Audioengine 5+ (A5+) Premium Powered Speakers

Device Type: Powered Speakers
Input: Left (Powered) Speaker: (1) pair RCA, (1) 3.5mm mini jack, (1) USB Type A (power only). Right (Passive) Speaker: speaker binding posts
Output: Left Speaker: (1) pair RCA variable line level outputs, speaker binding posts
Dimensions: 10.75" (27cm) x 7" (18cm) x 7.75" (20cm)
Weight: Left Speaker: 15.4 lbs (7 kg) RIght Speaker: 9.6 lbs (4.4 kg)
Availability: Direct and Online
Price: $399.00/pair in Satin Black or Hi-Gloss White, $469.00/pair Solid Carbonized Bamboo
Warranty/Return Policy: 3-year Limited Warranty/30 Day Audition Policy (when purchased directly from the US online web store only.)
Website: www.audioengineusa.com

Masters and Slaves
If you've read the specifications for the Audioengine 5+ speakers, you'll notice that the left speaker is the Master making the right the Slave. What this really means is Audioengine has stuffed all of the non-passive parts like the 50W per channel Class A/B amp into the Master which makes a lot of sense to me for a speaker that's sold in pairs. You'll notice that some other powered desktop speakers can be purchased solo so each one has to contain the works. The Master/Slave relationship helps save on parts cost but it doesn't necessarily skimp on performance as we shall see and I got to hear.

The Audioengine 5+ replaced the popular A5s by adding an "advance tuned cabinet with rear-ported waveguide, improved thermal management, upgraded speaker connector binding posts, remote control, variable preamp line out, RCA inputs, and stand-mount 1/4" threaded inserts". The 5+ sports 5" Kevlar woofers and 20mm silk dome tweeters and has a claimed frequency response of 50Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB. That USB Type A input around back is so you can charge your USB-powered device while its playing music through the mini jack connection. I take it this implementation hints at the intended customer and his/her wallet since a dock would make more sense but would also obviously add cost. Since my iOS devices hold but a tiny subset of my NAS-based music library, my desktop speaker use is computer—as opposed to iOS—oriented.

Operation is very straight-forward and in its most basic configuration you just connect the left speaker to your computer with the supplied 2 meter (~6.5ft) mini jack cable, connect the left speaker's 5-way binding posts to the right speaker's 5-way binding posts with the included 16AWG, 3.75 meter (~12.3ft) speaker wire, then plug in the left speaker with the included power cord and hit play. You can also add a subwoofer via those variable RCAs as well as a DAC in between your computer and the 5+s in which case you need to add the DAC and whatever cable suits its method of connecting to your computer and on the other side connect it to the Master 5+ with a pair of RCAs (I used a few USB DACs). There's also a handy remote for controlling volume.

The Master also has an 'intelligent' LED up front in so far as it responds to what you and the 5+ are doing. Changing volume with the remote causes it to flicker, it fades in and out while in sleep mode and when muted (by pressing the mute button on the remote or pushing in the volume knob on the Master), and it stays on full when playing music. Directly next door there's the sensor for the remote, and on the other side there's a volume control knob on the Master's front face which is a very useful place for it to be as compared to the rear-mounted set-it-and-best-forget-it placement. Underneath each speaker there's a "high-density isolation pad" and a 1/4"-20 insert for attaching to the optional Audioengine DS2 speaker stands ($34/pair). The 5+s go to sleep after 30 minutes of non-use (insert joke here).

Frequent AudioStream readers already know a few things—I always recommend sitting desktop speakers up off the desk and this holds with the 5+, I find Audioengine offers a lot of bang for the buck with their D1 and D2 DACs and this also holds with the 5+, and I have a real problem with noisy desktop speakers and thankfully this is not an issue with the 5+. As a matter of fact, even when connected directly to my iMac using that included mini jack cable, the 5+s were as silent as I've ever heard a similarly-connected powered desktop speaker be. They are quieter than the newer and improved Paradigm A2s, for example. I'd say they were damn near silent when they are supposed to be and that not only makes me happy but it also makes me wonder why every other powered desktop speaker cannot behave the same in this regard.

A Sensible Sound
If I was to create a list of recommended powered desktop speakers, the Audioengine 5+ would be very high on it. Sure you can get different sound from something like the ADAM ARTist 3s, a speaker I still recall fondly, but you'll also get a built-in DAC that's limited to 16/48 and a price tag of more than double that of the 5+. Of course there are many other candidates and I have not heard them all (who has?). But what I can tell you is that when listening to music through the Audioengine 5+ speakers, I don't really care.

With something like Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "Hummingbird (Part 1)" from his similarly-titled EP, I fall right into the bass line's groove, and the drum kit's thwacks and taps are convincingly present and make it very difficult to sit (still). Billy's vocals stand out and apart in all their warbley scratchy goodness and the only thing I notice is the desire to keep making everything louder. And you can get the 5+'s up as loud as is healthy in a near-field environment. Upper frequencies do not suffer any spikiness yet still offer a nice visceral feel of bow on string, splashing cymbals or harmonica's harmonic delights. Bass response is not huge but it is natural, tight and tuneful which I prefer to boom and bloat. Oh hell, you get the idea—I like the Audioengine 5+ speakers and more importantly I like listening to music through them.

If you want your 5+s to make your music sound more refined, more delicate, just add a DAC. I have to say that the 5+s performed remarkably well direct-connected to my iMac, so well that I could see living happily this way for a long time. But if you listen to a wide variety of music in terms of sound quality from streaming services to HD downloads and you like to listen often, paying attention to what and how musicians do what they do, and you enjoy being carried away by the sum of all that goodness (meaning you're also not doing anything else while you're listening), add a DAC. Which DAC is up to you, your tastes, and your budget but something like the Audioengine D1 would do nicely and I'd imagine the Bladelius USB DAC would do even nicely-er.

No Reservations
For $399, yes I'm going there, I'd say that the Audioengine 5+s give you more than you've given Audioengine. They strike me as the proverbial audiophile bargain capable of delivering musical satisfaction on most levels that count. I also find them very nicely made (I dig the bamboo), nicely packaged, they include all of the cables you need to get going, and even hand you a remote to control the volume so that when you're sitting back being carried away by your favorite tunes you don't have to open your eyes or even lean forward to go even deeper.



Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the Audioengine 5+ (A5+) Premium Powered Speaker review: CEntrance Audiophile Desktop

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COMMENTS
deckeda's picture

The ones under the speakers. Looks like what's also supporting the iMac.

Also, the desk seems a little "busier" ( I won't say cluttered, nope ) than I understand the norm to be. Should we be concerned?

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...are leftovers from my rack (which you can see on the Associated Equipment page) that lives in the library. They’re stacked ply and I’ve found many uses for them.

Also, the desk seems a little "busier" ( I won't say cluttered, nope ) than I understand the norm to be. Should we be concerned?

Excellent (and human) observation deckeda. I just have to dig out from under a few things and all will be well (and less busy;-).

hotsoup's picture

The only reason I haven't pulled the trigger on a set is because my desk doesn't have the real estate. I would love to throw away my junky Dell speakers in favor of these. So want! Thanks for the review.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

If real estate is an issue, I'd recommend checking out the Audioengine A2s. We own two pairs and their sonic signature is similar to their bigger brother albeit with the obvious physical limitations of being tinier.

Martin Osborne's picture

Hi Michael

I am curious as whether you have any thoughts on the A5+ in an 'modestly sized living room' system?

I'm progressively upgrading a budget digital system based around an iPod, digital dock with built in DAC (An external DAC is nine days away) and Dayton amp with 25 year old NAD bookshelf speakers ;) and at my end of the earth the A5+ s' come in $200.00 cheaper - they are from an authorised dealer - than the minimum investment on entry level bookshelf speakers. The downside being the dealer is a few hundred miles away, so auditioning them is out of the question.

I do love the white and bamboo finishes and hope that other manufacturers of audio gear will take note!

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I am curious as whether you have any thoughts on the A5+ in an 'modestly sized living room' system?

Can you tell me the dimensions of your room?

I still have the 5+'s here so I will set them up in my room and let you know how that goes. I should explain that my focus here on AudioStream is what it is so I try not to stray from this 'realm' since Stereophile does a much more thorough job of talking about speakers in rooms. It's also why I don't delve into headphones mainly because I'm afraid of Tyll at InnerFidelity (just kidding but Tyll sure knows his stuff and then some. He's also one of the funniest people I've met).

kavon yarrum's picture

Hi Michael:

Maybe I missed it, but can you do your best to tell us how these compared sound wise to the Paradigm SHIFT A2s besides the noise factor?

Thanks

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I'd say the Paradigm A2s are generally leaner and meaner - punchy, dynamic, and fast with more bite up top whereas the 5+s are comparatively warmer, fuller and richer. This also translates for me into the 5+s being more forgiving of the quality of the source material.

I'm not sure that's my best but its the best I can muster at the moment ;-)

kavon yarrum's picture

Thank you. That is something to go on. 

I will say the remote control is a very handy feature. 

Martin Osborne's picture

Cheers for the response. They certainly seem to have caught the ear of Stereophile and based on that alone I am almost ready to make the purchase, but always keen for 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc opinion.

My room is about 5 metres wide by 8 long and about 2.5 high, carpeted with soft furnishings. 

 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...of these speakers to fill your room but I hooked them up in my room (12 x 14 x 9’) and while they work, how well will depend on how loud you like your music.

There's also the practical issue of connecting them to keep in mind - one speaker cable between the speakers, and the power cord, and either interconnects or the mini cable to the 'Master' speaker.

arash's picture

Hi Michael,

 

I had read lot of good review about A5+ so I bought it 2 months ago. Sound was delicate and lovely but really couldn't stand for the bass. I search and saw some other users complain for the same problem.

 

The bass is misplaced and destroy the sound on high or even mid level volume. (At least on my experience). So I had to return it.

 

I have a studio (450 sq.) and doesn't mind spend some money for a good system. Do you think for a studio my choices are limited to a pair of bookshelf speaker? is bookshelf enough? based on sterophile recommended speakers which one should i get. around $1k I am flexible so little more or less is fine

 

I really like Klipsch Palladium P-17B but I just though it's crazy to pay $4000 for bookshelf. I still love it just it's not easy for me to pay that much.

I really appreciate if you help me with that

 

http://www.stereophile.com/content/2012-recommended-components

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...I can give for speakers is to listen for yourself. You can certainly accommodate a floorstanding speaker or bookshelf but which is best for you can only be determined by listening.

In terms of the AudioEngine's bass response, I really cannot comment other than to suggest your room and speaker setup may be part of the problem.

maxmelvin19's picture

Hi, thank you for the informative review. I'm new to high end audio so forgive my ignorance but how would the best passive bookshelf monitor and seperate intergrated amplifier at the the same price (combined, that is) as the audioengine A5+ compare? I'm not to bothered about the convenience of an all in one package, I just want the most fidelity for around $400.

Thank you,

Max

arash's picture

I will try to find those I am interested in and give them a try.

I tried A5 in different setup and even on different table (different material). It was better on some but still not that good, at least to my ears. 

Thank you for your time. really appreciate it.

maxmelvin19's picture

Hi, thank you for the informative review. I'm new to high end audio so forgive my ignorance but how would the best passive bookshelf monitor and seperate intergrated amplifier at the the same price (combined, that is) as the audioengine A5+ compare? I'm not to bothered about the convenience of an all in one package, I just want the most fidelity for around $400.

Thank you,

Max

Michael Lavorgna's picture

While I do not have a lot of experience with passive desktop speakers in this price range, I believe you would be hard pressed to match the performance of active desktop speakers for the same money. If you look at the PSB Alpha PS1s at $299/pair, I can't see how separates could come near their price/performance. 

maxmelvin19's picture

Thank you for the prompt response. I can't seem to find the PSB Alpha PS1s for sale in the UK. Nonetheless, would they be better than the Audioengine A5+s? I won't be listening near field by the way but in a small room sitting 6-8 feet from the speakers with the speakers on a counter top or on a bookshelf (that would have some space behind it due to a slanting attic roof). My other option would be something like the tannoy mercury v1s or q acoustics 2010is with a NAD or Yamaha entry level intergrated amplifier. I hope to get the HRT microstreamer for Christmas!

Sorry for the questions but there seems to be very little advice available at this end of the budget spectrum specifically for computer audiophiles (apart from this site which nonetheless leaves equivalent priced seperates to stereophile which doesn't tend to review such things). 

Thank you for your time.

Max

 

 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I think the Audioengine A5+s would be better for a small room. I'd also recommend checking out my friend Stephen Mejias' column over on Stereophile and drop him a line for some recommendations in your price range.

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