Audioengine A5 Speaker System

When you listen to music, your listening experience will only be as good as the earphones or speakers that you have connected to your audio device. We’ve all owned junky earbuds and crummy little speaker systems that have static or bland sound. After awhile you get used to a mediocre experience, which is too bad because when you can listen to your tunes through a really really good set of speakers, it makes your music seem almost brand new.

I was very excited when the folks at Audioengine contacted me to ask if I might like to test their Audioengine 5 speaker system. According to their company website, these small speakers sounded as good or better than speakers costing 100’s or even a 1000 dollars more than their $349 price tag. Audioengine was started in 2002 by 3 people with a total of 36 years working in the audio industry for such companies as Harman/Kardon, Gibson Guitars, Alesis Studio Electronics, and Apple Computer. Those credentials impressed me, so I was definitely ready to take a listen!

Hardware Specs

Type: 2.0 bookshelf-style, powered speaker system

Power output: 45W RMS/ 70W peak per channel (AES)

Inputs: 2 X 1/8″ stereo mini-jack

Outputs: USB Type A (power charging only)

Main voltages: 115/230V 50/60Hz switchable

Amplifier type: Dual Class AB monolithic

Signal-to-noise: >95dB (typical A-weighted)

THD: <0.05% at all power settings

Crosstalk: <50db

Frequency response: 60Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB

Input impedance: 10K ohms unbalanced
1″ thick MDF cabinet
5″ Kevlar woofers with advanced voice coils
20mm silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnets
Torroidal power transformers

Size (each): 10.0�(H) x 7.0� (W) x 7.75� (D)

Weight: 6.4Kg/14lbs (left), 4Kg/9lbs (right)

Package Contents

AC power cable
1/8″ audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)
(2) 1/8″ audio cables, 20cm (~8″)
1/8″ to RCA “Y” cable
USB power extender cable, 1 meter (~3.28ft)
Speaker wire (16AWG), 3.75 meters (~12.3ft)
Drawstring cable bag
Drawstring speaker bags
Setup Guide

When I came home one day a few weeks ago and saw a big box on my front porch, I couldn’t figure out what might have been delivered. Then when I tried to pick up the box, I was even more confused due to how heavy it was. After I managed to wrangle it into the house, I saw the return address and was instantly excited. Speakers! I wasted no time opening the box to retrieve them.

The speakers are white lacquered heavy solid bookshelf sized units, with a contrasting black woofer, tweeter and volume adjustment knob. The white matches my iMac perfectly, but if I wanted to set these up in my living room, I’d much prefer black or even wood grain. However, at this time, your only choice is white.

Setting up the speakers is a snap, given the fact that everything you need has been included. All you need to do is position the speakers up to 12.3 feet or so apart. Why 12.3 feet? Well mainly because that’s the length of speaker wire that is included with the speakers ;o) Of course if you would like to place them farther apart, you’ll need to go out and buy more wire. The speakers are shielded, so you can place them within a few inches of a video monitor.

After connecting the speaker wire and power cord, you’ll next need to decide what audio device that you would like to use with them. This is where the Audioengine 5 speakers really shine. They have two 3.5mm audio inputs jacks. One on the back of the left speaker and one on the top of the left speaker. Connect one of the included audio cables to the audio in jack on the speaker, and other end to the audio out or earphone jack of your audio device.

In addition to the audio in jacks, there is also a USB connector on top of the left speaker. Does that seem odd? Not when you realize that these speakers are marketed for the iPod. The USB connection will allow you to charge your iPod while it’s connected to the speaker system. Sweet!

Now you could connect the iPod by plugging into the earphone jack, but that won’t give you the best sound and control. The better method is to use Apple’s iPod dock. The audio cable plugs into the jack on the back of the dock and then into the speakers. Connecting the USB cable from the dock to the speaker will then charge your iPod while in use. Yeah, I know that the dock no longer ships with new iPods (Apple, you are cheapskates!), but trust me, buying one is totally worth it. One reason is that it looks cool perched on top of the Audioengine’s, but the main reason is that through the dock connection, the front speaker volume control is not dependent on the iPod volume setting. When connected in this way, changing the volume directly on the iPod will have no effect on the sound level coming out of the speakers. This works much better, and the sound quality is also much better using the dock.

The USB connection also works great with the iPod shuffle. Too bad that you need to connect the audio cable too. But the coolest thing about the Audioengine speaker system, is that it has an auxiliary power connection on the back. With this connection, you can plug in an Apple Express module and have streaming music from your iTunes collection. Very cool!

Audioengine designs and manufactures their own drivers, woofers, crossovers, amplifiers, power supplies, and cabinets. In other words, they are not “box built” speakers with off-the-shelf components but are entirely custom-designed. This is very evident as soon as you turn them on and start listening to music through them. In my opinion, they are the best speakers I’ve ever heard. But like I’ve said in numerous reviews, I’m not an audiophile, so I’m only giving you an opinion of what they sound like to me. They have great clarity, and wonderful bass for such a small system. They have the ability to rattle the windows, if not shatter them! I set them up in my office and couldn’t handle turning the volume louder up to 25%! I’ve really enjoyed using them for the past few weeks and wouldn’t want to send them back.

These speakers are close to perfect, but I would change 3 little things if possible. The biggest thing I would appreciate, would be a power button on the front face of the speaker, instead of the one the back. It’s too inconvenient to reach around to find the power switch. Maybe adding a power toggle to the volume switch would be a possible solution. I think a remote control of some type would be a good idea as well. The only other thing I would do, would be to offer the Audioengine 5’s in other colors.

I love the Audioengine 5 speaker system. They are definitely a 100 steps above a lot of the smaller more inexpensive systems I’ve reviewed in the past. At $349, they won’t be in line with everyone’s budget, but if the price doesn’t scare you away, you’ll not regret the purchase. Oh, I know Apple just came out with the HiFi… I’ve not had the opportunity to try it, but I’d rather have the Audioengines. It’s a no brainer than they have to sound better, given the fact that you can separate the left and right speakers… Maybe Apple will send me some to review… Yeah, I won’t hold my breath ;o)

 

Product Information

Price:349.0
Manufacturer:Audioengine
Requirements:
  • Audio device with an audio out or 3.5mm headphone jack
Pros:
  • Wonderful sound
  • Auxillary power jack on back
  • USB charging connector on top
  • 2 audio input jacks
Cons:
  • Power switch on the back side
  • Only comes in white
  • Needs a remote control
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear

11 comments… add one

  • Julie March 18, 2006, 3:42 am

    Post your comments on the Audioengine 5 Speaker System review.

    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/review/audioengine_5_speaker_system

    Just click the POST REPLY button on this page.

    1
  • dgallina March 18, 2006, 6:07 pm

    Good review! Sounds like buying these to use with an Airport Express is a no-brainer if you’re looking for audio in another room without the extra amplifier and etc.

    2
  • Julie March 18, 2006, 10:17 pm

    dgallina:

    Exactly. :) I tested this feature and it worked perfectly. :)

    3
  • Altema March 20, 2006, 9:16 pm

    Sounds like a good system to me, I’ll have to give them a listen for those areas that are outside of my main listening area. Of course right now, my primary sound system has been moved to a production studio, as the area where we live has declined to a severe state of lawlessness. Besides, 1400 watts at 0% distortion is a little overkill for a livingroom. My wife seldom put the system past 10 watts when it was home :cool:

    I’ll have my system back home AFTER we move, but these look like a good alternative until then. Do they make covers for the speakers?

    4
  • Julie March 20, 2006, 9:41 pm

    Altema:

    No, as far as I know, there are no available covers for the speakers.

    I’m curious, where do you live?

    5
  • Altema March 20, 2006, 10:06 pm

    Just inside Detroit. The area was ok when we bought this as our first house, then got worse the last few years. The police here were overworked and stretched too thin, then our mayor hit them with layoffs and closed the station in our area. The thugs were celebrating… as now they can have meetings in the street, go rob a house, and carry the stuff off in broad daylight.

    And that’s why I moved my speakers, as the ones at home were the production prototypes for the patent… not something you can go out and replace at the local audio store! The speakers that have been sold can’t be bought back, as they won’t let them go at any price.

    Yeah, we’ve been looking to relocate, but a house for a family of eight on a single income is not that easy to come by.

    6
  • Julie March 21, 2006, 1:04 am

    Altema:

    I wish you good luck on your relocation. :)

    You work for a company that makes speakers?

    7
  • Altema March 21, 2006, 5:05 am

    Julie wrote:

    Altema:

    I wish you good luck on your relocation. :)

    You work for a company that makes speakers?

    Thanks! (hope it happens soon)

    I don’t work for a company that makes speakers, I do pro audio and system design. Being in Motown worked well for me because I got my audio engineering training from Barry Gordy’s mastering engineer, Bob Dennis. That, along with being already experienced in live sound, motivated me to invent the speakers I mentioned in the previous post. I think I’ve mentioned them here before, but everywhere I do a demo or concert, there are people walking around with their mouths open in disbelief. For one theatrical event, a sound company had a $60,000 Bose system that had been fine tuned for three days. The chief engineer asked me to bring a pair of mine so he could hear them. We threw up a pair with no EQ or processing, and after two minutes of listening, he said “Get rid of the Bose”. His crew literally tore the system down and used one pair of mine instead. People in the audience actually thought they had a live orchestra.

    I was attempting to market them, but the company I paid so much for ended up knowing NOTHING about speakers :mad:

    Ironicaly it was Bose who took the hardest look, but word came back that the design was too unconventional, despite easily outperforming every one of their products. Oh well, I’m looking at going into manufacturing now… something that the marketing company worked so hard at talking me out of.

    8
  • granarch October 9, 2006, 5:47 pm

    I just got a pair of A5’s in Black. Not only that, but the speaker cable connections are to posts and “Out” L&R sub ports have been added. They must read your reviews.

    9
  • Julie October 9, 2006, 5:59 pm

    granarch:

    I heard that they came out with a Black set. That’s great news about the connection points. Please do let us all know what you think of these speakers. I still love mine!

    10
  • Steve Hulbert January 2, 2009, 6:10 pm

    I’ve been looking for a pair of speakers like these for ages. I am, or was a bit of an audiophile but am now partially disabled + living in a smaller space. I’m unsure whether the A5’s would be okay on a ‘desk top’ or an old wooden cabinet supporting my LCD TV. Some other reviewers suggest they sound best on stands + are way too good for an ipod!!
    Like the reviewer, I’d not just ‘like’ but realistically need a remote + easy way to turn off from a wheelchair….
    Re the old post from Altema, is there any way to contact him\her? I’d love a pair of speakers like he describes to replace my horn loaded classic 1950\60’s speakers… Please feel free to pass my details on, I may be able to help with a worthwhile world-wide marketing option at a very affordable cost.
    Thanks. Steve.

    11

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