Review – Audioengine A5 Speakers

On February 5, 2009

As some of you might already know I am an audiophile.  Over the years I’ve heard my share of both really bad stereo speakers and really high-end studio quality speakers.  I use varying setups throughout the house based upon which type of speaker works best for the job it’s meant to do.  For example, the surround sound system connected to my hidef tv consists of Polk Audio center channel, with a combination of Mirage front and back speakers, and a Nakamichi sub. That combination works best for the type of surround sound amp I’m using and the room in which I watch movies.

Even though those components are all high quality, I have a completely different set up for my music.  Why?  Because music is recorded differently than a movie track.  It requires the ability to hear separate instruments without blending all of the sound together, and in my case, I love to hear each individual instrument clearly and as close to the original recording as possible.  I choose the components in my stereo system not only because it reproduced sound well, but because the combination of components I choose doesn’t require a minimum wattage level to hear all the details in the music at low levels (my music system is in the living room, and I cant blast it too loud there).  It lets me ‘feel’ the sound even at low volumes.

I’m an audiophile.

Last week, Audioengine sent us their Audioengine A5 bookshelf speakers.  What did I think?


The first thing I noticed before even plugging them in was the quality of the case.  Made from high-resin MDF, the cabinets have a nice black satin finish (ours was black, but they come in white and caramel (bamboo).  The other thing I noticed was the weight, and although the speakers are a little heavy (making these more suitable for permanent bookshelf placement) at 14 lbs for the left (it contains the amp) and 9 lbs for the right, each one feels solid and well built.

The speakers don’t come with a grille, and after speaking with Audioengine, they explained that there was no need to provide a grill since each speaker has a Kevlar woofer and silk dome tweeters and would be very hard to damage.  I of course tried this and although I didn’t put any sharp objects to the tweeters, it stood up to my fingers prodding around very well.

The real test, of course, is when I plugged in my audio source. I started with a few classical pieces to see how well the A5s reproduced the music.  I noticed that the clarity and detail was excellent at low levels.  After turning up the volume to somewhat uncomfortable levels, I was surprised that there was no distortion in sound and the stereo image was nice and wide (something I’m sure that is helped greatly by the fact that this is a 2 piece system).

After listing through some classics, I moved on to more modern music, Dave Matthews, Queen (ok, not that modern), Stevie Ray, The Police, and Coldplay.  All of the music was recorded to my iPhone from original CD’s encoded in 192kbps.

The sound for all of my music was very rich, with nice full sound and surprisingly deep bass.  In fact, the highs were crystal clear and even details like the fingers moving up the fret board on many SRV songs could easily be heard.  I keep a CD around of an old 80’s song (not going to mention the name since its just too embarrassing), but they drop a quarter in the studio by mistake during a recording and it made it onto the CD.  With most systems, you wont hear it, but with a high quality, well balanced system you would.  Of course I disconnected the iPhone and plugged my CD player in to see what happened. I’m was impressed, the quarter was right where it should be, clear and easy to hear.

Even though the system doesn’t come with a remote, it does provide a way to stream your music directly from your computer.  The left speaker of the A5’s has a built in power outlet on the rear panel and an auxiliary mini-jack located nearby which allows you to plug in Apple’s Airport Express or Audioengines W1 Wireless Audio Adapter and thus stream music directly to the speakers.

In addition, the top of the left speaker has another audio input and a USB charging port.  This design allows you to plug in your iPhone and have it charging while playing music.  On the front, there is an LED power indicator and a volume control (which also feels like a high quality component and lets me tune the volume up slowly).

Included with the A5 are all the components you need to get started right away.

These items include;

   * 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 and speaker bags

Considering these speakers are $349, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  They are obviously more expensive than many of the portable solutions currently available, but not as much as going out and buying a separate high quality amp and high quality speakers from other manufacturers.

The Audioengine 5s create excellent sound for the market for which they were designed (portable music players).  From all of the varying choices available for portable music player speakers, I’d choose the A5s for their balanced sound and for their ability to be separated (a feature surprisingly that many portable music players lack).  If you decide to go this route for a stationary solution for your iPhone/iTouch speakers, you will not regret choosing the A5’s.