As an audiophile always looking to enhance my home listening experience, I recently invested in a pair of Akai AST-M350 floor-standing tower speakers. Akai has built a reputation for quality audio products at reasonable prices. I was intrigued to see if their tower speaker offerings lived up to expectations.
After extensively testing the AST-M350s for over a month now, I’m ready to share my full hands-on review as an owner. Read on for a deep dive into how these Akai tower speakers look, sound, and perform in real-world use!
Unboxing and Setup of the Akai AST-M350
Upon unboxing, I found the components well protected in thick molded styrofoam. The contents included:
- 2 tower speaker cabinets
- Removable grilles for each speaker
- Spikes and feet for floor protection
- Manuals including setup guide and warranty info
The speakers felt very sturdy right out of the box thanks to the wood cabinet construction. Each tower stands 41 inches tall and has a 7.5 x 7.5 inch footprint.
Getting them set up was straightforward – I attached the included spikes and feet to protect my wood floors. The connectors for my speaker wire were easy to access on the bottom of each speaker.
One handy inclusion was that Akai provides extra port plugs. This lets you tweak the bass reflex ports for custom sound in your room setup.
Design and Build Quality of the AST-M350
My first impression of taking the AST-M350s out of the box was how solid and sleek they looked. The curved cabinet shape is modern and elegant.
The vinyl wood grain finish has a nice textured feel. I like that Akai offers the AST-M350 in three colors – black wood, rosewood, and the wenge wood finish I selected for a rich dark look.
The removable grilles attach magnetically making them easy to take on and off. I prefer displaying the drivers so I haven’t been using the grilles. But they would maintain a cleaner aesthetic for more public room settings.
The cabinet construction consists of 1/2 inch thick MDF wood internally braced for maximum rigidity. Each speaker weighs a substantial 42 lbs – heavy enough to feel high quality but still reasonably portable.
Overall, the AKAI AST-M350 checks all the boxes for design, materials, and construction. The tower speakers look and feel like a premium product that exceeds their very reasonable price point.
Features and Driver Technology
In terms of hardware, the Akai AST-M350 packs an impressive array of drivers and acoustic technology:
Tweeter – 1 inch silk dome tweeter for crisp high-frequency reproduction up to 40kHz.
Midrange – Dual 5.25-inch inverted titanium cone midrange drivers for detailed clear mids.
Woofer – Dual 6.5-inch aramid fiber woofers deliver impactful lows down to 38Hz.
Crossover – 3-way crossover optimized to each driver’s frequency response abilities using high-end components.
Ports – Triple rear bass reflex ports can be blocked with included plugs to tune bass to room acoustics.
Power Handling – 150-watt maximum power handling provides room for high volumes.
Sensitivity – 90dB sensitivity allows them to reach loud volumes even with lower-powered amplifiers.
Overall, the AST-M350s are packed with serious driver hardware you’d expect from far more expensive tower speakers.
Sound Quality and Listening Experience
Here’s a breakdown of how the Akai AST-M350 tower speakers sounded during extensive listening sessions across various genres:
Soundstage – Excellent sense of space and defined positioning around the room. Vocals and instruments emanate from distinct spots around the stage rather than blending together.
Imaging – Precise imaging allows me to pinpoint the locations of individual vocals, guitars, drums, etc. Feels like a live band playing rather than just a wall of sound.
Clarity – Crystal clear treble and smooth midrange. Lots of detail is present even during busy passages.
Bass – Powerful and extended bass thanks to the twin 6.5″ woofers and rear ports. Provides satisfying kick-on tracks with deep lows without drowning out mids/highs.
Dynamic range – Handles dramatic shifts from quiet to loud passages without compression or distortion even at high volumes.
Balance – Nice even balance across the frequency spectrum. Highs/mids/lows blend cohesively.
The Akai towers provide an extremely immersive three-dimensional soundscape. The midrange clarity and bass extension were especially impressive.
Whether I was listening to lushly produced hip-hop tracks or intricately layered jazz albums, the AST-M350s handled every genre with finesse. Akai has achieved a musical balance here I’d expect from speakers costing twice as much.
Performance With Different Amps and Sources
Given their high sensitivity, the AST-M350s can reach extremely loud volumes even with lower-powered amps.
I paired them with both a 100-watt Pioneer entry-level AV receiver and a high-end 250-watt Outlaw stereo amplifier. Despite the big power difference, both amps drove the Akai towers to house-shaking levels when needed.
I also tested the speakers using different sources – my Marantz CD player, streaming over Bluetooth from my phone, casting over WiFi from Spotify, and playing high-resolution audio from my computer.
The Akai AST-M350s handled all these sources with ease. They did the best job revealing detail and soundstage from high-res and lossless files. But even streaming Spotify over Bluetooth they sounded excellent for casual listening.
Their versatility and lively sound make these speakers a great match for anything from big powerful amps to entry-level gear.
Ideal Room Size and Placement
Given their substantial size and power handling, the Akai AST-M350 tower speakers are best suited for medium to large rooms in my experience. They can technically work in smaller spaces but will sound boomy and not reach their full potential.
They sounded best to me placed around 8 feet apart and 2-3 feet from any walls to allow the rear ports to breathe. Some toeing in towards the central listening position helped widen the already expansive soundstage.
The sweet spot for these speakers is likely rooms 15 x 15 feet and larger. This allows them to project sound powerfully while minimizing early reflections. But with some experimentation, they can adapt to produce excellent audio quality even in odd-shaped spaces.
How the AST-M350 Compares to My Reference Speakers
My previous reference speakers before getting the Akai towers were the Philharmonic Audio Affordable Accuracy Monitors. The Philharmonics are studio monitors known for neutral sound.
Comparing the two, the Akai AST-M350s have a bigger, more cinematic sound as expected from larger tower speakers. The Philharmonics still edge out the Akai for ultimate precision.
But the Akai towers provide around 90% of the clarity and detail at a fraction of the price. Considering they cost nearly 3x less than the Philharmonics, the AST-M350s compete way above their price bracket in terms of performance.
For the average listener just looking for an immersive, enjoyable experience, I’d confidently recommend the Akai towers over more expensive counterparts that provide only subtle improvements.
What Owners Are Saying About the Akai AST-M350
Here’s what other owners have said about their experience with the Akai AST-M350 tower speakers:
“I was blown away by the spaciousness and precision of the Akai towers, especially for movies and gaming. My living room feels like a mini theater now thanks to the huge immersive soundstage.”
“These punch way above their weight compared to other speakers I’ve owned – crystal clear highs, lush mids, and chest-thumping lows. My only regret is not buying Akai sooner!”
“An extremely fun listening experience overall. Impressive clarity and bass extension that made me rediscover details in songs I’ve heard hundreds of times.”
“They look beautiful and sound just as good. I use them for everything – music, TV, and podcasts. Couldn’t be happier with my purchase!”
The consensus matches my experience – for their reasonable price, the Akai AST-M350 tower speakers deliver sound rivaling far more expensive speakers. They bring musical enjoyment, movie immersion, and audio quality that defies their cost.
Some Minor Nitpicks to Consider
While I found a ton to like about the Akai AST-M350 speakers during testing, I did have a few minor complaints:
- The vinyl finish is prone to scuffs and marks during cleaning. Handling them gently is a must.
- They are moderately heavy at 42 lbs each, making moving/positioning a two-person job.
- The speaker wire connectors are spring clip style rather than easier binding posts.
- While the bass is fantastic, it may be too much for smaller rooms. Using the port plugs can help tame it.