push them too hard with bass-y electronica either. Slowly elevating the SPLs on the ambient-techno throb of Rencondite’s “Rise” brought forth signs of low-frequency distortion (mid/bass cone “break-up”).
The smallest of listening environments is where the Aon 2 really shine. The moulded ‘feet’ on the base nudges them toward desktop or bookshelf positioning. The Aon 2 won’t pound the desk or shelf with bass reverberation and their transparency means their appeal to bedroom DJ-ing and pro-amateur mix-monitoring is unshakeable. My time with these mini-monitors often recalled 47Labs’ Lens (AU$3500-ish). Those who’ve heard the Japanese single-driver box will know that is the high praise indeed.
Sandy Gross’ Aon 2 were then compared to one of the gold standards of small room standmounts: the ProAc Tablette Reference 8. Turning up the heat were two more ProAc words: Signature Edition. The ProAcs showed greater bounce and dynamics but the Aon 2 offered a far smoother treble, contrasting the ProAc as fizzy up top. I also preferred the midrange of the Aon 2. They connoted the best sense of window-on-the-world transparency of the two. Allowing each pair a turn in my secondary listening space (bedroom, 4m x 5m), the ProAcs agitated room nodes – predominantly in the mid-bass – but didn’t get into a flap with the lowest notes of UK bass music as (previously noted) with the Aon 2. The GoldenEar mini monitors proved to be much better suited this smaller room.
A quick word on amplifier choices: a little bit of power goes a long way. I enjoyed excellent price-appropriate results with both the Wadia 151PowerDAC Mini and the NAD D 3020 (AU$699). Each of these PCM/PWM digital-driving designs are sufficiently clean up top and have enough current delivery to ensure a nicely polished presentation. The Wadia just nudged out the NAD in terms of overall refinement. Loudspeakers with a less-revealing top end might render this amplifier stand-off more even Stevens. Without wanting to seem like I’ve got a thing for ‘digital’ all-in-ones, also consider Peachtree’s Decco65 whose tube buffer might soften, fatten.
If you’re a fan of driving less costly loudspeakers with proportionally more expensive electronics (as I am), know that the rewards in doing so with the Aon 2 are many. Red Wine Audio Signature 57’s superior tonal colour and saturation is immediately noticeable; a considerably more enjoyable listening experience than the aforementioned Wadia and NAD, as well it should be at US$4k.
Thanks to GoldenEar’s special tweeter technology, music is relayed without curdle or congeal; in the context of the RRP, the Aon 2’s handling of separation and space is in a class of its own. There’s an abundance of nuance and flair when spinning everything from Biosphere to Kate Bush. Three words to bottle the Aon 2’s essence: clean, spacious, engaging. Placed in an appropriately sized listening space and avoiding the bassiest of electronica, the GoldenEar Aon 2 will reward with true emotional communication every time they’re fired up. If you find yourself tight for space in your listening room the Aon 2 should be number one on your go to list. (And the slightly larger Aon 3 should be number two). Meticulously delightful.
- Antipodes DS Music server
- Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB cable
- Wyred4Sound uLink
- Re-plinthed Lenco L75
- PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter
- Wadia 151PowerDacMini
- NAD D 3020
- Biosphere – N-Plants (2010)
- Kate Bush – The Hounds Of Love (1985)
- Recondite – Hinterland (2013)
- Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings And Food (1978)
- Billy Bragg – Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy (2013 remaster)
- David Byrne and Brian Eno – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (1981)