Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware
If you do not know what I meant when I said the Audioengine A2+ is clearly by someone with a ruler in the introduction of this review, the above photo should clear up any confusion. The 6” high, 4” wide, and 5.25” deep cabinet is exactly what its dimensions suggest; no surprises here. Being the little brother of the A5+, it is significantly smaller than its close relative, so it will fit better on your desk. Our particular unit comes in black, but if you want, you can also get a white one as well. As simplistic as it looks, we can never judge acoustics by the way it looks, so we will talk a little bit more about the internal construction in just a moment. You know, it is not as simple as you think it is.
From the front, both the left and right speakers look identical. At the bottom is a 2.75" Kevlar woven glass aramid composite woofer with rubber surrounds, and at the top is a 0.75” ferro fluid cooled silk dome tweeter 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, and Audioengine says it alleviates the need for speaker grilles as well. That said, it will still be wise to keep your three year old kid away from your $250 speakers in my opinion, haha. Signal to noise ratio is specified at 95dB, THD+N at 0.05%, and -50dB stereo crosstalk. One major complaint I have is Audioengine did not include any front audio controls for the A2+. The volume control knob is at the back, which is quite unintuitive. I agree it makes the speakers compact, good looking, and symmetrical, but you will have to sacrifice some functionality for that.
Here is a shot at the back of the Audioengine A2+ powered desktop speakers. By "powered", it means it comes with an internal amplifier. What we have here is a dual class AB monolithic amplifier located inside the left speaker -- shown in the right, as you can see in our photo above -- that provides 15W RMS and 30W peak per channel. As such, the left speaker weighs almost half a pound more than the right; where Audioengine specifies a weight of 3.55lbs and 3.15lbs, respectively. Power is supplied by an external brick. The Audioengine A2+ also comes with a digital to analog converter, which its predecessor did not. The TI/Burr Brown PCM2704C DAC can sample at 16-bit 48kHz. This is not exactly the most powerful DAC out there, and you can even pick one up yourself for just over $8 at a popular online electronic component distributor. But if you do not own a high end sound card or an external DAC, then this is definitely a welcomed option. It would have been nice if the Audioengine A2+ had an S/PDIF input as well, but they will probably need a different chip.
As you can see in our photo above, Audioengine offers a generous array of input and output connectors on the A2+. On the input side, we have a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, RCA, and USB. For my particular setup, I used the 3.5mm stereo mini-jack for input from my personal computer, since I have an Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD sound card. The RCA plugs are hooked up to my cable box, which I occasionally use. Like most powered computer speakers with multiple inputs I have used in the past, if multiple sources are active, the Audioengine A2+ will simply mix the signals together, and output both. The Audioengine A2+ also features stereo line level output via a pair of RCA jacks. This allows you to send audio to other speakers using an optional wireless adapter. For most people, it will probably be used for a subwoofer, which I have done so in my setup.
The volume control knob is located at the top right corner when viewed from the back. When turned all the way down, the speakers will turn off at the click. The knob is not placed in a particularly poor location, since it is close to an edge, and it is near the top. Unfortunately, it is at the back of the speaker, which is quite inconvenient. While it is possible to simply leave your speakers on at a constant volume setting at all times and adjust the volume from the source, as it will go into standby automatically when no signal is detected, it is just not the same thing. For example, my Motorola DCX3200 cable box does not have volume control, which will require volume adjustment at the output. Also, when my PC turns off, the sound card will cause the speakers to pop momentarily, which causes my connected subwoofer with an automatic on/off circuit to turn on. The subwoofer will emit a very light hum until it turns off a few minutes later. Since the Audioengine A2+ sits in my bedroom, and I turn off my computer almost right before I go to bed, it is slightly annoying. The way I see it, it is just better to have an easily accessible volume control in front. I understand it is a packaging compromise, but I think most people will prefer a front volume control, even if it means a slight increase in enclosure size.
If you are familiar with home theater equipment, then the speaker connectors should not be new to you. In fact, the Audioengine A2+ uses standard 16AWG speaker wires to connect the left and right unit together. The included cable is two meters long, which should be more than enough for most people.
The Audioengine A2+ is built with 18mm thick, high resin reinforced MDF cabinets. 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 computer speakers. (Just for reference, if you ever want to damage any hard drives using magnets, you will need pretty much military grade stuff.) Audioengine claims each pair of speakers are tuned and tested together when sold together.
Our photo above shows the bottom of the A2+, which has a thin layer of foam to dampen it from the surface it resides on. This is most likely your wooden or glass desk, which can be very useful. A standard 1/4" insert is present for wall mounts. Meanwhile, an accessory DS1 wedge can be purchased from the manufacturer to tilt the speakers up slightly. This will further dampen vibrations between your desk and the speakers, and bring the tweeters closer to ear level for improved soundstaging. Too bad they are not included out of the box!
With all this in mind, it is now time to put the Audioengine A2+ through APH Networks' infamous subjective audio tests.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis