Audio Engine HD3 Wireless Speakers REVIEW
I’m a perfectionist. I like order and cleanliness and I like things to just work. I’ve been trying for several years to get my office set-up just the way I want it and one of the key components of that set-up is my speakers. In the past three years, I’ve had three different sets of speakers in search of the ideal set. Two of the sets were a standard 2.1 set-up (two speakers and a subwoofer) while the third set-up (the Audio Engine HD3 speakers) is just two speakers. While the Audio Engine set-up is a departure from what I’m used to, I welcomed the more simple option for my audio needs.
The HD3 speakers are considered retro-forward looking. The speaker is finished with furniture-grade wood veneers so that they can be shown off as an elegant accent piece in your home or office. There are three colors choices — satin black, cherry, and walnut — to fit with any decor style. The speakers themselves remind me of an older style from the 70s. They are meant to be seen as well as heard. This was one of my reasons for selecting the HD3s as one of the candidates for my office speakers. My desk has a cherry finish to it and the speakers look simply beautiful sitting just under my monitor. They look as though they were meant to be paired with my set-up.
Some of the main features of the HD3s include:
- Built-in power amplifiers
- High-fidelity Bluetooth® with aptX®, extended range, and simplified setup
- Dual analog audio inputs and a full-range variable output
- Custom Kevlar woofers and silk tweeters
- Hand-built cabinets with furniture-grade finishes
- Detachable magnetic speaker grills
- Threaded brass inserts to secure speakers to floor stands
Audio Engine really makes the installation and set-up quite easy with this speaker pair. All of the necessary cables are provided, which is great because you don’t have to search for them. In addition to the pair of speakers, Audio Engine includes the power cable for the speaker, the speaker wire to connect the pair together, a Micro USB cable, and an auxiliary cable. You may or may not need the aux cable and the Micro USB cable that are provided — it just depends on your particular set-up. Since these are wireless speakers, you could connect to them exclusively through Bluetooth and not need those cables. I ended up using the aux cable to connect the speaker directly to my LG computer monitor (I then use a Thunderbolt connection for the audio out from my MacBook Pro), but I didn’t use the Micro USB cable.
Your first step in the set-up is to determine placement. I set mine to the left and right of my monitor. They actually sit just under my screen but are facing me and when I’m seated at my computer, I am directly between them. Once you have placement figured out, you can run your power cable and the connector cable between the two speakers. Finally, you need to attach the Bluetooth antennae. If you aren’t connecting the speakers to any other device, your set-up is pretty much done at this point. If connecting through Bluetooth, simply turn the speakers on by turning the volume knob on the right speaker and then tap the Bluetooth pairing button on the front of that same speaker. The Audio Engine speakers should appear in your Bluetooth menu for pairing. Once you pair, you can play audio through it with no problems at this point. In my case, I had one more step. I had to connect the aux cable to the monitor and then select the external speaker option from my settings menu on my laptop (you may or may not have to do that step).
While I’ve described two methods of audio input connection (aux/mini jack and Bluetooth), there are two others available to users — USB and RCA. The included Micro USB cable can be used to connect the speakers to a computer or monitor that accepts audio out via USB. You also have the option for input/output via RCA. This gives you a lot of flexibility with how you use the HD3s.
Of course, the most important aspect of any speaker is the quality of the sound it produces. As I mentioned above, I have bounced between systems the past couple of months, but one of the things I really look for is clarity. This is where the HD3s really shine. There are more powerful systems out there — and adding a subwoofer to the system could help with this — but there will be few that have as crisp of a sound as the Audio Engine speakers. I am a bit hard of hearing so I end up having to really crank up speakers when I’m listening to podcasts or music. This can be disruptive to other people in my house so I really like having such clear sounding speakers available so that I don’t have to have them up as loud.
That said, the Audio Engine HD3s can really push out a lot of volume. I was surprised at exactly how loud they did get. I didn’t have a decibel meter available, but they were at least as powerful as the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX Speaker System (one of my other sets). The main difference in the two sets was the addition of the subwoofer on the Klipsch set. It does add a lot to the depth of sound for a set-up, but these powered speakers from Audio Engine are really very impressive on their own. One really nice thing about them is that when in Bluetooth mode, they don’t just use the connected device’s volume — they use their own. So, you can turn the volume up on your device and then the speakers and get even more power.
Summary The more I use these remarkable speakers, the more I become enamored with them. From the moment I pulled them from the packaging, I was impressed. They are easy to set-up with minimal cabling and they produce a very powerful sound. The only issue I really had was placement. I would have preferred to set my speakers apart a bit more, but the speaker wire that is provided is only 2-meters in length and it wasn’t long enough to run underneath my desk as I wanted. This was easily remedied by adjusting my placement, but a longer cable option for cable management would be nice. Since it’s a specialized cable, I couldn’t just add in generic cable wire. At a price point of $400, the HD3s are not going to be for every home, but for those who want quality speakers, they are worth the expense.
Originally published at macsources.com on February 2, 2017.