Audioengine A5+ speaker review

Audioengine_A5_2

Audioengine products may not be for sale in every retail outlet or even known by many consumers, but anyone who is looking for a pair of quality desktop speakers should give Audioengine a serious look – especially their A5+ speakers. I have owned the A5 speakers for some time, and when given a chance to try the upgraded A5+, I was curious to see what – if any – improvements were made.

Audioengine_A5_1

Let’s get this out of the way: The A5+ speakers are not featherweights. They are (for desktop speakers) big, heavy and can be loud enough to introduce the neighbors to whatever unusual musical taste you may harbor. They are also big and powerful enough to double as a living-room speaker. But so what? Making powerful speakers is easy. However, making powerful speakers that are fun to listen to is quite another matter. That’s where Audioengine shines.

Audioengine_A5_9

The A5+ is the successor to the wonderful A5, which has been a success for many years. It is the bigger brother to the Audioengine A2 speaker. However, the A5+ dwarfs the A2 in every respect: size, weight and audio. Here are some specs:

  • 150 watts peak power
  • Dual class AB monolithic amps
  • 5″ Kevlar woofers, 20mm silk tweeters
  • 10.75″ H x 7″ W x 7.75″ D
  • Left speaker: 15.4 lbs
  • Right speaker: 9.6 lbs

Audioengine_A5_6

The reason the left speaker weighs quite a bit more is because it houses both amps and sports an attached heat sink on the back which helps the speaker’s electronics run more efficiently and stay cooler.

Audioengine_A5_5

The front of the A5+ is almost identical to the original A5. There are no speaker covers, leaving the cones exposed, a look I prefer. It’s clean and aggressive. The cabinet comes in black, white, and a gorgeous bamboo wood (for an additional $70).  Also on the front of the left speaker are a volume knob and an IR receiver for an included remote. Please don’t tell Audioengine this, but I lost the remote within 2 weeks of receiving the speakers. I haven’t a clue where it is. However, I don’t miss it at all and – think about it – is a remote really necessary for desktop speakers?

Also somewhat unnecessary – but it does show Audioengine’s attention to detail – are the drawstring cloth bags which protect the speakers during shipping and set-up. Once the speakers are in place, the bags usually go back in the box until needed again. Here’s a tip: Use the bags to keep headphones or other gear you carry around with you scratch-free while in your backpack. You’re welcome.

Audioengine_A5_8 Audioengine_A5_7

The rear of the A5+ left speaker has been revamped substantially. The bass ports are now thin slots at the top of each speaker as opposed to round ports, as on the original A5. AUX-in and powered USB ports have been moved from the top of the left speaker to the back. This new placement has a cleaner look, but is not nearly as convenient. Audioengine also removed a handy AC outlet at the rear of the speaker, which means that you no longer have an extra outlet. Welcome additions are analog RCA (binding post connector) inputs and an RCA output for a subwoofer, if desired. Audioengine also supplies the needed wiring for all connections. I like that.

Audioengine_A5_3

The sound of the A5+ speakers can smack you – in a good way – when cranked up. I connected the A5+ to an Audioengine D1 digital audio convertor (DAC) and then connected the D1 to an iMac. The D1 DAC is almost a necessity when using any computer as the primary audio source, but especially an iMac, since it has terrible built-in audio output. A decent DAC can make all the difference.

Bass on the A5+ is gutsy and penetrating, just short of any added oomph a subwoofer can provide. A bass-heavy song, like Brian Eno’s “And Then So Clear” from the album, “Another Day on Earth,” can easily overpower a lesser speaker. The A5+ reproduced bass I could feel as well as well as hear with no distortion. Enya’s “Water Shows the Hidden Heart” is one of my go-to distortion test songs. At certain points in the song, many speakers will buzz unpleasantly. There was no buzz of any kind on the A5+ combined with the D1 DAC, even at loud volume – only clean audio.

The middle frequencies – which is where most vocals lie – were clean and intimate. Whether is was Bryan Ferry’s world-weary crooning, the tight, country harmonies of Sweden’s First Aid Kit or Amber Rubarth reworking the Louis Armstrong classic, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On,” the A5+ speakers placed all of them in the room with me. It was almost eerie.

Audioengine_A5_4

The higher frequencies on other speakers can border on harsh when pushed too hard. Although this frequency range is the weakest link on the A5+ when compared to the mids and bass, there was no brittleness in the music. “Psychedelic Pill” from Neil Young is a good example of highs that can become easily distorted, but the A5+ kept the highs tamed.

At times, there was some clarity that seemed to be lacking. I attribute this more to whichever song was being played than the dominate strength of the bass and mids. But hey, the A5+ speakers were so much fun to audition, I really didn’t care. Whether it’s classic rock, folk, classical and even quiet ambient music, the A5+ speakers handle it all with unassuming ease.

So yeah, the Audioengine A5+ speakers may not be the clearest sounding desktop speakers I’ve heard – the B&W MM-1 speakers take that crown. But the MM-1s can’t compete against the audacious power of the A5+ speakers. These giants will blow away just about any desktop available. There is something to be said for sheer mass. When you couple their size with power to match, all you want to do is pump up the volume and smile.

 

Product Information

Price:$399 US; $469 (Bamboo)
Manufacturer:Audioengine
Retailer:Audioengine
Pros:
  • Massive sound for the size
  • Accurate sound - good bass and detail
  • Well made
  • Affordable for what they are
  • Look good on a desktop
  • Added heat sink for efficiency
Cons:
  • More expensive than many are willing to pay
  • Large for desktop use
  • Extra AC outlet (as on original A5) removed
  • Not the clearest audio out there
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear, Reviews

9 comments… add one

  • nickyp March 10, 2013, 11:10 am

    i have the A2’s for my desktop w the D1…DAC unit, good combo of price size and sound.

    1
  • Michael March 12, 2013, 1:56 pm

    Is the D1 Dac really necessary? (I know you said yes) I have an 2012 iMac that I use with my brand new A2’s.
    I also have a pair of A5+’s wich I now use with my TV, because it has such crappy sound. The A2’s and the A5+’s both sound great! Is there such an improvement with a dac? Are the soundcards in macs so crappy?

    2
  • Bill Henderson March 12, 2013, 3:41 pm

    Michael,
    Using your configuration, I would be tempted to say you are OK as is. My beef with the iMac’s soundcard is with headphones. Awful.

    Factor in surrounding noise and distractions, the A2 speakers may be fine without the D1, especially if you like what you hear! If you have the means, you can get the D1 and see if you like it. If you can’t hear any appreciable difference, return it.
    I hope this helps.
    Bill H.

    3
  • npeckio March 12, 2013, 3:55 pm

    i got the dac for my headphones and the vol control knob. the dac unit is nice, you dont have to have it though. i didnt try the speakers w/o the dac unit cause i think its always

    better to bypass the soundcard.

    4
  • Jacob August 12, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Bill,
    You mentioned the dimensions being: “10.75″ H x 7″ W x 7.75″ D”

    This is confirmed by Audioengine’s website: “Dimensions (each speaker HWD)10.75″ (27cm) x 7″ (18cm) x 7.75″ (20cm)”

    Are the two speakers truly the same dimensions? Considering that the left one has an additional heat sink and all the wires plugged into it, I would expect it to have more depth.

    So if you plug the wires into the left speaker and put it’s back against a wall, what is the distance from the wall to the front of the speaker?

    I would like to know this to determine if they would fit on my small shelf.

    Kind regards,
    Jakub

    5
  • Bill Henderson August 12, 2013, 6:08 pm

    Good catch, Jakub,
    The depth including the heat sink is appx. 9.5 inches.

    Bill

    6
  • star October 27, 2013, 5:24 pm

    whats the big deal with these speakers ,in shade and light of the much better aktimate mini and iquake52

    7
  • Bill Henderson October 27, 2013, 8:02 pm

    Star,
    I can’t say what the difference is, because I haven’t heard the other speakers. I can say that the Audioengine 5+ speakers are powerful, loud and a lot of fun to listen to. Maybe we can review the others in the future.
    Thanks,
    Bill H.

    8
  • star October 29, 2013, 12:35 am

    if you plan to review those two in the near future ,will I get notified ?

    9

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