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Audioengine A2 Powered Loudspeakers and W1 Wireless Audio Review

Jack Roberts goes wireless with Audioengine's $199 A2 Powered Loudspeakers and the $149 W1 Premium Wireless Audio Adaptor

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Audioengine's $199 A2 Powered Loudspeakers

The Audioengine A2’s are quite remarkable in how natural they sound. They come in velvet drawstring bags and are a mere 6 inches high, 4 inches wide, and 5.25 inches deep. They come in a beautiful, glossy black or white shielded 18mm MDF cabinet. The most beautiful part of it all is they only cost $199, and by the way, that includes the built-in 15Wpc amps.

Whether you choose to use a computer, an iPod, a CD player or whatever, the Audioengine A2 has inputs for you. There is an 1/8-inch stereo mini headphone input as well as a normal stereo pair of RCA jacks. They have a very nice pair of gold plated binding posts on the left channel power module that feeds the passive right channel’s loudspeaker binding posts. On the back, placed on the upper right side of the powered speaker is a volume control with a power input below it. They have a real honest-to-goodness power supply, not a wall wart. The drivers are a 22mm silk dome tweeter and a 2.75-inch Kevlar midrange/woofer.

Setup

I tried these great little speakers fed directly from my MacBook, iMac, iPhone, Oppo DVD player, Slim Devises Transporter, and even an Audio Note DAC. Even as small as the A2’s are, I found they sound best toed-in and aiming at the listener with them around ear level. They do sound better after playing for about fifty hours, but they sounded great after about thirty minutes out of the box. Setup is very simple and straight forward.

Listening

The Audioengine A2’s are not an assault on the state-of-the-art in loudspeakers. They are for me a new standard in what a self-powered desktop speaker is capable of.

I have found in the past that such small speakers always compress the dynamics of music. With the A2’s you get really nice micro-dynamics and better-than-expected overall dynamics. At times, they amazed me in how they played complicated passages with lots of instruments and bass. I found that only with the volume turned all the way up did they ever exhibit any driver breakup.

No the A2’s won’t fill a big room with huge sound. They weren’t designed to. They do sound quite nice when I walk around the office or wander into the next room. What amazed me though is how well the A2’s could handle everything from full orchestras to rock at pretty loud volumes without falling apart. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a tympani passage from a full orchestra, or the upright bass in a jazz trio, the Audioengine’s handled it in a way that let me enjoy the musical experience. Of course, they do not go all that deep. I mean we shouldn’t forget they output a mere 30Wpc peak, and only have 2.75-inch midrange/woofer drivers, but I guess what I’m saying is most often I did forget.

The most important thing about any speaker to me is how well they reproduce vocals. I listened to Holy Cole, Ella, Satchmo, Cat Stevens, and many others. I was shocked that such small and inexpensive speakers could play vocals so beautifully.

Within their limitation, they are very tonally correct, thus instruments as wells as vocal sound right. The highs are slightly rolled-off, but the midrange is quick enough and clear enough that the rolled-off top-end isn’t that objectionable. Truth is, the slightly rolled-off top-end may even be part of the speakers’ great sound, because they never sound aggressive, and cause very little listening fatigue. This trait is even more important when the speakers are as close to you as the A2’s probably will be for most people. This is another thing about the A2’s I find amazing for a speaker/transistor amp combo that cost only $200.
We are all audiophiles, so as ridiculous as it sounds, I’m going to talk a little about detail, imaging and PRaT. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t B&W 805’s or any of the other fine mini-monitors I have been reviewing. Yet, amazingly they are nicely detailed without being bright. Imaging and the soundstage is about as good as I could hope for in my small office. Instruments are placed nice enough, and soundstage width and depth is quite good, as is often the case with very small speakers.

Well, I know you think that as picky as I am about PRaT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing) and that this is where I will say the A2’s fall apart. Not so, though. While they are not Lowther’s with a Wavac 300B, nevertheless the A2’s can really swing.

Conclusion

After months of playing around with the Audioengine A2 powered speakers, I want to tell you I think they are incredible for an office system. If you use them with a computer, they are way too good to play MP3’s; go ahead and rip lossless and you will be amazed by these little wonders. I certain have been. I’ll tell you these aren’t leaving my office.

In Comes the W1 Audio Adapter

Specifications:
Type: wireless audio signal transmission
Range: 100ft (30 meters)
Wireless Protocol: 802.11
Frequency band: 2.4GHz to 2.4835GHz
Latency: <20mSec
Data Rate: 340Mbps
SNR: 91dB
MSRP: $149

Isn’t wireless technology amazing?

In our household we have a Terabyte hard drive with everyone’s digital music on it in full WAV files. The wireless network makes it easy for everyone to access it. On my upstairs and downstairs systems this is done by the way of Slim Devices Transporter and Squeezebox.

Well, now Audioengine has brought us another way to do this and like most things from this great little company; it’s simple and way cool. It is simply a unit that plugs into your computer’s USB port or analogue output of some other source component. You also have a device that plugs into your preamplifier, integrated amp, or powered speakers that receives the signal from as far away as 100 feet, at better than Redbook CD rate. It uses the latest chipset that handles digital audio and transmits via the Wi-Fi 802.11 protocol between 2.4GHz to 2.4835GHz at a data rate of 340Mbps. Data rate is 16-bit/48kHz. One transmitting unit can send signals to up to eight receiving units. This great little thing-of-ma-jig only costs $149.

The first thought I had was now I had a way to listen to things off my Macbook that I could easily get the Slim Devices units to pick up. So the first thing I listened to was “Prairie Home Companion”. It didn’t sound nearly as good as it does on FM, but that’s not Audioengine’s fault; it’s NPRs (National Public Radio). Hookup took about two minutes and I was ready to listen to anything on my Macbook or hard drive through my Shindo Masseto preamp, Wavac EC300B, and Teresonic’s Ingeniums.

Of course, another way to hook it up is straight to the A2s. Either way, the sound that comes through is quite good, much better than I was expecting. This little thing can really boogie. So for $348 you can have a pair of great sounding speakers that can connect wirelessly to almost any source. These are a couple of great products for the money and together they are just too cool.

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