Multi-function powered speakers are all the rage in 2017, and no other company has been more at the forefront than Audioengine. They have been making affordable, great sounding, and versatile powered monitors since 2005, along with DACs, headphone amps, and accessories.
There are a number of things I find refreshing about Audioengine. First, their pricing makes their products affordable to all, the designs are attractive for any decor, and they have an unpretentious attitude. What is not to like? Of course, none of this would matter if Audioengine products did not bring the sonic goods. And they do. The excellent HD6 monitors sit on either side of my desk connected to a Mac Mini and iFi Micro iDSD DAC, and I listen to this set up for hours daily while working.
I very much appreciated the design improvements implemented into the HD6. The front baffle volume knob was a great addition, and the overall refinement in the presentation and sound basically made it an easy recommendation to friends looking for a carefree powered speaker solution. It ships with a nicely made metal remote control, a very nice addition. I mentioned in the review the only thing I wanted for was a USB input. Other than that, It is a fairly flawless package for the current price of $749.
Audioengine has brought out what could be considered the little brother of the HD6, the new HD3. Approximately seven inches tall, perfect for tighter spaces that can’t accommodate the HD6, they are available in three finishes, Cherry, Walnut, and as my review samples were supplied in, Black Satin.
Unboxing the HD3 makes it clear that Audioengine wants its customers to be able to go from unpackaging the speakers to having them play music without having to provide any additional items. This includes speaker cables, line level cables, and a USB cable. Along with a nicely written manual and power cord, this is about a complete a set of accessories as you are going to see. Speaker grilles, which I kept on to protect the drivers, are also supplied.
The HD3 has the connectivity one would expect from modern powered speakers, including RCA inputs, a mini jack input and, instead of the often seen optical input, a very welcomed 24 bit USB input. There is also an analog output, a headphone jack, and of course, an aptX based Bluetooth connection. It should be noted Audioengine uses old school class A/B analog amplifiers in their speakers, none of the cheapo digital stuff. Check that against some of their competitors.
The only thing you may want to add is one of the stands Audioengine sells for either desktop or freestanding use. Audioengine has traditionally sold directly from their web-store but also has developed a nice dealer network. The company also offers a risk-free, generous in home trial.
Set Up & Listening
The HD3 are plug and play. Literally. Hook up the speaker cable from the master to the slave, plug in the power cord, install the Bluetooth antenna, then your source. That is it. The HD3 took up residence first in my bedroom paired with a SOtM sMS-100 ethernet streamer, and an iFI Nano iDSD DAC, via Kimber interconnects. I purchased foam speaker pads to place them on from Amazon to protect the wood table they were placed on, and to stabilize them. A cheap, but effective add-on for $15.
The sound was bigger than I anticipated with the HD3, as I was used to the bold, full sound of the HD6, with it’s bigger drivers and more powerful internal amplifier. The HD3 filled up the room quite nicely, with excellent frequency-spectrum balance. The footprint of the speakers is miniature, but the sound is not!