X

Audioengine A2+multimedia speakers review: Excellent PC speakers get slightly better

While they'll cost you $50 more, Audioengine A2+ multimedia speakers improve on an already good product with slightly better sound when hooked to your computer via a new USB connection.

carnoy-headshot-2019-2
David Carnoy
carnoy-headshot-2019-2

David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

See full bio
6 min read

We're fans of Audioengine's original 2 series speaker, the A2, which came out a few years ago and retails for $199.99. Now the company's released the A2+, an enhanced version of the same speaker that adds a USB digital converter, so you can plug the speakers right into the USB port on your computer.

carnoy_white_speakers_audioengine06.jpg
8.0

Audioengine A2+multimedia speakers

The Good

The <b>Audioengine A2+</b> is compact set of attractively style powered stereo speakers that delivers impressive sound for its size. This new "plus" version adds a digital USB connection, an output for an optional subwoofer to the existing two audio inputs, and a redesigned smaller power connector.

The Bad

The speakers lack a remote control, the volume control is inconveniently located on the backside, and there's no way to toggle between inputs. The Audioengines are also a bit pricey compared with less refined PC speakers.

The Bottom Line

While they'll cost you $50 more, Audioengine A2+ multimedia speakers improve on an already great product (the A2) with slightly better sound when hooked up to your computer via a new USB connection.

The key thing to note about these speakers and Audioengine's step-up A5+ is that they are bookshelf-style speakers masquerading as PC or "multimedia" speakers (as these things are apt to be labeled). But unlike classic bookshelf speakers, these Audioengine models are powered (via a standard AC plug); there's no need for a separate receiver or amplifier, so you can use them with any audio source. The smaller 2 series is more stylish-looking than the 5 series (and looks less like a monitor speaker) and comes in both black and white, as does the larger A5+.

Design and features
The Audioengine 2+ speakers measure 6 inches high by 4 inches wide by 5.25 inches deep. They each have a 2.75-inch Kevlar woofer and a 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter. Because the left speaker houses the amplifier (15 watts per channel), it's heavier than the right speaker. What's kind of interesting is that they're ported on the front -- there's a slit at the bottom, below the driver -- and when you're listening to movies, music, or games, you can feel plenty of air moving through that slit.

The 2 speakers have the same classy, minimalist look and substantive feel of the original Audioengine 2 speakers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's worth noting that both the 2 and 5 series Audioengine speakers come nicely packaged, with cloth covers over the speakers and cables. The two speakers connect to each other with "real" speaker wire (included) and you also get an input cable that allows you to connect your PC to the 3.5mm aux input on the back of the left speaker. The use of standard cables means that--unlike some speakers with proprietary connections and cables -- you can invest in custom-length cables that are as long or short as you'd like. The left speaker also has a set of red/white RCA inputs to connect other devices, such as a game system, iPod or iPhone, or even a TV.

Beyond the USB digital connection (a cable is included), what's also new on the A2+ is the inclusion of a variable RCA output, which allows you to connect a subwoofer (more on that in a minute). And the company says it's upgraded speakers' connectors, improved the included accessory cables, and redesigned the power supply -- it's smaller now, which is good.

The left speaker includes the built-in amplifier, new USB connection, both inputs and output (for subwoofer), and the volume control on its back (click image to enlarge).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Note that you can't toggle between inputs; both are always active. That's either going to be a feature (say, the ability to listen to music from an iPod while being able to hear the bleeping and blooping from your PC) or a bug (the constant need to mute one audio source while listening to the other), depending on your point of view. Speaking of controls: no remote is included and we should point out that the volume control button is on the back of the right speaker (as opposed to the front, where it would be slightly easier to access).

Audioengine makes some accessories, including the S8 subwoofer and a wireless adapter (the W3 -- $149) for its speaker line. The subwoofer would obviously allow you to get significantly more bass and richer sound, but the downside is that the sub is actually pretty pricey ($350) and bringing in that extra speaker somewhat diminishes the sleek, minimalist effect these speakers offer (for Apple systems like the iMac, the white version of the 2 series tends to match up better than the black does).

The speakers come with all the cables you need.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
Luckily, the appeal of these speakers is that you can do without the sub. For their size, Audioengine 2+s deliver good, tight bass, and offer excellent detail and relatively big sound, though they can't fill a room like the A5 series does.

Since the A2+'s most significant upgrade from the original A2 is its built-in USB digital converter, we started listening to the A2+ on a desktop, hooked up to our Mac Mini computer. The sound was definitely up to audiophile standards, just on a smaller scale than what we'd hear from a bona fide hi-fi system. Seated just a few feet away from the speakers the sound will be familiar to anyone who has heard the original A2 speakers. It's well-balanced, clear and refined, but the sound isn't going to fool anybody into thinking the A2+ is a big, powerful speaker. It sounds reasonably full, but if you crave deep bass, plan on either adding a subwoofer or go for bigger speakers, like the Audioengine A5+s. Placement near a wall will help the little A2+s maximize their bass response; move them more than a few feet away and bass fullness thins out.

Audioengine A2+ multimedia speakers (pictures)

See all photos

Seeing how the A2+'s digital converter is the biggest change from the A2 (it only had analog inputs), we alternated between listening via the A2+'s USB input and analog RCA connections, the latter were hooked up to the A2+s straight from the Mac Mini's analog (headphone) output jack. There was some small loss of bass oomph, detail and texture in the sound from the analog connection, and the stereo soundstage forfeited some dimensionality. If you're using the A2+s with a computer we definitely recommend using the USB input.

We also ran the A2+s with a TV, using the TV's stereo analog outputs. These are very small speakers, but in a small room the A2+s can be used instead of a sound bar. Movies and music sounded quite good, as long as we didn't try to play the speakers very loud. In any case the A2+s will produce a sizable upgrade in sound quality over the TV's speakers. Comparing the original A2 with the A2+ (with the analog connections) the two models sounded virtually the same. Then again, if you plan on using the A2+ with a computer's USB connection there will be a small improvement in sound quality with the new speaker.

The power adapter has been redesigned and is now smaller.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
Like with the original A2s, we have no problem recommending the plus version of the product. If you're looking for a set of compact, good-looking PC speakers that deliver great sound for their size, the Audioengine A2+ certainly fits the bill. The larger Audioengine 5 series delivers a richer, fuller experience, but for many, the step-up model will just seem too bulky to leave sitting on a desk (they truly are bookshelf speakers with a more industrial, monitor flair to them).

In terms of competitors, there are plenty of other swanky multimedia speakers out there, several of which we haven't reviewed. One set we did review, the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1, looks great but the A2+ sounds better and costs half the price.

Other competitors incorporate Bluetooth connections. The $300 Harman Kardon Nova 2s are a slick set of speakers that's also smartphone- and tablet-friendly. And then there's more modestly priced Logitech Z600s, a good value at around $100 online. The Z600s also feature a Bluetooth connection.

I wouldn't call the Audioengine A2+ a steal at $249.99, but it seems fairly priced. The big question is whether it's worth spending the extra $50 for the enhancements the newer model offers (the A2 remains on the market at $199.99). As we said, you don't get a significant bump in sound quality when moving to the A2+, but it does make a small difference when you connect the speakers via USB. I think I'd probably spend the extra $50 on the newer model, but I tend to go with the latest and greatest so long as I don't have to pay too much of a premium to do it. But not everybody feels the same way.

Editors' note: Steve Guttenberg, who writes CNET's Audiophiliac blog, contributed to this review.

carnoy_white_speakers_audioengine06.jpg
8.0

Audioengine A2+multimedia speakers

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 8Value 8
laptop
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping