Powered speakers are ideal for desk setups or small rooms since they are capable of delivering excellent sound without taking up too much space. The Audioengine A1 and the Audioengine A2+ are two of the more affordable powered speakers that you can buy right now. Both of them feature a compact design with room-filling sound and they are equipped with Bluetooth chips for wireless music playback. The A1 are cheaper since they have less connection options while the A2+ are more expensive due to having more connectivity options. We compare the two below to help you pick which system is better for you.
Review of the Audioengine A1 speakers
I’ve said it before that one of the more fun pleasures in reviewing products is finding that true bargain—something that is way better than the price would indicate. This time around, it’s the Audioengine A1 Home Music System. Along with the Tribit StormbBox Micro speaker, the A1 speaker could be another bargain of the year.
What is it?
The Audioengine A1 Home Music System is a traditional two-speaker setup made for a smaller room or studio apartment. The speakers can be connected via traditional hard-wiring (3.5mm stereo mini-jack) or built-in wireless Bluetooth. They feature a digital hybrid amp, aramid fiber woofers coupled with silk tweeters. The amp and built-in digital audio converter (DAC) can handle digital files up to 48KHz sample rate at 16-bit depth—basically CD quality audio. The A1 handles Bluetooth 5.0 with up to 100 ft wireless distance. Nice.
- Amplifier: Dual-class D
- Power output: 60W (30W per channel)
- Woofer: 2.75″ aramid fiber
- Tweeter: 3/4” silk dome
- Inputs: 3.5mm stereo mini-jack,
- Bluetooth: 5.0 aptX, AAC, SBC
- LFE Variable line-out for subwoofer
- Input bit depth: Up to 16 bits native
- Input sample rate: Up to 48KHz native
- Weight (both speakers): 6.7 lbs
- Dimensions, each speaker (HWD): 6″ x 4″ x 5.25″
- Wireless range: Up to 100ft (30m)
Design and features
When I first read about them, I couldn’t figure where the Audioengine A1 speakers would fit within the Audioengine lineup. After all, the specs for the A2+ wireless speakers are nearly identical, yet the A1 is $70 cheaper. It turns out that all Audioengine did was take some of what they learned with the A2+ speakers and apply it to the A1—at a lower cost. Some may argue that the A2+ speakers still sound better, but unless you can do a side-by-side comparison, it may not be noticeable. Yes, there are fewer input options, a different amp setup, and no microfiber bags that other Audioengine speakers come wrapped in, but those are about the only noticeable changes.
Here’s the bargain part: The A1 speakers cost less than $500, That’s for both, not each. Plus if bought from Audioengine, there’s no tax or shipping. We’re talking Audioengine speakers, people. If you aren’t familiar with Audioengine, you should be. They make some of the best sounding, most solidly built affordable speakers anywhere.
The A1 Home Music System is now Audioengine’s entry-level speaker although you’d be hard-pressed to call it entry-level. It’s built from many of the same materials used in some of Audioengine’s more expensive speakers—such as silk tweeters and aramid fiber woofers.
The rear panel on the left speaker houses all the important guts: Stereo mini-jack input, Bluetooth pairing button, and power/volume knob. There’s also an LFE subwoofer output port for those who want that added bottom end that’s lacking in smaller speakers. LFE simply means that only bass information will be sent to the sub. However, that’s not to say that the A1 has no bass. It can pack a decent punch for its size. While listening, you may not realize that you even need a sub—but it’s nice to know you can!
The right speaker is simply a passive speaker that connects to the left with the supplied speaker wire. Audioengine also supplies a mini-jack to RCA cable and mini-plug to mini-plug cable for hard-wiring. If you want that sub, you’ll need to purchase the connecting wire—it’s not included.
The A1 speakers come in any color you want as long as it’s gray. It’s strange that black is not available, since almost every other speaker on the planet comes in black. Even so, the gray matte color gives the speakers a look that belies the price.
Setting up the A1 speakers is straightforward. If wired, there are standard left/right spring-clip connections (sorry, no RCA or banana plug connections). If using Bluetooth, just press the pairing button. It took 2 seconds to pair with my iPhone. I did notice that it’s difficult to use Bluetooth from one source and switch to another without first disconnecting the original source.
When I’m not reviewing speakers, my default computer desk setup consists of the Audioengine HD3 speakers. Do the HD3 sound better? Yes they do, but they also cost considerably more. However, if I got rid of the HD3 speakers, I could be happy with the A1 speakers. They sound that good.
I am a fan of First Aid Kit—two Swedish sisters that sound like they were born in Nashville. Their voices are only matched by their songwriting skills. Their songs are loaded with catchy hooks and dreamy harmonies that capture the listener. “Dance To Another Tune” casts a gloomy aura over the song’s story. The A1 speakers are able to capture the eerie sound the sisters use to weave a dark tale. “Cedar Lane” is a bit more upbeat with its gorgeous vocals and minor chord harmonies. It’s a song you can listen to over and over again on the A1 speakers without tiring of it.
You might be disappointed with the A1 speakers if you’re a fan of hip-hop or other music that rely on headache-inducing bass. But songs I have in my collection that exhibit more bass still sound good even if the bass is not as thumping as you might get with a subwoofer. It’s one of those small air-movement physics things. Even so, there’s decent bass helped by some discretely clever passive bass ports at the front of each speaker.
“Isotype” from OMD’s “Punishment of Luxury” album is a good example of a more bottom-heavy song that makes you want to dance or at least tap your feet. Again, the A1 speakers are able to convey the fun in the song along with the lower frequencies, despite the fact that you can’t feel them as with larger speakers.
What I like
- Well built
- Sound great despite their size
- Bluetooth sounds as good as wired
What I’d change
There’s one thing I strongly disagree with Audioengine about regarding the A1 speakers. Audioengine states that the A1’s are made to be room speakers and not computer speakers. In other words, not made for what’s called near-field listening. Screw that. I have them wirelessly connected on my work-at-home desk and they sound great. So yeah, if you’re looking for some really good speakers to rock to while working, try the A1 Home Music System and forget what Audioengine says. Just enjoy.
Review of the Audioengine A2+ speakers
A year ago, I reviewed the monstrous but wonderful Audioengine A5+ speakers. These behemoths will rattle not only your windows, but the neighbor’s as well — yet still sound good doing it. But let’s be real, unless you have a big desk (I do), the A5+ speakers are just too big and loud for most home offices. Audioengine has solved that bit of a dilemma with the smaller A2+ speakers. Not only are these speakers perfectly sized for desktop use, Audioengine has improved upon their original A2 speaker’s components.
The original A2 speakers were a hit for a good reason. They were affordable (but not cheap), sounded great for their size and were attractive in a “we mean business” kind of way. Yet, as good as they were, Audioengine still decided to improve them. More importantly, a digital audio converter (DAC) was added – allowing the speakers to be connected to the computers USB port instead of the headphone-out jack. This is better for two reasons: The A2+ speakers receive a clean digital signal through USB — as opposed to the headphone port — insuring better audio. Also, the A2+ speaker’s built-in DAC is better quality than what comes with your laptop or desktop computer – again, resulting in better audio. However, the A2+ speaker’s DAC is not as flexible or powerful as most standalone DAC’s, such as Audioengine’s own D1 or D3. There are tradeoffs.
The A2+ speakers are powered vs. passive, which simply means that they will run without a receiver or separate amplifier. That’s pretty standard with desktop computer speakers. While not as big a deal as a few years ago, the A2+ speakers have kevlar woofers and silk tweeters denoting higher build quality. The cabinets are hand-finished with care and look it. The matte-black finish helps hide fingerprints.
As with other Audioengine products, the A2+ speakers are shipped in microfiber draw-string bags. There’s even little bags for the wires! A nice touch, but once the speakers are set up, what do you do with all the bags?
What is included in the box plus some specs
- A2+ powered (left) speaker
- A2+ passive (right) speaker
- Speaker wire, 6.5 feet
- Power supply
- AC power cord
- Mini-jack audio cable, 5 feet
- USB cable, 5 feet
- Microfiber speaker bags
- Microfiber power supply bag
- Microfiber cable bag
- Setup guide
- 60W peak power total (15W RMS / 30W peak per channel)
- Signal to noise ratio: >95dB
- Total harmonic distortion: <.05%
- Frequency response: 65Hz-22kHz
- DAC: TI/Burr Brown PCM2704C
- Input bit depth: 16 bit
- Input sample rate: 48KHz (a bit better than CD)
- Dimensions (each): 6”(H) x 4”(W) x 5.25”(D)
- Weight: 3.15lbs
The A2+ speakers have three connection choices: USB for the previously mentioned digital connection, standard RCA inputs and MiniJack for connecting an iPod or other portable player.
Setting up the A2+ speakers is as simple as it gets. Connect the USB cable to the computer and speaker. Wire the speakers together. Plug it in. That’s it. Since the outgoing signal is digital, you may need to tell the computer where to send the sound. This was true on my iMac.
When listening to the A2+ speakers, I was constantly reminded that bass was somewhat lacking. Part of the reason is because I’ve been exposed to the big brother A5+ speakers. Seen side-by-side, the massive A5+ speakers obviously have the laws of physics on their side. More mass moves more air resulting in bigger sound. Simple. Even though the A2+ speakers can’t break those physical laws, they sure do bend them. They will fill a medium-sized home office quite well. The clarity and power is impressive, especially at this size. The similarly-sized Bowers and Wilkins M1 desktop speakers were able to go a bit deeper in the bass department, but not as much as their double-the-price would suggest.
Sidenote: I managed to combine the A2+ speakers with their big brother A5+ using Audioengines W3 wireless connection. As good as the A2+ speakers are, when combined with the A5+ there is an added fullness to the sound that is better than either speaker set alone. It’s pretty amazing. I would think that adding the A2+ speakers to a subwoofer such as the Audioengine S8 might even be a better and more affordable addition than the A5+. I haven’t heard such a setup, so I can’t say for sure.
The A2+ speakers are designed to be on a desktop next to a monitor. When that close, the sound is more personal. However, I have them on a shelf above eye level. The reason for this is because I have three monitors and they will block any speaker deflecting the sound – not good.
When used on a desktop, Audioengine offers angled stands (an extra cost option) for the A2+ that aim the speakers slightly upward at the listener’s head. The advantage of this is obvious: The sound is more directed to the listener. While not important if the A2+ speakers are placed on a bookshelf, it can make a big difference for near-field listening on a desktop. The speakers also have threaded holes on the non-skid bottom for attaching to a speaker stand.
My listening tests included a sampling of the latest Scott Walker album, “Bish Bosch”. Walker was a popular pop artist in the 60s (“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”) who totally reinvented himself into an unrecognizable avant-garde artist. His song, “See You Don’t Bump His Head”, features heavy and incessant drums overlaid by Walker singing/speaking the line, “While plucking feathers from a swan song…”. It’s all very weird, but somehow alluring. The A2+ speakers are able to keep the drumming from sounding muddy unlike some speakers. Each drum beat attack is distinct and separate, as it should be.
Another song that depends on repetitive drumming is former Peter Gabriel backup singer Ane Brun’s “Do You Remember”. Like Walker, Brun’s voice is also unusual, but in her case, much more accessible. Her singing is heart felt as she recalls lost love. The A2+ speakers let you feel her melancholic yearning for the past. Her vocals cover a wide frequency range which represented well on the A2+.
“Madman Across the Water,” Elton John”s masterpiece album (and title song) exhibits slightly echoed sonics that add to the song’s dramatic theme. The song is grandiose in that progressive rock tradition which helped define the 70s. The strings are first-rate and the A2+ speakers portray the haunting echo clearly and convincingly. The weak link is bass. It’s there and it’s tight, but a bit on the light side, which is understandable with any smaller speaker. Again… physics.
“Tell Me Why”, from Neil Young’s “Live at Massey Hall 1971” album never had a lot of bass (many older recordings don’t), so the sound from the A2+ speakers is very natural and intimate with its live feeling. It just proves that desktop speakers don’t have to sound cheap or crummy.
If you are upgrading from those awful built-in laptop speakers or even the (now) halfway decent iMac speakers, then you will love Audioengine’s A2+ speakers. Full sound, decent bass and volume to spare in such a small package is astounding. But don’t compare them to the A5+ unless you have money to spare, because if you do … well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This is about the Audioengine A2+ speakers, but it’s really about ALL of Audioengine’s products. I love the products they make simply because their products just work. Whether it’s speakers or DACs or whatever, I use each and every Audioengine product I’ve reviewed every single day. Their wireless W3 system allowed me to connect 4 speakers to my iMac in my studio building and I get to listen to music LOUD while I work. How cool is that? The A2+ speakers are perfect for computer use. I placed them on a shelf above my monitors and they sound great coupled with a pair of A5+ speakers located behind me. Wow.
Audioengine A1 vs A2+ Comparison Chart
|Audioengine A1 Wireless||Audioengine A2+ Wireless|
|Condition||New Stock||New Stock|
|Aux Input||3.5mm||3.5mm, RCA|
|Bluetooth||Built-in 5.0||Built-in 5.0|
|Tweeter Size (Inches)||0.75||0.75|
|Midrange Size (Inches)||—||—|
|Woofer Size (Inches)||2.75||2.75|
|Woofer Type||Aramid Fiber||Kevlar|
|Watts RMS (Continuous)||30||30|
|Watts Maximum (Peak)||60||Not Given|
|Max. Digital Audio Bit Depth||16-bit||16-bit|
|Max. Digital Audio Sample Rate||48 kHz||48 kHz|
|Control by app||N/A||N/A|
|Parts Warranty||3 Years||3 Years|
|Labor Warranty||3 Years||3 Years|
|Owner’s Manual||Owner’s Manual||Owner’s Manual|
|Price||Check Latest Price Here||Check Latest Price Here|
Comparison of the Audioengine A1 and A2+
The A1 and A2+ are both premium powered stereo speakers, with high-quality aptX Bluetooth for quick and easy connection to any app or device. Modeled after the A2+, the A1 also boasts precision tuned, hand-crafted cabinets, uses the same silk dome tweeters and aramid fiber woofers, and features an aux audio input and subwoofer connection.
Where the A1s differ, however, are in the types and styles of connections and the finish style of the cabinets. The A1 speakers use spring clips for the speaker wire connections rather than 5-way binding posts and, unlike the A2+, do not offer RCA or USB connection options. The A1 hand-finished cabinets feature vinyl exterior finish rather than the painted finish offered on the A2+.
Let’s get into more details on how these two machines compare against each other.
The Audioengine A1 and A2+ are both compact, but the A2+ are lighter.
When it comes to design, the two speakers have a lot in common. They have the same physical dimensions, with both of them measuring 6 x 4 x 5.25 inches, so they are quite compact. They also have the same driver configuration, featuring a 2.75” aramid fiber woofer and a 0.75“ silk dome tweeter in each cabinet.
However, they do differ when it comes to their cabinet exterior. The Audioengine A1 sport a hand-finished vinyl exterior while the A2+ come with a painted finish. Also, the A2+ have three color options available—satin black, hi-gloss red and hi-gloss white. On the other hand, the A1 are only available in grey.
These speakers can be placed on a desk as well as speaker stands. At their rubberized undersides are threaded screw holes for mounting. It is recommended that you angle these speakers slightly upward when placed on a desk, so that the tweeters are at ear level.
The Audioengine A2+ have more connection options than the A1 and they come with 5-way binding posts instead of spring clips.
On both speaker sets, the connections are located at the rear of the left active speaker. The left speaker of the Audioengine A1 has a single 3.5mm aux input and an LFE variable line-out for a subwoofer. It comes with spring clips to connect it to the right speaker. The set comes with a 3.5mm audio cable, a 3.5mm to stereo RCA, speaker wires to connect both speakers and a power cable. The Bluetooth pairing button and its volume knob/power are also located at the rear.
Meanwhile, the left speaker of the Audioengine A2+ has a 3.5mm aux input, stereo RCA inputs and outputs, as well as a micro USB input. The Audioengine A2+ have two more audio inputs than the A1 (stereo RCA and micro USB). Also, the A2+ use 5-way binding posts instead of spring clips to connect the left and right speakers, so you can use banana plugs for convenience. The Bluetooth pairing button and the volume knob/power switch are also located at the back of the left active speaker.
Both the Audioengine A1 and A2+ deliver accurate and detailed sound.
The two speakers sound the same since they have the same exact driver configuration. They are capable of delivering clear and detailed mids and highs. However, since these are fairly small speakers, the low and sub-bass are notably lacking.
If you are looking to get a pair of speakers that are all about bass, these aren’t for you. But if you are looking for speakers with incredible accuracy and clarity, these are excellent choices. Also, since they have subwoofer outputs, you can always add a subwoofer later on, for that extra thump and rumble.
As for their Bluetooth connectivity, the two are great. They don’t have issues with dropped connections and they cover a wide range.
The Audioengine A1 and A2+ perform similarly when it comes to sound quality, the only difference is that the latter come with more connection options.
Since these two are essentially the same speakers, at least when it comes to audio quality, choosing one will depend on whether you need the extra connection options of the Audioengine A2+. If you are fine with just one analog input, the Audioengine A1 are the smarter choice since these are cheaper. However, if you need more connection options for your analog and digital audio devices, you should go with the Audioengine A2+.
Common Questions Asked About Audioengine A1 and A2+
- Is Audioengine a good brand?
Yes, some of their speakers are the default recommendations when it comes to affordable powered speakers.
- Do the Audioengine A1 need a subwoofer?
They don’t need a subwoofer to function, but a subwoofer will help with the low frequency range, for a fuller and richer sound.
- Do the Audioengine A2+ have Bluetooth?
Yes, the Audioengine A2+ have Bluetooth.
- Can I connect a subwoofer to the Audioengine A2+?
Yes, the L/R RCA outputs can be connected to a subwoofer.