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Audioengine 5 Powered Speaker Review

Sandy Greene the iPodder voices off on the $349 Audioengine 5

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Audioengine 5 Powered Speakers

They’re white. They’re heavy. Heavy-duty even. They have lots of ins and outs. They’re in my office and they get lots of attention… and that’s without anyone even listening.

I have had the AudioEngine A5 powered loudspeakers in my office for just about two months now. They are always on… mostly at low volume in the background, until that 5 o’clock whistle blows. Then they’re turned up and making great music.

The A5’s are not your typical office fare. They’re almost too good for that. They are more like recording studio fare. They are of a size and weight and build quality that would befit the top of a mixing board. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually are used in that situation quite frequently. As a matter of fact, AudioEngine, the company, got their start designing and manufacturing professional powered studio monitor speakers. Makes sense.

Their site mentions that most of the parts are designed by them… versus off-the-shelf, which is more the norm in speakers of this price point.

Upon unpacking, and lifting out of the box, in their black nylon bags and opening up the goody bag filled with all sorts of cables and connectors… I was mightily impressed with the build quality and weight of these speakers. They are no lightweights. The have a nice, deep rich glossy white paint job layered on one inch thick MDF. The drivers are quality too… you can see (and hear) it right away. The midrange/woofer is a 5” Kevlar weave. The tweeter is a 20mm silk dome with neodymium magnets. The left speaker contains all the electronics. The right speaker is basically a passive speaker with single clip speaker cable inputs.

The left speaker contains the 45 watt (70 peak) class AB analog amplifier. It also has the USB port for ease in charging only. The USB post does not carry audio signal. The power cord is removable and there is an additional power output on the back for items such as the Apple Airport Express. I used it for the power supply for my dock, which I ran to the front of my desk for ease in volume and track adjustment. It’s really a great, very convenient assortment of IN’s, OUT’s and power.

So How Do They Sound?

Better than any other desktop system I have owned or listened to… they clean the Apple Hi-Fi’s clock, that’s for sure. These, the AudioEngine 5’s, are real speakers. They have air, detail, dynamics, frequency extension and soundstage. When played at average listening levels, they sound great and make music. And they make all kinds of inputs and sources sound like quality music.

I have run them off of my laptop and the internet with sites like Pandora.com. If you have not checked out Pandora.com, you really need to. Tell it a band you like and it will play similar sounding bands. Even better yet, tell it a song you like and it will play songs with similar musical characteristics. You’ll learn of new bands and music you like. It’s fun and it sounds good and streams effortlessly.

I have run the A5’s from my laptop with iTunes… compressed and non-compressed files. You can hear the difference on the A5’s… but not to the point where you cannot listen to your compressed music files. I appreciate that. For $350 pair, and especially in an office environment, we are not doing listening for criticism but for enjoyment. So it’s good that these speakers let you enjoy your music regardless of format.

And I have run the A5’s directly off my iPod… both from the dock’s output (as direct as can be for an iPod) and from the headphone output. Both worked perfectly. The input sensitivity on the speakers is not picky at all… another great trait.

My One Caveat…

To feel the music… I mean FEEL bass, you need to get the volume up on the A5’s. If you listen to your music at moderate to low volumes most of the time, you won’t really hear or feel the lower end. I imagine that’s one reason most desktop systems have subwoofers. And I would guess that the A5’s are not designed only to be a desktop system. But I would still wager that no matter where they are placed in a room, they would need to be turned up past medium levels to hear/feel some low end. Of course, you could compensate for that with EQ either on your favorite music player like iTunes or with your portable player’s EQ settings. I did that and they handled the bass boost with ease, sounding more robust and full, yet still detailed and musical.

I Say Buy Them…

Buy them over the same priced iPod Hi-Fi for sure. Both sell for $349. The iPod HiFi has a remote and sounds a little rounder at lower volume levels. But the iPod Hi-Fi does not have all these convenience connections. And the detail from the Apple Hi-Fi does not even come close to the resolution provided by the AudioEngine A5’ s… not even close.

If you want to hear real stereo sound more like real music… with detail, clarity, resolution, dynamics, and soundstage… you will like the AudioEngine A5. There’s real quality in sound and noticeable quality in build and craftsmanship that belies the $349 asking price. It takes a little turning up to come to full-life, but when it does, it does so in a way that picky listeners can appreciate. You’ll hear all in your music and you’ll like what you hear.

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