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

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MSRP: $249.00

The Good The Audioengine A2+ 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.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

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.

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

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.