Audioengine B2 Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

The Audioengine B2's physical appearance is as simple as it can get. As with the Audioengine A2+, it is as if someone clearly designed bit with a ruler. But do not let its simple look fool you. Of course, we can never judge acoustics by the way it looks. The Audioengine B2 is built with a 18mm thick, high resin reinforced MDF cabinet with real wood veneer. Internal sound dampening material is implemented to reduce undesired internal sound reflections. The speakers are also magnetically shielded; while non-magnetically shielded speakers will definitely not fry your hard drives anytime soon, it is something nice to have, especially being portable speakers. (Just for reference, if you ever want to damage any hard drives using magnets, you will need pretty much military grade stuff.) Four rubber feet at the bottom of the speaker dampens out any remaining vibration, and allow it to have some extra grip on your desk.

Our particular unit came in Black Ash, but if you want, you can also get it in Walnut or Zebrawood as well. The 4.25” high, 12.25” wide, and 5.50” deep cabinet is exactly what its dimensions suggest; no surprises here. I do not know how much it actually weighs, but according to the website, the shipping weight is a somewhat chunky ten pounds for a portable speaker system. This is probably the biggest and heaviest Bluetooth speaker I have used, and it does not come with an internal battery either. What I am suggesting here is it is no Adesso Xtream S2, nor was it meant to be; quality and performance does come at a price.

If you do not know what I meant when I said the Audioengine B2 is essentially two A2+ rotated sideways and stuck together, the above photo should clear up any confusion. Removing the magnetically attached woven cloth cover reveals a pair of 2.75" Kevlar woven glass aramid composite woofer with rubber surrounds. The components are designed to work without any speaker grilles, but I think some extra protection is appreciated here, considering this is designed to be a semi-portable device. The company claims each side is designed to prevent cross-interference, and the pair of front port bass slots near the center are tuned individually. Near the outer edges are 0.75” ferro fluid cooled silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnets. Together, their frequency response is rated at 65Hz-22kHz ±2.0dB, but despite its studio monitor looks, do not expect flat response all the way down to 65Hz. We will talk about that in our evaluation on the next page. The use of high end materials for construction allows reduced distortion at high volumes. Signal to noise ratio is specified at >95dB, THD+N at <0.05%, and -50dB stereo crosstalk. The volume control is at the back, but in this context, it is not a big issue.

The Audioengine B2 are powered speakers. By "powered", it means it comes with an internal amplifier. What we have here is a dual class AB monolithic amplifier located inside that provides 15W RMS and 30W peak per channel for a total of 60W. Power is supplied internally, so there is no power brick. Volume-wise, it is powerful enough to fill a reasonably large room. A 3-stage redundant power regulation design is present to ensure the cleanest audio output. Inside, the digital to analog converter is a Texas Instruments PCM5102A that can sample at 32-bit, 384kHz. This is a relatively high performance DAC, and I am happy with the company's component selection. Since most people who are buying this speaker is going to be relying on the digital input interface -- namely, Bluetooth -- a quality DAC is the key to success.

Here is a shot at the back of the Audioengine B2. As you can see in our photo above, Audioengine offers a simple array of input and output connectors on the B2. There is no subwoofer output, but being a Bluetooth speaker, I doubt many people will carry a subwoofer along with their B2 just for fun. On the input side, we have a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack and Bluetooth. Like most powered computer speakers with multiple inputs I have used in the past, if multiple sources are active, the Audioengine B2 will simply mix the signals together, and output both. The 3.5mm input does not require much explanation, but the Bluetooth side warrants some discussion, since these are marketed as wireless speakers after all. Operation depends on an external antenna, as you can see in our photo above. Personally, I find it a bit unsightly, considering it is quite easy to implement an internal antenna nowadays. However, having something like this has its advantages. For one thing, the B2's wireless range is incredible. 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 side of the house. 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.

Protocols supported over Bluetooth include aptX, A2DP, and AVRCP. Exactly why Audioengine specifies AVRCP is a bit of a moot point, because there are no media control functions on the B2. aptX is a time domain ADPCM compression algorithm that promises "CD like quality" according to the people promoting it -- but so does MP3 at 128kbps, which, in my opinion, is quite an overused marketing term in the industry. Do not get me wrong; it is probably still an improvement compared to the standard profile. In case you are asking, Apple devices does not support aptX, and neither does anything I own in the house.

The volume control knob is located at the top left corner when viewed from the back. Along the bottom are your usual certification and regulatory marks. A separate power switch can be found at the lower right hand corner, while a white LED adjacent to the volume indicates the power and pairing status. It blinks when it is not connected, and stays constantly lit once a device is paired. The connection process is as painless as it can get. To start, simply turn on the Audioengine B2, search for it on your device, and you are good to go.

With all this in mind, it is now time to put the Audioengine B2 through APH Networks' infamous subjective audio tests.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion