Your average portable Bluetooth loudspeaker’s biggest shortcoming? It isn’t Bluetooth audio’s lossy transmission (although it can be). Neither is it the loudspeaker’s smaller drivers and associated lack of punch, especially in the low end (although it can be). No – your average portable Bluetooth loudspeaker’s biggest shortcoming is its absence of proper stereo separation; left and right channels emanate from the same point in the room.
A handful of models – e.g. KEF MUO and UE Megaboom – offer left/right pairing of two separate units but such software smarts come at twice the price. US$299 becomes US$598 and puts us in Andrew Jones’ passive Pioneer territory where a suitable amplifier and streaming DAC must be separately sourced and box count goes from two to four, maybe five. Hello kabelsalat.
What if we could trade in portability for S T E R E O P H O N Y, delivered via two separate loudspeakers, all without surrendering the convenience of Bluetooth connectivity? What if said system’s more classic furniture-grade aesthetic could see it sit as comfortably on a credenza as an office desktop?
After teasing its existence as far back as CES in January 2016 and having a set feature as the centrepiece of the $500 room at RMAF 2016 in October, Austin TX’s Audioengine have, at long last, officially announced the US$399 HD3 ‘Wireless Audio System’ – essentially a scaling down of their bigger HD6 system-in-a-box (reviewed here).
The HD3 put 2.75″ kevlar woofers and 3/4” silk tweeters in 7” x 4.25” x 5.5” MDF cabinets and finish them in a choice of walnut, cherry or satin black. Amplification for both loudspeakers comes from the master unit’s Class A/B amplifier circuit whose internal AKM AK4396A DAC can be hard-wired to a PC/Mac with USB (for lossless die-hards) or wirelessly with Bluetooth (for those who don’t mind a little lossy). On the latter we note the inclusion of aptX and AAC codecs and on the former a PCM ceiling of 24bit/48kHz.
Let’s spell that out a little more clearly: team Audioengine have put a better iPhone/iPad Bluetooth experience ahead of hi-res compatibility. 💡
Rounding out the spec sheet are: an RCA analogue input to keep turntablists in play; an RCA subwoofer output for those who cannot live without frequencies below 65Hz; a 2 Ohm 3.5mm headphone output socket that’ll be better suited to everyday 32 Ohm headphones than high-end custom IEMs.
Master&Dynamic’s MH40 feature heavily in Audioengine’s press shots – unused here. Instead, the HD3 as seen by yours truly at CES 2016 and RMAF 2016.
In case you haven’t pegged it by now, Audioengine’s HD3 is an everyman audio system for newcomers who don’t want the hassle of system compilation but demand a step up from the average portable Bluetooth loudspeaker. A sound solution for offices, bedrooms and dorm rooms that won’t obliterate the bank balance.
The HD3 system sells for US$399 and is available from Audioengine’s dealer network or direct from their online webstore. Everyone starts somewhere and I’m willing to bet that thousands of audiophiles start with Audioengine.
Further information: Audioengine