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Audioengine A2+ Desktop Speakers Review Print E-mail
Monday, 07 July 2014
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Audioengine A2+ Desktop Speakers Review
Set Up and Listening
ImageI have been into computer audio since the time it meant ripping your CDs into lossy files to either load them up on your mp3 player or to play them back over plastic computer "speakers."  The evolution of digital file playback has rendered that scenario quaint, as cheap storage, lossless codecs, high-resolution audio, and USB DAC units have changed the landscape. Many audiophiles use their computers as serious digital front ends in reference systems. Those with more modest means and tighter spaces, and yet still crave quality audio reproduction, pair computers with outboard DACs and powered, so-called "desktop speakers."

A recent trend has seen manufacturers equip these active speakers with consumer friendly inputs. Many have on board DACs. It must also be noted that the term "desktop speakers" is one of the more abused around. Some look like stand-mount speakers to me, and fitting them on a desk would be an absurd proposition. That is why I was eager to evaluate Audioengine projects. Based in Austin, TX, with warehouse operations in Burgaw, NC, the company caters to computer audiophiles who are not willing to compromise on quality, but demand a good value. Audioengine has a distinct reputation of offering great-sounding, versatile products at very fair prices. I've heard Audioengine set ups and at audio shows and have always been impressed with build, sound, and a welcoming attitude. They have been on my To Review list for a while.

My own desktop system doubles as my audio workstation where I rip CDs, purchase downloads, edit recordings in Audacity, and listen to music while I work. When the time came to find small active speakers for accurate monitoring and musical enjoyment, Audioengine supplied me with a sample pair of their A2+ monitors, which sell for $249, in black. They are also available in white.

The A2+ is a variation of the A2 model, the difference being a built-in DAC. The speakers are demure, with dimensions of 6"(H) x 4"(W) x 5.25"(D). The left speaker houses the 60W amplifier and weighs a half-pound more than the 3.0 Lbs. right speaker. Around back, the left speaker includes a pair of RCA inputs, a mini jack input, and a USB input. The USB input handles 16 bit, 48 Khz data. To connect the left and right speaker, a pair of binding posts allows for use of a single run of speaker cable. A volume knob on the back panel of the left speaker completes the picture.

It is important to review some of the technology and design consideration that have gone into the A2+. One would be under the wrong impression thinking that desktop speakers optimized for computer audio is just a matter of scaling down a regular speaker and adding the appropriate connectivity. There is far more to it. First, Audioengine manufacturers drivers and other important internal components in-house. This allows them to control quality and provides for more efficient assembly, which keeps costs down and streamlines manufacturing. Secondly, special attention is paid to cabinet design. With solid internal bracing, the goal is to control reflections and diffraction as much as possible. The cabinets are also shielded in case the A2+ speakers are to be used near video monitors, computers, and other digital components.

A bit more about the drivers. According to Audioengine, the company uses "audiophile quality, ferro fluid cooled, silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnets. Silk tweeters hold up well under high power and the edge-driven design gives very smooth response. The custom woofers are Kevlar woven glass aramid composite with rubber surrounds. Kevlar is obviously very strong, which means that the woofer retains its shape when being driven at high levels. The speaker materials and construction are very robust, therefore speaker grills aren’t needed. In other words, we did our homework on the speaker drivers and they will sound and look great after many years of use."


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