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Audioengine A5 Powered Bookshelf Speakers Review Print E-mail
Monday, 30 November 2009
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Audioengine A5 Powered Bookshelf Speakers Review

ImageWhen I first began reviewing audio equipment I took the approach that performance came first, price came second. It didn't matter if a piece of gear cost $50 or $5,000, if its performance and build justified the MSRP and could enhance my audio experience then it's value and worth was real. After all, how much pleasure do you get forking out for auto insurance – a necessity, sure – but over the course of my 27 years of driving, I estimate paying more than $12K to keep my Toyotas insured and myself liability-free. I could have used that money for serious investigation into high-end gear or spread out among the many bargain-priced but high-performing pieces that seem to find me. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to review Audioengine's P4s – passive bookshelf speakers that impressed me with their detailed midrange and bigger-than-expected soundstage. Soon after I received an e-mail from Audioengine's Brady Bargenquast asking if I'd like to hear the company's newest powered bookshelf speakers, the A5s. I was, particularly since it would be my first opportunity to audition a separate pair of powered speakers geared primarily for music listening.

Features & Setup

An all-in-one speaker/amplifier combo, the A5s are divided into an active left speaker and a passive right speaker. The left (powered) speaker is necessarily beefier than the passive and weighs 14 pounds compared to 9 on the right and houses a dual class AB monolithic amplifier rated at 50 watts RMS/75 watts peak per channel. Each speaker sports 20mm silk-dome tweeters with neodynium magnets and 5-inch kevlar woofers and comes cased in 1-inch thick MDF cabinets. There are no speaker grills, but that's fine with me as I prefer the look and sound of speakers sans covers. Each speaker foot is padded with a high-density foam isolation pad, which not only isolates and reduces unwanted resonances, it also protects the speaker bottoms from scratches and other damage. The left speaker's minimalist front panel contains a rotary volume control knob and blue LED light, indicating power.

A5 Rear connections

The A5s come in three finishes – Satin Black, Hi-Gloss White and Caramel (Carbonized Solid Bamboo). The black and whites sell for $349 a pair, while the bamboo duo costs $449. The bamboo A5s represent the company's most eco-friendly option, featuring no stains or paints and a finish sealed with hand-rubbed water-based satin polyurethane. All Audioengine products, however, are 100 percent lead-free and the company is using environmentally friendly binders, resins and formaldehyde-free adhesives in its speaker cabinets and assembly.

Audioengine A5 iPod connectedLike other Audioengine products, the A5s are easy to setup and reflect the company's goal of “to get you to your music as simply as possible without all the 'gadget tinkering' that other products generally require. A supplied 14-page Setup Guide walks you through the basics. The first step is connecting speaker wires from the left to the right and then the power cord. At that point, the A5s are ready to play music – they just need a source, and the guide displays four different audio configurations:

1.    For use with iPod Universal Dock
2.    For use with Airport Express and iTunes
3.    For use with iPod
4.    All products with 1/8-inch  or RCA outputs (CD player, DVD, TV, video game)

One of my biggest frustrations is receiving a product that requires additional wires, cables, batteries, etc., before you can start using it. Audioengine doesn't play that game and includes everything necessary to utilize the A5s out of the box. The speakers come bundled with a 2-meter min-jack audio cable, a pair of 8-inch mini-jack audio cables, a mini-jack to RCA “Y” cable, a 1-meter USB power extender cable and 2 meters of 16AWG speaker cable. You get everything needed (save an iPod dock) to facilitate the aforementioned configurations.



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