Price (RRP): $399
What precisely are the Audioengine A2+ wireless active speakers? Are they loudspeakers for your room? Are they for something else? They are tiny and Audioengine itself says that they have “quickly become the new reference standard for multimedia computer speakers”. So we’re going with computer speakers.
Audioengine A2+ features
This isn’t the first time we’ve reviewed Audioengine wireless active speakers. Just over a year ago we reviewed the much bigger A5+ models and were so impressed we scored them at 4.7 out of 5.0. But how would the Audioengine A2+ speakers stack up. They are so very, very tiny.
How tiny? Each stands just 152mm tall – that’s six inches – and 102mm wide by 134mm deep. The left-hand speakers weighs 1.6 kilograms, while the right-hand speaker weighs 1.4 kilograms.
Why the difference? That’s because all the electronics are packed into the left-hand speaker. It contains the two 30-watts continuous amplifiers and the power supply and the various connections, including Bluetooth. The right-hand speaker is passive. Included with the speakers is two-metre cable for driving the right-hand speaker from the amp in the left. Gold-plated binding posts on both speakers make for secure connections.
Each speaker is two-way unit, with a 19mm silk dome tweeter with neodymium magnet and a 70mm aramid fibre woofer. The cabinets are bass-reflex loaded, with a slot port at the bottom front of each. There are no speaker grilles, so the drivers are visible. I reckon they look good. Check out the photos for yourself.
Audioengine is one of those companies that makes its own speaker drivers, rather than simply using off-the-shelf parts. It says that this increased control allows its designs to work together more effectively.
Audioengine A2+ DAC and Bluetooth
On the back panel of the left-hand speaker are:
- the socket for the power supply brick,
- a pair of RCA sockets for stereo analogue audio inputs,
- a pair of RCA sockets for stereo analogue audio out – these can be used for a subwoofer as well,
- a pair of gold-plated speaker binding posts – this is the output to the right speaker, which has matching gold-plated speaker binding posts for input,
- a Micro-B USB socket for connecting to a computer, and
- a level control knob.
The other input is Bluetooth. The speakers support the regular SBC stereo audio codec, as well as aptX. That means higher quality audio from those phones which support it.
There is no input selector. If you send music to the Audioengine A2+ speakers via its analogue inputs and the Micro-B USB, it’s mixed and all comes out together. If you send music to the speakers via Bluetooth, it switches off the other inputs and only plays the Bluetooth music. When that stops – even though the Bluetooth connection remains active – the other inputs come back to life.
USB Audio Class
In their computer-speaker role, you’d typically plug a USB output of your computer into the Micro-B USB socket of the speakers. They operate in USB Audio Class 1.0 mode, which means that they’re compatible with just about all computers, including Windows 7 and Windows XP models.
Windows makes it clear they are locked to 16 bits and 48kHz. The purist in me objects a little to that, and it’s not because of a lack of support for high resolution.
The great majority of music people will listen to with these speakers is sampled at 44.1 kHz. When these speakers are being used, your computer will have to convert 44.1kHz to 48kHz sampling. That’s a conversion which does not have a mathematically neat solution, so some low-level noise and distortion is necessarily added.
But, to be clear, it’s extremely low in level, and the chances are few of us would be able to pick it, even in direct A-B comparisons. So it’s probably a reasonable design choice.
Listening to the Audioengine A2+ speakers
Um, what’s going on here? I’m playing The Offspring’s Americana at a rather high volume and the music is rocking. It’s reasonably clear. The drum kit has good punch. A little stressed? Perhaps. Drum kit a trifle anaemic? Well, yes. But those things are easily overlooked when one is listening to two tiny speakers. And when the output is peaking at – I’ve just measured it – at slightly over 100 decibels.
The Audioengine A2+ speakers got me thinking quite deeply about what defines quality audio. You see, with some music I was utterly delighted by the speakers, and other times rather less so.