Audioengine HD4 Powered Bookshelf Wireless speaker system

AUDIOENGINE
HD4 Powered Bookshelf Speakers Review

Flexible active bookshelf speakers deliver award-winning sound in a new size. 

PRICE


$449.00

THE HIGH NOTES


  • Analog Power Amps
  • Best-Selling DAC Built-in
  • All-in-One Flexible Design 

Company & Product Overview

Audioengine was founded by two friends who previously worked at companies like Apple, Alesis, Gibson Guitars, and Harmon/Kardon. After working with each other in one capacity or another, they finally came together and formed a brand that would fuse their backgrounds in both groundbreaking technologies and musical instrument building. In 2005, they launched the company’s first powered speaker, and Audioengine was born.

Since then, the company has created a complete line of high-performance audio products that are easy to use and sound great. Audioengine speakers are known for delivering the sound quality of professional studio monitors right to your living room or workspace without the need for a separate stereo receiver to power a pair of passive speakers.

The Audioengine HD4 Powered Bookshelf Speakers, featured in today's review is a premium all-in-one wireless speaker system that is compact and powerful. It sports the latest-and-greatest Bluetooth 5.0 spec and it supports aptX HD too. It accepts audio inputs from a 3.5mm mini-plug or a pair of RCA’s from a turntable or a TV. It allows you to connect a subwoofer, and there’s even a DAC onboard for connecting directly with computers over USB. 

At $449.00 , it sits perfectly in-between its siblings — the HD3 and HD6. For its size and price-point, the HD4 completes Audioengine's award-winning HD series. We think it offers the perfect upgrade for a desktop, turntable, or main living room system where space is limited but performance cannot be compromised. We can’t wait to tell you more about its performance as a tabletop system and as a work from home setup.

a turntable between between a pair of Audioengine HD4 powered speakers

Packaging, Design & Build Quality

In the box, three microfiber bags cover and protect everything. All the included cables are found in the smaller microfiber bag which includes everything needed to get up and running to hear music quickly. In the package, a pair of left and right banana connectors, a pair of left and right RCA cables, and a 3.5mm stereo mini-plug for connecting with a laptop or turntable’s built-in phono stage are included. If you want to take advantage of the HD4’s built-in DAC, you’ll need to source your own with the correct USB connections for use with your computer.

The HD4 comes in two color options. Our test unit arrived in a natural walnut MDF cabinet with a wood-veneer, but a more modern-looking black is also available. When we removed them from the microfiber protective bags, we noticed their simple but cool "old-school" look. The walnut features a minimalistic design with rounded corners that will add a touch of retro-flavored "warmth" to the style & decor of just about any room.

Close up shot of the audioengine HD4 powered bookshelf speaker without the grill

As usual with Audioengine products, the build quality is immediately evident. Similar to the more expensive HD6, the HD4 wireless is constructed with components that are custom designed in-house at the company’s Austin, Texas facility, and the MDF wood-veneer cabinets feel sturdy, and well-braced. The right speaker houses the amplifier, so it weighs 7 ½ pounds and the left speaker weighs about 5 ½ pounds.

What sets the new Audioengine HD4 apart from both the HD3 and HD6 is the size and price. Dimensionally, the HD4’s MDF cabinet stands right in-between its two siblings, standing 9-inches tall, 5 ½-inches wide and 6 ½-inches deep. This is substantially smaller than its bigger brother HD6

For comparison with the other speakers in the HD series, the HD3 is 3-inches shorter than the HD4, and 4 ¼-inches wide by 5 ½-inches deep. The bigger brother, HD6, is the largest in the series and stands 11 ¾-inches tall, about 7-inches wide, and 10-inches deep. Similar to the other speakers in the HD series, horizontal venting ports on the lower facades of both speaker cabinets are carved into the finished wood-veneer right below a brushed metal plate, which also features a cool engraving of the Audioengine logo. 

Heather  4:30 PM ok, so alex is making 3 "troubleshooting" videos for rega turntables...      4:30 hang on, i send you an example :+1: 1  4:30 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4WbWkzHYMk YouTubeYouTube | Audio Advice How To: Adjust Rega Turntable Cueing Platform Height   :+1: 1  4:30 so that is one of 3 -- super short how-to's on common issues Added to your saved items 4:32 we need to create a wordpress page that will house all three once he's finished with them.  while i am out, can you coordinate with him on the page? it doesn't have to be anything super fancy -- maybe title is something like "Rega Turntable Tips & Tricks"   and then a simple, one paragraph intro, and then you could do 3 columns with the videos & maybe a one or two line sentance with what the video is about :+1: 1  4:33 and then the content carousel with rega/turntable content :+1: 1  Added to your saved items 4:34 we have this on the content calendar to be released on 12/28... but i am not sure if he will spread them out over a few days or if he will release them all on that date.  Can you just work with him to get what you need to create the page & get it launched ahead of him making the videos public? :+1: 1  4:34 and that is all :smile: easy peasy! 4:35 it is not going in email or anything, so the date is flexible :+1: 1   Craig Woolard  4:38 PM Yep np. So, a single wordpress page called something like “Rega Turntable Tips & Tricks” will serve up the content for all three. On the page, include a  simple, one paragraph intro for each turntable setup, and then 3 columns with the videos & maybe a one or two line sentence with what the video is about. For the 3 columns thing are you just saying to make it look good so that the blurb is next to the the video somehow?  Heather  4:38 PM if he does spread them out and launches across a few days, he should have them in youtube & you should have them on the page so that all three are visible when the first one launches... even if the others are unlisted, it'll still display the video/content on the page.. that way we aren't directing people to a mostly empty page Added to your saved items 4:39 Exactly - or you could do the three videos side by side, with the descrip below... totally up to you 4:39 feel free to take the creative freedom and do whatchu want 4:40 i will be around and watching email and probably still working some, so don't hesitate to reach out if you need me or have questions :+1: 1  4:41 do you have room on your plate for it this week? i dont want you to feel overloaded  Craig Woolard  4:42 PM Sounds good. Based what the content sounds like, I’m thinking a top down approach so that it’s mobile friendly might look best with the first table + video being presented then below that, the next, then below that, the last one. I don’t know if what I described makes sense, but that’s what I am visualizing right now.  Heather  4:43 PM yep, do whatever you like :slightly_smiling_face: whether you put the videos one on top of each other or in columns across on desktop, it should stack that way for mobile automatically :+1: 1  4:43 and then for the HD4 launch on 1/1 - are you all set to have that page ready?  Craig Woolard  4:46 PM I should have room. I’m taking Thursday off. I met with Henry and Rachel to discuss next steps on the newsletter today. She is going to help up with some of the graphic art where needed. But the First email page is basically done and the bigger picture game plan for the others is pretty much decided. So, I’m just writing the content today and tomorrow and then Henry and I will meet again tomorrow to discuss what I wrote and make tweaks. And then the spreadsheet thing for 2021 best of content. 4:46 And yep coordinated with Alex on the HD4 stuff. Editiing his original photos now.  Heather  4:46 PM yaaay 4:47 okay, well if you feel overloaded - you are welcome to try to coordinate with henry or taylor to see if they have bandwidth 4:47 or to let me know you can't get it done and i'll make sure it gets done :slightly_smiling_face: 4:48 but you are accountable for either getting it done or delegating it -- whether to me, henry, or taylor :smile: :+1: 1   Craig Woolard  4:48 PM I will do that, but I think it’ll be ok especially since there isn’t a due date. I can at least get it started so that’s it’s ahead of Alex’s videos. When can I publish the HD4?  Heather  4:48 PM and to coordinate with alex to determine if we are still on track for 12/28 release date... and if he is not, then we will figure it out next week lol :+1: 1  4:49 we have to wait until 1/1 to publish the HD4 :+1: 1  4:49 it is under embargo :+1: 1  4:49 we should also be sure that the HD4 PDP is up to par -- i am not sure who created it :+1: 1   Craig Woolard  4:49 PM the 12/28 release date, is that for the rega turntable setup?  Heather  4:50 PM yes -- we have the rega turntable troubleshooting on the promo calendar for 12/28 as of now -- alex can determine if that changes based on his video scheduling with scott :+1: 1   Craig Woolard  4:51 PM ok writing that down. Does Leon have any content or script written for that by any chance? Added to your saved items  Heather  4:51 PM if i were you, i would prioritize like this::: HD4 (not necessarily 100% done, but game plan to ensure page/pdp are good to go by 1/1), Rega, 2021 Best of, Welcome Series :+1: 1  4:52 I think he winged all three of the troubleshooting videos -- pretty sure he didn't write a script for them... I honestly don't even know what the other two are, so you'll want to get the specifics from Alex :+1: 1  4:53 I think they have filmed all 3, but he is still editing the other 2 4:55 ohhh boy  Craig Woolard  4:55 PM That’s good! Thank you suggesting the order or priorities! That’s what I was thinking too. But helps to have your confirmation. Ok cool, regarding the Rega content, I will get everything needed to build the page from either Alex or Leon and execute the order of priorties you suggested :+1:  Heather  4:55 PM guess what... it looks like leon did write content & didnt share it :slightly_smiling_face: 4:55 https://docs.google.com/document/d/1H4fRXOr0cQW0Y8vjqMKxqfmMf8tuXjMrgjwG180hyf8/edit G Suite Document  How to adjust the cueing platform height on a Rega turntable Document from Google DriveClick to open in Google Drive   4:56 lemme see if i can find more  Craig Woolard  4:57 PM If there isn’t more, then I supposed I could just transcribe the videos and decide how to present it from that  Heather  4:57 PM https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VnarnfEhDCrlxHE5UJcKivjQiL3akpWMYRw90iRgql4/edit G Suite Document  How to ground a Rega Turntable Document from Google DriveClick to open in Google Drive    Craig Woolard  4:57 PM That always takes longer, but better than nothing  Heather  4:57 PM found all 3! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aP0B6DLIs15-yFOBsTrs3gMbmI2X-PktTRn2oSV9I9I/edit G Suite Document  How to add oil to a Rega motor Document from Google DriveClick to open in Google Drive    Craig Woolard  4:58 PM Nice! 4:58 Then that will make things much more streamlined. Thanks!  Heather  4:58 PM So yep - I would still keep them all on the same page, maybe add an anchored list at the top to each section :+1: 1  4:58 i will add these to the asana task :+1: 1  4:59 i really wouldn't worry about fancying it up with a lot of pictures or anything, with the exception of what he has put into the docs :+1: 1  4:59 i let hen know that you might reach out for help if you get behind with your other stuff

A black grille magnetically attaches to the front of the speaker cabinet just above the brushed metal plate. When you remove the grill, the HD4 has a professional studio monitor-look for a view of the woofer and the tweeter. The speaker consists of a 4-inch Aramid fiber woofer complemented with a ¾-inch silk dome tweeter. The built-in analog Dual Class AB monolithic power amps are housed inside serious retro-looking MDF cabinets with a wood veneer that are precisely tuned. 

We like the studio monitor look of the new HD4 without the grill. Removing it gives the HD4 a more modern reboot to the HD4’s unapologetically evocative vibe. With a turntable or a computer positioned between a pair of HD4 Wireless Powered speakers, you will have a professional-looking studio monitor setup and modern functionality that’s ready to take on the digital world. As an all-in-one bookshelf speaker setup, we think the new Audioengine HD4 powered speakers are a great solution for anyone who has restricted space but still wants the better performance of a larger compact speaker.

close up of Audioengine HD4 Powered Bookshelf Speakers with grill removed and on

The right speaker houses the amplifier, volume control, and input and output connections. On the front panel, there’s a volume control knob, a push-button switch to toggle the aptX Bluetooth pairing mode on or off, and a 3.5mm mini-plug input that lets you connect a pair of headphones at your desk. 

The rest of the connections are available from the rear panel. From the rear, there's another 3.5mm stereo mini-plug input to connect to a laptop, smartphone, or portable music player, a set of left/right RCA inputs for connecting a phono preamp and a turntable, a micro USB input, a Bluetooth antenna and on/off power switch. There’s also a set of RCA audio outputs for connecting to a subwoofer. Once you get the right speaker all connected, you simply run the banana cables to the left speaker, plug in the included power supply, and connect your audio source via Bluetooth, USB, stereo mini-plug, or RCA and you’re in business. 

close up shot of Audioengine HD4 Powered Bookshelf Speakers back panel

Features & Technology

The HD4 is an active speaker which gives it a host of audio advantages when it comes to performance. In a normal stereo system, you have speakers and an amplifier to power the speakers. The amplifier is actually composed of two parts, a preamp, and a power amplifier. The preamp does all the switching and volume control, while the power amp drives the speakers. Your speakers then have two or more speaker components that handle the different frequencies. Inside the speaker is what is called a "crossover." This directs the correct frequencies to the different speaker drivers.  

This is how 95% of stereo systems are done these days, but there are some disadvantages to this design. First, the company making the amplifier has no idea what kind of speakers it will be connected to, so they have to optimize its performance for a wide range of speaker characteristics. The speakers will use what is called a "passive crossover" that basically chokes off the signals that should not go to the different speaker drivers. Some dynamics and efficiency are lost by doing it this way.   

Active speakers are quite a bit different as they are designed to work as a complete system. Active speakers have a separate amplifier for each speaker driver and use an electronic crossover rather than a passive crossover. 

In a passive design, the crossover is after the power amplifier and inside the speaker. With an active design, it happens before the signal gets to the power amp, meaning there is zero loss in dynamics or efficiency. The engineer designing the power amp knows exactly what the speaker load will be, so the amp is perfectly mated to the speaker driver. 

This type of system results in a much more open, dynamic, and effortless sound when done properly.  

Female model listening to vinyl turntable with a pair of while Audioengine HD4 powered bookshelf speakers

Most manufacturers use digital amplifiers to keep their costs down  —  but Audioengine uses analog Dual Class AB monolithic power amps here, and these are tuned just right for each speaker in the series. Analog amps will typically have a warmer sound profile and give your music a more tuneful sense-of-timing and better rhythm-and-pacing, overall. 

We think the use of analog amps is a true testament to Audioengine’s dedication to inspiring more people to enjoy music with better sound. The use of analog components here is a nice touch at this price-point, and we think it’s a big part of what made listening to music with these so enjoyable.

Audioengine A1 Wireless bluetooth and aptX logos

Similar to the HD3 and the HD6, the new HD4 has Audioengine’s best selling DAC built into it — the Audioengine D1 24-bit headphone DAC/Amp. It also sports the latest and greatest Bluetooth 5.0 specification. This extends the wireless operating range with compatible Bluetooth devices to 100ft! And, as usual, Audioengine didn’t stop here when it built a wireless speaker packing the latest Bluetooth iteration. Audioengine uses Qualcomm’s aptX and aptX HD Bluetooth tech in the HD4 for CD-like audio quality — think music that’s more detailed with tighter bass and clearer mid-range. 

close up shot of someone streaming music from a smartphone to a pair of Audioengine HD4 Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Performance

Audioengine’s HD series has been a big hit with our customers here at Audio Advice. We find that most people use bookshelf or desktop speakers with computer setups. However, since the HD series was released alongside the revival of vinyl, we’ve noticed a lot more people using Audioengine bookshelf speakers to play music with turntables too. 

When testing the HD4, we allowed it to break in first with a 3.5mm stereo mini-plug connected to a laptop streaming Qobuz. We stationed the HD4 powered bookshelf speakers on a computer desk and tested them as a near-field setup with a direct USB connection. As usual with Audioengine speakers, we were impressed with the HD4’s stereo imaging. Next, we tested the speakers in an open room setting with a vinyl record player using the RCA connection to a phono preamp and as a wireless speaker system streaming aptX HD. 

Close up shot of male model listening to a pair of Audioengine HD4 Powered Bookshelf Speakers on a set of Audioengine desktop stands

To get the best results on your work desk, you’ll want to form an equilateral triangle with the speakers equally spaced apart so that you’re also sitting at an equal distance from the speakers. Play around with the angle of the speakers until the vocals sound like they are in the middle. Audioengine desktop stands will stabilize the position you set and they will improve the sound of the bass as well. 

The stereo image really came alive and shined as a near-field monitor on our work desk when we plugged the USB output from our laptop into the HD4 and played a modern recording by the electro-pop duo Chromeo. 

Recorded in 2020 while under lockdown for a light-hearted EP titled “Quarantine Casanova,” the song “Clorox Wipe” balances a nostalgic attitude with modern recording techniques. Featuring cool vintage synths, retro talkbox effects, disco basslines, and plucky guitars, the HD4 highlighted all of these instruments in the stereo field with warmth and clarity. 

We really enjoyed listening to the fresh new take on a vintage vibe while working in front of the HD4 powered speakers. The tuneful sense of timing made working from home feel fun and energizing. Audioengine speakers generally do a great job of warming up the sound — that’s most likely because of the analog amps inside. Overall, the rhythm and pacing of the sound coming out of the HD4 inspired us to tap our feet along with the music.

As bookshelf speakers, there’s no argument these are designed to sound best when listening up close. However, the HD4 performed better than we anticipated as a tabletop setup In our living room space. We used the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable which is a great turntable for the money. It has a phono stage built-in, and we used this to play back a vinyl pressing of “Warrior” — recorded in 1984 by the classic rock outfit, Scandal.

This recording features overdubbed rock guitars, edgy lead vocals from Patty Smyth, and a big studio budget. It’s the quintessential “arena rock” sound that uses analog recording techniques characteristic of that era. 

The rhythm and pacing of the bass guitar came alive with a tuneful sense of timing that made us tap our feet along with the music while preparing food in the kitchen. When we cranked up the volume to 75%, we were hearing a room-filling sound that made us want to sing along with this mega-anthem. We even belted out the chorus as though we were attending a live concert! Overall, the HD4’s pack a warm musical punch in an open room that’s easy to get lost in. 

The user-friendliness of Audioengine’s design really came alive when we switched our audio source from vinyl to streaming Qobuz over Bluetooth without having to touch anything on the speaker. This allowed us to continue our open-room session from our couch without interrupting the mood. 

First, we streamed high-quality audio with Qobuz from an iPhone to the HD4 over regular Bluetooth. The sound was warm but clean, overall. The mids and highs were distinct and clear, and the soundstage filled our living room space. The volume of the presentation was more than suitable for cooking or enjoying an activity with music playing in the background. We noticed the presentation was also room-filling enough to entertain guests or host a dance party. 

We wanted to test the sound of the aptX HD, so we streamed Qobuz using a Google Pixel 3a directly to the HD4. This is where the clarity of details in the music became a lot more apparent and a little closer to the sound of vinyl. The separation of details in the stereo image opened up wider with dynamics in the music we couldn’t hear previously. This was especially noticeable during a remastered version of Peter Gabriel’s smash hit “Sledgehammer.” 

Recorded in 1985 as the lead single for Peter Gabriel’s fifth studio album “So,” the song features a powerful rhythm section. We could hear the kick drum and the "crack" of the snare landing musically in the center of the HD4’s stereo image. When we spread the speakers a little further apart, the kick and snare drums retained their focal points in the center of the mix distinctly with a warm and musical tone. This helped create more depth and improved the separation of details coming out. 

Turning the volume knob past 50% presented a stereo field with enough volume to fill our living room with good sounding music and make us tap our feet to the beat. Overall, aptX HD presented good quality sound in an open-room scenario that exceeded our expectations for such a small compact speaker system. Having a greater range with Bluetooth 5.0 to roam around the house freely was a subtle plus. Still having playback controls with our phones from the couch or another room without interruptions was also very handy. 

close up shot of a female model listening to a pair of Audioengine HD4 powered bookshelf speakers with a turntable

Overall Recommendation

The HD4 was designed for anyone looking for a powered bookshelf system with upgraded analog amps and the convenience of USB and aptX HD. It sits right in between the HD3 and the HD6 in terms of size and price. 

If the HD3 is a little too small for your needs, and the HD6 is either too big or more than you're looking to spend, then strongly consider the HD4. At $449.00 for the pair, we think the HD4 powered bookshelf speaker system is that perfect balance that sits right in-between for the perfect size and price-point. 

If you like the Audioengine sound and need a larger desktop speaker system with even more output, then step things up to the HD6. For less than $300 more, you will get even more inputs and outputs with bigger sound suitable for larger living spaces.

Adding a subwoofer to the HD4 will present more bottom-end weight. We recommend the Audioengine S8 subwoofer because it’s an excellent addition to this system that will add more immersion for bass-heavy songs. 

Even without a subwoofer, the HD4 will still present good low-end that will complement any living room system using a TV, turntable, phone, or tablet as a source. However, if you have a larger room and budget, and you want deeper bass, the HD6 is the best option. With multiple inputs, it will integrate with almost any setup since you don’t have to choose just one source. Listen to vinyl with the RCA connections, Bluetooth your favorite streaming service without touching anything on the speaker, or enjoy the studio-quality stereo image from your desk with USB or the headphone jack.

Anyone who appreciates high performance at a great value will appreciate the amount of flexibility and the sound quality it gives you.

At these price-points, Audioengine speakers are great for entertaining guests with a warm sound. The studio-quality stereo image of the HD4 will shine as a near-field monitor on your work desk, but it will fill up an open room with great sound too. For anyone who wants to revive an old vinyl record collection with the modern conveniences of Bluetooth 5.0 and the quality of aptX HD, who wouldn’t choose this powerful all-in-one bookshelf system for a tabletop or a desk?

HIGH NOTES UNPACKED

Female model listening to vinyl turntable with a pair of while Audioengine HD4 powered bookshelf speakers

Analog Power Amps

The analog Dual Class AB monolithic power amps are house inside MDF cabinets with a wood veneer & precisely tuned. Think music with a more tuneful sense-of-timing and better rhythm-and-pacing — especially from digital sources.  

Audioengine A1 Wireless qualcomm aptX logo

Best-selling DAC Built-in

Similar to the award-winning HD3 & HD6, the HD4 has Audioengine's best-selling DAC built-in — the Audioengine D1 24-bit headphone DAC/Amp for clear-sounding audio when connecting with computers. 

close up shot of female model listening to a pair of white Audioengine HD4 powered bookshelf speakers on a work desk with a laptop

All-in-One Flexible Design

The HD4 is for anyone looking for a powered bookshelf speaker-system with upgraded analog amps and the convenience of USB & aptX HD. This one sits right in-between the HD3 & HD6 in terms of both size and price. 

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