Audioengine A2+ Wireless Speakers

 

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MY AUDIOPHILE STORY:

timbarrall.jpgI remember back in high school one of my teachers had a “music appreciation” class. He had an audio setup in the classroom with an AR turntable and KLH speakers- the ones with the woven speaker cloths. Not sure what brands the electronics were but I will never forget when he played Rossini’s William Tell Overture. I had heard it before on TV shows like “The Lone Ranger”, but this is the first time ever hearing the actual full overture in its entirety. We listened to many of the Masters in that class, which left a huge impression on me for years to come. Later I played clarinet and sax in the school music ensemble and jazz band. In my last year of high school, I got friendly with a guy named Frank Alles (who now writes for Stereo Times). He lived near me in and would invite me to his grandparents house in South Plainfield, NJ where his setup was. They allowed him to create a listening space in the great room of their house. Frank fitted it with AR amps, turntable and speaker cabinets, and then later JBL speakers. They were perfectly positioned in the room. It sounded amazing to my ears. To hear playback from vinyl this way was truly exhilarating. I could barely leave the premises when I had to go home later that evening. That summer experience has never left me. Years later, I was dating a woman while working in NYC who had a pretty nice Hi-Fi system in her apartment, and she would spin a record once in awhile. I asked her where she got her equipment and she replied that her brother advised her what to buy. A few months or so later, I met her brother, Greg Voth, now a contributor to StereoTimes. Greg lived on West 20th Street back then and had equipment I’ve never seen before- mostly DB amps and floorstanding Alison Speakers. He spun some vinyl- the likes of Miles Davis and a few ECM artists. The sound was precise and full. I was reacquainted with Hi-Fi again! Later, Pam and I got married and Greg is now my brother-in-law. To this day, we share the same enthusiasm for high-end audio… I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Onto the review…

THE UNBOXING:

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I documented the unboxing with my iPhone for this review.  There is an outer shipping box and a snuggly fit inner box with printed graphics. Until opening the latter, and carefully taking out the items, you can’t appreciate how impeccably packaged the Audioengines are. The power supply and wiring on the first layer are enclosed in a soft material bag. The second layer has safely nestled the speakers in the same soft individual cloth bags as well. Nicely engineered, guys!

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250x250_1.jpgFinally I removed the speakers from their cloth bags, which revealed more than I expected. The finely finished quality of these little gems made me want to step back and inspect them more closely- much like getting into a new car, noting the looks, the touch… the overall effect. Finished in low luster black paint, each speaker is fitted with a 1” silk dome tweeter and a 3” Aramid Fiber woofer and 1/8” non-skid rubber cushion mounted to the bottom of the small speaker cabinets. On the back left speaker is a well-organized panel, which includes RCA audio inputs, a mini-jack audio input, power on/off volume control, USB mini-jack speaker wire that connects to a passive right speaker and power supply. There is also an output for use with the Audioengine S8 subwoofer (not included in this review) and a pairing light to let you know that the speakers have connected via Bluetooth. Sweet!

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The A2+ Audioengine Wireless Speaker System sells for $269. (now recently on their website for $219.) It comes in 3 colors: Satin black, gloss red and gloss white. These desktop high-quality MDF constructed cabinets stand at 6 inches tall, 4 inches wide, and 5 ¼ inches deep with a horizontal port on the lower portion of the face. (To add that big bottom bass, you can purchase the Audioengine S8 Premium Powered Subwoofer with variable crossover frequency for an additional $349) you get a perk when buy directly from audioengineusa.com. They cover sales tax, Free FedEx Ground shipping, a they have a 30 day easy return policy plus a 3 year warranty. That’s hard to beat!

THE SETUP:

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After reading the quick setup instructions, I hooked up the speakers with the included 6.5 ft. speaker wire and followed the basic procedure. I placed the speakers on each side, lined up with my iMac screen. Once properly connected, you can go one of three ways: 1. Wireless connection. 2. RCA connection  3. USB connection. I chose the USB connection to start. Using the supplied USB cable, I turned on the left speaker that has the built-in amp. This is done by turning on the power “on-off” volume knob on back, (as recommended, turning the knob just a little bit). In my Apple system preferences, I selected “Sound” and the audio engine 2’s showed up immediately. Then I made a selection from my iTunes library and adjusted volume respectively from the A2+ volume control. 

I also wanted to test the speakers in other conditions, one of which was our historic Connecticut house kitchen (where previously my wife complains about the old radio we usually listen to when there). We so enjoyed the sound of these speakers there with the low ceiling, wood beams and intimacy of the room, they sounded so great. My wife was asking when we could have them permantly installed.

THE PLAYBACK:

Sera Una Noche.jpgI wanted to hear an intimate recording, so I chose Nublado Condombe (instrumental), from the album “Sera Una Noche La segunda” (Ma Recordings,1998). Ma Recordings has an artful collection of musicians, all recorded in natural live settings. Whatever they do is always embraced by audiophiles. I turned up the volume so that it would fill the room and, right out of the box, without burn-in, the A2+’s sounded full in detail but tended towards a slight upper-edge in presentation. I listened for awhile and then decided to go through the Amara music app, which uses iTunes. I then played the same song: Wow!, The accordion, bass clarinet, guitar and percussion sounded much closer and richer – so much more involving. If you are not involved… then it’s just background music. 

Next up was Paul Simon’s album, “Stranger to Stranger” (Concord records, 2016). I previewed the song Werewolf, with its strange background vocals certainly set the theme for the song, with Paul’s voice clearly heard, above it all. The A2+’s had great pacing from here on. Then that organ came in… wow, what a great listen. I moved on to the next track, “Wrist band”. What fun. It’s all about that snappy percussion and vocals. These speakers rock!

The title song from Shelby Lynn’s “Just a little Lovin’” (Lost Highway Records, 2008) offers a great female voice. They really pulled all the stops with this record, It sounds as though it was recorded in the red zone like the original Dusty Springfield recording “The Look of love.” It’s all about the voice here. The A2+’s truly presented nice detail and punch for their size. 

schmillson.jpgHarry Nilsson’s song Lazy Moon from “A little Touch of “Schmilsson In the Night” (RCA Victor, 1973), presents Harry’s voice so spot on. The song and the orchestra is so perfect, one must simply listen to the entire album. I would have appreciated a little more bottom end to really feel it (this is where Audioengine’s S8 subwoofer would come in).

I couldn’t resist a play of Leo Kottke’s “Poor Boy” from the album “Perculiaroso” (Chrysalis, 1997). Kottke works his guitar compositions so that you never know what era you are in, which is a nice thing. His playing and storytelling never tires me. The complex notes from the guitar strings are very melodic and precise through these speakers. 

Going Latin… I absolutely loved Omara Portuondo from the Buena Vista Social Club collection (World Circuit, 2000), a Ry Cooder collaboration. I’m so grateful that Ry sought out all these musicians while they were still alive and performing music in their native countries. This project remains a great historic musical treasure for us all. I love the slow fade in of the recording in “La Sitiera,” starting with beautiful strings and percussion, her voice accompanying. A delightful presentation and I can here every nuance in this recording. I feel like I’m back in the old days of NYC’s El Morocco and Copa Cubana clubs. As with all the Buena Vista Social Club recordings, they always leave you wanting more.

BLUETOOTH CONNECTIVITY:

The A2+ speakers are just as comfortable in the role of  desktop computer speakers (and devices using both iOS and Android). I played via bluetooth from both my iPhone 4s and my wife’s iPhone 7plus. They both connected easily and produced impressive sound. On the iPhone go to General > bluetooth, wait a few moments and then audio “engine 2” pops in the list. Select it and you’re good to go.

WIRELESS MUSIC:

Additional tunes reviewed with these speakers:

“Can’t stop Dreaming” (BMG International, 1996), a great solo pop album done by Daryl Hall in 1996. His first song Cab Driver has a large fleshy sound; the synth, guitar and drums are delivered with a satisfying punch. Daryl’s voice is expansive and clear, especially when accompanied by the sax. Really nice. Mastering done by Bob Ludwig- if you want great sound, go with a great mastering engineer.

alison.jpgOn Alison Krauss & Union Station’s Wouldn’t Be So Bad, from the album “Lonely Runs Both Ways” (Rounder, 2004), A mostly acoustic album, this is song has a delightful and palatable sound. Jerry Douglas’ dobro is forward. Guitar and stand-up bass playing with a nice intonation as well coming in soon after. As the song is established Alison’s gentle voice along with her fiddle is softly present. Her band’s background vocals supports her perfectly. The string picking detail has a nice air to it from these accomplished musicians. The A2+’s really presented this music effortlessly.

Finally, there’s the André Previn Trio Jazz, “King Size” (Contemporary), first track “You’d Be so Nice to Come Home to”, recorded in 1958,This album is a great example of jazz from that era. The standup bass enters on the left, the drums and ride cymbal enter on the right,  André’s intricate jazzy piano is in the center. The band is well voiced. All the instruments are easily identifiable. Turning up the volume brings this recording to an enjoyable sound level. A surprising playback from speakers this size.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

The A2+ speakers are beautifully made and engineered with the consumer in mind for a user friendly experience. They are hearty in lasting quality but be careful on how you handle the speakers, because of the open speaker driver design, he soft dome tweeter could be dented. Overall, for desktop speakers they are very enjoyable, revealing a clear and focused soundstage. I got quite used to them being around. It may be hard to let them go. Maybe a hand held remote would be nice for those certain times. (I did notice a replacement remote on their website for $19 but only compatible with the A5.) I’m looking forward to more Audioengine  products that may come my way.

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 Tim Barrall

RELATED EQUIPMENT:

Imac 2014, OS 10.11.6

iPhone 4s

iPhone 7 plus
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 Specifications:

Price: $269
The A2+ Audioengine Wireless Speaker System lists for $269 US (sold in pairs)

The A2+ premium powered speakers with high-fidelity stereo sound connects to your music in seconds from any app or device. The ultimate Bluetooth mini home music system that’s perfect for your desktop or smaller spaces.

Contact Info:

855-845-5525 Nib-Frum 9am-5pm EST

support@audioengineusa.com

Tech Specs:

Advanced Bluetooth Wireless, USB Audio Input, Dual Analog Audio Inputs, Silk Tweeters & Aramid Fiber Woofers and Subwoofer Output

3-yr Warranty

Type
2.0 powered (active) multimedia desktop speaker system
Amplifier type dual class AB monolithic
Power output 60W peak power total (15W RMS / 30W peak per channel), AES Drivers
2.75″ aramid fiber woofers, 3/4” silk dome tweeters
Inputs 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, RCA, USB, Bluetooth
Outputs RCA variable line-out
Mains voltages 100-240V 50/60Hz auto-switching
SNR 95dB (typical A-weighted)
THD+N 0.05% at all power settings
Crosstalk 50dB
Freq. response 65Hz-22kHz ±2.0dB
Input impedance 10K ohms unbalanced
Protection Output current limiting, thermal over-temperature, power on/off transient protection
USB specifications Connector type
Micro USB device class type 1.1 and above
Internal D/A converter CSR8670
Input bit depth up to 16 bits native
Input sample rate up to 48KHz native
 
BLUETOOTH SPECIFICATIONS Internal BT receiver CSR8670
Input bit depth 16 bits
Bluetooth receiver type Bluetooth 5.0 audio Supported codecs
aptX low latency, aptX, AAC, SBC
Wireless operation range Up to 100ft (30m) typical Input data rate
Determined by Bluetooth
Wireless latency ~30 milliseconds (ms)
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES Dimensions (each)
6”(H) x 4”(W) x 5.25”(D)
Weight (LEFT speaker) 1.6Kg/3.55lbs
Weight (RIGHT speaker) 1.4Kg/3.15lbs
Shipping weight 4.6kg/10lbs per pair
Shipping box dims 10.5” (H) x 15” (L) x 7” (W)

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