Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
The Audioengine A2+ Wireless sits next to my HD6 for testing.
Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for speaker sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible. Yes, it sounds like a paradox haha. Primary tests were conducted over USB connected to my Apple MacBook Pro since the Audioengine A2+ Wireless features a built-in digital to analog converter inside. I mainly used an Apple iPhone X for the Bluetooth wireless tests.
After sufficient hours of break in time, I put the Audioengine A2+ Wireless to the tests. All tracks are FLAC, high bitrate AAC, or LAME encoded MP3s.
On the input side of things, the Qualcomm CSR8670 SoC works its magic inside the Audioengine A2+ Wireless over any digital connection. For best audio quality, I recommend connecting the speakers directly to your computer using a USB cable unless you have a high end sound card; a rare find in 2020. My Apple iPhone X streamed music with excellent quality without wires over Bluetooth 5.0 as well. You would be hard pressed to tell the difference and even though there is compared to a wired connection, I had to really listen carefully to tell. All in all, the Audioengine A2+ Wireless' entire digital subsystem is excellent; whether you are connecting with or without wires.
If you have been following APH Networks for a while, the auditioning results of Audioengine's A2+ Wireless should come with no surprises. Fundamentally, it is the same thing as the Audioengine A2+ with a wireless subsystem, and in the process of giving it a wireless subsystem, the company upgraded the internal DAC from Texas Instruments' PCM2704C to Qualcomm's CSR8670. This means the A2+ Wireless, just like its predecessor, sounds amazing; if not even more slightly so.
Before we talk my auditioning results, let me clarify on some expectations. The fact is, these are compact speakers with a 2.75" woofer and 0.75" tweeter. If you want bass, you will need big drivers to move lots of air. There is no way around physics. I did a frequency sweep on these speakers and while there is response as low as 40Hz, it is barely audible. You will not hear much until 80Hz. Generally speaking, it really drops off below 120Hz. I believe it is reasonable to expect owners of the A2+ Wireless to buy their own subwoofer, which is exactly what I have done. A low pass filter set at around 80Hz to 100Hz is probably a good idea, but make sure you own a good unit that can handle relatively high frequency bass.
With these expectations in mind, let us go over the big three: Bass, midrange, and treble. The bass is light. I dare say it -- it is weak. Even if it was there, it lacks punch. But as I have just said, there is no way around physics and I am very happy the way Audioengine's engineers tuned the A2+ Wireless. Sometimes, for speaker manufacturers to try to hide limitations of their design, they will overdrive certain frequencies resulting in disastrous effects. Audioengine did not attempt make those 2.75" woofers work harder than it should in the bass area, which is excellent. For the little amount of bass you do get, it is smooth, defined, round and fairly articulate. At the end of the day, the A2+ Wireless will not shake your room, nor should you expect them to. You will need a subwoofer. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Like its predecessor, the A2+ Wireless really shines through in its midrange and treble performance, which is what they are really designed to do. The midrange, despite slightly recessed compared to star players in the field like the company's own HD3, is thick and rich. My favorite part about it is it is very natural and warm; saturated throughout the entire range with no noticeable missing layers. I am still absolutely immersed by its brilliant performance after so many years of experience with them. The vocals were incredible. The instruments were incredible. It was just an incredible experience. For its treble, I have great things to say about it, too. It carries almost all the characteristics of what makes good treble sound good, and that is sharp, distinct, and wet. However, it comes off on the darker side. That said, its definition is very well refined. I would like it to sound a little more immediate, but for the $270 they want, this is amazing. More often than not, poorly tuned treble will hurt the listener's ears. The Audioengine A2+ Wireless is pleasant to listen to all the time.
Once you start listening to the details, you can definitely see where Audioengine is coming from when they say the A2+ Wireless is tuned as a pair from the factory. The sound is imaged precisely to the center. If you close your eyes while firing up the music, you would swear there is a center speaker -- except you do not. Now, this is not an entirely realistic reproduction, but these are not studio monitors. For audiophiles listening to music, I think this is a desirable effect, and it creates a very enjoyable listening environment.
Deriving from my assertions regarding the treble performance and imaging characteristics of the Audioengine A2+ Wireless, I think you can probably make a very good educated guess regarding the soundstaging properties of the Audioengine A2+ Wireless. Close your eyes and you will imagine something much bigger playing in front of you. Obviously, they are no HD6, but I do not think anyone expected them to be. The soundstage was relatively wide and deep for its size. In my opinion, it offers a surprisingly reasonable amount of depth and direction to the music playing.
I am extremely impressed by amount of precision and detail the Audioengine A2+ Wireless was able to reproduce. The layering comes in at a very detailed resolution, yet each frequency layer is distinct and extremely well separated. If there is a better word for "clean" that roughly carries the meaning of "super-duper clean", I would use that word. At the same time, the transition between each layer was smooth and cohesive, making everything sound very harmonized and immersive to the listener.
The A2+ Wireless' wireless range is incredible even with an internal antenna. I can plug in my speakers on the second floor of my house and still have reception from my phone in the basement at the opposite end. I do not believe this is an entirely realistic scenario, but a strong wireless subsystem will allow for higher consistency and more bandwidth, which in turn may translate to better sound quality and improved user experience.
At the end of the day, the Audioengine A2+ are not studio monitors. The frequency response is not exactly flat, but why does it matter? To the discerning audiophile, I am absolutely blown away. Even if you are not an audiophile, you will still be blown away. The Audioengine A2+ Wireless simply rocks in sound quality for the money. It is impressive how good these speakers are in 2020 as they were in 2014.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis