Audioengine’s A5 Bamboo bookshelf speakers impress from the moment the box is opened. To start with the packaging is top notch, with lush drawstring bags cradling each speaker and a neat stash of supplied cables. The speakers themselves are simply gorgeous: the smooth, matte-laminated bamboo finish makes them look far too nice for a dusty old desktop. The bamboo is also extremely eco-friendly – it is a renewable resource with no environmentally unsound stains, paints, glues, binders or resins used in the construction.
The 25mm thick cabinets are rock solid with minimal resonance; a Kevlar woofer handles bass and mids while a silk dome tweeter with a neodymium magnet covers the top end - just like serious hi-fi gear. They’re fully powered, with a 45-watt amplifier in the left unit that connects to its sibling using the supplied speaker cable. Top and rear-mounted 3.5mm minijack ports allow MP3 players, phones or computers to be connected, while a handy top USB port provides power to charge connected devices. A nice touch is the provision of a power outlet (US plugs only) on the back of the left speaker designed to take Apple’s Airport Express, which effectively makes this a self-contained wireless audio system.
Brilliant looks and smart design mean nothing if the sound isn’t up to scratch. Fortunately, the A5 more than does the business in this regard. Crank the volume knob and it generates serious volume levels, but still retains its composure when pushed, so its capable of making any gaming environment chillingly real and detailed, albeit in good old stereo.
Musically its also adept; the bottom end is deep and taut, especially in the context of desktop speakers, which tend to be either weak-kneed or as boomy as a tin drum. Playing tracks from Massive Attack’s various albums showed the bass is far better than most 2.1 or 5.1 computer speaker systems. Detail levels are also high with a clear and open midrange and an expressive treble that doesn’t err on the bright side.
This sonic combination flatters low bitrate files and compressed modern pop tracks without hampering playback of high-quality files or superior recordings. Dynamics and speed are also right up there, so this is like listening to a decent little hi-fi system, which is no surprise, because that is effectively what these speakers are.
The cabinets are wide and deep, so you’ll need some space to accommodate them. Like most speakers of this type, they’ll sound best on stands, but the majority will end up on a shelf or a desk, which is fine as long as they’re not hard up against a wall – the rear ports need a bit of room to breathe or the sound gets bottom heavy and overblown.
The Audioengine A5 Bamboo speakers are ideal for use as a super-premium desktop system or as a small hi-fi setup. They aren’t exactly cheap, though they offer an enviable blend of attractive looks, high-grade construction and excellent audio quality complete with real power and an authoritative sound. If they take your fancy, but the price tag leaves you a little queasy, there are gloss black or white versions for $599. The product is distributed locally by Renaissance.