They are solidly built and impressed me with their excellent imaging, dynamic midrange and tunefull bass response. They are available in three different finish options, all of which are high quality and very stylish. These are the type of speakers one would be happy to use for the rest of their life.
Audioengine HD6 Powered Speakers
- Flexible input options – analog, digital and Bluetooth
- Surprising bass extension
- Neutral, precise midrange
- Extended, albeit “polite” treble response
- Incredible soundstage depth
- Plenty of amplifier power for mid sized rooms
- Beautiful Real Wood Finishes with excellent build quality
I have always admired Audioengine because of their knack for creating high quality, affordable gear. For those who may not know, Audioengine started in the mid aughts of the 21st century and have since focused on innovative, compact powered speaker systems, stand-alone DAC’s and miscellaneous wireless applications. Their products have garnered rave reviews from consumers and the press. Their products are always high quality and high value prospects for modern music lovers.
2-Way Slot-Loaded, Powered Speakers
50 wpc RMS
50 Hz – 22 kHz, +/- 1.5dB
1″ Silk Dome
5-1/2” Kevlar cone
3.5mm mini-jack, RCA L/R, digital optical (SPDIF,) Bluetooth aptX
Up to 24-bit/192 kHz sample rates
17.5 lbs. (Left channel/amp) and 12.5 lbs. (Right channel/passive)
11.75” H x 7.25” W x 10” D
Real Cherry, Real Walnut or Satin Black Paint
Audioengine, HD6, Powered speakers, Bluetooth, Bookshelf speakers, Bookshelf Speaker Reviews 2016
This is the second formal review I have done of something made by Audioengine. My first review of an Audioengine product was in January 2015 where I reviewed the B1 Bluetooth receiver. That product impressed me so much that I nominated it for the Accessory of the Year in 2015. The HD6’s were announced a few months later in November 2015. It took a while until everything synched up so I could get a pair of HD6’s in for review. I’ve had them for a few months now and can say that, true to form for Audioengine, they are an excellent deal at only $749 a pair.
The Audioengine HD6 speakers are mid-sized powered bookshelf speakers with a built-in DAC and Bluetooth receiver. The HD6’s are larger than the mini speakers you would normally see in most common desktop solutions for gaming and/or a computer workstations. At the same time they are much smaller than the bookshelf speakers that would typically find their way into an audiophile’s living room system. I mostly listened to them on the credenza in my office as they were maybe a smidgen too big for the desk itself.
The HD6’s are very stoutly constructed, a fact evidenced by their solid weight. The amplification is all contained in the left speaker so, of course, this is the heavier speaker. I was honestly expecting the amplifier to be a lightweight Class D design largely because Audioengine, the company, is a cutting-edge component manufacturer so of course they would use the most up to date amplifier topology, right? Well, surprise – the HD6’s are powered by a pair of Class A/B monoblock power amplifiers. Audioengine says these amps have built-in linear power supplies with toroidal power transformers and are rated to deliver 50 wpc RMS (<0.05% THD+N).
So that’s really cool. It’s a decent amount of power from a tried and true technology and with performance upgrades that are also known to improve the sound. But Audioengine, being who they are, didn’t stop there. No siree. They went ahead and made these speaker whole by including a built-in D1 24-bit DAC.
This DAC is based on the AKM AK4396A chip. This is a high end DAC solution and means the HD6’s are capable of decoding digital signals up to 24-bit/192 kHz via the optical input! So the inclusion of a built-in high end DAC sets apart the HD6’s, right?
Sorry, but Audioengine didn’t stop there. They also included a built-in B1 Bluetooth® Receiver with aptX®. The B1 features 24-bit upsampling and it is described by Audioengine in their own words, “. . . for Bluetooth the AK4396A is used as an upsampling DAC and will pad all bit depths to 24-bits, achieving a higher signal-to-noise ratio and lower noise floor. Due to the high signal-to-noise specs of the AK4396A, the fact that digital signal is upsampled to 24-bits – as well as the added benefit of onboard triple redundancy power source conversion and filtering – the HD6 Bluetooth implementation presents impressive low noise and low distortion characteristics with a noticeable improvement over other Bluetooth devices.”
Not only does this mean that the HD6’s are highly flexible in terms of the type of signals they can accommodate, but they also handle those signals like a champ!
The drivers in the HD6’s are well-designed and manufactured for the specific needs of this system. The woofers are custom 5.5” Kevlar drivers with die cast aluminum baskets. They are slot-loaded via a slotted port at the top back of each cabinet.
The tweeters are custom 1” silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnets and ferrofluid-cooled voice coils that are recessed into some modest waveguides.
These drivers are mounted in solidly made cabinets of ¾” (20 mm) thick MDF cabinets. There are three finish options. Two are real wood veneers with furniture-grade finishes – cherry and walnut. Or you could choose the third option, satin black paint for a more subdued look.
Like I mentioned above, the amps and electronics are in the left speaker. The back panel of the plate amp has a lighted “pair” button, a detachable Bluetooth antenna, analog ins (mini plug and RCA), optical in, RCA stereo out, binding posts for speaker level out to the right speaker, a power switch and fuse protection. The front of the cabinet has a lovely aluminum accent along the bottom which also has a rotary volume control.
The speakers come with a nice little solid aluminum remote control with buttons for standby, power, and volume up/down. I used the remote a lot during the review period and it was indeed a most welcome touch.
The grilles are detachable and magnetic (with sufficiently strong magnets, BTW). There are also threaded inserts in the base of each cabinet that can be used to secure the speakers to a pair of stands.
The first thing I did after receiving these speakers was to set them up in the big theater space to get a taste of their sound. Even fresh out of the box, the sound was rich and solid in the bass with a delicate, slightly recessed top end. I liked what I heard and when this happens, I tend to crank it up and let the sound wash over me. I quickly found the upper volume limit with the HD6’s in the big room so I knew the only way to properly evaluate these speakers would be in a smaller space. So I took them to my office.
My office is about 175 square feet with a suspended acoustic ceiling. Though I have a big desk, I am an engineer which means I have lots of large format pieces of paper I need to manage so there really wasn’t enough space on the desk for the mid sized HD6’s. That’s why I placed them on the credenza in the front of the room. (If I didn’t have all the plan sheets, then they would have been on the desk, straddling my monitors.) In any event, the speakers were spaced about 6′ apart and were about 8′ from the listening position. I think this was an almost ideal geometric set up for the system considering all relevant factors.
Once I found the best spot for the HD6’s, the final set up was a breeze. I connected the supplied speaker cable from the plate amp to the right speaker. I connected the optical out from an Oppo BDP 83 SE to the optical in on the DAC, installed the Bluetooth antenna, connected the power cord and then paired my PC and phone to the Audioengines. That was it. The whole set up took just a few minutes.
I played music over the HD6’s for several weeks before doing any critical listening. I did not hear much in the way of a transformation over this break-in period which is atypical of most speakers I review. Most speakers go through some amount of transformation when breaking in but in this case I did not hear any substantial change. (Perhaps Audioengine did a little break-in before shipping them to me?)
Once I was ready to evaluate the sound, I put on the old Richard Thompson Rumor and Sigh CD. There is a variety of interesting instrumentation throughout this well-recorded album which makes for excellent test material. All the instruments have their own unique characteristics (and are mostly acoustic) so this CD is a very good one to use in evaluating a system.
One standout song on the album is “Mystery Wind”. My notes say “wow, just wow, the bass extension and definition are way beyond anything I would have expected. The synth lines are something to behold!” The frequency balance was not hyped but was natural and very satisfying. Imaging was top notch as well. The voices were slightly forward but not in your face. It was great to be able to hear and understand all the lyrics!
Another great song on this album is “God Loves a Drunk”. The HD6’s were rock solid on this song. This went for the guitar, the vocals and the cello. This time, though, the image sounded ever so slightly compressed.
Later on the CD, I was amazed by the bass on “Psycho Street”. The HD6’s really did rival full range floor standers in this regard. They were phenomenal.
Next up was the recently remastered Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here SACD. This time, I used the unbalanced analog outs on the Oppo to the RCA ins on the Audioengine HD6’s.
Once again, I was totally impressed with the overall bass quality and extension, especially on “Welcome to the Machine”. Additionally, the substantial soundstage breadth and depth were significantly more immersive than I was expecting.
“Have a Cigar” is my favorite track on this album. I love the music, the arrangement, the performance, the theme and this song makes me chuckle a little every time I hear it, even after all these years. This was very immersive sounding again and I ultimately decided the excellent immersion was mostly due to the front to back depth of the stage.
Similar to most every quality system I’ve reviewed, the HD6’s benefit from a correct volume setting – too soft and the sound loses its life and edge, too loud and it becomes hard and out of balance, just right and everything pops into place – instrument placement, staging, frequency balance, etc. This was one reason I liked having the remote. I could fine tune the volume from my desk and didn’t have to walk back and forth from the speakers to get the setting I wanted.
I did want more sparkle from the tweeters, particularly when using the Bluetooth interface. This was the closest thing to a negative critique that I could make with the HD6’s – that some rock songs just didn’t sparkle the way I am used to hearing. This didn’t come across as a lack of extension in the treble. It was just that the treble was slightly recessed and this made for a warmer than usual presentation overall. So the recessed treble was only noted with crash cymbals and other signals in the range of, say 7 – 10 kHz. Remember that this quality was really only an issue when using the Bluetooth input and not the analog or optical inputs – over these inputs, the voicing of the HD6’s was remarkably neutral.
I would be remiss if I didn’t listen to a little Classical music with these speakers. I felt that the HD6’s were stellar on most acoustic works so I put on Hilary Hahn Beethoven: Violin Concerto and Bernstein: Serenade “After Plato’s Symposium near the tail end of my evaluation period. Not only did the Audioengine HD6’s describe the size and scope of the hall where these performances were recorded, but they also passed on the natural sound of Ms. Hahn’s violin. This is the great test of a speaker – how well does the speaker recreate the sound of actual instruments? Well, the HD6’s did this fabulously, preserving the innate and natural timbre of the strings and the instrument’s wooden body.
THE AUDIOENGINE HD6 POWERED SPEAKERS are Among the Most Flexible and Best-sounding Bookshelf Speakers I Have Reviewed.
- All in one solution
- Lovely build and finish qualities
- Decent amplification power
- Excellent soundstaging ability
- Solid and musical bass response
- Asynchronous USB Input
- WiFi Capability
- Treble “Lift” switch
- More finish options (e.g., Gloss Black)
The HD6’s represent the next advancement of ideas from Audioengine so naturally they have a lot of things going for them. Their strengths lie in their build quality, soundstaging, bass response and flexibility. The HD6’s really are a complete system that can be used in a wide range of domestic applications – a bedroom system, a desktop system or a main system in a medium to small room.
I am using them in my office for music playback while I work and for serious listening when the opportunity presents itself. They are an ideal match for just such an application. They are voiced to be less in-your-face than most compact speakers and this is a welcome respite from the competition with their oft time hard-sounding playback. The HD6’s don’t wear on you throughout the day.
I am strongly recommending the HD6’s for consideration if you are in the market for a small system. I can’t think of any system I have heard that does as much and for such a reasonable price.