AUDIOENGINE A2+ wireless speaker system
+ Solid build and great finish; good bass performance and volume capability for their size; wealth of inputs.
– A tad rich in the midrange, subwoofer needed if full-range performance sought; need to be angled upwards if placed on desktop; no remote volume control.
GOING by size alone, you wouldn’t really expect much from the Audioengine A2+ wireless speakers. But you’d be wrong. Diminutive in size they may be, but these little tykes really pack a proverbial punch.
Audioengine is one of the few mass market brands that have audiophile cred, and how it managed to coax such performance from a tiny pair of boxes is quite impressive.
And when we say small, the A2+ truly is. It’s not much taller than a soft drink can at 15.2 x 10 x 13.3cm (h/w/d) but has some relative heft at 3kg for the pair. The pair I reviewed came in a satin black finish – other options are high-gloss white or red.
Being an active design, the left speaker – where the electronics are housed – is slightly heavier than the right. That’s also where all the connections are found, and there is a good number of them.
On the back panel, you’ll find three inputs – one each for mini-USB, RCA pair and 3.5mm minijack. Should you choose to go the wireless path, the A2+ is equipped with an Bluetooth aptX connection. It even has a pair of line-level RCA outputs and a dedicated output for a subwoofer!
The thing about so-called “wireless” speakers is that they are never truly wireless. You’ll still need to wire it up for power, for non-wireless sources and to connect the passive speaker (in this case the right) to the active one.
Thankfully, in the A2+, all these are really beefy and reassuring to use. The power connection is a locking type (with a very satisfying muted click) and the heavy-duty speaker posts are similar to those you’d be happy to see even in high-end speakers.
With the A2+, there’s some setting up to do before the first listen. The speaker comes with a host of ancillaries, and thankfully covers all the cables and connectors you’ll need for the input options provide. The A2+ is a truly plug-and-play speaker, with no drivers needed even when paired with a Windows 10-based computer (it appeared as USB headphones on jRiver).
The power supply is a beefy one, and once that’s hooked up, you connect the stereo pair with the cable, choose your source and you’re good to go.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to place the speakers properly. Unsurprisingly, a little care when you do this goes a long way. I first hooked it up to the resident television’s audio output (via 3.5mm minijack).
Unfortunately, my Samsung telly has a fixed volume output (it’s not for headphones) and volume control had to be done manually via the dial on the left speaker. Given the extreme variables between programming, there’s some inconvenience here, and hence a remote volume option would have been appreciated.
This is also when I found that the velvet-covered base of the A2+ was a bit of a hindrance when trying to employ the audiophile’s fave Blu-tac method of securing the speakers to the stands. I ended up laying the speakers on the side so the putty had some solid surface to adhere to.
When used in its primary configuration as a desktop speaker, however, I found that the the speaker was firing towards my chest – hardly an ideal situation. Audioengine has a solution for that, however, in the form of the optional DS1 Desktop Stands, priced at US$29. Mating the A2+ with the DS1 places it at a 15° upward angle, which more or less points it at ear level. However, since this is fixed, there is only so much it can do.
Set up as a stereo pair for home entertainment use, I was quite taken by how much volume these compact speakers could pump out when playing some high-octane soundtracks. I went through quite a number, notably the WW2 flick Hacksaw Ridge, which as expected with any wartime movie, has copious amount of bullets zipping past, gunshots and the de rigueur explosions. And before you ask, the answer is no, it does not come close to a proper home theatre rig. Still, this represents a significant improvement over the what normal TV speakers can do. You’ll welcome the additional clarity it gives to the spoken word too!
What the A2+ does have is speed and control, at least within its frequency range. And that is the big caveat – it is limited in the amount of bass it can produce. You will not get a rumbling bass that will shake the room. The spec sheet says it goes down to a modest 65Hz, and while I commend Audioengine for being honest about it, in reality it starts to roll off a little higher. This is where the A2+ shouts out for a subwoofer.
Used in its prescribed function as a desktop pair, though, the A2+ makes a lot of sense. With near-field listening, it won’t be called to reproduce loud volumes often (although it can) and there’s more than enough dynamic headroom for most purposes.
I was surprised by how solidly it portrayed a centre image even with some haphazard placement – something regular computer speakers simply cannot do. Angle it upwards and fiddle around with the distance and you can get a decent soundstage – not very expansive, but good enough!
One thing for sure, music playback is the forte of the A2+, and this was especially evident when hooked up to the Chord Mojo. There’s a solidity to the sound that makes listening to music very pleasurable. Play some rock and it drives the tune along, pay some vocals and it brings out the emotion of the singer well.
However as said, the A2+ has a very defined limitation – its inability to produce deeper bass. This also tend to make the midrange over-emphasised. Remember the gear of older days with graphic equalisers? Imagine you boosted the middle band over the halfway mark? Well, that’s kind of what you hear with the A2+.
On a lark, I hooked the pair up to some higher-end gear (the Sony HAP-Z1 and turntable) – and with expectations reduced – was satisfied what it delivered in terms of detail and resolution.
THE LAST WORD
At its very modest asking price, there are few, if any, active speakers out there that will give you what the Audioengine A2+ does. If you’re looking for a small-form speaker with great performance, this will fit the bill perfectly.
Add a subwoofer if and when you can, and you have an excellent, all-round music playback system you can be proud of.
Sources: Sony HAP-Z1ES HDD audio player; Technics SL1200 Mk3 turntable and triple 12AX7 tube-based phono stage; Toshiba notebook running Windows 10 and jRiver Media Centre; Chord Mojo DAC/headphone amp; Samsung Series 6 television / Cabling: Bundled
Malaysian price: RM1,450
Review sample courtesy of Eng Siang International
Malaysian dealers: Style Laser Audio (+603-9100 3023) / Digital Audio Studio.
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Wonderful review of Audioengine A2.