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Gear Review - Audioengine 5
Monday, February 13th, 2006 at 12:30 PM - by
In the last two years we've come across plenty of speakers geared towards iPod owners to know that in the quest to win over your money and ears, companies have pulled out all the stops. Today's offerings span wireless speakers, battery-powered portable speakers, speakers smaller than a deck of cards, and speakers shaped like a UFO or a Cherrio—and that's only scratching the surface. Which is why the new Audioengine 5 speakers are so refreshing. Not only do they resemble a pair of traditional high-end studio monitors, they deliver audio performance to match.
The quality of the Audioengine 5 is apparent from the moment the speakers are removed from the box. Each hand-built cabinet feels incredibly solid and is finished in high-gloss white, encasing a 5-inch custom Kevlar woofer and 20mm silk dome tweeter. With a frequency response rate of 60Hz-22,000Hz, both the materials and the specifications behind the Audioengine 5 bests every other high-end iPod offering, from Bose's SoundDock to Klipsch's iGroove to Tivoli Audio's iSongBook to AltecLansing's inMotion iM7.
While some might argue that stacking up a pair of monitors, each of which measures 10-inches tall and about 7-inches wide and deep while weighing more than 10 pounds, against those aforementioned all-in-one solutions isn't a fair comparison, our opinion is if you're ready to shell out as much for speakers as your iPod, your primary concern should probably be audio quality. We're also of the opinion that SuperMegaExtra XBS Bass is a cute marketing term and little else, which is why we were so thrilled at how clean and solid the bass coming from the Audioengine 5 is. Not to be outdone, highs are reproduced with equal crispness. The folks at Audioengine report that during development the speakers were tuned to make compressed audio, like MP3 and AAC files, sound better. We say anything you put through the Audioengine 5 setup, Apple Lossless files included, sounds phenomenal.
Of course, tastes and preferences differ, and whereas we completely see the logic of providing only a powered USB port on one of the speakers to charge your iPod, enabling you to use your own dock and accessories, others may feel it's simply a way to skimp on packing a universal dock into the speaker or including a remote. But other design touches confirm that Audioengine didn't just take a studio monitor, paint it white, slap on a USB port and call it an ideal iPod companion.
In fact, these speakers are much more than iPod companions, as anyone who appreciates excellent stereo sound would find a pair to be ideal on their desk or by their television. Since Audioengine 5 is self-powered you don't even need to connect them to your stereo's receiver. Having said that, one of our favorite features is the auxiliary AC outlet on the rear of the left speaker, which happens to sit right next to a second audio input, making it a perfect match for Apple's AirPort Express.
Who says iPods should have all the fun?
Along with the speakers, your $349 buys you some nice matching cables, including a two meter 1/8" audio cable, two 20cm 1/8" audio cables, a 1/8" to RCA cable, one meter USB power extender, 12 feet of speaker wire, and a drawstring bag to keep all the extras together. The only thing missing is a short USB iPod cable, to match the included short audio cables.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for the best sounding stand-alone speaker solution for your iPod, look no further: the Audioengine 5 is second to none. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, Audioengine has managed to bring a decidedly unique offering to the table, one that sees form following function for a change, and without any compromises.
Just The Facts
Pros: first-rate components, construction, and audio quality; convenient AirPort Express hook-up; handsome no-nonsense design
Cons: none significant
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