31 July, 2010

Brief Review: Audioengine 2 Desktop Speakers

Review: Audioengine 2 Desktop Speakers
How complicated should your computer setup be?

(more pics)

It is amazing how complicated CAS (computer as server) has become. It is also amazing how younger people are flocking to it, attracted by the promise of perfect (well, high) resolution. I'd not say they are ignorant, nor completely misguided. But they are certainly historically ill-informed. Why? Read on.

I have been using this pair of Audioengine 2's, the smallest of the range, for quite some time. Previously I have written that I prefer not to listen to CDs near-field in the study (link), but to link the computer to the system in my study is work over distance, and I finally decided on a pair of small active speakers for listening to my iTunes library and internet radio in the study, and I chose Audioengine. Under a promo, I got them for US$180, shipping included.

I was not going to write about this humble setup, but yesterday I visited TST Fortress and listened to an expensive "desktop" setup using Weiss and active Dynaudio. I didn't dedicate time to the active speakers, my mission being earphone listening. But the active Dynaudio's are big and first impression was it was just not for me (granted I have never taken to Dynaudio's sound).

This review is going to be brief. I basically agree with everything in the review in Stereophile. It's a very good and detailed review that does full justice to these remarkable speakers. But if you're in a hurry, I'll just quote the conclusion, which I fully agree with:

"...I have never been more impressed with or more stunned by a component I've reviewed for Stereophile than I was with the Audioengine 2. The level of sound quality produced by this uncolored, detailed, articulate, and dynamic speaker, in all situations, was beyond reproach, and its ratio of value to cost borders on the criminal. It extended my enjoyment of music into a new realm of portability that I hadn't before thought possible. I can't think of a single reason why every reader of this magazine should not go out right now and buy a pair of Audioengine 2s. I couldn't decide which finish I liked better, the white or the black. I bought a pair of each..."

On my desktop, there is a reasonable soundstage, neutral, fleshy, focused sound with good rhythm and pace. The bass is tuneful and just right. Like the reviewer, I never felt I need a subwoofer. Note the tweeter has neodynium magnet and the woofer is kevlar. And all this with the "chicken" speaker and interconnect cable supplied, connected to my computer's regular analogue out (no, I don't have a special soundcard). I don't even feel the urge to upgrade my connection. But I shall experiment with the computer out when I have time. Maybe use a USB out via the HRT Music Streamer.

In case you wonder, in NYC I did just as the Stereophile reviewer did and tried the A2's out in the main listening room on 28" stands. The sound was simply amazing.

Highly recommended. I didn't buy my pair in HK, but I see there's a distributor in HK (click "home theater", then "speaker").

p.s. For why "historically ill-informed", please wait for the next articles.

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