In an informal poll of the office, I learned what I already suspected, and that was that during the day, many of my colleagues log on to Pandora, where they’ve put together their own radio stations that play tunes by their favorite artists (or artists new to them who sound similar to their favorite artists—and if you haven’t already done this yourself, go to pandora. com to give it a try). OK, I thought. The Audioengine 2s have impressed me via my high-res iTunes files and lower-res iPod tracks, but what about Internet radio?
One of the go-to stations on Pandora is my Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young station. When I logged on, I was greeted with the strains of “Carry On” from Déjà vu (boy, does that song take me back … but I digress). Darn it, I thought, I can’t find a single torture test these speakers will fail at. There it was again: a palpable sound stage, as if the motley quartet, long hair, stench of cannabis, unwashed clothes and all were right there spinning off those electric guitar riffs, bowling me over with their unparalleled harmony. To get in a horrible pun, it was déjà vu all over again for me, and I almost believed I was no longer balding but had back the tailbone-length hair of my youth.
OK, so the woofer does have its limitations. It won’t rattle the floor or in my case, the desktop or reproduce the lowest pedal tones of an organ. But even so, the balance through low mids and upper highs is still remarkable. I got that kind of performance out of the Quad 11Ls, one of my favorite sets of active loudspeakers for the desktop. The Audioengine 2s' mid-range openness is comparable to the Quad's. Their treble is a little rougher but still in the hunt. Bass and overall dynamics are not equal to the Quads but are perfectly fine, given that the Audioengine 2s are targeted for desktop use and/or as iPod companions. The Quads, on the other hand, are designed to fill a room and could be used as main speakers for a fleshed-out hi-fi system. Just keep in mind that the Audioengine 2s are less than half the size of the Quad 11Ls and a good deal less expensive. These decent performers have no need to apologize for their diminutive size.
A word about the ($price-to-come) AW1 Wireless Sender/Receiver system. It’s flawless. I can’t think of a valid reason why anyone would bypass having it as a companion to the Audioengine 2s.
There are many ways to spend $200, say a night out with friends for a modestly priced meal. But if you want your iPod to sound better than it ever has or if you wan’t to chuck those wimpy speakers that came with your PC and dress up your desktop with a pair of capable soundstage producing marvels, then look no further than the Audioengine 2s. Like those family-plan deals the cell companies are showcasing these days, you can afford a set for all of your loved ones. They’ll love you for it.