Country of Origin



Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.4, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-6 & SW-8 network switches, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 100Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & EX-M7 stereo; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Vibra 68 footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Kinki Studio Earth; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Sonnet Pasithea; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 60Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Amplifier: Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub on sound|kaos Vibra 68 footers; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Masterclock: LHY OCK-2; Headphones: Final D-8000; Headfi/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: £6'000/pr

Unless I learn otherwise, I suspect that the vent behind the midrange doesn't terminate a port tube but is simply a depressurization bore like a hole in the wall, not a tunnel.

In early November '23 John Darko published a video podcast on his YouTube channel. In it we covered the new Acoustic Energy Corinium speaker. A day after it aired, John got this: "Hi John, just wanted to thank you for covering our Corinium. I must say that Srajan's piece on us was impressively well researched. I can't think off-hand of another example of someone getting all those details together correctly. Do let me know if you want to do more on Corinium or any other product of ours." That was the firm's Mat Spandi. Now I contacted him. His reply was equally chipper. "Great to hear from you. I thought your piece was very well researched and of course you're spot-on about the flow of money and where it ends up. Thanks for building a story around our brand and product. It was really nice. And yes, we'd like to do something on Corinium. You're right saying that it would be easier with John in Berlin since our guy there already has a green pair. In Ireland we have Ken at Zebra Distribution who doesn't as yet have stock. So we need to think about how/when. You might also be interested to know that in the pictures your podcast showed, the mosaics were genuinely Roman and dug up from beneath Cirencester where we headquarter which they called Corinium back when. We thought that was pretty cool." Ice, baby.

Classic single-wire terminals mean no bi-wire expense. Also, these drivers mount to the metal baffle from behind to not show the usual fasteners. The baffle itself of course still needs accessible bolts.

To extract from the podcast, some buyers enjoy supporting their local economy or wider region. Of the UK's 'big four' speaker houses, only Monitor Audio remain British owned; and privately at that. B&W, KEF and Tannoy now belong to umbrella companies in the US, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Acoustic Energy launched in 1987's Ealing/London under Phil Jones who arrived from Vitavox. He became famous for his AE1 monitor which for its time rewrote expectations on what a compact monitor could do for bass, power and SPL. Four years later Jones escaped the infamous Blighty weather for the American colonies. There he promptly authored Boston Acoustics' Lynnfield Project. By 1994 he founded Platinum Audio whose Solo became a quasi next-gen AE1. With further interludes at Soliloquy and AAD, he's helmed Phil Jones Bass since 2002 and now operates a huge Chinese factory in collaboration with Edifier. Back to Acoustic Energy and the UK, by 1994 ownership had transferred to Malaysian OEM company Formosa Prosonic Group. We of course saw similar absorptions by Chinese conglomerate IAG which today owns Audiolab, Castle, Ekco, Leak, Mission, Quad and Wharfedale. It's when AE the brand arguably began to recede from Western perception. Yet 30 years to the month after the founding date so April 3rd 2017, the UK team reacquired AE to once again make it a British-owned brand. Ex Tannoy engineers paralleled this trend by launching the Fyne Audio brand back in Scotland where Linn never left. Now fast-forward to late 2023. Corinium sees the light of day. It's been in R&D for a solid 3 years. That's a quite elephantine gestation period. Its design brief asked to exceed their existing AE520 so the £3'650/pr range topper then. Now the Corinium weighs 10kg more, replaces MDF with HDF up to 45mm thick and lines it internally with a rubber damper, adopts a boat-hull cross section and introduces next-gen drivers and internal matrix bracing.

The general concept is of a 4½" two-way monitor which high up joins a low-sitting dual 5½" sub in a shared cab. That slants rearward by 4° and mounts its four drivers on a 6mm aluminium baffle with vertical speed stripe. The soft-dome tweeter exploits Toray's Tetoron polyester fibre so no longer impregnated classic silk. That's incidentally the same supplier who furnishes Børresen with some of their raw diaphragm materials.

This new lens-loaded tweeter replaces AE's earlier carbon tweeter which itself replaced a still earlier aluminium dome. The material progression reflects the usual chase for lower mass and higher stiffness so extra speed, bandwidth and resolution. The filter hinges of 260Hz and 3'400Hz run 2nd-order slopes but the rear-slot bass tuning is a "non-textbook" alignment to imply an unusually low tuning frequency. It's in fact 28Hz so below room resonance in the type space we'd expect Corinium in. The midrange and woofers are 2nd-gen carbon-fibre AE designs and the bass drivers sum to the equivalent of a 7.9" woofer. That reflects in a 38Hz-25kHz published bandwidth. At 92dB/4Ω, sensitivity is usefully high. Grills attach via magnets. Standard finishes are a teak-like tectona veneer, satin black or white.

For a saucy £1'000 surcharge there's also an extravagant 14-layer high-gloss British Racing Green embracing the brand's renewed origins. As global sales manager Martin Harding put it in an interview, their Asian importer ordered Corinium in all finishes except green. They and their dealer clients didn't know what to make of the hue. I happen to adore it. So does John Darko. Martin also described the company's size as "big enough to cope, small enough to care".

Reading between the lines, I see the Corinium project's aim as raising AE's profile with ambitious but still cost-conscious audiophiles; a quasi rebirth after the Malaysian exile. If you enjoy supporting local or at least regional economies and live in Europe, AE are once again on home turf. Manufacture does remain Chinese. Where that troubles, Harbeth, ProAC or Spendor could be preferred. These are personal sentiments whose best execution relies only on having the right intel.

With B&W's vaunted 800 range we support British manufacture but offshore owners reap the profits. With Monitor Audio we have British ownership with a split UK/Sino team and their own Chinese production line. Only their flagship Hyphn manufactures domestically. With Living Voice's Avatar range we have UK ownership, design + assembly then originally Danish now Slovanian cabinets populated in the Midlands. With AE we get UK ownership + design then Chinese labour so the very concept NAD pioneered a very long time ago. Our world really has become a global village to where the fabulous SB Acoustic drivers are designed in Denmark yet made in Indonesia. These days country-of-origin detectives must dig deep; and even then may not penetrate to the very core of it all when certain EU-branded parts are really OEM'd in Asia.

To many it matters naught in the first place. They simply want the best itch for their hard-earned scratch. If your budget be £6K, could Corinium fit your bills? It's AE's very finest. Pricewise it's all downhill from here. Corinium meanwhile acts as the shiniest beacon of the brand's revitalized ambitions. The views tend to be best from the very top yet trickle-down always promises to eventually benefit the more affordable range. By that metric Corinium is proof of concept for how Acoustic Energy see themselves going forward. This photo from AE Germany taken in Munich last year shows Corinium's size next to staff.

January 24th: "Nice to hear from you. Actually, we were discussing just this week about getting you a pair. It'd probably be the green ones after the Bristol show. They've been with a UK reviewer since before Xmas. He's taking his time so now we're up to Bristol. We've also spoken to Ken from Zebra and he'll help us make it happen. Apologies for the delays. We'll get it done eventually." With the UK show ending February 25th, my date with Corinium looked set for March. March 7th: "I have your speakers ready and am arranging with Ken to get them shipped to Belfast as a first step, then we can work out a schedule to get them to you." By March 11th, a lilting Northern Irish voice was on the phone. Ken confirmed dispatch for the next day, delivery a day or two thereafter. Time to shine up my Roman tile coasters and pour some mead to celebrate coitus Corinium? Given soft-dome plus carbon driver choices, would this be a mellower encounter groomed for pleasure over precision and perspicacity? On the appointed day, DPD's subcontractor with his enormous lorry unloaded the pallet under whose thin weather wrap laid two double-boxed speaker cartons broad side down. Unpacking was a cinch. Each speaker sat in top and bottom foam cradles with a central foam ring in a thin cloth bag. The metal outriggers, pointy footers, floor protectors and four bolts plus one hex key quickly went to work. Then the cartons hibernated in the hifi closet to stay dry for the return trip. I'd gotten the wood veneer which afterwards would decorate Ken's Belfast showroom.