AudioEngine A2: Little Big Speakers

Audio|Video|Misc
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MISC NOTES

Here are some random notes I could not easily integrate elsewhere in the review:

1) Even though my wife and I find the A2s perfectly suitable for TV speakers, Brady Bargenquast says they're not so popular in home theater setups. He does not like them much for speech reproduction. YMMV.

2) The A2s do not feature any kind of compression circuitry. It's part of what makes them sound so open and dynamic. This is unlike many similar speakers made for use with a PC. If you overload them, they will distort, and this is audible. If you hear the distortion, just back off on the volume. You'll damage the speakers if you keep playing them at distorted levels.

3) The volume control / power switch is on the back because there was simply no room in the front.

4) A little peak-warning LED might be a useful addition, especially for users who are ham-fisted with the volume control or less sensitive to the sound of distortion. This might actually reduce claims for warranty service, which is good for Audioengine... and it could be considered a user benefit as well.

5) Audioengine recognizes the limitations of the audio listening environment at the computer desktop. They're going to offer a new stand that will raise the A2s off the desk and allow them to be positioned and angled more ideally.

6) Some SPL and AC power measurements were made. Our old B&K 2203 SLM and a Seasonic Power Angel AC meter were used. The power factor was a low 0.4 under any load. It's possible that a better power supply could improve performance... and I'm sure the mod-itchy audiophiles have already experimented.

Audioengine A2
AC Power & SPL Measurements
State
AC Power
SPL
(no weighting)
Turned off but plugged into the AC outlet.
1W
0
Turned on, volume control at any setting, nothing playing
4W
0
Playing music at desktop, modest volume
4~6W
60~70 dB@1m
Playing TV programming sound, moderately loud
4~20W
60~85 dB@2m
Playing music in large living room, just below overload
15~30W
60~85 dB@3m

CONCLUSIONS

There's little doubt that the Audioengine A2 is a gem. Its tiny size, appealing simple looks and operation, and well-thought out details exude an impressive level of quality. The real reward is when they're plugged in and the music turned on. It's hard to believe so much good sounding music can come from such wee speakers.

It's difficult for me to assign a value or relative rank for the A2, mostly because I have not heard its contemporaries. Sub-$100/pr speaker models for computers appear to number in the hundreds, if not thousands. When you exclude the speakers under $100 as being impossible to be any good, the number shrinks considerably, and some other models look like they could be good. But I simply have not heard many of them, let alone scrutinize them for a review. So call mine a somewhat limited perspective. But I do know sound and music reproduction very well.

What I can say is this: The A2 have not yet convinced me that they or any other speakers belong on my desk. But if I had to have a pair of speakers on my desk connected to my PC, or if I was shopping for speakers to use in a small apartment, a holiday cabin, or for members of the generation that's grown up with MP3s, the A2 is a no-brainer choice. I risk repeating myself here, but building a no-holds barred speaker system for $20,000 and making them sound good is not that hard; making speakers with the size limitaion and the $200 price tag of the A2 is a real engineering feat that requires the canniest of choices all through the concept, design and manufacturing stages. Kudos to Brady Bargenquast and his partners.

Audioengine A2
PROS

* Great sound
* Tiny size
* Built-in amps
* Attractive cosmetics
* Modest price
CONS*

* Supplied speaker wire a bit short
* Power supply has low power factor
* Can't wait to try the new stands
* Not wireless

*The "cons" are tongue in cheek; they're hardly serious criticisms. The comment "not wireless" applies to 99.9% of speakers anyway... and it's a good segue to the AW1 Wireless Audio Adapter, a kit that Audioengine is selling to... "Transfer music wirelessly from any audio device or computer to your Audioengine powered speakers, surround receiver, or powered subwoofer. CD-quality stereo sound with no reduction in audio quality." Yes, we'll be getting a test sample soon. :)

Our thanks to Audioengine for the review sample.

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