Page 2 of 2
The A5s are definitely designed for iPod users. The powered left speaker sports a USB jack on its top that charges iPods while playing. Behind the USB jack is an audio-in to run a mini-jack cable directly from an iPod or Universal Dock. And there's plenty of room adjacent to place a dock and house the whole works. The back of the speaker includes a built-in AC power AUX outlet and additional audio-in jack, which makes it easy to go wireless. If you have an Apple Airport Express, it can plug into the outlet and be out-of-sight but always ready to go. Hard to believe that a simple outlet could result in such functionality. If the speakers have a design drawback, it's that they offer no tone control. If you choose to connect an auxiliary component such as a CD player, you're stuck with the default sound settings.
The A5s scored high marks with me for their versatility and portability. Because there's no separate amplifier or receiver required, you can take the speakers from one room to the next and have music playing in a minute. I spent most of my time listening to the A5s alternately in my living room and home office. I don't own an Airport Express; instead, I connected a Logitech Squeezebox Duet and used it to stream music into my living room. I'm a recent convert to Internet radio and hooked on the many excellent stations serving up Celtic and reggae music. The A5s performed very well whether on an Irish reel or a bass-thumping rock steady number, and as they sat on a pair of floor-standing speakers I often caught myself looking to verify which speakers were playing. The A5s present an open, rich and smooth soundstage capable of fooling my ears (and eyes). Don't expect cavernous bass (frequency response plumbs to 50Hz) but do expect engaging audio from a lovely marriage of amp and speaker.
I enjoyed the A5s most of all as part of a computer audio system. With all my devotion to audio gear, I have yet to sink significant money into computer speakers, mainly because I haven't found any that ring my bell. Recent time spent with Neuhaus Laboratories' T-2 Integrated Tube Amplifier gave me newfound appreciation for the potentials of computer audio and had me digging up long-forgotten files from my external hard drive. The A5s don't bring the warmth of tubes or a separate DAC into the equation, but they do make sweet music on their own.
Unlike the plethora of thin-sounding computer speakers that pervade the market, the A5s are real speakers that happen to be computer-compatible. I loved being able to connect directly to my Mac mini and play iTunes through speakers that make computer audio come alive. Granted, I can easily stream music from my computer to my prime stereo system, but when I'm writing or working at my desk this means the music is playing at my back – not the recipe for ultimate audio enjoyment. The A5s make it easy to setup a second speaker system, positioning them to your liking, and bring the digital audio files on a hard drive to life. Did I mention the sound?
Audioengine has another winner on its hands with the A5s. Features and performance bely the speakers' humble price tag. For iPod, Airport, streaming audio players and more, the A5s are a powered and powerful solution for a bedroom, home office or small listening room. Highly recommended.