Audioengine 2: Audiophile grade computer speakers for $199
Let's face it, most PC speakers sound pretty awful, but Audioengine's $199 a pair speakers are good enough for persnickety audiophiles.
I can't claim to be any sort of expert when it comes to computer/PC speakers, but if my recent CNET reviews of Bose, Creative, and M-Audio speakers are any indication of what's out there, the Audioengine 2 is a truly awesome design. I auditioned the Audioengine 2s at home where my desktop workspace is pretty crowded, but the speaker's tiny 4 by 5.25-inch footprint was easy to accommodate. It's 6 inches high.
Judged as a speaker, and I've reviewed well over 500, the Audioengine 2 is terrific. It's so good you don't have to be an audiophile to notice the little thing makes a lot more bass than something its size has any right to. But it's no muddy boombox, the bass is deep and yet nicely defined, no need to add a subwoofer. The midrange and treble refinement are exceptional, so Jonny Greenwood's orchestral score for There Will Be Blood sounded spacious and clear as can be.
The left speaker has stereo 3.5 mm and RCA inputs and really nice all-metal speaker outputs that connect to the right speaker. The left speaker also houses the power on/off and a machined metal volume control. Instead of the usual mini wall wart power supply, the Audioengine 2 comes with a healthy outboard power supply; hook up cables are included. You can also use these things as iPod speakers.
The built-in Class A/B amplifier delivers 15 watts per channel; the two-way speakers have a 2.75-inch Kevlar woofer and a .75-inch silk dome tweeter. The medium-density fiberboard cabinet in painted, my samples looked demure in satin black, and they also come in gloss black or white. When you open the shipping box you'll find the speakers packed in cloth bags so you really feel like you've purchased a quality product. A three-year warranty ensures long-term satisfaction.
I moved the Audioengine 2 out from the desktop and played them in my bedroom hooked up to a CD player. Wow, with more breathing room the sound was even better and stereo imaging stretched way beyond the actual locations of the speakers. True, rocking out with Spoon's Gimmie Fiction CD revealed they don't sound like a set of mighty floorstanding tower speakers, but the Audioengine 2s are a leap over the pint-sized competition or one-piece iPod speakers. The Audioengine 2s can play fairly loud, but sound best at low to moderately loud volumes. Even audiophiles used to the good stuff will dig these speakers, they're that good.
My friend Gary Krakow, over on The Street.com raved about them in his "Hark! These Herald Headphones Sing" The Good Life blog from late last year. Now that I've heard them I agree; the Audioengine 2 goes for $199 a pair and UPS Ground shipping is free. The Audioengine website sells the speakers with a 30 day money-back guaranty.