all audioenginea2

Published on February 6th, 2012 | by David


Audioengine A2: More Bang For Your Audio Buck

We’re big au­dio guys here- we love mix­ing and match­ing DACs, amps, and speak­ers, search­ing for that per­fect sound. Some­times, though, you just need a sim­ple, high-qual­i­ty speak­er sys­tem for a desk­top, small room, or as a gift for some­one a lit­tle less geeky. The Au­dio­engine A2 is that speak­er: the last one non-au­dio­philes will ev­er need to buy, and a great desk­top speak­er even for dis­cern­ing sound geeks. We loved the last Au­dio­engine set­up we re­viewed, and the A2 at­tempts to fit the com­pa­ny’s great sig­na­ture sound in a small­er, sim­pler pack­age.

The best thing about pow­ered speak­ers is how lit­tle set­up they take: plug the right speak­er in­to the left, the pow­er cord in­to the wall, con­nect your com­put­er, and you’re done. These lit­tle box­es are sol­id wood with a smooth, mat­te fin­ish, and look fan­tas­tic pret­ty much any­where you put them. Fit and fin­ish is im­pec­ca­ble: from the vel­vet bags the speak­ers come in to the sol­id, gleam­ing vol­ume knob and speak­er posts to the thought­ful­ly in­clud­ed RCA and 1/8″ ca­bles, these speak­ers look and feel more ex­pen­sive than their $200 price tag (and com­plete­ly out­class the sim­i­lar­ly priced Au­dyssey speak­ers we re­cent­ly re­viewed).

I still can’t be­lieve how big these sound for the size. No, they won’t knock your socks off with 50 hz bass, but they sound full, bal­anced, and as­sertive, prob­a­bly due to the sol­id MDF con­struc­tion, thought­ful in­ter­nal brac­ing, and lightweight wo­ven kevlar drivers. In­stru­ment sep­a­ra­tion is great, and the sound­stage is rea­son­ably wide. I could eas­i­ly place the mem­bers of Ger­ry Mul­li­gan’s quar­tet in “Walk­ing Shoes,” and hear fin­gers slide over gui­tar strings in Neu­tral Milk Ho­tel’s “In the Aero­plane over the Sea.” Each speak­er puts out 30 watts, more than enough to com­plete­ly fill a room or small apart­ment (and an­noy the neigh­bors). Even cranked all the way (the kevlar cones vi­brat­ing fu­ri­ous­ly), they were pleas­ant­ly dis­tor­tion-free. I still like a sub­woofer and full-sized sur­round speak­ers for movies (there are phys­i­cal lim­its, but I use the A2′s for ev­ery­thing else.

The A2′s will sound de­cent from pret­ty much any source, but giv­en the sound qual­i­ty they are ca­pa­ble of, it is re­al­ly worth putting a DAC (even a cheap one) be­tween them and your com­put­er. I no­ticed a dras­tic, all-around im­prove­ment in sound when I switched from my Mac’s head­phone port to my Nu­force uDAC, but even a gener­ic $8 DAC from Ama­zon elim­i­nat­ed the lap­top’s ev­er-pre­sent hiss and cut a lit­tle sibi­lance from low­er-bi­trate tracks. It would be great if Au­dio­engine in­clud­ed a USB or op­ti­cal in­put, but it’s hard to fault their val­ue for the mon­ey.

My on­ly re­al nig­gle with these speak­ers is the place­ment of the vol­ume knob- it is on the back of the left-hand speak­er, which can make reach­ing it a chore if your speak­ers are not with­in arm’s reach. Of course, most peo­ple will run these from a com­put­er (or DAC) with its own vol­ume con­trol, so you won’t have to ad­just the gain that of­ten, but I like to be able to turn my speak­ers off be­fore plug­ging and un­plug­ging them to avoid the lit­tle pop they pro­duce oth­er­wise. The larg­er A5s have a knob on the front, but they’re al­so about three times the size.

Un­less you al­ready have a fan­tas­tic desk­top speak­er set­up, buy these. If your desk­top re­al es­tate is lim­it­ed and you com­pute in a room rather than a sta­di­um, there’s not a bet­ter use of $200.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

David has been writing professionally since 2008, as a translator and product editor for Japan Trend Shop. Along the way he has worked in IT for Six Apart (and its reincarnation as SAY Media), Naked Communications, and Tokyo 2.0, as well as volunteering his nerdiness for dance events and organizations such as the Fusion Exchange and the Portland Swing and Jazz Dance society. After graduating Lewis & Clark College in 2010, David entered the Teach for America program, and taught Algebra and Geometry at Aptos Middle School in San Francisco. When he's not educating young minds or buried in a computer screen, he spends his time dancing, and frequently teaches dance with fellow TrulyNet author Ruth Hoffman.

Back to Top ↑