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Audioengine 5+ (A5+) Speakers and D1 DAC Review

Audioengine 5+ (A5+) Speakers and D1 DAC Review

Sam ChenSeptember 9, 2012

Audio Bliss and Just a Little Bit More

As someone who’s constantly on YouTube, there’s one thing I frequently notice. Good audio is just as important if not more important than great video. Think about the last time you watched a video on YouTube where the creator obviously shot the video off a pretty high end DSLR, but decided to use the integrated microphone for the audio. How was that? Probably pretty terrible, right?

Yup, and because audio is so important to our computing experience, that’s why today we’ll be reviewing the Audioengine 5+ speakers and the Audioengine D1 DAC. For those unfamliar with Audioengine, Audioengine is a relatively new player in the computer audio industry, but the guys behind the name are definitely not new to the audio industry itself. After spending many decades developing high end studio monitors, the founders of Audioengine decided to create a speaker with studio monitor level quality for the home audience at a reasonable price. Those interested in learning more about Audioengine, be sure to check out their website here.

Meet the Audioengine 5+ (A5+)

Let’s talk a little about the Audioengine 5+. The Audioengine 5+ is Audioengine’s flagship powered speaker which Audioengine claims will “deliver audiophile-quality sound and features at a price that continues to set the standard for affordable high-quality audio.”

The Audioengine A5+ includes Audioengine’s custom designed 5″ Kevlar woofers, 20mm silk dome tweeters and custom 2.5″ MDF cabinets. It also features a fully custom class AB 50w RMS per channel amplifier so those looking for a high end pair of speakers for their computers won’t need to go out and purchase an additional amplifier just to use those speakers.

Audioengine 5+ (A5+) Specifications

Type2.0 powered (active) bookshelf-style speaker system
Power Output150W peak power total (50W RMS / 75W peak per channel), AES
Inputs1/8″ (3.5mm) stereo mini-jack, RCA L/R
OutputsRCA L/R audio (full-range, adjustable), USB Type A (power/charging)
Amplifier TypeDual Class AB monolithic
Frequency response50Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB
Dimensions10.75″ (27cm) x 7″ (18cm) x 7.75″ (20cm)
Weight (LEFT speaker)15.4 lbs (7 kg)
Weight (RIGHT speaker)9.6 lbs (4.4 kg)
Finish options
  • Satin Black
  • Hi-Gloss White
  • Solid Carbonized Bamboo
Power Consumption
  • Idle: 10W
  • Mute: 6W
  • Sleep: 4W
Materials and Construction
  • 25mm thick MDF cabinets
  • 20mm silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnets
  • 5″ Kevlar woofers with advanced voice coils
  • Torroidal power transformer
Included Accessories
  • (1) Remote control
  • (1) Speaker wire (16AWG), 3.75 meters (~12.3ft)
  • (1) Detachable power cord
  • (1) Mini-jack audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)
  • (1) RCA to RCA audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)
  • (2) Cloth speaker bag
  • (1) Cloth cable bag
  • (1) Setup Guide
  • (1) Product line brochure

Meet the Audioengine D1

As music in a computer is digital, you’ll need something to convert the digital signal into an analog signal so speakers such as the Audioengine 5+ can play the audio associated with the signal. This is where a DAC, or Digital Audio Converter, comes into play. Now most if not all computers have DACs, which come in the form of integrated audio, but these DACs are typically poor quality components that are extremely susceptible to crosstalk and various other electrical signals running through a computer motherboard’s PCB.

With the Audioengine D1, the entire device is outside of the computer and connected via USB only, which means less interference from other electrical devices. In addition, Audioengine has dropped in a lot of high end audio processing components such as the well known AKM4395 digital to analog converter and an integrated headphone amp based off the TI NE5532, which is an excellent amp capable of driving higher end, higher resistance headphones as well.

Audioengine D1 Specifications

DAC typeDual Mode USB and Optical (SPDIF)
InputsUSB/Optical (SPDIF)
OutputsRCA stereo/3.5mm headphone
D/A converterAKM4396
Optical receiverCS8416
USB controllerTI1020B
USBType 1.1 or above
Full-scale output2.0V RMS (RCA and Headphone)
Output impedance47 ohms RCA, 10 ohms headphone
Power sourceUSB 5V
Power requirements200mA
USB power filtering2-stage redundant regulation
Frequency response10Hz – 25KHz +/- 0.5db
Input bit depthup to 24 bits
Input data rateup to 192KS/s (optical), 96KS/s (USB)
Product dimensions3.5x4x1″
Included accessories
  • USB cable, 2ft
  • Setup Guide
  • Microfiber bag
About The Author
Sam Chen
Hardware and Technology Enthusiast. SSD Evangelist. Editor-in-Chief. You can find Sam's full biography here
  • Russell Robinson

    Nice review! I actually had heard a lot of good feedback on these speakers recently

  • homestaymom

    They ARE heavy on bass to the point the mids are a little behind the bass making some voices seem to also sit behind the bass. That drove me nuts so mine are going back.

  • Callum

    I have owned a pair of A5+ speakers and the S8 subwoofer for several months now and I am still amazed by them everytime I watch a movie, game or listen to music. Simply the best.

  • Jeff Grossman

    Awesome review — I love these A5+s. Didn’t realize they fit banana plugs, and when I bought some the plugs don’t seem to go in all the way. Is that how they are supposed to be? Or can you recommend which kind of banana plugs you used? Thanks!

    • Thanks! Yup. I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. The plug sticks out a little bit on the end. As long as they’re helping make a good connection between the wire and the speaker I think that’s all that really matters.

  • Stefan

    Nice review in general, except the last paragraph with all this nonsense about cable length, gold plating and signal quality degradation when speaking about a DIGITAL connection such as USB.

    Consider this – the DAC connect to the computer using a standard USB 2.0 A/B cord, such as is used in most all desktop printers/scanners, as well as external HDD enclosures. If I can use a $0.99 thin, non-shielded and non-gold plated USB cable of the same type to connect my 3 TB external drive to my PC and I can successfully transfer terabytes upon terabytes of data back and forth at 450 Mbps transfer rate without loosing a single bit, then the DAC should behave the same, if it’s using the same bus and transferring data at much lower rate. All the rest is urban legends…

    • Assuming you’re talking about the D1’s cable, I should’ve probably clarified. By signal quality I meant the signal as a whole rather than the actual data that’s going through.

      Yes, a digital signal will be accurate from point A to point B thanks to USB’s built in error checking, but audio is also dependent on latency. If the latency is too high, the packet is dropped. This causes stuttering. In USB 1.1’s case (the controller onboard the D1), that latency is 18nsec. Longer cable runs increases latency and unshielded cables have the potential of more errors if there’s a big source of interference somewhere. Max spec on USB 1.1 is 3 meters or ~9.8ft.

      As for gold plating, it prevents corrosion. If you live in a dry, desert environment, it’s not a huge deal, but there are many places in the world with high humidity or salt content. This can cause signal problems same way corrosion on batteries will cause it to stop functioning.

      Of course, if you live in a nice dry environment and you aren’t running tons of electrical or EMI emitting devices next to your USB cable, then sure. Cheap $0.99 cables are fine. I’ve used standard cheapo Chinese made 6ft USB cable without issues.

      • Stefan

        Although you are THEORETICALLY right, you’re going into an extreme and trying to present it as a common case scenario (and I think you realize this, too :)
        You are making it sound like unless you live in the middle of the dessert with 0% humidity and no other electronic device within a mile, you will have all sorts of issues with corrosion and interference. In practice, though, it’s quite the opposite – you have to be living for years in the Amazon rain-forest, or running an open patio bar on an ocean cruise ship, or trying to use the DAC in the Large Hardon Collider while it’s working at full power in order to be *rightfully* concerned about any of these issues. 99.9% of general users will never be in a situation like this.
        As far as stuttering with long USB cables – have you ever heard it? I guess no. USB protocol takes care of this. Either the connection is there and is stable enough to *guarantee* data transfer (no dropped packets, as you said, this is not UDP), or no connection at all. Again, while you speak in theory, I tested this in practice, although with a different DAC – I chained a few of those cheap USB cables and extenders and did not hear any stutter or noise (and I didn’t expect any). When I put one too many cables in the chain, the DAC simply stopped being recognized as a device by the computer and of course stopped playing. But, as long as it was being recognized, it played just fine.

        • I’m assuming the line you’re referring to in my review is “…longer cable runs may degrade signal quality…” To my knowledge what that means is that there is the possibility something like that could happen. Is that true? Yes. If the signal is so badly degraded that the system won’t even recognize the device, then yeah that’s a form of signal degradation. Does it have to happen? No. Does it have to mean it’ll likely happen? No. However, if one of my readers decide to throw a 12ft or 16ft USB cable (no extenders obviously) on the D1 and it doesn’t work or it barely works, would that be good information to know? I hope so.

          Next sentence. “The cable is very thick, so it does appear to have some sort of shielding against interference.” I’m pointing out the appearance of the cable that it might have shielding and I’m also pointing out what shielding is supposed to do. I don’t know how you interpreted that as me saying you will get interference if you don’t use a cable like this. However, if it does happen that one of my thousands of readers is sitting next to an unshielded LHC with their $0.99 unshielded cable, then well then they know why it’s not working right.

          The final line you might be referring to is “…helps increase resistance to corrosion…” Does gold do that? Yes. Helps increase resistance to corrosion. An interpretation that not having gold means it will corrode or that it will likely corrode would be faulty logic on the reader’s part. Look up USB corrosion, cable corrosion, etc. It happens. Quite often. Lots of people live near large bodies of salt water. (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Phillipines, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. and that’s only Asia alone).

          TL;DR I’m nowhere near suggesting that it’s imperative you absolutely MUST USE the stock Audioengine cable or that no other cable will suffice. I’m merely saying that this cable has certain features that some, not all people MAY find useful. That’s it. If you didn’t read it like that, then I must’ve miswrote something or you misread it.

  • Destroy Progressives

    I am thinking about these A5+’s for use with my computer and gaming consoles. I figured I can do 3.5mm from PC to the RCA on the speakers and then I have another 3.5m source (game consoles from HDMI switch) that would go to the 3.5mm input on the speakers… but another part of me thinks that I should also buy the Audioengine DAC so then I could go optical from my consoles and USB from my pc… would that work?

    I am trying to visualize how the DAC would work…sometimes I like to use headphones when listening to my PC to not disturb others, so could I use the DAC to control the volume on either the A5’s or headphones (in which I would have to mute the A5’s somehow or just turn them off)?