Now, let me tell you why this is a bad thing.
First, this sort of price point is an unconscionable act of audio terrorism. What are all of those $5,000 speaker-makers going to say? Nasty things, that’s what. Just nasty. Second, as AudioEngine is making those active speakers, you can imagine what the amplifier makers are saying about that. Whoo wee! Those guys do not kiss their mother with that mouth, clearly. Tsk, tsk. Third, AudioEngine thinks that they can do “all of that” wirelessly? Well, I can tell you, the expensive cable folks have already lit the torches, rounded up the villagers, and are marching on the castle — as we speak.
You get the picture. It’s mayhem and bloodshed, all over the place. My advice? Hide.
I keep getting into it with John Darko of DAR about the role, place, and (at his insistence) importance of “affordable audio”. He’s animated, ardent, and adamant, which is kinda cute (and more than a little bull-in-a-china-shop) coming from someone that’s 8′ tall. He scary. I mean, he is a giant, after all, though it’s unclear how’s he’s managed to visit this long from his rocky realm. Anyway, affordable champion aside, his point is well-made — high-end audio is absurdly expensive. As a category. Period. Given that not everyone wants to spend as much as a Cadillac on a pair interconnects (pshaw — those heathens), the question that Darko and others, like Steven Guttenberg, have asked the market is, where is all the great stuff that “real people” can buy?
Apparently, it’s at AudioEngine.
These folks have been playing in the personal-audio space (where ‘personal audio’ doesn’t necessarily mean limited to headphones, but more, audio in a personal space — like a desktop) for a while, and they’ve been adding bits and pieces to their portfolio that let real people not only get great sound, but also do it in ways that fit their life. Bluetooth. Powered-speakers. It’s what’s for dinner.
And here at Rocky Mountain, dinner just got a tasty new course: say hello to the HD6.
This new guy should come in around $750 at general release (soon). Overtopping the smaller A5+ ($399) that have dominated this space for me for the last few years, the HD6 will feature a larger woofer (6″) and an integrated Class A/B amp on the back of one of the speakers (a single speaker wire from that speaker to the other will carry the audio signal). That “primary” speaker also will feature a 24-bit DAC with an aptX Bluetooth connection (like their B2 Bluetooth speaker, reviewed here), possibly eliminating yet another component from the equation; there are two analog inputs for those unwilling to make that all-digital leap.
Also in the room, I saw the small, svelte and very Apple-white new AURALiC Aries Mini (announced at Munich, here). This $549 streamer, which includes a year’s subscription to Tidal‘s truly excellent service (a $240 value), can be run directly from your iPad, and soon, your iPhone.
ARIES MINI can stream high-resolution music quickly and wirelessly in virtually any sampling rate, even for the latest Quad-Rate DSD and DXD. It is powered by AURALiC’s proprietary Tesla hardware platform that includes a Quad-Core ARM Coretex-A9 processor running at 1GHz, 512MB DDR3 onboard memory and 4GB internal storage. The Tesla platform has a calculation ability of 25,000 MIPS, more than enough to decode a vast spectrum of audio formats, including AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA.
I spent a few minutes, chatting up David Solomon (AudioEngine’s new head of marketing and sales), getting the scoop from Morgan Day, and getting familiar with the new speakers. Sound-wise, I’d say that these are very much a true-to-form AudioEngine play — great features, excellent sound, easy to use, and perhaps most importantly, livable.
I’ll be looking to get myself a set in the near future (speakers and streamer), and no, not for review. For me. This is killer stuff.