On paper, the AirPulse A100s are great speakers. The ribbon tweeters should provide better transient response and extended frequency range compared to a traditional tweeter setup. In addition to that, the A100’s mid-woofer is designed with a hard anodised aluminium alloy cone, suspended in a rigid cast magnesium alloy frame. The 35mm voice coil is said to be larger than most speakers in this size-range, which will provide a boost to dynamic range. Of course, that is all without mentioning the XMOS XU216 chip, which shapes the audio signal to remove distortion as it is fed through.
The A100 uses two Class-D amplifiers, one for the horn-loaded ribbon tweeter and another for the mid-woofer. These amps support up to 192KHz input sample rates and can output even higher, making these very suitable for the highly sensitive ribbon tweeters. Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into the design of these speakers and tuning them correctly but how are they in practise?
For my listening tests, I used a few different high-quality tracks chosen to really push the speakers. The list includes:
- Times of Grace – The Forgotten One: This is one of my favourite acoustic songs. It is wonderfully produced and builds up nicely over the course of the track, resulting in a wonderful final chorus with different vocal layers, harmonies and layered guitars.
- London Grammar – Stay Awake: This song was chosen for its balance of piano, acoustic guitars and drums. There is a great range of high and low frequencies all coming together, which can be tough for some speakers to keep up with.
- Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart – God In The Beginning: This is the most obscure track in the list but it acts as a good torture track, particularly where bass is concerned.
Once properly set up with the speakers around 1-metre away from the wall and spread just over 1 metre apart, the A100s really shine. Throughout listening tests, I found the speakers offer an extremely clear, bright sound while not getting too brittle or fatiguing at the top-end.
The ribbon tweeters in particular are worth pointing out. These provide fine details at the top-end, which is especially noticeable in acoustic tracks. The mid-woofers provide a full, warm sound without allowing bass to become overpowering. The crossover to the tweeter is smooth too, creating an excellent balance across frequencies.
Ideally, you want a good amount of space between a pair of stereo speakers but the AirPulse A100s are shaped in a way that allows for a wide sound without the need to space them apart that far. High frequencies are dispersed well, which increases the listening angle, meaning you don’t have to be dead in the centre to fully appreciate them. This is a symptom of good design, with the internal amp processing audio in a way that accommodates for the small cabinet enclosures, allowing the AirPulse A100s to compete with speakers outside of its bookshelf size-class.
In terms of volume, the AirPulse A100s can get very loud, to the point where you could easily fill a large room. In fact, at higher volumes, I could feel the vibrations even without a subwoofer, which is a sure way to annoy the neighbours!
These speakers were primarily tested over an aux cable and hooked up to a PC. However, I did also test out the optical connection. Switching over to an optical cable will enhance quality further with support for 192KHz but you’ll need high-quality lossless tracks to really appreciate this. If you were going to have these set up full time for serious listening, or as part of a home theatre set up, then optical would be the way to go in order to get the most out of them.