With Bluetooth, 3.5 mini-jack and RCA analog input, they’re quite versatile and can be implemented in a wide variety of situations. And because they’re self-powered, you don’t need to bring extra components like an amp to get music. Just plug them into power, connect or pair a music source, and you got music. And they’ll upsample your music with their built-in 24-bit DAC.
Audioengine A5+ Wireless Powered Speakers
- Utilizes the new Bluetooth aptX HD format
- Built-in 24-bit DAC
- Powerful enough for many applications, from desktop gaming to stereo sound in mid-size rooms
- Self-powered and portable
- Strong customer support network
- Subwoofer output
- Will play music from any computer, phone, or tablet with Bluetooth, 3.5mm mini-jack, or RCA audio cable
I have noticed Audioengine speakers for sale in better record stores for some time now. Now that records are more popular and more people are trying to get good-sounding systems into smaller spaces, it stands to reason that record stores sell smaller starter stereo components to help music fans. Audioengine sells ranges of wireless, powered, and passive bookshelf-sized speakers and a desktop-sized subwoofer for those who want to plumb the depths at their workstations. They’ve also branched out into other computer-audio related components such as Bluetooth music receivers, DACs, and headphone amps.
On their website, Audioengine says “A5+ Wireless Speakers close the gap between your computer sound and a huge hi-fi,” and the speakers do exactly that. I am an audiophile with a big system (OK, not just one, but I digress), but I haven’t spent much time trying to get better sound out of my computers. Thanks to Audioengine and the A5+ Wireless speakers, I have learned how easy it is to do that.
Their speakers have been getting rave reviews personal computer-related magazines for some time now, for good reason. They are well designed and built by an American company based out of Austin, TX. Each of their products is purpose-built by folks who love to listen to music. The company’s founders, Brady Bargenquast and Dave Evans, both have experience with companies such as Alesis, Apple, Gibson Guitars, and others; clearly these pedigrees serve the purpose of the company to meet the needs of folks looking for well-built, reasonably-priced, and enjoyable components.
2.0 powered (active) bookshelf-style speaker system with wireless input and internal D/A converter
150W peak power total; 50W RMS/7W peak per channel), AES
¾” silk dome
Output current limiting, thermal over-temperature, power on/off transient protection, replaceable external main fuse.
3.5mm stereo mini-jack
RCA left/right audio
Left speaker: 15.4 lbs. (7 kg)
Right speaker: 9.6 lbs. (4.4 kg)
Left speaker: 10.75″ (27cm) x 7″ (18cm) x 9″ (23cm)
Right speaker: 10.75″ (27cm) x 7″ (18cm) x 7.75″ (20cm)
Satin Black Paint, Hi-Gloss White Paint, or Solid Carbonized Bamboo
$499 to $569
Audioengine, A5+, Powered speakers, Bluetooth, Bookshelf speakers, Bookshelf Speaker Reviews 2018
The Audioengine 5+ (A5+) Wireless speakers are the third generation of their A5 line, which have been sold for over thirteen years. The speakers I’m reviewing, A5+ Wireless, retail for $499 to $569, depending on finish. The pair I’m reviewing is in Black Satin Paint; the matte finish is attractive and appears to be scratch proof. They’re also available in Hi-Gloss White Paint (also $499) and Solid Carbonized Bamboo ($569).
Audioengine offers all of its products with a 30-day trial audition, provided you buy them direct from the Audioengine store. Their social media presence is strong, and support is just a phone call or email message away.
The Audioengine A5+ speakers are mid-sized, self-powered bookshelf speakers. They have a Bluetooth receiver built in, and also take input via 3.5mm mini-jack and RCA audio cable. But these new-fangled features do not intrude on the speakers’ retro-forward design. Getting the cosmetics right in such a small, feature-rich speaker must have been a challenge, but Audioengine has pulled it off. All of Audioengine’s products are designed by Brady Bargenquast and Dave Evans. Dave does the electrical and electronics work and Brady is the industrial design and mechanical packaging guy.
Their cabinets are built by hand of 1/2” (13mm) thick MDF. Audioengine has one of its employees perform quality control on everything built in their factory in China. There are no visible seams and the corners are nicely rounded, so they won’t hurt when you have to move them. Both the drivers in the A5+ series are mounted in matte gray pieces, and there are no grills. There are no screws and the implementation is very smooth and clean. Both speakers are magnetically shielded to prevent any RF noise if you install them in a situation like a home theater with lots of power and signal cables nearby. The shielding also allows you to mount the speakers within a few inches of a video monitor or hard-drive digital music players. I could find no fault with the assembled product; they are sturdy, attractive, and built to last.
All of the audio inputs feature gold-plated connectors. It’s worth pointing out that Audioengine does not use any off-the-shelf components in their speakers. They design their own tweeters, woofers, and other critical components, and either fabricate them directly in their factory or have them made to their designs. They then tune these parts together into a pair of speakers. They are powered by a dual class AB monolithic amplifier mounted into the left speaker which is rated to output power up to 150W peak (50W RMS/75W peak per channel) with THD+N at <0.05%. The amplifier also utilizes a gapless core toroidal transformer.
They feature built-in protection as well; they’ll limit output current if necessary or shut themselves off if they get too hot. With power on/off transient protection you can be sure they’ll power up and down safely. And you can replace the speakers’ external main fuse in the unlikely situation that it blows. So it looks like you can pretty much use them without worry that they’ll fail.
They receive power with a non-polarized 2-Pin IEC 320-C7 cable, which is removable, so you can try different cables if you are so inclined. You can also switch voltages between 115/240V and 50/60Hz, if you choose to take them with you to another country.
I don’t think it could have been easier to set these speakers up. I removed them from the box, put them on my desk on either side of my 27” 5K iMac, plugged them into the electrical outlet, then connected them to the iMac with the included audio cable. The speakers are wired to each other with a rather long pair 16AWG, 2.75m (~12.3ft) speaker cables with banana plugs, so you have plenty of distance to separate the speakers. Audioengine also includes a nice quality 2m (~6.5ft) 3.5mm stereo mini-jack audio cable.
The speakers have a high-density foam isolation pad on the bottom, which is another thoughtful feature from Audioengine, so I didn’t feel the need to put any other isolation materials under them. But placing them on the desk as I did was not the optimal positioning for these speakers. The tweeters were about a foot below my ears, and the desk isn’t particularly vibration resistant. They were about four feet apart and three feet from my listening position. But even with this setup, I was quite surprised by their imagining and ability to disappear. That amplifier and the bass quality of the speakers really go a long way to enable these speakers to get out of the way and play music.
The good folks at Audioengine did not ignore audiophile concerns about optimal placement, however. They sell pairs of black high-performance silicon rubber desktop stands which will provide increased vibration isolation and point their faces upward, which is sure to improve pretty much everything these speakers can do, especially in a desktop computer application. At only $29 a pair, I think these desktop stands are a no-brainer. And if you want to use the speakers in a different configuration, like for home hifi or theater, they have a threaded insert on the bottom, so you can mount them on bookshelf speaker platforms. Audioengine sells Sanus steel speaker stands on their website if you want to go that route.
So, after getting them plugged in, I played a song in iTunes, and there was music. Oh boy, was there ever music. Even with standard resolution MP3 files, my computer room filled with full and engaging music. The left A5+ has a Dual Class AB monolithic amplifier built into it, and it’ll output 150w peak total. That is more than enough to keep these speakers pumping along nicely.
You can play music on the A5+ speakers through Bluetooth or the RCA audio and 3.5mm mini-jack inputs, which covers pretty much any contemporary cell phone, personal computer, or tablet. Pairing devices with the speakers via Bluetooth was a breeze; select the device name “Audioengine 5+” and you’re good to go. It’s worth pointing out that both audio inputs on the speakers are active, so two audio sources may be connected at the same time so there’s no need for an input switch. Neat.
And if you wish to use the A5+ Wireless speakers with a receiver you already own, simply connect the preamp output from the receiver with RCA cables into the RCA inputs on the left speaker. Audioengine even covered that for you. But hey, Audioengine also makes passive speakers (the HDP6 and P4) if you want to go that route.
But it’s with the Bluetooth and the DAC where things can get really interesting. The speaker’s Bluetooth streaming supports the aptX HD format. According to the aptX HD website, it works by “significantly reducing the bit rate without affecting audio quality or introducing latency issues.” It also promises to provide “audio quality that faithfully reproduces the full audio bandwidth.” There is a wide range of hardware vendors who have implemented aptX HD into their devices; you’ll find a list at the aptX website.
This versatility makes it possible to use these speakers in many applications beside a computer desk or home hifi. I think they’d work very well in a kitchen or on end tables in a living room, a workshop or garage, or even behind a bar. And as speakers for a starter system or young person’s bedroom they’d be hard to beat. But Audioengine did not stop there. The variable preamp output of the speakers enables you to attach other Audioengine powered speakers or a subwoofer. Or you can use an Audioengine wireless adaptor, so you can daisy-chain a series of powered Audioengine speakers around your house.
The speakers come with a remote control made of what appears to be a solid billet of aluminum. It has a nice solid feel to it. It’s powered by a wafer-thin CR2025 battery. You can increase and decrease volume and mute the speakers. You can also put the speakers into standby: this is a low power mode for those who are energy conscious; the left speaker’s indicator light will pulse slowly when in this mode.
What the speakers lack is a headphone jack. Over the years I’ve used quite a few desktop, computer-related speakers with a headphone jack, and it would be nice to be able to hear music played over Bluetooth and through the speakers’ DAC on headphones, but this is a very, very small nit to pick.
The included manual suggests giving the speakers 30 to 50 hours break-in time before doing any critical listening. But to me they sounded great out of the box. While they worked quite well in the relatively cramped space of the desk in my office, I don’t doubt they’d sound much better when given some room to breathe. I did not have any speaker stands to test this theory, however, but considering how much power the amp is capable of, I don’t doubt you can get your joint jumping with the A5+ speakers mounted on stands in a living room or man cave.
I chose the debut album from New Orleans’ band Roughseven to audition the AudioEngines for a number of reasons. I played the album via Redbook CD on my 27” 5K iMac, with the Audioengines attached via the included 3.5mm cable.
The first reason I chose the album is that it provides a rich contract in vocal styles; lead singer Ryan Scully’s voice has a rough-hewn quality, which contrasts nicely with the bright sweetness of the voices of the backup singers for the session, Meschiya Lake and Erika Lewis. The speakers handled the distinctive voices well, but they got a bit tizzy, particularly with vocals, when the volume increased considerably. But this was not an issue when playing music at sensible levels.
Another reason I chose the album is its great, open, live sound. Guitarist Rob Cambre’s gorgeously grungy and radiant (and just darned pretty) gold Fender Jazzmaster is well recorded. There’s just something particularly rockin’ about a well recorded Fender Jaguar’s timbre, and the A5+ speakers sure brought that quality out. With seven members in the band playing at once, you’d think the sound could get congested with these small speakers, but the built-in amp and capable woofers ensured the music didn’t lose its focus.
One of the best numbers on the album, “Love is the Main Thing,” starts with tumbling drums and a vintage organ before the guitars and vocals join the party. It ends with heavily echoed chanting and recalls 1960s Detroit soul. Good times. Play this tune on a pair of these speakers at a pool party and your guests are sure to be jigglin’ and jumpin’ in no time at all.
After listening to the speakers through the 3.5mm cable for a few days, I switched over to Bluetooth. This way I could take advantage of the speakers’ built-in 24-bit DAC. Immediately I heard, well, more of everything. Better imaging, to begin with. I am really not used to musicians appearing to stand directly behind my iMac when I play music, but I believe that’s something I can get used to. I could also play the music a bit louder before the upper frequencies started getting tizzy.
As an old-school audiophile who’s always just believed music sounds better played over wires than wireless, I am completely surprised and delighted by this capability.
The recent reissue by Rubellan Remasters of two of 1970s Moog impresario Mort Garson’s seminal albums has made the task of testing speakers much more fun and interesting for me. Garson’s music made liberal use of the 3D soundstage, with sounds, screeches, whoops, and whatnot panning across the soundstage like spooked pigeons.
And the synthesized tones frequently hit or exceed the limits of human audio perception. The rumbly lows and pitchy highs can make weak speakers tremble. So how did the A5+ speakers handle this music?
The A5+ speakers portrayed every swooping blip, brap, and brop of Garson’s “The Unexplained: Electronic Musical Impressions of the Occult by Ataraxia” without breaking a sweat. They disappeared well and enabled the sounds that sweep across the soundstage to do just that; this is a capability which I’m sure most computer gamers would appreciate. The built-in amplifier had enough power to play well into the inside of the very low Moog notes; I could hear attack and decay well in relation to other notes, which is no mean feat when the music is so busy.
Their versatility is enough to recommend the speakers. They’ll match any décor and play from pretty much any music source. The built-in amp and the sound quality they provide make it even easier to recommend them.
- Excellent Bluetooth sound quality
- Extremely versatile all-in-one solution
- Attractive build quality and finishes
- Enough amplifier power to be used in many applications
- Headphone output
The Audioengine A5+ Wireless powered speakers really can be an all-in-one solution. Put them on your computer desk, in your kitchen, in your man cave, on your boat, you name it. Or add them to an existing conventional stereo system or home theater. Or daisy-chain them into a house-wide system. But wherever you put them, you can play music wirelessly through a 24-bit DAC with enough power to keep things interesting.
I have them set up next to my computer workstation and use them for listening to music, watching Netflix and YouTube, and I’m sure they’ll provide many hours of fatigue-free listening.