Budget speakers are getting really good -- Audioengine, Chane Music & Cinema's speakers to the list. The model I'm reviewing here, the A1rx-c bookshelf speaker, is their least expensive; it sells for $149 each., Emotiva, Monoprice, and Andrew Jones Pioneer models are all exceptional -- and now I'm adding
Measuring 13.8 x 7.1 x 10.25 inches, the A1rx-c is a midsize bookshelf speaker, and it weighs a hefty 17 pounds, that's a really good indication of the speaker's build quality! There's a 5.25-inch woofer and 3-inch flat planar magnetic tweeter on the front panel, with beefy metal speaker wire connectors and a bass port on the backside. The internal crossover network features epoxy circuit boards, low-loss inductors, premium film capacitors, and special non-inductive resistors; that level of parts quality is exceedingly rare for speakers in the A1rx-c 's price class. Impedance is rated at 8 ohms.
The Beastie Boys' all-instrumental "The Mix-Up" album was making all the right moves over the A1rx-c speakers. They handled power with ease, so I pumped the volume up just to test the limits a bit -- no problem. This is a great-sounding recording from 2007, it's way ahead of most contemporary tunes, and the A1rx-c let me appreciate the difference.
I next popped on Aphex Twin's new "SYRO" album to see how the A1rx-c handled bass, and the grooves were surprisingly deep. Affordable bookshelf speakers rarely play deep bass this loud without distorting. Subwoofers aren't required with the A1rx-c, that's for sure!
The bass is awfully good, but the A1rx-c's tweeter is the speaker's star attraction, so treble clarity is truly exceptional. That's where the speaker distinguishes itself and makes the A1rx-c sound like a true audiophile-oriented design.
Good-quality recordings come alive, without edge or hype. Stereo imaging was so wide and spacious that when I listened at night with the room lights off, the speakers' locations disappeared. The stereo image's depth, focus and precision let me hear each instrument and vocal in bold relief. MA Recordings' CDs have extraordinary dynamic range, and the A1rx-c let me hear and feel it! Norah Jones "Come Away With Me" SACD sounded immediate and closer than what I was getting from audiophile CDs. I'm doing my best here to nail down the A1rx-c 's sound, but that's next to impossible, the speaker sounds different with every album. That's always a good sign.
I used aand for all of my listening tests. If were I asked to guess these speakers retail price after listening to them, I'd peg them as $600 or $700 a pair speakers. Of course, if I saw the speakers first I'd know they couldn't be that expensive, but judged on sound quality alone the A1rx-c is an incredible bargain at $149 each!