The A2 from Audio Engine are awesome for the money. They have great customer service as well.
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The past 2 months or so I have been on the same journey. In fact I've ended up with Audioengine A2+ speakers. The two others that really came in to play were Focal XS Book speakers (on sale at Crutchfield for similar money, not chosen due to dimensions), and PSB Alpha PS1's (read that they were more revealing/analytic, but I have no experience).
My goal with these was two fold: 1. be musically engaging at low volume (it is a work PC in a private office, but I can't be so loud as to hear it across the hall), 2. Don't be so big that those that report to me would think they could bring a boom box in and setup shop.
The first goal was achieved, however it really came into its own when I downloaded Jplay to run on my PC through the Audioengine speakers. Jplay brought Hi-Fi (see files info below) that was not fully realized by just the internal AE DAC.
The second goal was somewhat missed. These things are obtrusive...I did not go with Focal because they were bigger yet, however these are definitely bigger than standard speakers. I am not sure the Focals would be much different of an impact. The PSB would likely be more fitting, but I really only steered away because of the overwhelming reviews by online sources and I bought through Crutchfield. Their advisor recommended either the Audioengine's or the Focal's. So I went with Audioengine based on reviews.
Lastly, I am streaming Tidal CD quality 8-10 hours a day at work...Can't recommend that enough. So my source is a Window's 7 Pro with JPlay and the Audioengine are connected via USB (supplied cable), and the files at CD quality.
Bottom line is that I am really satisfied...seriously my only complaint is that the music is so engaging that I get distracted from work. I am in a private office that others come into often. If I were in a home office you may want these for quite listening or if you are cranking them up the A5's would be worth consideration. Depends what your goal is for listening.
Here is my recommendation. I've been using these speakers for years; I'm completely satisfied.
Focal XS 2.1 Speaker System from Music Direct at $599.
Sound Quality and Aesthetics Converge in this iPod/Computer System. The Perfect Sound System for Your Desk, Your Office, Your Bedroom, Dorm Room or Den
The Focal XS 2.1 System is one of the best sounding iPod systems youll ever hear. If you are interested in a complete audio system for your computer system or even as a stand-alone iPod music system, the XS 2.1 sounds incredible. The built-in Burr-Brown USB DAC allows you to plug it into your computer and start listening to much improved sound from your digital files.
I absolutely love my Audioengine A5+ speakers with the Desktop Speaker Stands and the S8 powered subwoofer. I use this with my 27"IMac computer and the Dragon Fly Dac. Very dynamic and great sounding.
You might not need the subwoofer and the A2+ speakers might sound good also however I went the direction of the A5+ and I'm extremely satisfied.
I never heard the A2+ speakers.
Just got my brand new pair of Audioengine 2+'s and am breaking them in. I will report back, but after about 45 minutes of out-of-the-box play, I'm liking them a lot. Customer service so far has been stellar and the packaging/presentation when you open the shipping box is exemplary. Excellent owner's manual- set up is simple and easy.
Audioengine clearly understands that there is but one chance to make a first impression.
The Audioengine +2 has a built-in DAC and amplifier. I am not familiar with other powered computer speakers.
The Audioengine +2 left speaker has the power supply. This plugs into AC using an adapter which comes with the speakers.
Connecting the USB cord which is packaged with the speakers, from your computer to the left speaker, enables the music to run through the +2's built-in DAC.
Im always confused about what speakers are not only powered but have dacs in them. How do I know out of all these computer speakers which one have to be fed digital or only analog signal?"
I don't think I've ever seen anyone ask this question before. Here's what to look for.
The speakers will have a digital input.
The Audioengine +2's now have about 30 hours of break-in, playing everything from quiet single instrument acoustic, to heavy beat electronic material. The additional break in time made a significant improvement over "out of the box" sound. They flank a 30" monitor which makes for very near field listening. On a whim, and using the A2+ dedicated stands, I placed them on two foam yoga blocks. This improved soundstage and overall sound.
I am very happy with these speakers. Smooth, detailed, and to my ears, "neutral." Not at all harsh. My listening is through Spotify and Amarra SQ. At this point I don't feel the need for a subwoofer, but that could change. (hey, it's a hobby after all) :)
Next experiment will be to try an outboard DAC when budget permits.
After many more hours of listening and some additional experimentation with placement and Amarra sQ settings, I think I've got the A2+s sounding great. I'm so pleased with the A2+'s that I figured bigger must be better, so I will be auditioning a pair of Audioengine A5+'s soon. :)
I have no affiliation with Audioengine other than as a happy customer.
Ps; the Audioengine A5+ are a few steps up from the very good A2+ speakers. Over all better sounding music in all areas (bass, mids, highs and better timbre. As I stated on 2/21/15 I added the S8 powered subwoofer to my set up and that delivered really deep bass. The Dragon Fly Dac also really helped out the music too.
Thanks for your post. I liked the A2+ initially, and liked them even more after break-in and experimentation with positioning. As good as they sounded for such small speakers, I felt that I wanted a "fuller" sound and when I saw a pair of refurbished A5+ on the Audioengine website, I grabbed 'em.
I should have the A5+ by early next week. In the meantime, I'm looking for a basic DAC. Having wonderful-sounding music as I work at my computer is a joy.
I just received a pair of A5+'s which I've placed on my computer desk and after a few minutes of listening, I'm enjoying the "larger" sound as compared to the A2+, which are also fine speakers IMO.
I agree with Lak that the A5+ are definitely a few steps up from the fine A2+. They provide the "fullness" of sound that I was missing with the A2+. If I roll my chair back my computer "rig" now becomes a quite decent second audio system when my wife is watching movies downstairs. :)
Next I'll need to find a decent DAC but even connected to the headphone jack on my MacPro, so far so good.
After more than 30 days of listening to the Audioengine 5+ I'd like to report that I'm extremely pleased with them. My search for computer speakers has ended happily. They are much more than "good enough" for "serious listening" when my main system is not available if a family member is watching TV or a movie.
After auditioning some Mini-Maggies, and the AE5+, I pulled the trigger on a B&W A7. The Maggies had better sound, but were twice the price and took up much more space. The A7 had a nice combination of Good Sound and Easy Setup. The A7 also sounded much more engaging than the lower cost B&W A5. Hope that helps...
I'm VERY happy with my Focal Professional CMS 65 pair. However, they are pricey $8-900 (made in France) at Sweetwater and heavy since the cabinets are aluminum. I would rate the build quality on par with their traditional high end stereo speakers. Nice frequency response and good dispersion. I've had them about four years with nary a problem.