Audioengine recently announced the little brother to the A5, the A2 desktop speaker set. The A2 speakers are roughly half the size of the A5 and they don’t put out quite as much power, but they seem to have just as much intensity per cubic inch as the A5’s. We gave the A2 speakers a thorough test and have the results ready for you. Find out if these $199 USD speakers are worth two Benjamin’s and if they’re worthy of the audioengine name.
Features and Design:
If it wasn’t for the solid reputation Audioengine has built for itself, it’d be very hard to believe that the A2 speakers can pump out a hefty 60W peak power. Each channel gives 30W (15W RMS, if you follow RMS stats), which is anywhere from two to five times that of other 2.0 desktop speakers.
The average signal to noise – the level of proper signal (your music) against distorted or undesirable noise – is greater than 95dB. Total harmonic distortion (THD) is less than 0.05% at all power settings. In non-technical terms, these stats are “really awesome”. When cranking these little buggers up past half volume, it’s quite surprising how rock-solid and clean the sound is.
Another stat that raised an eyebrow is the frequency response rate. The A5 speakers give 50Hz-22 kHz, whereas the A2 speakers are somewhat limited to 65Hz-22 kHz. Even though I state they’re “limited” to 65Hz-22 kHz, a comparison to some higher priced speakers really exonerates the A2’s shortcomings. For example, the Polk RM7300 home theater speaker ($360 USD per speaker) has a frequency response of 65Hz-26 kHz. Additionally, the $720 USD Polk speaker set has a disappointing 89dB signal to noise ratio.
Tweeters and Woofers
Each A2 speaker contains a 20mm silk dome tweeter with neodymium magnets and a 2.75″ Kevlar woofer with advanced voice coils. The A2 cabinets have specially tuned front port slots that help augment the amount of bass driven by the woofers. This type of augmentation, instead of the all-too-common fake bass circuitry (crappy, digitally enhanced bass), is very effective at producing impressive bass in small form factor speakers. Some people may like the look and feel of fake woofers, but audiophiles can easily spot the difference.
Audioengine A2 Speakers
Inputs & More
The A2 speakers have two audio inputs – a 1/8″ stereo jack (for iPod, computer, PDA, electric guitar with 1/4″ to 1/8″ cable, Playstation or XBOX, etc.) and an RCA input (for home theater systems, record players and more).
The A5 speakers have dual inputs like the A2’s, however the A5’s also have a powered USB port for charging an iPod and an auxiliary AC outlet on the back for Airport Express use. Sadly, the A2 doesn’t have either of these two awesome features. The A5 also had its power source built into the left speaker, whereas the A2 uses an external power brick.
The back of the A2’s
The A2 speakers are based on the same design, color scheme, glossy coating and basic dimensions as the classic A5 speaker line. The A2 speakers measure 6”x 4”x5.25” each, or roughly 40% smaller than the A5 line. The A5 line weighs about 23lbs, whereas the A2 set weighs just under 6.75lbs. Both the A5 and A2 speaker cabinets are made of MDF board with super sexy (black or white) gloss resin on the outside. The cabinets are reinforced and even sound-dampened inside to reduce unwanted vibrations and resonance. Audioengineusa.com has all kinds of detailed information on the construction of the cabinets, the quality of the speakers themselves and even the electronics used. If you’re interested in how high-quality speakers are built, check out their commentaries on how the A5 and A2 speakers were developed – It’s educational.
In the Box
In addition to the left and right speakers you’ll get a 6-foot 1/8″ stereo cable, an 8-inch 1/8″ stereo cable, a 6.5′ length of speaker cable, power supply, foam anti-vibration pads (one for each speaker) and a setup guide. Even though the exterior of the A2 product packaging is pretty cheesy compared to the A5 packaging (pink, orange and white with monochromatic silhouettes – blech), the speakers come wrapped in their signature drawstring protective bags, making the presentation pretty nice.
The audioengine A2 speakers cost $199 USD per pair. This is significantly higher than other desktop speaker sets; however there are very few desktop speakers that perform quite as well as the A2 set.
While most speakers come with 1 year limited warranties, the A2’s come with a 3 year warranty. This says a lot about how confident audioengine is about the quality of their speakers.
Setup and Use
Setting up the A2 speakers is easy. Remove the A2’s from the product packaging. You’ll find that each speaker is wrapped in a protective microfiber drawstring bag. Keeps these bags in case you ever need to store or transport the A2’s. The bags will keep the gloss finish from gathering dust and attracting scratches. In another set of microfiber bags you’ll find the power adapter and the included audio cables.
Plug the power adapter into an AC outlet and into the back side of the main (left) A2 speaker. Next, connect the left and right speakers with the included audio cable. The audio cables should be matched red to red and black to black. Then connect the A2 speakers to your audio source, whether it’s an iPod, a computer, stereo system, a Stanton turntable, PDA or any other device that uses 1/8″ out or RCA audio connections. I even connected my A2 speakers directly to an electric guitar using a 1/4″ to 1/8″ cable.
Finally, turn the A2 speakers on and start your audio source. I’d recommend starting out with the A2’s set at a low volume level. You wouldn’t want to damage your ears or tick off your neighbors, would you?
Tuning is Essential
You’ll need to configure your EQ (equalizer) so the levels of bass, mids and highs are to your satisfaction. In my own setup sequence, I noticed that the A2’s had an overbearing, heavy-duty bass pre-configuration. They sounded flat before being properly adjusted. Because I prefer a more dynamic range to bombastic bass, I tuned my system accordingly. It was quick, easy and the results were very, very nice. (If you’re using an audio source that doesn’t have an EQ, then you may find the A2’s bass to be a bit too predominant.)
Transcendence by Thievery Corporation: Highs were clear and high, mids were slightly AWOL, and lows were solid. No distortion, even at high volume levels (so high, the wind blown from the front of the speakers was perceptible on my face).
Big Log by Robert Plant: If you don’t know this song, find it on iTunes or get it on CD. It’s an essential. The A2 speakers make this a truly special experience – the low, low bass floating like a dominating wave, highs and mids clear and bright. The guitar felt like it was playing 3 feet in front of the rest of the track. The synthesizer kept a fleeting presence in the mid ranges, adding to the perfection. The A2’s handled this poetic masterpiece with absolute class.
Baby Girl by Nelly Furtado: The quality and potential of the A2 speakers really exploded with this test. Highs were brilliant, diamond sharp, tangible. Mids jumped forward with surprising power and range – just exquisite. The bass was deep and rock solid, making low waves pulsate through my chest.
On average, the audio seemed to shoot straight and low from the speakers. When used on a desk, the bulk of the sound waves hit at the solar plexus, while some high notes rose upwards. Rotating the speakers to varying degrees of left-right balance and upward-tilt produced very interesting 3D effects and, in some cases, made the audio tracks appear to originate from the center of my head (an odd but welcome sensation). Depending on the angle at which the A2 speakers are aimed toward your ears, the level of bass varies greatly. Downward angles (or perfectly level) produce more perceptible bass than upward angles. The farther you are from the A2’s, the more the sound waves open up.
The audioengine A2 speakers are a powerful 2.0 audio option for casual, office and home theater use. The bass is powerful while the overall sound quality is robust and statistically close to ideal. While you may need to adjust your equalizer to reduce bass in some cases, the corrected output is truly impressive.
$199 USD may be a lot for some people to spend on a speaker system, however there’s a very strong market for unusually compact and powerful speakers like the A2’s, especially since they can be used in so many ways.
Free Audition: If the stats and performance reviews aren’t enough to sell you on the A2’s, audioengine offers a “free audition” – you buy the speakers and test them out for 30 days. If you’re not satisfied, return them to audioengine for a full refund (then seek an appointment with an otology specialist).
• Super compact size
• Capable of intense, beautiful sound
• Connects to almost any source imaginable
• Thick bass can overpower mids & highs unless EQ corrected
• A bit pricey at $199 USD