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Audioengine A2 Powered Computer Speakers

November, 2007

Adrian Wittenberg

 

Specifications:

● Design: Two-Way with Built-in Amplifier
● Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One
   2.75" Kevlar Woofer
● MFR: 65 Hz - 22 kHz
2 dB
● Inputs: One 1/8" Stereo Mini-jack, One
   RCA
● Dimensions: 6" H x 4" W x 5.25" D
● Weight: 6.6 Pounds/Set
● MSRP: $199

Audioengine

Introduction

From watching DVDs, listening to MP3 music collections, or playing the latest video games, many people are using their computers for a variety of multimedia applications these days.

Add to that the growing portable music player market, where almost everybody nowadays seems to have an iPod an iPhone, a Zen, a Zune, or something tiny like a nano, and it is easy to see why the active speaker market has been expanding in leaps and bounds.

As of now there are many units available with more hookups for portables and more designs that accommodate surround sound cinema than ever before. That being said, while we are willing to spend money on dedicated home theater rooms, most of us want great sound on our desktops without spending a lot of money on bulky plastic speakers or cheap plastic subwoofers that fit somewhere underneath a desk - a place where one might stub his toe.

Back in 2006, Audioengine impressed me greatly with their A5 multimedia speakers. Although they were a little big for my desk, they really had clean balanced sound and sported some really cool features for portable MP3 players. After reviewing the speakers, I bought them for my personal use and I have been completely satisfied ever since. Therefore, when Audioengine contacted me about reviewing their latest model, the A2, I was intrigued in experiencing it firsthand.

The Design

In a nutshell, the A2 was designed to retain the majority of the sound qualities of its big brother the A5, minus some of the bulk and price. It doesn't feature the extra AC plug-in or the USB charging port that was seen on the A5s, but their appearance is very similar.

With smooth rounded corners, a quality gloss finish, and controls placed on the back, the A2s look sleek, classy, and are compact enough to fit on any office or home desk. The A2 is a two-way design utilizing 2.75" Kevlar woofers and the same 20mm silk-dome neodymium magnet tweeters that are used on the A5s.

The left speaker houses a dual class A/B monolithic amplifier and provides the 15 watts RMS/channel power for both speakers. The A2s are about one third the size of the A5s, and each speaker measures 4" wide by 6" tall by 5.24" deep.

Unlike many speakers in this category, the A2s are crafted using 18mm thick MDF and have a hand polished finish. There is a slotted port on the front of the speaker that helps tune the bass response. There are two inputs on the back of the left speaker: a 1/8" stereo mini-jack and a single RCA input. One can use any sound source that works with these types of connections, and Audioengine gives you a full set of cables included in the box. You'll be ready to go right after you receive your order.

Setup and Listening

For this review, I used my computer and an iPod as the main audio sources, and I auditioned music and movies. This was an easy system to set up. It was a matter of plugging in the power source and connecting the audio cable from my computer to the input on the back of the unit. I found the best setup on my desk was two and a half feet apart, toed inwards about 150. Most of my listening was conducted in this near-field environment as I sat at my desk. However, I also found the A2s performed well from further back, and they provided my room with rich ambience.

Although these are active speakers and one wouldn't expect to have a profound listening experience at one's computer, the quality was high enough that listening at my desk was very enjoyable. I'd say that what makes these speakers stand out in their category is that they produce excellent clarity, rich treble, and a balance that includes tight and punchy bass.

I started by listening to a few various styles of music on the A2s to get a feel for their tonal balance. In styles such as hip hop, bluegrass, rock and roll, and jazz, the sound was consistently produced with a full-ranged response that left me satisfied.

For example, on hip-hop artist Kanye West's album Graduation, the A2s pumped out sound that was full of tight punchy bass, smooth but forward midrange, and crisp treble. Now I'm not saying the bass of these cuboid speakers are going to shake your floors, but hearing a track like "Flashing Lights", which features a rolling bass hit, it was hard to believe that the bass response was produced without the use of a supplementary subwoofer.

Switching gears - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss have produced a new duo album called Raising Sand, with elements of bluegrass, folk, and country rock. Here, the A2s reproduced both performers' voices wonderfully with smooth and comforting tones that had no sharp edges or nasally twangs. The speakers filled the room with an ambience where the whispering lyrics from the vocalists were delivered effortlessly and were chock full of texture and depth. Also, the instruments were delivered with authority and they rested comfortably in their own layers behind the vocals. This gave my desktop the feeling of a soundstage; this is something you won't likely find happening on most of the plastic speakers that crowd the active speaker market.

When I switched gears again to view the movie Star Wars Episode II, the sound was full and enveloping. Laser beams had a bite to them, and dialogue was exceptionally clean. In the scene "The Jedi Council" at 1:06:48 - 1:09:45, the seismic charges had a good midrange presence, and while I didn't expect the bass output to give a lot of oomph to explosions and such, it did have a punchy attack. The sound quality was high enough to get the adrenaline flowing.

Conclusions

The A2s are another quality offering from the camp at Audioengine and which stand out amongst their alternatives with refined sound and classy appearance. They deliver audio cleanly with a full range sound, and whether enjoying some Miles Davis, watching the new Transformers DVD, or just blasting away at enemies of a video game, the A2s deliver in spades.

You would be hard pressed to find an active speaker system that could give better sound quality for your portable player or computer at this price and size. Given that Audioengine offers a 30 day risk free trial and a three year warranty, there's little reason not to experience these on your own.
 

- Adrian Wittenberg -

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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