A2+ Powered Speaker Review
Perfect desktop speakers.
Company & Product Overview
In 2006 a group of people got together to form a company that focused then on a single use case, music coming out of a computer. They came from Apple, Alesis, Gibson Guitar, and Harman/Kardon. The future was really clear to them that physical media would soon go away and all of our music would come from a computer or smartphone in some way. They wanted tto take the hassle out of computer music. It turns out they had a really good vision as Audioengine has become one of the most popular companies in the computer audio arena.
Their first product was the A5, an all in one speaker with easy connections for computer music hook up. This was quickly followed by a smaller version in 2007, the A2.
A couple of years ago, the A2 received a complete overhaul. Their best selling product is the Audioengine A2+, a compact pair of powered desktop speakers that are a favorite amongst computer audio enthusiasts and aspiring vinyl lovers.
Design & Build Quality
The A2+ comes in three colors -- black, white, and red. The fit and finish of the MDF cabinets is what you would expect to find on a much more expensive speaker. You’ll get a full view of the drivers in the A2+ as they come without grills, which is actually a pretty cool look that differs a lot based on your color choice. With the black finish, the drivers blend right in, whereas with the red or white they really pop.
Size-wise they are very compact standing 6” tall, a skinny 4” wide, and only 5.25” deep. The A2+ is a two-way powered speaker system with a 2.75” Kevlar woofer and ¾” silk dome tweeter. There is a small slotted bass port on the front of the cabinet.
The main connectivity is on the back of the left speaker where you have a stereo mini jack, a pair of stereo RCA inputs, and a USB input. There is also a subwoofer output, in case you want to connect a sub to the A2+. Here you will also have a nice set of gold-plated banana plug speaker connections to run the included speaker cable over to the right speaker. Every cable you need (except the possible one for a sub) is included in the box. Finally, in a nice touch, there is a locking connection for the external power supply. No worries about it popping loose after you screw it down.
The combination on/off volume control is on the back side of the left speaker towards the top of the cabinet. This leaves a very clean look on the front and it’s really simple to reach over-the-top to adjust the volume.
From the first time you pull the A2+ out of its micro-fiber protective bag, you will probably be like us and just marveling at the build-quality on what is a relatively inexpensive all-in-one pair of speakers for only $249.
Features & Technology
Starting with the cabinets, the A2+ has a lot more technology in it than is visible to the eye. Not only are the cabinets made out of a high-density resin based MDF, they are also internally braced and filled with sound damping material. The rounded edges not only add to the aesthetic character of the speakers but also serve a sonic purpose, reducing diffraction from the front baffle.
Audioengine designs and manufactures their woofers and tweeters themselves. Typically, a speaker in this price range would just deploy off the shelf, generic drivers -- not so with the A2+. They even take things a step further, selling the A2+ in matched pairs. The tweeter uses a silk dome, which you typically see in high-performance speakers. This type of tweeter is known for its extended smooth response. The woofers are made of Kevlar, known for being very lightweight and stiff. You’ll see Kevlar woofers in speakers costing up the $25,000 a pair.
The A2+ is a powered speaker system -- the amp is built right in! The advantage of these types of speakers is that all of the components are designed to work perfectly with one another. When a company goes to make a speaker without an amp built in, they have no idea what type of amp will wind up being connected to the speaker. Also, an amplifier company can't know what type of speaker will be connected to its output terminals. If a designer is making an amplifier for one speaker only, tons of money can be saved as they do not have to overdesign for variables. They can also fine tune the amp perfectly to the speaker crossover, resulting in great sound.
The last bit of tech is a feature that makes the A2+ super simple to connect up to a computer for better sounding audio. Every computer is going to have a USB connection on it. This allows you to send your music out via digital to another device. Doing it this way bypasses the low-quality audio stage of your computer. The A2+ has a USB input and high-quality DAC (digital to analog converter). For best computer sound, you simply connect the included USB cable from your computer to the back of the A2+.
Testing all kinds of products like we do here at Audio Advice has its pros and cons. We’ve just been doing a lot of listening to a $4,000 DAC through a reference system with $30,000 speakers in it. This does give one a really good perspective on just how incredibly good an audio system can be, but it also makes it hard to come down to a $249 pair of all-in-one speakers! The A2+, and really all audio products, should be compared to their competition and other pieces in their price range.
Keeping that in mind, the A2+ performs really admirably in all of it’s most common use cases. They do really well in the critical midrange and are great for near-field listening. For their size, they are among the best you will find anywhere. Can they defy the laws of physics and produce incredibly deep bass levels with 2 ¾ inch woofers? No, but the bass is tight and clear for the size and the ability to add a subwoofer is a nice feature. Do they have the dynamics of a pair of floor standing speakers? Of course not, but the critical midrange frequencies are impressive and pleasing to listen to. Play the Rolling Stones “Wild Horses,” and you’ll notice that the vocals and guitar come through nicely. Try some classic jazz like Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5” to hear the extension and smoothness of the cymbal work through the silk dome tweeters.
So who should consider this great little pair of super well-made all-in-one speakers? First, if you have limited space -- like in an office, a college dorm, or a small apartment, the A2+ is a great fit.
If you sit at your desk most days, playing music through some basic computer speakers you purchased at a big box store, you’ll be blown away by the improvement you get from the A2+. We do highly recommend the DS1 stands as an add-on. These stands will eliminate the resonance you often get from surfaces like a wooden desk while also pointing the speakers up to your ears for an improved experience.
If you’re getting into vinyl and have space or budget limitations, this is another great fit for the A2+. Many of our customers are pairing these speakers with a turntable and phono stage to create a great compact vinyl playback system.
Audioengine speakers are beautifully made, easy-to-use speakers with a natural frequency response, for a great price. That’s their sweet spot, and that’s why our team and our customers love their products. The A2+ is their best-selling speaker, and between the looks, the size, and the performance, it’s easy to see why.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
Offers analog, USB, and a subwoofer out With two analog inputs, USB input and a subwoofer out you can connect them to both your computer using the USB and a turntable using the analog inputs. Adding a sub will give you a much fuller range system, so we like this future option value.
Tiny Size, Big Sound
Don't let their small footprint fool you. The A2+ produces very big sound for its small size. Bass notes are clear and defined with a very smooth top end.
A custom made Kevlar woofer and silk dome tweeter are part of the secret sauce that make the A2+ sound so good. Audioengine did not buy these off the shelf but developed and manufactured them specifically for the A2+.