Audioengine 5 Speakers for iPod/ MP3 Players

Audioengine 5 Speakers for iPod/ MP3 Players

July 15, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews


Type: 2.0 bookshelf-style, powered speaker system
Power output: 45W RMS/ 70W peak per channel (AES)
Inputs: 2 X 1/8″ stereo mini-jack
Outputs: USB Type A (power charging only)
Main voltages: 115/230V 50/60Hz switchable
Size (each): 10.0”(H) x 7.0” (W) x 7.75” (D)
Weight: 6.4Kg/14lbs (left), 4Kg/9lbs (right)
Shipping weight: 12.6Kg/27.75lbs per pair
Amplifier type: Dual Class AB monolithic
Signal-to-noise: >95dB (typical A-weighted)
THD: <0.05% at all power settings
Crosstalk: <50db
Frequency response: 60Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB
Input impedance: 10K ohms unbalanced
Protection: Output current limiting, thermal over-temperature, power on/off transient protection, replaceable external main fuse

Materials and Construction:

  • 1″ thick MDF cabinet
  • 5″ Kevlar woofers with advanced voice coils
  • 20mm silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnets
  • Torroidal power transformers

Included Accessories:

  • AC power cable
  • 1/8″ audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)
  • (2) 1/8″ audio cables, 20cm (~8″)
  • 1/8″ to RCA “Y” cable
  • USB power extender cable, 1 meter (~3.28ft)
  • Speaker wire (16AWG), 3.75 meters (~12.3ft)
  • Drawstring cable bag
  • (2) High-density foam protectors/sonic isolation pads
  • Setup Guide

What happens when a new idea comes along that creates a whole new product category? All sorts of entrepreneurs come along with interesting add-ons, some good, some unique, and some just plain crazy enough to sell. The latest product to create a new category is the iPod. Over the past few years various manufacturers began developing various types of speakers that would allow the iPod owner to share music with others. The initial group was nothing more than warmed over computer speakers, designed to grab a quick buck and disappear. The second generation began filtering out some 18 months ago. These models, some of which come from noted speaker manufacturers, have given consumers some real options. One such model is the Audioengine 5, designed by a group of former Apple employees.

Audioengine 5 speakers

Audioengine 5 Speakers review

The Audioengine 5 is visually sculptured to match perfectly to the shape of the iPod itself. A clear plastic coating (similar to the second generation iBook) covers a pure white box made of one inch thick MDF. Needless to say, this gives a strong impression that the 5’s are meant to last. All corners are rounded, a-la Apple products. The cabinets sound quite solid during several knuckle knocks over the past month. The drivers are fitted flush to the front surface with a black “vinyl” trim. The silk dome tweeters constructed with neodymium magnets, provide another piece of evidence eluding to the quality of the speakers. Each tweeter is slightly offset to the outside edge. However, to appeal to the Apple design theme of balance, the tweeter insert is oval shape with extra black surface material to provide a visual centering of placement. The driver consists of a five-inch Kevlar cone, an obviously durable material. Good thing as grills are not provided (more on that later).

The left speaker is the brains of the two, as it houses the amplifier, volume control (bottom left front), and iPod controls. On the top is a black rectangle with the headphone/line-in jack along with a USB port. No dock is provided as explained by the Audioengine website, “Audioengine speakers were designed to work with or without the Apple Universal Dock. There are so many iPod dock products on the market right now so we made a decision early on to spend our development budget and time on audio quality and other features (like USB charging). Some dock designs are fairly clever and some are just, well, sort of not so good. We feel that Apple docks are the best, so why waste resources trying to redesign a nearly perfect dock? We were also able to keep Audioengine pricing much lower without integrating a 30-pin dock system. If you don’t have an Apple dock, get one, sit it on top of our speakers, plug it in and you’ll see what we mean!”, more on the dock-less choice later.

Audioengine5 Speakers back

The back is where the majority of the features are present. Across the top from left to right are: audio in jack, top centered bass port and springloaded speaker connection to the right cabinet. Below that is a single unswitched outlet (nice touch) for quick charging of your iPod or Airport Express. Down farther and to the right is the toggle power switch. Even lower is a standard red current selector, and finally the threeprong power connector.

Audioengine5 Speakers inside

Inside the cabinet is another piece of Apple inspired design. A very compact, amplifier and power supply mounted vertically, obviously, not audiophile quality, but beefy enough to handle normal use. A peek inside proved the cabinet construction quality with the use of cross-bracing. The amplifier is much heavier than one thinks, with a beefier heat sink than my classroom receiver and an impressive transformer.

The good folks at Audioengine don’t skimp when it comes to making sure the customer has all the necessary accessories. Both speakers come in their own nylon drawstring bag. Included in a smaller black bag is a USB
extension cable, dual RCA to mini headphone cable, and speaker wire. This simple, but welcome touch will be much appreciated, especially in this day and age of $3 gallon gasoline.

Listening Audioengine 5

I decided that the best place to audition the Audioengine5’s would be in my classroom. That way I could compare it to a fairly similar system in terms of power and speaker size. My classroom is fairly small, some 20 x 14 feet, with 12 foot ceilings. The walls are plaster with 8 foot windows across one of the long sides. It is carpeted which helps to keep the din of noise down quite a bit. The speakers were placed six feet apart and approximately 3 feet off the floor on a long bookcase behind my desk. Due to obvious constraints, the speakers could only be about six inches from the back wall. Since no dock is provided, my iPod laid on its back for most listening. When I did have time for some specific auditions I turned the iPod on its side and used an AirClick remote to review specific songs.

The first auditory impression is that of a forward sounding design. The 5’s are not laid back in the least, especially with the bass. Even though they are rated at 60Hz on the deep end, they provide a thump that my students found quite enjoyable. The track Last Chance by the almost famous 1980’s group Shooting Star, with its bass drum kicks created a definite presence. The imaging during the drum roll of that same song, smoothly traversed from one channel to the other without the usual mushiness that occurs with many inexpensive speakers. Most pleasing is that the Audioengine designers avoided over-brightening the speakers, unlike a certain four-letter, secretive American manufacturer. The silk dome tweeter was a wise choice, in that it is more expensive, but far smoother in it’s frequency reproduction. Tim Weisberg’s flute in various passages of his collaborative album with Dan Fogelberg Twin Sons of Different Mothers, gives off an airyness with only the occasional harsh notes.

Complex, symphonic movements do tax the 5’s especially when played loud, however, considering their size and price range they do just fine. I doubt that many buyers will be pounding the walls of their cubicle or office to the strings of Bach. I do have a couple of issues with the Audioengine5’s. One, is the lack of grills. A significant portion of sales will be to college students. Anyone who has been through those wonderful, crazy years, knows that sooner or later, some intoxicated dufus is going to be wandering and poking/touching everything in site. The cones are going to be jabbed, and sadly penetrated. Audioengine responds: Kevlar woofer and silk tweeters were chosen due to the audio quality, but also due to their durability. Please try poking a hole or damaging either and you will see that this issue has been addressed. In other words, grills really aren’t needed on the A5’s and they pass the “kid test” with flying colors.

Secondly, in spite of their quoted comment above, a built-in dock would be a wise addition. I have heard the third party docks that sell on eBay for less than $10, they sound just fine and chances are that at wholesale the part would be less than half the price mentioned above. An iPod is an expensive investment and an easy one to damage, building in a dock is a simple, but effective add-on. With the detail to adding a switched outlet and audio-in jack on the back for using an Apple Airport Express, it seems disappointing to leave the dock out. Audioengine Response: We didn’t include a dock as we wanted to “iPod-proof” our products. We want the speakers to be universal to all brands of portable players, not just iPods.Part of our philosophy is to make non-disposable, non-plastic iPod-compatible speakers which will last longer than the typical iPod speakers on the market. It would have been sort of sad if we made these great speakers that were obsolete in 1-2 years from now. We also didn’t want to pay Apple’s high royalties (usually 10% of RETAIL price), which is ridiculous.


Audioengine should be lauded for hitting the target in their first offering. The Audioengine 5’s are a quite pleasing performer. After having listened to the Apple HiFi system, the 5’s are a far more pleasing performer. The imagining was nicely defined, in spite of the inability to properly place the speakers. This ability to overcome room limitations says much about the effort placed into building a quality loudspeaker. For high school and college students looking for a way to really enjoy their iPod or other mp3 player, while dealing with limited room space and moving difficulties, the Audioengine 5 is an outstanding option. With it’s thirty day money-back guarantee there is no reason not to take the opportunity to enjoy the 5’s. Why settle for dingy computer speakers when these are available with so many thoughtful touches, just bring your own dock.

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