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Audioengine Wireless System

D2 + A5+ = Perfect Match

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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Recently I had an opportunity to take home a pair of Audioengine A5+ premium powered bookshelf speakers and an Audioengine D2 wireless digital-to-analog converter (DAC). With these two items and my computer, I created a simple, yet great-sounding audio system that was enjoyed by friends and family alike.

The Audioengine D2 DAC

Audioengine%20D2%20transmitter%20and%20receiverThe Audioengine D2 wireless transmitter (L) and receiver (R)

The D2 DAC got the music from my computer to the speakers. It’s a two-part wireless system, consisting of a transmitter and a receiver.

The transmitter plugged into the USB port of my computer. It bypassed the computer’s soundcard, and sent a 24-bit/96kHz high definition audio signal to its companion receiver. The system uses a closed Wi-Fi® band, ensuring no interference from my home network.

The receiver looks almost exactly like the transmitter. Instead of a USB   port, though, it had RCA stereo outputs. The receiver's built-in high-performance digital-to-analog converter (DAC) decoded the transmitted digital sound files and sent the analog signal on to the speakers.

The D2 comes with an RCA stereo cable, so all I had to do was connect it to the inputs on the A5 and I was in business. The biggest part of the operation was finding a wall socket for the receiver.

Because the transmitter and receiver are already paired, they instantly found each other — I didn’t have any programming to do. After  I plugged the transmitter’s USB plug into the computer’s port, I changed the sound output settings (found in my Mac under System Preferences) to the Audioengine D2.  Phase one finished.

The Audioengine A5+ powered speakers

Audioengine%20A5+%20speakersThe Audioengine A5+ powered speakers

The Audioengine A5+ speakers are pretty substantial speakers, that’s for sure. That was my immediate impression when I pulled them out of the box. It’s not that they were overly heavy, but I could tell they were solidly built.

One of the speakers has a built-in amplifier, and powers the other through a single cable connection. So all I had to do to get the audio portion of the system set up was to plug in the power cord, and then plug in the cable to the second speaker. Oh — and then plug the RCA cable from the D2 reciever into the back of the A5+ amp.

Audioengine%20D2%20DAC%20and%20A5+%20speakerThe D2 receiver on top of the A5+ powered speaker with the built-in amp. This was the hardest part of the setup.

The Setup

The wireless connection of the D2 and the relatively small size of the A5+s gave me some placement options. In our open family room there’s not a lot of wall space. I set the A5+s on some low stands just underneath our big picture window, facing into the room.  The speakers have their own volume control, but I really didn’t use it much. I preferred to control the system from the D2 transmitter, which also has a volume knob.

My computer was in another part of the house, but no problem. I set the receiver on top of one of the speakers. Perfect. I now had a sound system ready to deliver music in an unobtrusive fashion.

A few days after I set up the system, we had a little get together at our home. I created a party playlist in iTunes®, and let the music play. I won’t say it was the best party ever, but everyone had a good time (and were very impressed with the setup).

The sound

The A5+ speakers were  impressive. They were very responsive, and delivered a lot of detail at both high and low volume levels. Of course, having a good signal from the D2 to work with helped a lot (and I use primarily lossless files in my digital library).

Classical selections sounded natural and balanced. Whether it was a large orchestra or a small chamber ensemble, the speakers reproduced the sound with clarity. It seemed to be a little soft on the high end, but overall a very good sound.

And the speakers had no trouble delivering bass. Pop and rock selections sounded appropriately bottom-heavy, and all with strong definition. That was especially true with “Three the Hard Way” by the Beastie Boys (I like all kind of classics). Not only did the bass hit hard, but I heard for the first time some low-end reverb that was there in the track. Nice!

If I lived in a loft apartment, I could see the A5+s being my primary audio system — they’re really that good. The soundfield was nice and spacious, and filled the entire room.

The overall impression

The system sounded great, but for me, the biggest plus was the convenience of the setup. My music is stored on a 1.5TB drive that connects wirelessly to my laptop. So I can keep the drive stored out of the way, and my laptop can be wherever I need it. The D2 transmitter did tether my machine while I used the system, but I could just unplug the USB cord and I was mobile again.

Audioengine%20A5+%20speaker%20and%20D2%20DACEveryone at my home liked the sound. And I mean everyone.

I could place the speakers where I wanted them as well, since they were connected wirelessly to the laptop through the D2. So my music library, controlling computer, and speakers were all in different locations, and I didn’t have to run wires to string them all together. And they all worked great.

And those are really to two things I want in a digital music system — simplicity and great sound. The Audioengine D2 DAC and A5+ bookshelf speakers combination delivered on both counts.

This article was updated 2/14/13 to correct some erroneous information.

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