on April 20, 2010
Having grown tired of the harsh and muddled sound of 2.1 systems and giving up space to accommodate them, I decided to "down grade" to a pure 2 channel setup with a smaller footprint. I initially considered an amp like the NuForce Icon to power a set of Paradigm Atoms, both of which I'm fairly familiar with, but I didn't want to go down that rabbit hole for my computer. I just wanted something that sounded good without having to get lavish.
After a bunch of research, I was surprised to find out how little there is in terms of quality powered monitors for computer audio these days. I would have thought that high end makers would have adopted the new format by now, but apparently I'm mistaken. Thankfully, I stumbled across Audioengine's A2. It truly is an audiophile's computer speaker system. I won't get into the technical specs, but these little speakers sing. They're small enough to be comparable to desktop satellites and can extend low enough to offer full range near field playback. They won't provide thunderous bass, but they will lay out a nice little soundstage for you and play back music clearly, accurately, and with life. It's a true testament to the build quality of these monitors...sturdy (and classy) cabinetry, well designed drivers, and a pesky class AB internal amp. I'm glad someone stepped up to the plate for this market. My favorite thing about these speakers is that I can have both my Mac Mini and Windows 7 gaming box connected at the same time...1 via silver RCA cables, and the other via a silver 3.5 mm cable.
There have been a couple of recent entries into this market, most notably from B&W, but at 2.5 the price, I'd be hard pressed to say they're going to be much better than these A2s.
I'm thoroughly impressed by these little monitors. They're the most musical computer speakers I've ever listened to. The only thing I would have emphasize, is that these speakers are for near field listening. They're not going to fill up a large room with heart pounding bass. Their drivers just can't physically reproduce that kind of music, and anyone who expects them to, needs to have more realistic expectations.
on December 27, 2011
--Listening and setup--
After listening to these for about 3 weeks, I assumed they were just about fully broken in. However, I noticed more and more change as the weeks went by. I do lower the bass settings on my eq from my Asus Xonar DS card a couple of notches while they are sitting in front of me on my desktop on the a2 stands. This also have to do with upgrading the interconnect cable. I am using a Audioquest Evergreen mini-rca cable and noticed a more precise and fuller sound. I also upgraded the power cable. Be careful though some power cables will make the powered speaker run pretty darn hot. I recommend the picky audiophile to just get a very short standard power cable. But if you just have to, keep a note on matching a thicker power cable. I was using a 14-guage power cable and the volume knob became real hot as well. I was not experiencing this with a PS Audio Power Punch which is 12 gauge (no idea why.) I also noticed a difference hooking up the passive speaker with a length from a bulk run of Audioquest 16 guage wire. More clear and balanced matched with the Evergreen. Audioquest are not my all time favorite or anything, but for my budget I love them. What I quickly began to admire about them was how consistent the sound quality I was getting from these little gems for hours on end. Partially due to the silk dome tweeters I imagine. I like a good metal dome on some speakers too though. Soft dome is your best bet for longer listening sessions, in my opinion. Listening sessions have been with Windows 7 64-bit operating system with J. River Media Center. I highly recommend that program for a boost in performance. It's $50.00 price tag is justified. Free one month trial. If you do try it make sure you run it in WASAPI mode and run your sound through your memory instead of your hard drive. That option is so nifty. Great, great sound!
--Listening to different types of music--
Well I can't think of one kind of music that I didn't try with the A2s. And really whatever you throw at them will sound good as long as the sound quality is good. Wave, Aiff and compact discs sound wonderful as they should, however the best thing that surprised me was how great well encoded lossy files sound through them. .Mp3, ogg, Musepack, aac, wma etc. all had a wonderful tone of their own and I even enjoyed converting to lossy formats just to hear them differently. Rarely were they fatiguing. Maybe really low Bit rates, but I did try with those much. I use dBpoweramp for converting my cds. And downloaded from eMusic, Amazon Mp3, and HDTracks (for Flac and Aiff). I am not saying you have to using these programs to enjoy music on these speakers, but they can help in big ways from my experience. Flac is also wonderful as the mighty "lossy-lossless format" .Ape is fantastic as well.
--A few useful tips and review scores--
Keep the speakers at ear level. Something like your ears are at the height that is in between the tweeter and woofer, or right at the tweeters height. Make sure the speakers are parallel with each other in distance from wall and toe them in towards you the way you like. This will all change after they break in, but it always helps. Don't kick yourself if you can't afford better cables. They sound like real speakers stock right out of the box. I would say spend the money on a decent sound card and media player first. Here are my scores.
Build quality and finish: 9.00 - (Not practical for the volume on the back, but you get use to it fast. It is probably more practical for the speaker though. Less internal wires the better! I love the glossy white finish. They look better in person. No remote sensor.
Ease of installation and use: 9.50 - Having to buy the stands separate and a lot of people may not even think of that before hand. They are a little pricey in my opinion, but are made of good isolating material (silicone.) Some people may not need them to tilt up and can use some home made remedies of their own though. Getting use to volume placement could be tedious to some. Plug it up and turn it on is usually all you need to do. The amp will automatically shutoff over time when no audio signal is sent. They are the most fun of any speakers I have yet to use. And can also fill a small/medium room with good sound.
Sound quality: 9.75 - Some eq tweaking may be necessary. Maybe not. I imagine for most will, especially first listening sessions. After you get it right it is close to perfect for a speaker of this size. They are versatile with all music genres and can play loud for hours and hours with very little fatigue if any. Bass is tight and pretty tuneful. They do not showcase the very deepest of bass, but I think that is kind of a good thing for people in apartments or living with multiple people/rooms.
Value: 9.75 - As I mentioned the speaker stands.. well I just think it could bug some. It did me a little. I guess after you get this much for your money you just can't imagine having to buy anything else for them. They spoil you.
Overall rating 9.50 - They are not just great speakers for your money. They are great speakers. Period.
Thanks for reading and sorry if it seemed a bit too long of a review. I hope my thoughts opinions influence your purchasing decision! Happy listening to all and have a happy 2012 and beyond. :-)
on January 9, 2009
Being a musician, when I was looking for speakers I wanted to find the best two piece set with the best sound. I did tons of research, and there is no doubt these are the best. They have amazing sound quality, however the bass in not overly loud for hip-hop and such. If they are placed close to a wall the bass gets much more distinct, whereas when they are freestanding in the middle of a room they are less loud. Overall, would DEFINITELY recommend these; you will not be disappointed.
on January 30, 2009
These speakers have a refreshingly simple design, and really nice, room-filling sound. They really don't need a subwoofer. Very high quality construction and connectors. Highly recommended alternative to all the ugly plastic computer speakers that need a subwoofer.
Would rate five stars but amazon's review system doesn't let me update that!
The first set of these speakers I bought had an unsightly logo on the front. I contacted customer service and they said that a small batch of those had made it into production, but they would exchange it for free. They shipped me a new set right away. Really great service. These are speakers you will keep for a lifetime.
on October 1, 2010
These speakers aren't cheap. Nor are they able to withstand physical abuse. I've seen other computer speakers you can bounce on the floor and be fine. Not these. There's a reason why they come beautifully packaged in Styrofoam and cloth bags. Any shaking or accidental push on the front speaker mesh and you could get that distorted hum/rattling sound other reviewers have mentioned. In addition, Audioengine claims all cables are included. Technically speaking, they're correct. They do include two short, flimsy, poor quality cables (neither of them with the stereo RCA jack). One worked okay, but the other gave me a loud hum unless I got it just so. Given the cost of the speakers, it would have been nice to have something better. I ended up replacing them quickly with a quality HOSA cable, and could hear the difference.
I should also say that the size of these speakers is NOT what Amazon lists (they say 1.5 x 1.1 x 0.8 inches). Wrong. They're actually 4 1/8 inches wide by 6 1/8 inches tall and 5 1/2 inches deep. I was expecting a little cube type speaker. They're not that small.
Given everything I've said, you might wonder why the 5 stars. When they're treated with care and delicacy and kept safe (I don't fully trust the speaker stands that they sell for these speakers), the sound is amazing. There are a lot of professional website reviewers who were wowed by them, and I can see why. Their glowing comments were right. I hooked it to a Creative X-Fi card in a small computer room to replace a 4.1 Klipsch system. Despite the lack of a separate sub-woofer (which you can buy if you're loaded with cash), music is rich and full. In fact, it's so good, that you'll soon realize how varied the recording quality is for different sources of music. Some CDs may sound flat or tinny, others wonderful. The fault is not with the speakers but the original source.
It's always important to recognize what something is or isn't. Audiengine A2 is not as good as a high end dedicated home theater system with a sub-woofer. For that, you need something else. Nor can you play football with it, so if you have rowdy animals or kids, you might want to go with something that can better handle abuse. But what it does do is give you great sound from a computer, especially if you upgrade your cable and have a good sound card, which lets you adjust the bass and treble to suit your taste. They take up a lot less space than a 7.1, 5.1, or 4.1 computer speaker system and have sound that's hard to beat.
on September 3, 2011
These little babies are a godsend for audiophiles and music lovers who spend a lot of time in front of their computer. Full disclosure: I have been an audiophile for decades, and have invested a lot of money in high-end gear. But like many others, I find less and less free time to relax and listen to that system...probably because I spend too much time at a computer. If you fit that description, pick up a pair of AudioEngine 2's right now. You'll be rewarded with vastly better sound than what you probably have now, and you'll find yourself listening to music a lot more often. If you are currently relying on cheap plastic speakers, or worse yet, built in speakers, you probably don't even bother to listen to music when working on a computer. I rarely did.
Two-hundred bucks will seem like a lot to many people, but these speakers have the kind of build quality that will immediately let you know you got your money's worth. The cabinets are very solid, the inputs and binding posts are rugged, and the exposed drivers look great with the high gloss white finish. I am driving mine with a Cambridge Audio DACMagic digital-to-analog converter, which makes for a wonderful combination. I am rediscovering my iTunes library. (A DAC isn't required, of course, but I found computer-based music much more enjoyable since getting one.)
Allow them to break in for 20 or 30 hours before you pass judgement; like most speakers, they will improve with time. Most "computer speakers" have a pretty tinny midrange, which the manufacturer tries to cover up with a big mid-bass bump from a subwoofer. The AudioEngines, on the other hand, deliver a real midrange. They won't give you thundering bass notes or sparkling, extended highs....nothing at this price point will. But what you will get is an honest speaker that makes you want to listen to music.
on November 4, 2011
Ok, I don't write many Amazon reviews because of the lack of time, however I admit I do rely on the user reviews for my purchases. I've been an audiophile (music lover / high end gear lover) for 20+ years and currently own a $15,000 + dedicated 2 channel system, which I love. However, seems like I spend more time in front of my iMac with work and school more than ever. Read some good reviews of the A2 in the stereo magazines and decided to give them a try.
Wow, all I can say - go buy these now! I promise you will not be disappointed. Forger crappy Logitech computer speakers, I had them and they are just average at best. First, I can tell you bass is not huge with these speakers, but what can you expect with the size? Bass is good enough for near field listening. The mid range is clear and transparent, not blurred and the highs crisp but not too bright like many small speakers.
Build quality is unreal at this price level. As much as I try and eschew Chinese made audio equipment, if these were built in the US or Japan, they would cost $600 or more! One last bit, I have these speakers elevated on some sound vibration control pucks which make a huge difference. The matching white looks great with an iMac as well.
on March 30, 2013
Step aside Bose, Harman Kardon, Boston, Polk, Klipsch... These are the first true "Audiophile Grade" computer speakers I have ever heard. I can finally have audiophile quality sound at work! I have been into Hi-Fi for over 30 years and these speakers blew me away! The only thing that even comes close to the magic of these speakers are my Magnepans! I think they even sound better than my Martin Logan Fresco HT speakers. I am hearing nuances on these speakers that I have never noticed before in songs I have listened to dozens of times. As for the amp in these babies, I have had Onkyo Integra,(the original good ones) Harman Kardon, Carver, Hafler, NAD, Rega, Rotel, Adcom... and these have the best channel separation I have EVER heard in my life! They also play plenty loud and have decent bass for their intended use. Keep in mind that these are near-field monitor speakers and designed to be listened to from up close. You won't want to use these for parties, but when you have the house to yourself, (so it's quiet) grab some of your favorite music and get ready for a religious experience! As for the price... To use an old tired expression, "These would be a bargain at twice the price!" One simple tip to make the rear volume control easier to use, wrap it with a rubber band. Very easy now to adjust with my finger tips. I also recommend the desk stands if you will not have these at ear level.
on May 31, 2011
I've been using the same Logitech 2.1 speakers for many generations of computers. Decided to finally upgrade to something that didn't require the subwoofer which I never felt I really needed. Yes, it's only my first week using them, but I am so incredibly impressed. They feel very solid and unlike any cheap plastic speakers. I am not an audio expert just a happy computer user.
on January 21, 2013
I have now been listening to these for about one month and, although I would have sent them back if I'd been able to within the 30-day timeframe, I will likely end up keeping them, if a bit reluctantly. Other reviewers here have mentioned the same problems that I had with this speaker: the base is overdriven. A fellow reviewer mentioned that the solution to the problem is to employ the use of an equalizer and adjust the frequencies below 64Hz by about -6dB. I also adjusted the frequencies below 125Hz by -3dB. To my ear this made a world of difference; the mid ranges can now do their thing without getting stomped on by overzealous, dark, inaccurate bass. I still don't love these speakers, but I don't hate them anymore. If they sounded like this out of the box I would have been much happier. I'm still amazed that they sounded SO bad without making these adjustments, but in the interest of fairness I feel I have to add one star to my original two-star review. Finally, had I seen the often-mentioned YouTube video of these speakers knocking over a pack of cards with their POWER before I'd bought them, I feel that I would have known more what I was buying into: hype. I don't need my speakers knocking stuff over, I need them to sound good. At least now they sound better. I'm also happy to report that no packs of cards have suffered tragic falls due to the use of these speakers.
I bought these along with a Nuforce uDAC-2 to listen to music at the office. I honestly don't know what is going on with these speakers and I really question the veracity of some of the reviews on this site. I know that good sound is a matter of preference, but I honestly can't imagine anyone thinking that these sound great. They really do look very nice but the sound is just so-so. For half the price ($98) I could have gotten a very similar sound from the Gigaworks T20 by Creative. Then, with the $100 I saved I could have bought a decent pair of cans that would greatly outperform either pair of speakers.
In terms of the listening experience, things will go along just fine for some songs, though never great, but then a particular song will come along and these speakers just sound downright horrible. The sound seems compressed, muffled, and just unable to breathe.
Example songs that seem particularly troublesome: Apartment Song by The National, Mine's Not a High Horse by The Shins and anything at all by Django Reinhardt or from The In Sound From Way Out album. With the former two songs, there are periods where the bass becomes a muddled mess that overpowers all mids and highs and makes me want to immediately turn the music off. With Apartment Song a low, rythmic hum begins halfway through the song that I honestly thought was some kind of signal noise or feedback, but it was simply the speakers' failure to faithfully reproduce the song. With Mine's Not a High Horse, the bass line (I only know it's the bass line because I've heard the song on other sources many times) overwhelms everything with a strong, rythmic, low frequency humming. With Django, guitars simply don't sound like guitars, but rather some approximation of what guitars are supposed to sound like.
In my opinion, these little speakers should be brighter and more open and the bass allowed to drop back, because physics dictates that you just can't get much bass with a 3.5 in driver and a rather tiny enclosure. Trying to get healthy bass out of such a speaker just has to come at a cost. Bass lovers with speakers this size should buy subs. Everyone, bass lovers too, should be allowed to hear their music and not a horrible compromise in an attempt to boost bass through technical wizardry.
FWIW, I have tried altering the source (questioning whether the DAC was the culprit), with little change. I have changed the position--nothing doing. I have allowed about 100 hours for break-in--again, not helping. Additionally, I have listened to all of this music--some high-quality, some relatively low quality--on a large variety of systems, from lowly stock $15 computer speakers to more expensive $1500 stereo amp/passive speaker setups, and the Audioengine A2's stand out as particularly annoying. I will sell these immediately (it is too late to return them).