If you love analog, you will be happy to know Rega as a great selection of British made amplifiers to power your dream system. In this comparison, we look at the io, Brio, and Elex-R. All of these have a great moving magnet phono preamp and that classic Rega sound music enjoyed by music lovers all over the world....
A1 Wireless Speaker System Review
Ultra-convenient powered bookshelf speakers with studio-quality sound.
THE HIGH NOTES
- All-In-One Compact Design
- 100ft Of Wireless Bluetooth Freedom
- AptX For CD-like Sound Quality
Company & Product Overview
Ever since Audioengine launched its first powered speaker in 2005, the company has been laser-focused on creating great-sounding products that are easy to use. Today, Audioengine makes a complete line of products that deliver professional studio monitor sound right to your living room or workspace without the hassle of multi-component stereo receivers or big clunky passive speakers. The all-in-one Audioengine A1 Wireless is one of the newest products to deliver studio-quality sound.
Audioengine aspires to change the way people listen to music. The company was founded by two music fans who each have worked at the crossroads of technology and musical instruments. The founders, Brady Bargenquast and Dave Evans want to inspire you to listen to music every single day. Their backgrounds at Apple, Gibson Guitars, and Harmon/Kardon have helped the company create products that inspire people. With their deep knowledge in technology and musical instrument building, the founders created Audioengine to help people discover more music and appreciate it with the best sound quality.
Audioengine products have been recognized as being easy to set up and convenient to use. The all-new Audioengine A1 Wireless Speaker System, featured in today’s review, certainly doesn’t disappoint.
We’ve had the pleasure of reviewing several Audioengine products before they were released, including the A2+ and the A5+ Wireless powered speakers. So, when we received an unreleased wireless speaker system from Audioengine to test and review again, we were intrigued.
The all-new Audioengine A1 Premium Wireless bookshelf speakers are a compact yet powerful all-in-one speaker system outfitted with the latest-and-greatest Bluetooth 5.0 spec and support for aptX too. The new speaker system will also accept audio input from a 3.5mm mini-plug from a turntable or a TV, and it will allow you to connect a subwoofer. We can’t wait to tell you more about how it performs as a desktop or tabletop speaker system and as a work from home setup.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
As an all-in-one bookshelf speaker setup, the new Audioengine A1 Wireless powered speakers are the same size as the award-winning A2+ Wireless. The enclosure stands 6 inches tall, 4 inches wide, and 5 1/4 inches deep with a horizontal venting port on the lower facade right below the woofer.
The attention to detail and build quality is immediately apparent with the new A1. Similar to the more expensive A2+, the A1 wireless speaker is constructed with custom-designed components and a well-constructed cabinet. The speaker features a 2 3/4 inch Aramid fiber woofer complemented with a 3/4 inch silk dome tweeter. The built-in Dual Class D power amps are wrapped inside precision-tuned cabinets that are designed at the company’s Austin, Texas facility.
As with most Audioengine products, the small size of the new A1 Wireless will not disappoint. The left speaker weighs around 4 pounds and the right speaker weighs close to 3 pounds. The small compact size of this setup makes this the perfect go-to system for a tabletop in a living room, bedroom, or a desktop scenario for any office space.
When we removed these speakers from their packaging, we noticed their simple look. Similar to the A2+, the new A1 Wireless speakers are sleek. They feature a minimalistic look with rounded corners that will also fit in with the style of any desk and room.
Our test unit arrived in a dark matte gray color that blended nicely with a wide variety of workstations and open living spaces. We like the studio monitor look of the new A1 without the grill. With a turntable or a computer positioned between a pair of A1 Wireless’s, you will have a professional-looking studio monitor setup that will impress any music fan.
In the box, there’s a male mini-jack to male RCA adapter cable included. This can be used with turntables that have a built-in phono stage. We think this is a great addition for anyone who's getting interested in turntables.
The left speaker houses the amplifier, volume control, and output and input connections. On the rear panel, there's a volume control knob, a push-button switch to toggle the aptX Bluetooth pairing mode on or off, a 3.5mm mini-plug input to connect a laptop, cellphone, portable music player or turntable, an output for connecting a subwoofer, and a set of speaker connections to wire up the right speaker. No USB input needed here. Bluetooth takes care of things. Once you get the left speaker all connected, you simply run the speaker wire to the right speaker, plug in the included power supply and you’re ready to rock ’n roll.
Features & Technology
What sets the new A1 apart is the addition of the latest-and-greatest Bluetooth 5.0. This gives the A1 a wireless operating range of up to 100ft! Not only will the A1 work much farther away from your sound source, but Bluetooth 5.0 will also let you stream the same audio source to multiple Bluetooth headphones or portable Bluetooth speakers simultaneously.
Bluetooth 5.0 is also more efficient than previous iterations of the technology. So, it will conserve the battery life of any Bluetooth device you pair with the A1. Even though the A1 plugs into a power outlet, Bluetooth 5.0 is a major upgrade that will help your phone's battery last longer.
Audioengine didn’t stop here when it built a wireless speaker packing the latest Bluetooth iteration. They stepped it up by optimizing the Bluetooth for the best audio quality too. To achieve this, Audioengine uses Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth technology inside the A1 Wireless. AptX is special because it’s designed to sound substantially better than standard Bluetooth — think music that’s more detailed with tighter bass and clearer mid-range.
In terms of playback, the A1 Wireless will let you Bluetooth music directly to the speaker system from your audio source with native playback up to 16 bit/48Khz — higher than CD-quality. AptX ensures you are getting the most from your music.
The only downside with aptX is that it requires a device that is compatible with aptX to hear the full potential. Currently, the iPhone does not support aptX, but the majority of Android smartphones and tablets are compatible. Even though aptX hasn’t been adopted by Apple, they can still play and connect with regular Bluetooth. On the other hand, iPhone users will benefit by freeing up their phones and using almost any laptop to stream music instead.
At Audio Advice, Audioengine’s compact desktop speakers have been a big hit with our customers. We find most people use bookshelf and desktop speakers with computer setups. However, since the A2 series was released alongside the revival of vinyl, we’ve noticed an uptick in people using Audioengine bookshelf speakers with entry-level turntables too.
After we allowed ours to break in with a 3.5mm stereo mini-plug connected to a laptop, we were impressed with the A1 — especially the stereo imaging. Next, we tried the A1 in a few different scenarios to see how it performed as a wireless speaker system in an open room setting, and as a near-field setup stationed on a computer desk.
For our open room test, we streamed high-quality audio with Qobuz from an iPhone to the A1 Wireless over regular Bluetooth. Overall, the sound was clean. The mids and highs shined clearly, and the soundstage filled our smaller room with good quality audio that would be more than suitable for cooking or enjoying any activity with music playing in the background. Having greater range to roam around the living space freely without disrupting the Bluetooth signal and still have playback controls with our phones from the couch or even another room was a nice touch.
Next, we wanted to test the sound of the aptX, so we streamed Qobuz using a Google Pixel 3a directly to the A1 Wireless. This is where the clarity of details in the music became much more apparent. The stereo imaging opened up with more dynamic details in the music than we could hear before. This was especially noticeable during Prince’s funky hit song “Controversy,” recorded as the lead single and title track for the 1981 album. On this song, we could hear the popping of guitar strings against the fretboard played with Prince’s feverish funky style even when we walked away from the center of the A1’s soundstage.
Further testing of the A1 Wireless’s Bluetooth capabilities called for the Pro-ject Essential III Bluetooth turntable as an audio source, which is a great entry-level turntable that also supports aptX. Even though this digitized the analog signal of our vinyl recordings, we were impressed with the quality of the experience!
Continuing our session this time with a vinyl pressing of the same Prince 1981 “Controversy” album, the tight funky bass guitar came alive on the 6th track of the album, “Let’s Work.” The rhythm and pacing of the bass guitar had a tuneful sense of timing that made us dance and tap along while cooking for our friends and family in the kitchen. The syncopation between the kick drum and the snare drum thumped and thwacked musically with excellent bottom-end weight. In our smaller living room space, the A1 packed a powerful punch and performed really well as a tabletop setup that entertained our friends and family with enough volume and energy to get a party started!
For the best sound possible, we still recommend using the 3.5mm mini-plug to RCA adapter if your room is a smaller space. However, in most open whole room scenarios, listening to music with a larger wireless range is a convenient way to hear your albums. The Bluetooth connection performed well in this scenario and the sound was close to the quality of the 3.5mm input when using aptX and a compatible device. We were surprised to hear the Bluetooth signal maintain a stable connection into other rooms of the house. Moving the speakers further apart from each other will help spread the stereo image more and sound better in a larger room.
As bookshelf speakers, there’s no argument these were designed to sound the best when listening at close proximity. Similar to the A2+, you will want to form an equilateral triangle with the speakers so you are at equal distance from the speakers as they are from each other. If you are listening to a typical top 40 song, this will center the lead vocal and the kick and the snare drums in the center of the stereo image. Adding Audioengine desktop stands will improve the stereo image even more, and angling the speakers towards your ears will increase sound accuracy.
As a work from home setup, we were impressed with the A1’s stereo imaging. For this scenario, we streamed the same Prince “Controversy” album using Qobuz from our laptop with the 3.5mm mini-plug connection. Even at lower volume-levels Prince’s “Private Joy” let us hear how well balanced the A1’s imaging truly is. As near field monitors, the A1 presented a warm musical sound with clear mid-range and good low-end energy (even without a subwoofer). The bass guitar's rhythm and pacing made us tap our feet along with the beat and it helped us feel energized while working from home. Details in the top-end extension were clear and didn’t sound overbearing or harsh.
Due to the small size of these speakers, there’s not a ton of bass. However, the bass that does come out is very good for being such small speakers. Overall, we enjoyed listening to this entire album from front to back in a variety of formats using the new Audioengine A1 Wireless.
After our testing, we concluded the Audioengine A1 Wireless speaker system is a great addition to almost any setup for the size and price. Similar to the more expensive A2+, the A1 Wireless is small and will benefit from adding a subwoofer to present more bottom-end weight. The Audioengine S8 subwoofer is an excellent addition to this system that will add more immersion for bass-heavy songs.
For anyone who wants to get into vinyl while deepening their appreciation for high-quality music streaming too, the Audioengine A1 Wireless Speaker System is one of the best sounding entry-point options we’ve ever listened to. The A1 Wireless system is made for small rooms, offices, and desktops — they’re the perfect addition for relaxing with background music from a turntable, gaming, or for working in front of your computer. The A1 Wireless will show details and complement your favorite music in a variety of scenarios that will make you want to listen to entire albums from front to back. The A1 Wireless makes changing sources on the fly so simple and so convenient, it was easy for us to simply get lost in the music.
If you’re looking for a great pair of compact wireless desktop speakers for your tabletop setup or computer workstation, consider the A1 Wireless. If you need a USB input for even better sound output, then step things up to the A2+. A direct USB DAC connection will sound better than the analog output from a computer.
At these price-points, Audioengine speakers are great for entertaining guests with a warm sound that will impress your friends. The studio-quality stereo image of the A1 will shine as a near-field monitor on your work desk. For someone getting interested in vinyl and who wants the modern conveniences of Bluetooth 5.0 and the quality of aptX, who wouldn’t choose the A1 Wireless?
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
100ft of Wireless Freedom
Freedom from wires is great, but 100ft of wireless freedom and no interruptions? That's just blissful. Plus, Bluetooth 5.0 is more efficient, so it helps you conserve your phone's battery when connected as the audio source.
aptX CD-like Sound Quality
Bluetooth 5.0 extends your range to roam freely around the house while aptX keeps the music going with CD-like quality.
All-in-One Compact Design
This complete, compact all-in-one powered speaker system fits in a variety of ergonomic scenarios. It will look great on a tabletop for entertaining your guests or on a desktop while you work.
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