A5+ Powered Speakers Review
Compact powered speakers deliver excellence in sound and value.
THE HIGH NOTES
- Custom Designed Amp
- All-in-one Design
Company & Product Overview
In less than 10 years time, Audioengine has become one of the most respected manufacturers of computer audio related products. The founders came from both the high-tech and music worlds (Apple and Harmon/Kardon, and Gibson Guitars and Alesis, respectively). This combination has proven stellar for creating innovative products that sound like they cost significantly more than their actual price tag.
Today we are reviewing their best-selling A5+ powered speaker system. We also used their D1 USB DAC/Headphone Amp for enhanced performance. The A5+ is a pair of self-powered speakers designed for desktop use with your computer or a standard audio system.
Design & Build Quality
To put things in perspective, the A5+ is $399 a pair and the D1 is $169. The D1 is even capable of 24/192 for high-resolution music files, meaning this compact system has everything you need in a system for under $600. The Audioengine A5+ comes in three beautiful finishes — black, white, and bamboo.
The A5+ speakers are fairly small at around 11” high, 7” wide, and about 9” deep; and fit pretty well on a desktop. They have two audio inputs (mini and RCA), a variable out for a subwoofer, a USB jack on one speaker to supply power, and a set of speaker connections to wire up the other speaker.
They are also mirror imaged with the tweeter having a left and right dispersion-tuned mount. The tweeter is a silk dome with a 5” Kevlar woofer. Audioengine makes the drivers themselves rather than buying something off the shelf, which ensures better overall sound. The cabinets are finely made from MDF and are quite heavy for their small size.
The amp is an Audioengine proprietary design and uses a toroidal transformer, which is astounding considering their price. One thing that we love about powered speakers is that the designer can perfectly fine tune the amp to the speaker drivers since they know it will uniquely connect to these speakers alone. This affords the designer much more leeway to perfectly align the amp with a single speaker system. Audioengine goes a step further by mounting the amp on a special shock-mounted system to reduce vibrations when.
If you want to get creative, there are a many ways to enjoy the A5+ speakers. Audioengine makes high-quality Bluetooth adaptors so you can stream directly from your device to the speakers.
While we could have connected the A5+ speakers to the analog out of our desktop PC, we decided to use the D1 USB DAC to further test Audioengine’s products. This is a simple DAC with both analog outs and a mini headphone jack. We connected a USB from the computer to the D1 and ran an analog cable from the D1 to the RCA audio input on the speaker.
Once everything was connected, we opened Tidal and proceeded to play some of our favorite tunes. To be honest, we weren’t initially impressed. But we soon realized the type of audio that was bothering our ears is what we typically experience with a brand new speaker and amp that hasn’t had time to break in. So we decided to give them a chance and put Tidal on a long loop to play alone for about 24 hours.
After 24 hours of burn in, we gladly discovered this is both the least expensive system we’ve ever had on our desks for computer audio and by far the best sounding.
The biggest difference between the A5+ speakers and everything we’ve previously tested is the fact that they are a real set of speakers. The sound is well-balanced without the perceived bass bump that I hear in a lot of smaller desktop speakers. Instead of the typical “one-note bass,” these guys have tuneful bass. The highs are silky smooth (no pun intended, considering the silk dome tweeter) and they have incredible stereo imaging.
One of the A5+’s most distinguished features is their sense of rhythm and pacing. Many speaker systems give you great tonal quality but lose that sense of rhythm you’d typically receive from a live performance. We’ve discovered this is easier to accomplish with a powered speaker since it’s designed as a system. When this is done properly, such as Audioengine’s A5+, you can’t help but keep listening.
While most desktop systems shut down if you try to drive them hard, the A5+ plays incredibly loud yet holds everything together, even when pushing them to their max: a truly impressive feat for the money.
Ultimately, we feel the Audioengine A5+ is probably one of the very best values in audio. They work incredibly well as a computer music system or a great starter audio system. We’re even seeing them purchased alongside an entry level turntable and phono stage to create a complete vinyl playback system for under $1000 (well worth twice their price!).
Audioengine’s goal is “to provide a high-end listening experience at affordable prices with easy to use, high-quality products.” These little speakers achieve just that. Whether you’re an audio enthusiast seeking a desktop solution, or you’re just starting to get into higher performance listening, the Audioengine A5+ powered speakers are a great solution.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
We love how these set up on your desk and plug right up to experience incredible sound. Another possible use is to simply put them on either side of a TV and connect up to the TV audio outs to make your TV sound miles better.
With two audio inputs and even a subwoofer output, you can connect up two sources and even add a subwoofer later to have a system rivaling the sound of much more expensive separates. One of the sources could be a feed from your computer or phone while another could be coming from a phono stage connected to your turntable.
Custom Designed Amp
One great advantage of a self-powered speaker, the amp is perfectly matched to the system for the best music reproduction.