Review: Audioengine 2 Desktop Speakers

Compact, nicely designed speaker system provides good sound. (February 28th, 2011)

These compact footprint speakers include a clean, visually appealing design. Foam pads on the bottom protect your surfaces, and a wooden cabinet gives a good powerful sound across all ranges.

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Product Manufacturer: Audioengine Corp.

Price: $199 US

The Good

  • Excellent sound quality, especially bass.
  • Good volume capability.
  • Dual input options.
  • Compact design.
  • Rear connectors well laid out.

The Bad

  • Volume and power switch on the back.
  • For price, should include speaker wire with banana clips, not bare stripped wire.

The Audioengine 2 Speakers are Hong Kong-based Audioengine Corp.'s effort to bring a higher quality listening experience for music played on digital audio equipment. Dubbed as "Premium Powered Desktop Speakers," the company positions the Audioengine 2 (called Audioengine A2 outside the U.S.) either as an upgrade for multimedia computer speakers or for smaller room environments.

Design

The two-speaker Audioengine 2 system sports the same tweeters as its larger bookshelf counterpart, the Audioengine 5, and a 2.75" Kevlar woofer. Audioengine notes that the speakers are encased in wood cabinets, but the units MacNN received are encased in glossy high-resin 18mm MDF enclosures. According to our research, MDF is Medium Density Fiberboard made from resin bound woodchips. This type of wood is often used in speaker cabinets because it doesn't rattle when you pump up the volume.

a2speakers photo

Audioengine 2 Speakers Front View


Overall, you'll appreciate the compact footprint [6" tall by 4" wide and 5.25" deep) and clean, visually appealing design. The left speaker houses the 60-watt (30 Watts per channel) RMS amplifier). The connectors on the back of this speaker include a jack for the 17.5 VDC power adapter, two wiring posts to connect to the right speaker, and a volume control with integrated on/off switch. Audioengine thoughtfully provides you with two input options - left and right RCA jacks for connecting to a traditional home audio device and a 1/8" stereo mini-jack to connect an iPod or computer. These auto-switching input ports mean you can have two inputs connected simultaneously. You can place the shielded speakers close to your monitor without causing any screen distortion.

a2speakers photo

Audioengine 2 Speakers Back View


The design presents one minor inconvenience. The volume switch on the back is not easily accessible. Audioengine recommends you set the volume to your desired level and use your attached device to control volume when in use.*

The foam isolation pads on the bottom of the Audioengine 2 speakers are distinctive features. Many speaker manufacturers put little feet on the bottom of their speakers. Over time one or two fall off and you cannot find them, no matter how hard you look. Audioengine puts their foam pad along the entire base of their speakers.

a2speakers bottom

Audioengine 2 Speakers Bottom View


In general, the construction of the Audioengine A2 speakers is quite solid. The only quality issue found is that the cutout for the right tweeter was slightly out of round. The speakers come with a 3-year limited warranty.

Packaging

Upon opening the master carton, you will find four cloth drawstring bags. Two bags hold the speakers and another bag contains the power adapter. The fourth bag contains a short 1/8" mini-jack audio cable, a long mini-jack audio cable, and a length of speaker wire for interconnecting the two speakers. While the bags are a nice touch, it's a bit of marketing overkill, especially when you consider you'll probably never use them again. A setup Guide is also included.

a2speakers bottom

Audioengine 2 Included Cables

Setup

As with most speaker systems, setup is a no-brainer. After you connect the power adapter to the left speaker, you connect the sound input, to a computer, iPod, or another device. Next, you connect the two speakers with the included speaker wire and appropriate RCA cables or mini-jack cables. Just turn on and set the volume knob and you're ready to rock-and-roll.

Sound Quality

Technical Performance The Audioengine 2 specifications claim a frequency response of 65Hz-22kHz +/-2.0dB. The average human's hearing peaks at about age 18 with a sensitivity of approximately 20 Hz - 20 kHz. Testing the speakers on two teenagers confirmed that the Audioengine 2 produced audible sound in this range.
Qualitative Performance
The Audioengine 2 Speakers are well suited for your desktop or in your home or office. Despite their size, these speakers can fill your living room, family, or dorm room, with a rich, robust sound with relative ease.

Overall the sound quality of this speaker system is excellent, especially the bass tones. Although you might not be able to push the bass volume so that your floorboards rattle, the quality of bass reproduction is rock-solid. The guitar low notes from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" are crisp and more resonant than you would expect from such a compact pair of speakers. The vocals from "Iron Man" and other classics, such as the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," and newer music, such as "Defying Gravity" from Glee, have great clarity throughout the entire audio range. The good sound comes through no matter whether you play MP3 files, Apple lossless, or original CD quality music.

Depending on your listening preferences, you might find instrumental reproduction at the higher end of the audio spectrum slightly bland or shallow. Thankfully these speakers are not tinny as often found in conventional two-speaker computer sound systems.

Conclusion

Audioengine Corp. set out to create the perfect audio upgrade for your Macintosh. With the Audioengine 2 Premium Powered Desktop Speakers, they have come close. The attractive speakers are well designed, compact, and functional. Despite their small size, you can really pump up the volume. The clean sound has virtually no distortion at all pitches. Bass performance is especially good. If you are looking for a clear-cut improvement over your existing desktop or iPod speaker system, then you should definitely consider the Audioengine A2 paired speaker set.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor
*April, 2011: Minor change made. Adapter not needed to connect to some audio devices, because mini-jack 1/8" (3.5mm) and RCA L/R are included.

by Barry Michelson


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