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Airpulse A300

Active Monitors
By Phil Ward

Airpulse A300

The Airpulse brand may be new to you but they're a company with some serious pedigree, as these unusual monitors prove.

I happened upon this active monitor at a hi-fi exhibition last Summer, and a few things about it struck me as unusual. Firstly, even in the typically unhelpful environment of an exhibition hotel room, it seemed to possess a noticeably explicit quality to its mid‑range. Secondly, when I read the brochure I discovered that its bass/mid driver boasts an 'underhung' voice coil; and thirdly, the brochure also revealed that it was designed by Phil Jones, who founded Acoustic Energy and was behind the original Acoustic Energy AE1, as well as the Phil Jones Bass brand.

Before I go on to explain the whats and whys of an underhung voice coil, I suspect you might be wondering who Airpulse are, and what the A300 is. The answer to the first question is that Airpulse are part of a company called American Acoustic Development. AAD have a partnership agreement with Chinese speaker company Edifier, with whom they share R&D and manufacturing facilities. Edifier market audio products in the Far East and US under their own brand, and they also own the high-end Stax electrostatic headphone company. Airpulse have had some visibility in the US market for a while, and now seem to be working to raise their profile in both the pro monitor and consumer speaker sectors in the UK and Europe. As I write, the A300 is available in the UK primarily via a well‑known online retail site named after a major South American river, but distribution through pro audio retailers is, I'm told, part of the plan.

Box Clever

As for the A300, it's a relatively large and surprisingly heavy rear‑ported, two‑way nearfield monitor comprising a 165mm anodised aluminium‑cone bass/mid driver and a horn‑loaded 65 x 12mm transformer‑loaded ribbon tweeter. The dust cap on the bass/mid driver has a conical form that's notably reminiscent of that on Phil Jones' original AE1 unit. The port is generously flared on both entry and exit, but is of relatively small diameter, which suggests a relatively low tuning frequency. The cabinet work is from unusually thick and internally braced MDF panels, finished in lacquered wood veneer and satin black paint. The cabinet feels and sounds suitably rigid under the knuckle-rap test.

Around the back of the A300, things begin to diverge a little from the norm because not only does the A300 sport an unusual range of inputs, but it incorporates all the electronics and amplification for both monitors of the pair within one enclosure — nominally the right-hand unit. The reason for doing this is probably that it makes implementation of the A300's Bluetooth connectivity easier. With all the electronics in one monitor, a connection is obviously required between the pair, and that's achieved on the A300 with a 5m DIN‑terminated cable. Now, I had no problems with the cable and its plugs, but I do think the decision to use DIN for a speaker power-amp connection is questionable. DIN sockets and plugs are a fine connection system for line‑level signals, but they were never designed to carry this level of power, and to my mind there are many better alternatives — the Neutrik Speakon for example.

The Bluetooth input enables wireless connection and audio streaming from appropriately equipped desktop, laptop and mobile devices. Clearly, Bluetooth streaming is not a make-or-break feature for music production work, but it's a useful thing to have. A perfect example for me was when my daughter came home from school one afternoon raving about a piece of music she'd found on Spotify. It was so...

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UK/EU/World edition: December 2017

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Published May 2019