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LISTENING IMPRESSIONS (continued)
In a Home Theater AV Setup
Wall-mounted Samsung 59" TV in media room, flanked by Audioengine
A5+ on dual AV stand. The center speaker is an Audioengine A2, turned
on only with video sources, and turned off during testing.
An Anthem MRX 500
7-channel AV receiver and a Samsung 59" plasma TV reside in my small 10'
x 12' media room. Sources include a Shaw HD PVR (for cable programming), a home-built
HTPC running Windows 7 and XBMC 11.0, and a Samsung Bluray player. Most of the
video material is 720p and 1080p files ripped from Bluray and stored on a home
server on the gigabit wired network. Normally, a pair of home-made 2-way transmission
line tower speakers with Focal 7" mid/bass and 1" dome drivers are
used with one Audioengine A2 speaker (passive right one) for the center channel.
The towers were removed from the room for this review.
The simplest way to inject the A5+ speakers into the existing system was to
connect them via RCA coax cables to the preamp outputs of the Anthem MRX 500
receiver. The speakers were placed atop the low (16" tall) equipment cabinets
under/in-front of the TV. No effort was made to decouple the speakers from the
hollow core wood panel of the cabinet top; I figured the speakers should be used as intended, with that damped pad already adhered to its bottom. The Audioengine A2 center speaker was left in place, but generally not used for this review.
There were no real surprises: The Audioengine A5+ speakers sounded great with
the very first movie I tried, The Adjustment Bureau from 2011. Even without
the center speaker, the vocals came through with great clarity and intelligibility,
while both music and sound effects had excellent impact. , I'd expected the
speakers to have more oomph in this smaller room, and the expectation was borne
out, but I did not expect the prodigious amount of bass that the A5+ delivered
in this room. This was decidedly different than in the living room, where the
A5+ bass was quite nicely balanced.
After a couple of weeks in the media system, the hefty bass quality was well
confirmed with lots of video programs as well as music. It was fun to have with
lots of movies, but part of me knew the effect was exaggerated overkill, and
it was less suitable with some music. I decided to run the ARC (Anthem
Room Correction PDF) program through the MRX 500 receiver, which would conveniently provide a frequency response test of the A5+ speakers in that system/room, and see/hear how the room equalization might change the already excellent but sometimes bass-heavy sound I was getting.
Frequency response of Audioengine A5+ speakers in small media room, as
is, and after equalization with ARC.
The ARC results showed the A5+ did indeed have boosted bass in this room/system,
as much as 5~6 dB over the midband (400~1,000 Hz) level. Curiously, I had not
heard much of the effect of the apparent dip at roughly 100~300 Hz. I had no
quibble with the rest of the ARC results, it pretty much confirms what I was
hearing: Smooth response to beyond 10 kHz, with fairly rapid falloff beyond.
The 10~20 kHz drop in response explains one of the major differences between
the A5+ and the Paradigm MilleniaOne: The latter extends flat out to 20 kHz
and beyond. See the ARC results for the Millenia speakers below.
ARC results on the MilleniaOne/Sub 3.1 system in the same room, with Anthem
MRX 300 receiver (from Paradigm
Did the ARC correction improve the sonic performance of the A5+? Well, mostly,
but as mentioned, the uncorrected performance of the A5+ was very good:
- With most music, yes, but this is not the main function of the media system.
- With most movies, yes. Despite the fact that speech was already quite intelligible
before, the taming of the bass and the subtle smoothing of midband response
(200~1200 Hz, roughly) made everything a bit smoother and more natural sounding.
In a few movies, the reduction in bass output at 50~100 Hz made me aware of the lack of anything significant below that frequency, and thoughts about a subwoofer to fill the gap... but this was rare.
In the main audio only room/system, the balance of the A5+ was so right that there was no point dragging the Anthem receiver out there for the ARC treatment.
Atop a Desktop, Flanking a Monitor
The promotional photo at the start of this article shows the A5+ in such a
setup, and some people do listen to music, watch online videos and play games
at their computer desk, so this can be considered a fairly standard application these days. It does not rank high in my priorities. Such a near-field position makes for a pretty unnatural sonic experience and I just don't have much time for playing game. Still, it was tried.
The sound, fed from a high quality Asus
Essence STX card in my desktop PC, was excellent, which is no surprise given the experience in previous settings. As with other speakers, the mechanical
coupling of the A5+ to the desktop itself caused bass resonances, which could be off-putting. This effect is probably worse with the A5+ than with other small speakers I've tried in the past simply because there is a lot more bass output.
It's too bad that Audioengine neglected to send me a
set of their angled desktop stands, which are supposed to help mitigate
the problem. (Too bad, too, that I didn't pursue them for a set.)
Power Consumption: A quick check was done with our AC power meter, which
confirmed (within 10%) Audioengine's spec of 10W in idle, 6W in mute, and 4W
in sleep. There's really no way to get maximum power readings; the demands of
audio are too dynamic for any of our power meters to do justice. Suffice it
to say I'd be surprised if the long term power draw of the A5+ exceeded 20W
in any normal usage.
Remote Control: I did mention how handy it is earlier, and here's a
photo of the little thing.
Audioengine A5+ remote: Handy and functional.
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