Weive already reviewed the Audioengine5 speaker set at iPodObserver.com as an iPod companion, but these speakers are so good, they also need to be reviewed as desktop monitors. When it comes to listening to and recording music, there are no other speakers in this price range that come close to the clarity and balance offered by Audioengine5.
Listening to Music
These speakers make my tunes sound good. The highs are clear and crisp, and the mids and lows also have a clarity that no other desktop speaker Iive listened to can match. In fact, itis the word "clarity" that I have found leaping to my mind again and again when listening to music coming through these speakers, and itis what makes me appreciate them so much.
Musicians with a desktop studio will perhaps appreciate the Audioengine5s the most. The engineers that developed these speakers come from a studio monitor background, and the end result of these speakers reflect that prior work.
Pro studio engineers may argue that the Audioengine5s arenit completely flat, but then those engineers arenit recording with a desktop studio. I think that desktop musicians will be able to record a better sound and engineer a better mix through these speakers.
Anecdotally speaking: I found this out the hard way when I proudly showed off a recording of one of my own tunes that I had mixed in GarageBand through a different set of speakers and headphones. As I heard the song coming through the Audioengine5s, I realized how flat and muddy -- how bad -- my mix was. Greatly embarrassed, I went back to the virtual drawing board, and remixing the tune through the 5s resulted in a better recording.
Audioengine5 speakers by Audioengine.
As mentioned above, the Audioengine5 produces sound that is crisp, clear, and balanced. Itis that last feature that makes them less than perfect as gaming speakers, because they canit produce the bone rattling thump from in-game explosions that even a cheap pair of gaming speakers with a crappy sub-woofer can.
The Audioengine5s were made for listening to music, and while everything but the low end thump in a game will sound better coming through them, there are better solutions if all you care about is gaming.
The Shower Test
Thereis one thing thatis always bugged me about playing music through my computer, and thatis what Iive come to call the Shower Test. Crank your music up, it sounds great, get in the shower, and itis all muffled bass sans vocals.
Audioengine5 is the first pair of speakers Iive ever listened to that pass the Shower Test. Music sounds good, even through all the acoustic noise of passing through a hallway into the echo chamber of a bathroom.
Thereis nothing scientific about either my description or the experience, but I can tell you that it means a lot to me.
Look and Feel
The speakers are both large and heavy (14 lbs. for left, which has the power supply, and 9 lbs. for the right), and feel solid and well-made. The accents around the drivers are attractive, and will no doubt resonate with Mac (and iPod) owner aesthetics.
And let me emphasize the "big" part. I have a large desk, a very large desk, and even with three displays, these speakers fit just fine for me. (Note that the included pics were taken on a stand, as opposed to a desk.) If youire working on a small, or even medium-sized desk, youill need to make or find room for these speakers.
Boring Tech Specs
Audioengine5s are made from 1" thick MDF painted with a high-gloss white or smooth matte-black finish that will look good on any Mac useris desk. The woofer is a 5" Kevlar-domed driver, and the tweeter is a 20mm silk-domed driver with neodymium magnets. The speakers are open-air, without a grill.
It includes an internal power supply in the left speaker, which means no power brick. It sports 2 x 1/8" stereo mini-jacks (one on top), and has a USB 1.1 port on the top you can use to power an iPod (no audio-out or in with the USB port).
On the back youill find naked-wire jacks for connecting the left speaker to the right, one of the 1/8" audio inputs, a power switch, and a voltage selector for 115 and 230 volts.
Youill also find an auxiliary power supply thatis designed for an AirPort Exress unit and AirTunes. This last feature doesnit have as much relevance to those looking for desktop speakers, but itis a cool feature nonetheless.
The back plate of the left A5, which has the power supply and ports.
These are the best desktop speakers in their price range, hands down, and nothing else comes close (three TMO staff members own a pair, and all three agree). If you want your music to sound good, get a pair. If you record your own music and want to be able to hear what youire working on reproduced with clarity and balance, get a pair.