Wow. How did five years go by so quickly? We first became aware of Audioengine in early 2007, when the company asked if we’d be interested in evaluating its A5 self-powered speakers. It’s now 2012, and we have the revamped A5+ self-powered speakers on our desk. Now, as then, we’re knocked out by the huge sound these monitors can produce.
The changes from the original A5 aren’t significant, but they didn’t need to be for these speakers to sound great. Slotted vents have replaced the rear bass ports. The 1/8-inch audio input and the USB port for charging a smartphone, iPod, or other digital media player have both been moved from the top of the cabinet to the back of the enclosure. The aux AC outlet has been nixed, but the second 1/8-inch input has been replaced by a pair of stereo RCA inputs. The RCA line-outs and five-way binding posts for connecting the left and right channels have been carried over, but the line-outs are now variable where the output level on the original A5 was fixed.
The retro white finish on Audioengine’s A5+ self-powered speakers is totally groovy, man.
Audioengine’s engineers have added a large heatsink to help cool the dual Class AB monolithic amplifiers inside the left cabinet, which now draw power from a toroidal power transformer (valued for its ability to reject electromagnetic interference). As with the A5, the A5+ produces a superbly clean 50 watts per channel, with claimed total harmonic distortion of just 0.5 percent and an A-weighted signal-to-noise ratio greater than 95dB. The drivers themselves are either the same as what was used in the original A5 or something very close, with 5-inch Kevlar woofers accompanied by 0.79-inch silk dome tweeters.
The A5+ cabinets are made from 1-inch‑thick MDF and measure 10-inches high, 7-inches wide, and 7.75-inches deep, and there’s a standard 1/4-inch screw mount in the bottom of each enclosure to accommodate floor stands. There’s a volume control on the front of the left speaker, and Audioengine provides a simple IR remote for controlling or muting the volume control as well as putting the speaker into a sleep mode when it’s not being used (so you don’t have to reach around the back of the cabinet to flip the power switch).
Reaching back into our music library, we listened to the groundbreaking Dire Straits album Lover Over Gold that we had ripped from a CD and encoded in FLAC. “It Never Rains” opens with a happy-go-lucky synth line, which is soon joined by bass and drums. As layers of piano, electric guitar, Hammond organ, and vocals were gradually layered on top, the speakers never lost the ability to render the drummer’s rim shots with crystal clarity. This track starts out very quiet and builds to an incredible climax with the synth, piano, and guitar trading licks while the rhythm section relentlessly pushes the song forward. We’re never ready for it to end, and it seems the band isn’t either, because the track ends in a long fade. We had an equally exciting experience with games: The A5+ delivers tight, gut-punching bass response as we played Max Payne 3, even without a subwoofer (although Audioengine now offers one that you can add to the mix). You’ll need plenty of room atop your desk to accommodate these speakers, but they’re perfect for power users.