The Audioengine 5 is not only one of the best-sounding speaker systems we’ve heard in a long while, it’s also one of the smartest speaker designs we’ve seen in the MP3-player era. These puppies will fill a room with sound, and they don’t cost an arm and an ear.
Audioengine pitches this self-powered system as an iPod companion, but we think that’s selling it short: The shielded speakers are compatible with any digital media player, they’re a great companion for your PC, and they’re a fabulous solution for a Squeezebox, Sonos, or other streaming-audio system. If you’re short on outlets, you can even plug your streamer into the auxiliary AC power outlet on the back of the left cabinet. But don’t be fooled by the USB port on the top of that cabinet: It won’t sync your media player to the library on your PC—its sole purpose is to charge the player’s battery. There’s a second 1/8-inch input right next to it, so you won’t need to do a reach-around or disconnect something every time you plug it in. These are handy “just what I needed” features that add value without overkill.
The Audioengine 5 boasts a long list of high-end traits: While many cabinets in this price range are fabricated from injection-molded plastic, the Audioengine 5’s are constructed of one-inch-thick MDF painted an attractive semigloss black (or white). The left cabinet housing the Class AB amp (45-watts RMS per channel) tips the scales at a hefty 14 pounds (the right speaker weighs nine pounds). The speaker connections are sturdy binding posts, not cheap spring clips.
Listening to Johnny Cash’s “Were You There,” from the original 1963 vinyl LP Ring of Fire, we were impressed with the Audioengine 5’s ability to deliver Maybelle Carter’s crystalline vocals through the 0.79-inch silk dome tweeters and Cash’s thundering baritone from the five-inch Kevlar woofers without compromising either end of the spectrum. These speakers aren’t quite as tight as M-Audio’s discontinued Studiophile LX4 system, and we wouldn’t rely on them as studio monitors, but they’re great for less-critical—and more common—missions.
UPDATED 2/8/2008: While referencing this review for an upcoming review of the Audioengine A2, we noticed that the online review had the incorrect verdict (a "9" versus a "9 Kick Ass").
Incredible sound from small packages; built-in USB charger for your MP3 player; AC-outlet in back for a wireless audio streaming box.