Review: Audio Note AN-E SE Speaker

Category: Speakers

Personal Background
Thirty-one years of trying to fine a satisfying speaker The first speakers I owned were stacked Advents then I heard a pair of quad 57s and I had to have them. So for a few years I tried to fine something better that would also give me volume and bass. I purchased a second pair and stacked them. I tried without success to add a sub.

Then I got married and we moved and there was no place for the monoliths so I begin down the line of mini monitors. I tried Spenders, Rogers, Clestions, Spicas, and some others that I don?t remember. They weren?t quads, but my biggest disappointment was that neither were the 63s my cup of tea. I really liked the CLSs but never could convince myself to buy a pair. Then I tried several model of Klipsch, they had the magic I missed but they weren?t coherent with the bass drivers and could be harsh at times. The speakers I had settle on were the Gershman Avant Gaurds and then it happened I heard a pair of the Audio Note Speakers. You?ve got to move up above the bottom of the line, I settled on the pair of AN-E SEs that cost $8400 and I?m happier then I have been in 30 years of audio.

Speaker Description
The AN-E SEs are a 2-way rear ported enclosure with 1" tweeter and a 8" bass driver. They are 94.5dB efficient with Audio Note AN-SPx silver speaker cable, Audio Note solid silver wired inductors with Black Gate capacitors and Audio Note copper foil adjusters in an all round veneered cabinet with MDF wrap and Russian birch plywood front and back. My pair has the optional piano black finish.

Review System Setup
The speakers were set on two 10-inch high, lead and sand filled steel speaker stands that AN supplies for an additional $300. Between the speaker and the stand you place blue tack, it works amazingly well. The stand elevated the speaker to the point where my ears were parallel to the tweeter. As Peter recommends the speakers were place in the corners about 3 inches from the rear wall. They sound great out in the room, (and even the rep uses then that way) but to get the full glory from them they need to be in the corners. If you like me have been listening to speakers several feet out into the room at first this is a hard change but it?s psychological. The truth is the music is in the same place in my room the speakers just moved. Now I can?t imagine why anyone would want speakers sticking out there like that when it?s not necessary for a lifelike soundstage. If you have been listening to large panels or horns then you are already use to this and know it is more lifelike then the small precise pinpoint imaging that I use to love so much before I was set free to let the music with all it?s emotions come into my home almost like it does in person.

Review Equipment
Audio Note Conqueror SET Amp 8 Watts per channel or the
WAVAC MD 300B SET Amp 10 Watts per channel, transformer coupled, WE tubes use in both amps.
Audio Note M5 Transformer coupled preamp
Sony 777es SACD player modified by Kern with Super clock II and power supply, blackgate caps and vashay resistors.
All cable and power cords Audience AU 24 and one of JC Audio?s ISO on each piece of equipment.

The Sound
Nothing prepares you for the sound of these speakers. They look mundane, even in the beautiful finishes Peter offers. They are so traditional, a two way ported box. They aren?t especially heavy, and the drivers look quite ordinary. Then there is the break in. WARNING: THEY SOUND BAD RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX, better after 100 hours, good after 200 and they keep getting better for weeks.

Oh but that sound that comes out of a well broken in well set up pair of these is beyond my words. It stirs my emotions and it is easy on the ears. How do they sound? In reviewing the $3000 AN-E Ls I said they sounded ?More like live music than any speaker I have ever heard. If positioned correctly and mounted right they load a room better than a Rel subwoofer. After breaking in and with my Kern modified Sony 777 SACD or with one of Audio Notes new transformer coupled dacs or with records they sound more like my Quad 57s than any other speaker I have ever owned at any price. They have the clearest, quickest, and most beautiful midrange I have ever heard. Vocals and instruments are just there with all there dynamics and with unbelievable tonal accurateness. The bass is quick and dynamic and so deep it will blow your mind from such mundane looking speakers. The top end is just beautiful like real music is. Most important these speakers let you emotionally into the pace and rhythm of the music. They are one of the few speakers that are dynamic enough for orchestral or big band music and refined enough for a small jazz quartet or a string trio.?

You can just take all of that and multiply it by 10. With either the Audio Note Conquerer or the WAVAC MD 300B. They are just so much fun to listen to. I wish I could have listen to them with a set of Audio Note Quest Silver Sigs but with the WAVAC they had the most unbelievable way of letting you here the textures of music.

Most often when people say speakers disappear they are referring to imaging. And that could be said here but these speakers disappear in a totally different way. They just aren?t part of the music. It is beyond what I have come to think of as transparency and clarity. It just sounds like they are there in the room with you.

These speakers let you hear all the glory of what it is that so excites people about SET Amps. They also have rhythm and timing that is uncanny in how lifelike they let music be in your room.

The bass may not be what you would get from a column of woofers with and active built in 1000 watt amp, but the bass is deep, quick, nimble and tuneful. Just listen to some Ray Brown and you will know what I mean.

They have that old magic of the quads and the dynamics of the Klipsch and all the bass you want down to around 30 in my room. Just pair them with a great SET and they bring a miracle into your room. I asked Peter how did he get a pair of Snell Es to energize a room like a pair of large stats or horns and he reminded me that only the dimensions of the cabinet are the same as the Snells. Well all I can say is they don?t look like much for the money but they sound like everything I?ve been looking for, for 30 years and they don?t have to stick out 6 feet into the room.

What I am telling you is that these two ways give me what I was looking for 30 years ago when I started putting ribbons and subs on the Quads. They give me a seamless full range sound as dynamic as the Klispch I owned and as delicate as the Quads.

Associated gear
Sony 777es SACD Player with Kern Mods
Audio Note Conqueror, WAVAC MD 300B
Audio Not M5 Preamp
An ISO on each pieceo of electronics
All Audience AU 24 cables

Similar products
Klispch Speakers
Audio Note AN-E L
Gershman Avante Gaurd
Silver Note speakers

I use a pair of Audio Note ANk/L speakers that cost me 650 used and they sound damned good. I recently sold a pair of ANJ/L speakers (new house is too small for floor standing speakers of this size so they had to go) and they sounded wonderful with my Audio Note amp and no subwoofer; plenty of good bass.

The L level speakers give you a lot more bang for the buck than the top of the line SP speakers. Yes, the SP speakers are better but not by the magnitude of cost. The L speakers are a relative bargain and sound wonderful.
Yeah, I'm one of those who would never think to check out speakers like this...I mean, $8K+ for an 8" 2-way in a plain box? Then again, the sound is the thing - and besides, I always *liked* the Snell E's... :-) Enjoy!
Nice review.
I have owned the AN/E SEC silvers for about 9 months now and you have done a great job of capturing the essence of these speakers.
I tried really hard not to like these speakers because I just couldn't believe they do what they do...they look so nondescript! But as they say..your ears don't lie.
These boxes really bring the truth and the closest experience to live music I have heard from any speaker. Of course I have not heard them all but have owned and heard many (quad 57's among them...I still use these in a second system).
Since learning about and purchasing these speakers I have been surprised that so few know and talk about them. Perhaps it is their understated appearance in an era of ever more complex cabinets and designs. But as you so aptly state, these really bring home the music and that is all that matters to me.
Thanks for a nice review.
Two things I should have added about the speakers.

1. The scale with with they present the music. I have to look over at the small speakers. It's hard to believe they arn't large horns, or towering plainers or large towers of tweeters and woffers.

2. Non audiopiles are always more impressed with this system than any other I have ever owned.