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A2+ Wireless Desktop Speakers

Audioengine A2+ Wireless Review:
Twittering Machines

Twittering Machines Review

The Audioengine A2+ Speakers and I have history. We go back, way back.

Many moons ago, c.2005, I bought two pair of A2s online, Audioengine sells direct through their website, as Christmas presents for our daughters. I hooked them up and showed our daughters how to use them, which took all of a few minutes and some wires. Months (and months) later, I wanted to use a pair for comparison purposes and neither daughter was willing to give them up. Even for just a few days.

The new A2+ Wireless Speaker System adds Bluetooth connectivity (supported codecs include aptX, aptX, AAC, and SBC) so you don’t have to connect them to a source using wires. When you first power up the left A2+ (master) speaker—the one with all of the inputs, outputs, and guts including dual class A/B amps offering 60W peak power total power (15W RMS / 30W peak per channel)—it automatically goes into pairing mode. But don’t worry if you miss that pairing opportunity because there’s a pairing button around back.

You can still connect to the A2+ with wires as there’s a pair of analog RCA inputs (think turntable), a stereo mini-jack input, and a 16-bit/48kHz-capable Micro USB audio input. The Qualcomm CSR8670 SoC (audio system-on-chip) provides D/A conversion as well as the unit’s Bluetooth capability. There’s also an RCA variable line-out if you care to add a subwoofer. You still need speaker wire, which Audioengine includes in the box, to connect the master A2+ to the slave A2+.

The driver complement consists of a 2.75″ aramid fiber woofer and 3/4” silk dome tweeter per side. The 18mm thick MDF front-ported cabinets come in Satin Black Paint, Hi-Gloss White Paint, and Hi-Gloss Red Paint which is the finish I asked for in the review sample because I like the way it looks.

The A2+ are small speakers, some might call them cute, measuring a mere 6” x 4” x 5.25” or roughly the size of the two-volume collection of the works of Gérard de Nerval as published by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (1961). Weighing under 4 lbs. each, you can easily pick ’em up, one in each hand, and put them anywhere you want—with Bluetooth, the A2+ only need to be connected to each other and power if you have a Bluetooth source, like your phone. This cuts installation time to under a minute.

My full desktop playback picture included running Roon on my iMac, using the Roon volume control. The A2+ volume knob sat fixed at close to its max position.

A2+ Wireless Speaker Review

What should you expect from a small, $269 pair speakers?

In the case of the Audioengine A2+, you can expect a speaker that is very easy to like. Of course, this is a good thing but I feel clarification is in order because some people feel the need to try to read-between-the-lines. “Easy? Like? Does that mean they’re not accurate?”

Audioengine claims the A2+ reach down to 65Hz (±2.0dB). For reference, a bass tuba’s lowest note, F1, has a fundamental frequency of 44 Hz. Listening to the A2+ on my desktop, and I mean that literally because I did not use stands, the music sounded pleasantly full, nearly a tad plump. By plump, I mean to suggest the A2+ strike me as being voiced on the rich and full side as opposed to lean and a fleet of foot. However, and this is one of those kinda important, however, if you raise them up off the desktop, which I tried using some stacked plywood blocks, you can make them sound leaner. I preferred the fatter sound where my desktop acted as sound reinforcement. YMMV.DS1 Speaker Stands

While I’m going on about physical placement, I recommend angling the A2+ up so that the tweeters point at your ears. Audioengine recommends this as well, and they sell the doorstop-looking DS1 Desktop Stands ($29/pair) for this very reason. I used a pair of Yamamoto Sound Craft PB-10 Ebony bases because I have them lying around (purchased in 2006 for speakers I longer own). And you don’t have to worry, that silk dome tweeter sounds, you guessed it, rather silky without a hint of bite. Think smooth.

The A2+ are also nice and punching, offering up a satisfying rendition of Lux Prima by Karen O/Danger Mouse, the horns hitting hard, with enough bass to get the message across. Satisfying, on my desktop. These little speakers also do a fine job of disappearing, throwing out a much larger than their small size, speaker-free sound image. One of the things I enjoy about listening to music at my desk is the ability to lean in or out depending on mood which shifts the speaker-to-brain interface from inside or outside the sound image.

After Karen O, Earth’s Full Upon Her Burning Lips was next. You might be thinking, “That’s not fair!” seeing as Earth is all about massive, guttural sound but the Audioengine A2+ did a fine job of carving Dylan Carlson’s epic guitar, it really is epic, from the air around my desk. Sitting roughly 3′ from the drivers, OK I leaned in even closer, offered up a goodly amount of the guts and glory to be found in Full Upon Her Burning Lips. That epic guitar was also presented with a crisp, cutting edge just as it should be, and while the drums were not visceral, you can’t get visceral from a 2.75″ driver even if you attach a 1000′ horn, there was enough there to get the picture.

Using my iPhone running the Qobuz app playing Mavis Staples badass new record We Get By, I was very pleased with the result. Bluetooth haters beware—when done properly, Bluetooth can deliver nice, punchy, colorful reproduction and I dare say the Bluetooth implementation in the A2+ makes you forget you’re listening via Bluetooth. Think about this proposition for a minute—take something you already own, your smartphone, add a streaming service plus the A2+ and you have everything you need to play millions of albums. If you’d told me this was going to be possible back when I was high school, I would have said you must be high on some of that pharma-grade shit from the future.

A2+ Wireless Desktop Speakers

Designing and producing a sub-$300/pair speaker and keeping it in production, with upgrades, for more than a decade is not very common in the land of the audiophile. At least in my experience. There are many reasons why this shouldn’t work, but Audioengine makes it work. The A2+ Wireless Speakers are little treasures of sound that offer more than you’d expect given their price and size [footnote 1]. Did I mention they’re cute?

If you set your expectations on musical enjoyment, the A2+ delivers.

1. I told myself I wasn’t going to use the word “surprising”, or any variation of, in this review because every single reviewer who has written about a small speaker ends up being surprised about something. While I didn’t, I kinda did.

Read the full review here.

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