Audioengine is the brand that seems to be single-handedly making the bridge between personal audio and high-end audio, and doing it in a way that’s not only awesome sounding, it’s not bank-breaking. And for that, I’m grateful.
Some years ago, I invested in a pair of P4 passive loudspeakers ($249) for my office desk. My Mac Pro needed a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to sauce it up a bit, so I went with these. I can’t even remember what amp I was using at that time, and that’s probably why I don’t have it anymore, but the P4s are still around. These days, I’m rocking to the powered A5 loudspeakers ($399, which have since been upgraded to the A5+) because it’s not only cleaner than a passive setup (less real estate), they sound amazing and play loud as hell. And that helps when you suddenly realize that you’re Netflixing instead of doing TPM reports (snore).
The big news these days from Audioengine is the B1. At $189, the aptX-enable Bluetooth receiver/DAC promises to simplify your streaming musical needs. I’ve been fiddling with one for about a month, and I think the sound quality is “good” — but when paired with an aptX transmitter, that “good” gets a whole lot closer to “great”. Samsung Galaxy users have reason to celebrate — they get aptX Bluetooth — but Apple lovers are still in the wasteland, here, even with the new iPhone 6. Interestingly, I just found out that the new Sony Walkman A17 supports aptX Bluetooth as a transmitter, which is awesome news. I’m already making plans.
Backing up a bit, if there’s ever a cause for you to kit out a niece, nephew, or college-bound offspring, Audioengine and an inexpensive turntable might be a killer gift. You know. Like one that says, “hey, you stay in and study in your dorm room and not go out to that frat house party”. A Music Hall MMF2.2 turntable, sitting next to a pair of A5+ as I walked in the room, struck me as a particularly wise thought.
I spent an hour this weekend, talking with Steve Guttenberg of CNet, Art Dudley of Stereophile and John Darko of DAR, about the cloudy future of the world of audio’s high-end. The conclusion of that august panel was that turntables are good, and that great sound needs to be a lot more affordable. This room is exactly what we were talking about.