Clutter, cabling, complication and cost. Four C’s cut back by putting amplifier inside the loudspeaker cabinet/s for a powered (sometimes active) setup. Powered loudspeaker systems cost less, are easier to setup, demand we only look at two boxes (not three) and expose fewer wires than the equivalent passive + separates configuration.
The entry-leveller seeking out his/her first hi-fi system might be enticed by the US$249 sticker applied by Audioengine to their P4 loudspeaker — but that’s only half the story. These passives require outboard amplification. A Class D Dayton Audio or Lepai cheapie would fill that hole – and for quite a bit less than a hundred bucks – but it still leaves our newcomer connecting his/her smartphone to the amplifier with a fly-lead. How very 2007. Even Audioengine’s A5+ Class A/B powered equivalent leaves that same 3.5mm jack dangling.
In bringing the powered (but not active*) A5+ up to date, Audioengine have added internal Bluetooth streaming functionality: hello A5+ Wireless. We get the same drivers powered by the same Class A/B amplifiers – and note a nip-n-tuck applied to cabinet cosmetics – but the aerial attached to the rear of the left speaker that houses all the electronics (no active crossover here) plays catch on (aptX HD) Bluetooth audio data. Handling the 24bit D/A conversion required by the aptX HD codec is an AKM AK4396 chip.
Before jumping in, users are advised of the need for an aptX HD-capable smartphone or tablet to reap the codec’s audible rewards. At the time of writing, only a handful of flagship smartphones – Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30 etc. – and some Astell&Kern players have optioned Qualcomm’s better-sounding Bluetooth codec.
Fortunately, the Audioengine guys have included the AAC to prevent iOS device pairings from dropping down to the inferior sounding SBC. More info on that here. iMac and Macbook users should see/hear an aptX connection. Windows support for aptX (HD), like Android, will vary according to the hardware manufacturer.
And if all that Bluetooth tech talk is just too much blah-blah-blah for your sensitive ears, ignore it and just enjoy the A5+ Wireless’ cable-free convenience. Audioengine specifies their Bluetooth receiver’s range at 30m.
Per the press release: “The A5+ Wireless eliminates the need for a stereo receiver or separate power amp. And setup takes just a few seconds with no apps to download and no wifi hassles. Tidal, Spotify, Pandora, and all your favorite streaming apps play instantly from your phone, tablet, and computer.”
Besides, for those who insist on rocking out losslessly to LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” like it still was 2007, the Wireless version of the A5+ offers a choice of twin RCA and 3.5mm analogue inputs.
The A5+ Wireless loudspeakers are available in satin black or high gloss white at US$499/pair. The solid bamboo attracts a US$70 premium.
Further information: Audioengine
Footnote 1: More tech talk. The ‘active’ in active loudspeaker refers not to the amplifier sitting inside the speaker cabinet but the crossover’s position in the playback chain. Active loudspeakers typically see signal amplification take place after the crossover has divvied up the music signal between the drivers. In separating this low-level (pre-amplified) signal, the active crossover must be executed with powered circuitry e.g. op-amps or DSP. Passive loudspeakers require amplification before the crossover, which, when processing an already-amplified signal, needs only passive components – resistors, capacitors and inductors – to do its job.