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Audioengine A5 Powered Speaker System Review

by April 05, 2006
Audioengine A5

Audioengine A5

  • Product Name: A5
  • Manufacturer: Audioengine
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: April 05, 2006 20:00
  • MSRP: $ 349


  • iPod power charging port (Combo Port)
  • 2 audio inputs
  • Built-in power amplifier
  • Power outlet for Airport Express
  • Front panel volume control
  • Custom Kevlar woofers
  • Silk dome tweeters
  • Hand-built and tuned cabinets w/high-gloss furniture-grade finish
  • Magnetically shielded
  • 3 year transferable warranty
  • All cables included


  • Power output:  45W RMS/ 70W peak per channel (AES)
  • Inputs:  2 X 1/8" stereo mini-jack
  • Outputs:  USB Type A (power charging only)
  • Main voltages:  115/230V 50/60Hz switchable
  • Size (each): 10.0”(H) x 7.0” (W) x 7.75” (D)
  • Weight: 6.4Kg/14lbs (left), 4Kg/9lbs (right)
  • Amplifier type:  Dual Class AB monolithic
  • 5" Kevlar woofers with advanced voice coils
  • 20mm silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnet.
  • Signal-to-noise: >95dB (typical A-weighted)
  • THD: <0.05% at all power settings
  • Crosstalk: <50db
  • Frequency response: 60Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB
  • Input impedance: 10K ohms unbalanced


  • Superb High End Sound Quality
  • Superb Build Quality
  • Beautiful Finish
  • High Quality Drivers


  • Not Really Portable
  • Too Good for iPod Use


Audioengine A5 Build Quality

As a reviewer, one gets a chance to see, hear and play with a variety of equipment - some good and some not so good. Every now and then a product comes into your hands that takes you by surprise. The Audioengine 5 is one of those. Let's face the facts; in the world of MP3 players and portable music systems, most of them leave a lot to be desired. This is not true of the Audioengine A5. Most MP3 music systems are constructed of plastic and are really nothing more than a glorified boom box - not true of the A5. Most are designed with fidelity as an afterthought (or in some cases no thought at all). This is absolutely NOT true of the Audioengine 5. Nearly all would be snubbed by anyone interested using this type of product for high-quality music listening. If one snubs the Audioengine 5 then you could truly be called an audio snob. Perhaps you think I have set the bar a little high for powered speaker system? Maybe you think I am insane for even suggesting such a thing could be worthy your time? Think again and read on to get the details.

Description & Build Quality

Let me first start with what the Audioengine 5 is not. The Audioengine 5 is not a boom box or plastic injection molded speaker system with a tiny little underpowered amp that reaches annoying levels of distortion almost as soon as it is turned on. The fact of the matter is, the Audioengine 5 is a different breed altogether and in a class all by itself. This is refreshing indeed.

The Audioengine 5 is set of self-powered, high quality two-way monitors with inputs for an iPod or any MP3 player, laptop or desktop. It does not have a remote, does not cook your breakfast, do your laundry or walk your dog. It does , however deliver big-time on quality and that is a bit rare in this market.

The first thing I noticed when unpacking the A5 was the weight. The left speaker, which contains the amp, weighs in at a hefty 14lbs and the right one at 9lbs. The finish on the A5 is a beautiful high gloss piano finish that I know from personal experiences is not all that easy to achieve. This brings me to one of my several but minor complaints. I wish they offered them in black, as I am not a fan of white or silver audio components. However, since these are marketed towards the iPod, it is certainly understandable. It is a very nice finish nonetheless.

The speakers cabinets are constructed of 1 inch thick MDF and are well braced internality. Having built my share of speaker cabinets both for myself and while working for a small speaker shop in Florida, I can say that these were designed and built by someone who cares. The drivers consist of 5-inch Kevlar woofers and 20mm silk dome tweeters, both of very good quality. Audioengine states that the drivers are designed and built by them, something that is very rare for a product such as this (typically this means they were built to their specifications and not necessarily manufactured in-house). The drivers are also magnetically shielded for use next to CRT-based displays. Fit and finish on the A5 is top notch.

Looking at the back of the left speaker reveals the AC input, power switch, voltage select, output to right speaker, aux AC outlet (for use with air tunes or a DC power adapter), and audio input. The right speaker has just one speaker terminal, which leads me to my next minor complaint. The speaker terminals are the cheap spring clip type and are so small I could not get my fingers inside to press down the clip and insert the wire at the same time. I had to have my 10-year-old son do it for me. As good as everything else is on these speakers, they are in need of some real binding posts.

Editorial Note on Binding Posts & Finish Color (as of 04/27/08)

Audioengine has informed us that since the time of this review, they have upgraded the speaker terminals to high quality binding posts and now also offer a black cabinet finish.

On the top of the left speaker there resides another audio input and a USB charging port. Audioengine chose not to use the iPod 30-pin dock connector and I think that is a good move. I am not real fond of that connection myself. It would no doubt just raise the cost and is not needed in this reviewer's opinion (plus Apple will just change it in 6 months anyway). On the front there is a power on LED and a volume knob. No bells, no whistles - just what's needed.

Taking a peek on the inside of the left speaker reveals the amp section and crossover. Aside from the high quality drivers, this is what separates the A5 apart from the competition. You are not going to find a torroidal coil and crossover such as this in a plastic boom box (no electrolytic caps wired in series here). The A5 boasts a 45-watt amp with 70-watts peak power. While I did not take amplifier measurements, one look at the coil and the output transistors and I have no doubt it would meet or beat that spec.

Audioengine A5 Setup and Conclusion

Included with the A5 are all the cables and wire you will need to get connected. These items include

  • AC power cable
  • 1/8" audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)
  • (2) 1/8" audio cables, 20cm (~8")
  • 1/8" to RCA "Y" cable
  • USB power extender cable, 1 meter (~3.28ft)
  • Speaker wire (16AWG), 3.75 meters (~12.3ft)

Setup consisted of connecting the power cord, attaching the music source via one of the included cables, choosing a suitable location, and turning them on. It's so easy a cave man could do it.

Listening Tests

I first listened to the A5 while they were positioned on my little bar table in the back of my theater room. I connected my iPod, picked out a song and listened to about a minute of it. To be honest I don't even remember what that song was. Now I know what your thinking, but just hold on and let me explain. This will all lead into one of my complaints that you may or may not agree is even a complaint at all.

null After about a minute of hearing this song playing from my iPod, it was immediately apparent that this just would not do as a setup and a source. These little speakers were far better than what an iPod could dish out to them. So yes, you can use them to listen to your iPod or MP3 player. I tried it. It worked. Now let's move on to some more serious listening.

To really hear what these speakers were capable of, I broke out my extra set of speaker stands and positioned them up front - right next to my Paradigm Monitor 7s. That's right, folks, I was about to critically listen to a pair or self-powered, portable music device speakers. Crazy, huh? After setting them up on the stands, I ran upstairs and grabbed my wife's 12in powerbook. I needed a good, but practical source to be subjective right?

Jackson Browne: The Naked Ride Home null

First up was my favorite song from Jackson Browne entitled "Sergio Leone", off The Naked Ride Home CD. This song about the great spaghetti western film director contains many unique sounds that really test a loudspeaker's ability to bring out subtleties that lesser units will mask over. I played the CD directly from the laptop using iTunes. I wanted to hear these speakers with full quality, uncompressed CD audio.

The first thing I noticed was that the soundstage was nice and deep with pin point imaging. In fact, imaging was as good as my Monitor 7s though the soundstage was not quite as big. Highs were reproduced with crystal clarity, without a trace of sibilance. Details such as the distinct sound that a plastic tipped drumstick makes when it hits metal cymbal could clearly be heard. I was also able to hear the nuances of the pick being strummed across slightly muted strings and the harmonics that it produced. I was impressed, these are a much better speaker than the Paradigm Atoms I have in the rear. Midrange was never muddied and vocals remained clear even when driven hard. Dynamics were also good, telling me the amp section was doing its job equally well. I have heard many budget 2-channel systems that did not sound this good.

Audioengine states a frequency response of 60Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB, while I did not measure it, my in-room response seemed like it might be even a tad lower than that. Bass was tight and low for a 5-inch driver. Even when I approached what I thought might be safe excursion limits of the drivers they never lost detail or sounded strained. They did have the small driver bass sound (or 'thump' some might call it) but it was never boomy or boxy sounding. This is due no doubt to the solid cabinet construction and the drivers being well tuned to the enclosure. The amount of low end these speakers do have is amazing considering the driver size.

Linda Rondstadt: What's New (DVD-Audio)

Next up was one my all time favorite disks that I have carried with me on countless trips to audio stores to null demo equipment. Linda Rondstadt's What's New on DVD-Audio. It just so happens this disk also has a Dolby Digital track that I could listen to through the laptop. I have owned this recording in every incarnation they have made, including the half speed mastered LP. I am extremely familiar with all of its nuances and subtleties. The second cut, "I've Got a Crush on You", is a real test for tweeters because, if they are not up to the task, you will have sibilance galore.

Once again the Audioengine 5 strutted its stuff and kept the sibilance down to a bare minimum. Brushes across the symbols were easily picked out and Linda's vocals were clear, strong and upfront. I was able make out every breath she took and the horns sounded natural and never grating. In fact these speakers never became fatiguing in any way. Again dynamics were good and about the only thing missing was the lower octave stuff, but hey we are talking about a 5-inch two-way here.

While they certainly did not sound as full as my mini monitors or my monitor 7s, they were certainly on par with any other sub-$400 set of bookshelf speakers I've heard and better than most.

Final Thoughts

I have heard many iPod/MP3 player systems, but this is by far the best one yet. It is really in a class all by itself. The fact that it is so good is my only complaint because it very quickly reveals the limitations of a portable device such as the iPod and that of highly compressed audio. While I whole-heartedly would recommend the Audioengine 5 for a computer system or some other higher quality source, I feel I must give you this warning. If you use the A5 for an iPod or other MP3 player, you may end up being somewhat disappointed. Not with the Audioengine 5 but rather your MP3 player and all the highly compressed audio on songs that we hope you legally purchased. When using iPod, we recommend encoding in 192kbps or higher (preferably non lossy) to achieve the best sonic results to better take advantage of what these speakers have to offer.

Review Addendum (added: 4/12/06)

After writing the initial review it has come to our attention that the manufacturer is planning on making some changes to benefit the product line. First, they will be offering a black finish in addition to the white. Second, they are also in the process of switching the spring clips terminals in favor of preferred binding posts. I might also add that Audioengine does in fact assemble their drivers in house, which is really quite remarkable for a product such as this. We are appreciative that Audioengine is receptive to their customers and reviewers and are serious about improving upon an already solid product line.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Analogue Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar