HD6 Powered Speakers Review
A complete audio system that you'll never outgrow.
THE HIGH NOTES
- Built-in Mono Block Amps
- Versatile Connectivity
- Custom Made Drivers
Company & Product Overview
If you are familiar with Audioengine, you’re aware they offer some of the best values on the market in computer audio speakers. Audioengine came to life in 2005 when a couple of friends with previous work at Apple, Alesis, Gibson Guitar, and Harman/Kardon joined together to design a new category of speakers specific to playing digital files stored on computers. The concept was to provide everything necessary in a simple package of 2 speakers; simply connect them to your computer to enjoy music with ease.
The A5 powered speaker was Audioengine’s debut model, followed up by the A2, and later “+” versions of both models. The A5+ is considered by many to be a reference value in computer speakers.
Audioengine’s newest model, the HD6, encompasses a culmination of what they have learned over the years, and is also a bit of a departure from traditional desktop computer speakers. The HD6s are physically large and contain everything you need for a complete audio system.
Design & Build Quality
First, let’s examine the Audioengine speaker line up. It begins with the P4 which is a nice yet small and passive speaker. Just like any conventional speaker, it requires an amplifier. You then step up to the A2+ or A5+, which contain an amp specifically designed for the speaker itself and the ability to connect with a pair of analog audio cables. Audioengine developed a custom audio DAC, the D1, for this purpose, as well as the B1 Bluetooth receiver should you prefer the wireless route.
With the HD6, Audioengine combined most of the features from the D1 and B1 into a new, much larger speaker system. Better yet, the HD6 is not only an incredible desktop speaker but we consider it a serious contender as a bookshelf or stand mounted speaker for a true high performance audio system. We believe the HD6 could be the most versatile powered speaker on the market today.
Taking a closer look at the HD6 you’ll see it’s almost 12” tall by about 7” wide and 10” deep. There are threaded inserts on the bottom for securing it to a speaker stand. The acoustically inert MDF cabinet has an optional veneer wrap available in walnut or cherry. If you prefer a more stealth design, black is also an option. The furniture grade veneers are exceptionally made and comparable to speakers costing 3-4 times as much. All the features, including stunning magnetic grills, are inside the left speaker, which you plug into AC power then run the included speaker wire over to the right speaker.
Like every Audioengine product we’ve tested, the HD6 is thorough in its musical abilities. Specifically, it offers clean defined bass notes that have you tapping your foot to the music on a rhythmic track.
Since the HD6 is designed to be a serious bookshelf or stand mounted speaker you may feel overwhelmed if placed on your desk or if you are only a couple of feet from them. We tested multiple ways and found they provide the best sound when used on a bookshelf or stand mounted fashion. This seems to open them up and they sound most effortless when listened to from a distance of at least 4-5 feet. Also, we encourage you to take some time to play around with the placement in the room.
The bass goes as deep as some of our favorite $1000 speakers (and those need an amp!) while the highs are silky smooth. We achieved the best results from them as we would with any quality set of bookshelf speakers: mounted on a solid speaker stand placed a couple inches from the wall. Set up this way, you’ll receive a wide soundstage that will make you wonder how Audioengine was able to pull this off for only $749/pair.
For many, the HD6 can replace all of their components with a single pair of speakers. If offers multiple connection options for computer audio, television, and even turntables with the addition of a small phono stage. We wholeheartedly endorse the HD6 as a complete stereo system you’ll immensely enjoy.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
Built-in Mono Block Amps
If powered speakers are properly thought out, they can have many advantages over a normal speaker. Every speaker driver (the woofer and tweeter) have certain electrical characteristics they present to an amplifier that vary greatly from speaker to speaker. Makers of amplifiers have to design them to handle just about any type of speaker load. However, in the case of a powered speaker, the designer only has to worry about one set of drivers. This makes it much easier to develop a power amp that makes the drivers perform to perfection. With the HD6, there is even a single amp for each speaker!
Most powered speakers simply have an audio input. The HD6, however, has the best of both their D1 DAC and B1 bluetooth receiver. In addition to the analog audio inputs there is an optical input which connects up internally to a 24/192 DAC just like the one found in the D1. This allows you to take digital files from a computer and do the conversion inside the speaker instead of at the computer for improved audio performance. If you want to stream to the HD6, it's no problem! Audioengine’s B1 aptX Bluetooth receiver is built in. aptX is a far better way to enjoy bluetooth streaming than conventional bluetooth as it has significantly less compression and a larger area of coverage. As a matter of fact, when we tested the bluetooth range we got up to 100 feet with no walls in between, which is extremely impressive. Finally, the HD6 has a set of subwoofer outlets should you ever choose to add one on.
Custom Made Drivers
Rather than sourcing the woofer and tweeter from one of the many off the shelf driver houses around the world, Audioengine develops and makes their own. The 5.5” Kevlar bass driver sits in a cast aluminum basket. Most speakers in this price category use a stamped basket that is not nearly as rigid to hold the woofer properly and let it do its job, especially as you crank things up. Cast woofer baskets cost far more, but are worth it if you are serious about sound. The 1” silk dome tweeter is also a custom Audioengine design. It uses powerful neodymium magnets like you typically find on $1000+ speakers and has a wonderful smooth sound.