How many powered loudspeakers are available for $399 a pair? Probably more than I can count on my fingers and toes. And if I were forced to listen to them all, back-to-back, I’d be ready for counseling or medication. Thank God for exceptions. The AudioEngine 5+ speakers are the second pair of under-$400 powered speakers I’ve reviewed recently. The first was the Focal XS Book for The Absolute Sound. The XS Book was a neat speaker, but I think most people, especially those who like to rock out, will prefer the AudioEngine 5+.The 5+ offers clean looks and neither needs (nor offers) speaker grills. Its extra beefy power amplifier provides impressive dynamic with dynamic performance. With a volume control on the front of the left speaker as well as a remote and iPod USB power option, the 5+ can be the center of surprisingly good sounding bedroom, den, or computer-based desktop system.
The 5+ is available in three finishes: satin black, hi-gloss white, or solid carbonized bamboo. AudioEngine sent a pair with a satin black finish for review. The finish was impeccable with no swirlies or irregular marks on any of its surfaces. I mentioned earlier that the 5+ comes without speaker grills. In lieu of a speaker grill, the 5+ has molded one-piece charcoal-colored circular baffles around the drivers so that you never need to look at a bare screw or speaker basket edge. With a look like this you don’t need or want grills.
Because the power amps to drive both speakers are housed in the left-hand speaker, the left-hand unit weighs more and has a large cooling fin on the back. The left-hand speaker also has provisions for an AC power connection, one pair of RCA inputs, one stereo mini-jack input, one pair of RCA single-ended variable outputs (provided for purposes of feeding a signal to a subwoofer, if desired), the on/off power switch, a voltage selection slider switch, and a set of five-way binding posts for output to the right-hand speaker. The right side passive speaker only has a pair of five-way binding posts.