I’ve had a pair of Audioengine A2 self-powered desktop speakers for a bit over a year now and they still continue to impress. Easily the best desktop speakers in their price range, I paid around $220 for them and at that price they’re outstanding value for money.
Available in a gloss white or gloss black finish, they are constructed from 18mm thick MDF, not plastic which is more commonly used even at this price point. Each speaker has a 20mm silk dome tweeter for smooth relaxed highs and a 70mm kevlar driver that can handle surprising sound levels from such a small speaker. On the front of each speaker, below the black kevlar driver, is a horizontal bass port that is tuned to move a decent amount of air even at low listening levels.
The amplifier that’s built into the left speaker is an all analogue design that reportedly doesn’t have any bass-boosting trickery going on, plug these speakers into a wall outlet and find a source with either stereo RCA connections (the red and white plugs) or a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s no built-in USB DAC or anything like that, it’s analogue from end to end.
Connecting the passive right speaker to the left are a pair of binding posts and the standard speaker cable that Audioengine provide is of a heavy enough gauge that I don’t see a need to upgrade it.
The end result of this engineering is a compact unit that stands just over 15cm high and weighs in at a solid 1.4kg for the right speaker and 1.6kg for the left speaker with the built-in amp.
These speakers punch well above their weight in terms of sound quality, fit and finish and general aesthetics.
I’ve got a pair of the white ones on my desk at the moment and they handle everything I’ve thrown at them, mixed and varied musical styles ranging from Deadmau5 through to Simon and Garfunkel, The Gorillaz to Brian Eno, Halou to Katalyst – everything sounds good. The sound is rich, well textured and very full. Highs are smooth and not harsh in the slightest, mids are clear and strong and bass is great for a speaker of this size. The bass is so good in fact that I was sure I’d need a small subwoofer to compliment them, but that’s not the case here.
They can easily play loud enough to fill a decently sized room with no distortion and are clear, warm and easy to listen to at lower volume levels too.
My only criticism of the speakers is that, being based on studio monitors, their sound is quite directional. This isn’t as huge a problem as it might seem at first – if you can position them on your desk so that they’re pointed in towards your listening position and angled upwards to point at your head, you’ll be rewarded with seemingly much better sound than speakers this size have any business in making.