For years, Audioengine has made a successful business selling the A5 and A5+ speakers, a powered bookshelf set for consumers that could be mistaken to look like serious studio monitors found on the desk many professional audio producers. So when the company revealed their step up model in the HD6, it was quite a pleasant surprise to see Audioengine design a speaker that could rival some of the best looking consumer bookshelves on the market.
What’s in the Box?
The HD6 is a 5.5″ woofer, 1″ tweeter powered bookshelf speaker that comes in black, white, walnut and cherry. For those whose decor fits wood finished speakers, the walnut and cherry look stunning. Using MDF wood in a perfectly rectangular design with slightly rounded corners, the HD6 looks both modern and classic. A magnetic grill can be attached to the speaker fascia for wife approval.
Like all Audioengine products, the HD6 ships in cloth bags for easy transportation. The package includes a basic remote and a few audio cables. The HD6 connects via RCA, aux, and toslink optical. For most, that would be enough, but some might lament the lack of a USB connection. Audioengine sells a smaller brother to the HD6 which is aptly called the HD3 and has a USB connection, so it seems the company is positioning the HD6 as more for bookshelf and entertainment cabinet use. In contrast, the HD3 is better suited for computer desktop use.
The HD6 has an integrated Bluetooth 4.0 receiver with AptX support and AAC support for Apple users. A an antenna attaches to the back of the speaker and a button next to the antenna activates Bluetooth pairing mode. Audioengine claims that up to six devices can be put in memory but we haven’t tested this limit.
The left speaker is much heavier than the right because it houses all the electronics. Speaker wire connects the two. A 150 watt class A/B amplifier powers the speakers and an AKM AK4396 DAC is used for the toslink and Bluetooth inputs. Both speakers feel solid with MDF wood construction. Knocking on the speakers, it doesn’t sound quite as dead as we’d like but we’ve heard more hollow sounding cabinets.
What About Sound?
With such an elegant aesthetic, it would be a shame if the audio could not match. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Sound is very clear on these speakers. And the soundstage is amazing. Put each speaker to the right and left of the listener, and music appears to originate from the front center. Bass can hit low for a 5.5″ woofer speaker and is tight. It won’t hit those sub-aural body shaking levels, but an RCA is available out for subwoofer connection. If we were to summarize the sound characteristic of the HD6, it would be more flat, not over-emphasizing high, mid or lows.
Looking at the Audioengine lineup, some might wonder what is the difference between the HD6 and the A5+ Wireless? The answer is really not much. Both have the same set of features, use the same DAC and likely the same amp (rated at 150 watts). Both sound similar from what we’ve heard. The HD6 has a slightly larger woofer and tweeter, but that doesn’t seem to make a large difference, perhaps a little more clarity in the HD6. When it comes down to it, the A5+ Wireless is an excellent speaker. The HD6 offers better looks as well as the toslink input to be able to use the AKM AK4396 DAC (the A5+ wireless uses their DAC only from Bluetooth) with slightly better sound quality. If Audioengine ever decides to follow up these speakers, we do hope to see a bigger gap between the higher and lower models.
With a beautiful design, sturdy build quality, and excellent sound, the HD6 should be on the shopping list for those who are looking for a good set of 5″ bookshelf speakers. Some competitors worth looking at are the Edifier S2000 Pro, Swans Speakers-M200MKIII, as well as studio monitors such as the JBL 305P MKII and Mackie CR5BT. Audioengine has a great return policy so it’s worth getting an audition with the HD6 and comparing with one or two other models. You might still end up with a pair of Audionengines in the end.