Audioengine HD3 Loudspeakers & DAC3: The Audiophile System Builder
Audioengine is one of my favorite manufacturers of affordable desktop computer loudspeakers because they offer great sound quality and the right mix of connectivity options. They also have a slightly warmer tonal balance which we find preferable in a powered loudspeaker used on a desktop.
The market for desktop audio systems exploded during the pandemic and Audioengine was right there to take advantage of it.
Products like the Audioengine HD3 Loudspeakers, DAC3 Dongle DAC, and S6 subwoofer make a lot of sense for the remote worker or someone who also uses a home office on the weekend or at night after the kids have gone to bed.
It’s a huge change for most people and while millions of people have already returned to the office – a lot of people have decided that they prefer the new normal.
There are dozens of possible loudspeaker options for your desktop but not all of them are affordable and whilst many might want to use a pair of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled speakers to keep things very simple — that won’t produce the best possible sound quality and the headphone amplifier (if it exists) built inside the loudspeakers will be incapable of driving a lot of headphones properly.
The Audioengine HD3 are Bluetooth loudspeakers but they sound so much better connected to the DAC3 which was plugged into both my MacBook Pro and iMac.
But what about those quiet times when the kids and spouse are sleeping and you’re up at 2 a.m. EST putting the final touches on that report or figuring out how to conceal all of those sports gambling losses from your wife.
Headphones. And don’t bet on Anaheim, Calgary or Ottawa when Boston or Vegas are in town. Solved two of your problems.
If you spend a lot of time listening to music via headphones, it would make sense to consider a portable Dongle DAC that can fit inside a jacket pocket or laptop bag, but also double as your desktop headphone amplifier/DAC as well.
Invest in stands. Your listening height at your desk is not the same as your favorite chair in the living room. The Audioengine DS1M ($39.99) are the logical choice here.
A desktop computer speakers system creates a near field listening situation; your listening position is much closer to the loudspeaker which will minimize the impact of the sound reflecting off surfaces like your desk, computer monitor, ceiling, and walls beside and behind you.
The “Debbie Downers” in the crowd will chime in that most desktop systems don’t offer very resolute bass response making them less than ideal for certain genres of music, movies, or gaming.
Not only is that premise untrue, but companies like Audioengine, REL, and SVS offer smaller subwoofer models that can be placed under your desk and be rather effective — or even placed on your desktop.
We were somewhat surprised as well but the results were interesting.
The Bun Bo Hue
Bun Bu Hue is a rich, meaty, and effervescent Vietnamese soup that never fails to satisfy or take away the guilt of having put your mother on mute while listening to the hockey game.
It is a complete meal that enriches your soul and keeps you satisfied for hours.
The Audioengine system is very similar from the perspective that it delivers so much performance at a rather reasonable price and it leaves you fulfilled regardless of the source on the other end.
Having used my iPhone 12, iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, iMac, Marantz CD60, Andover Songbird Streamer, Bluesound NODE, and three entry-level turntables from Andover Audio, U-Turn Audio, and Pro-Ject — this proved to be a very flexible and easy to use system that could certainly work for people in a multitude of settings; office, college dorm, bedroom, or small den.
Audioengine HD3 Loudspeakers
The HD3 are powered Bluetooth wireless loudspeakers that take up very little space on the desktop; each speaker is 7″H(17.8 cm) x 4.25″W (10.8 cm) x 5.5″D (14 cm) and weigh less than 4 pounds.
Bluetooth support is rather extensive including aptX, aptX HD, SBC, and AAC.
The primary loudspeaker contains the class A/B amplifier; 60 W peak power total (15 W RMS / 30 W peak per channel), which is divided between the two loudspeakers.
All circuit boards for the power and preamp sections are vertically mounted for maximum mechanical shock protection.
Audioengine uses audiophile-quality, ferrofluid-cooled .75-inch silk dome tweeters with neodymium magnets. Silk tweeters hold up well under high power and the edge-driven design gives very smooth response. The 2.75-inch woofers are aramid fiber woven glass composite with rubber surrounds.
Audioengine are great when it comes to providing enough cables for 2 systems and the supplied loudspeaker cable is 2 meters in length.
The 3.5mm input, USB Type-A, and subwoofer output are essential to making this system work with multiple sources and the S6 compact subwoofer.
Audioengine S6 Compact Subwoofer
Measuring only 10-inches high and 8.7-inches wide, this subwoofer is great for use in small spaces and with compact audio systems, such as the Audioengine A1-MR Wireless Multiroom Home Music System. It can also be used as an add-on subwoofer for other branded compact audio systems that have compatible subwoofer connections.
The S6 incorporates a front-firing 6-inch driver in a sealed cabinet design that can pump out bass as low as 33Hz and features adjustable volume and crossover controls, as well as a switchable phase switch so you can match it with the rest of your system.
Tip: Although the S6 isn’t wireless out of the box, you can use it as a wireless subwoofer with the purchase of the Audioengine W3 Transmitter/Receiver Kit ($149).
Audioengine have announced a new Dongle DAC with a rather attractive price tag. The Audioengine DAC3 will retail for $149.00 USD and is available now on their website.
Dongle DACs are all the rage right now, especially with the price of high-end DAPs breaking through the $3,000 USD price barrier. Very few consumers are willing to spend that amount of money on a DAP, but there are a few dozen options under $200 USD that might make sense for consumers who want a DAC/headphone amplifier that can be connected to their smart phone, tablet, or laptop and has the ability to drive either a pair of headphones or powered desktop loudspeakers.
The heart of the Audioengine DAC3 is the ES9281A PRO DAC, which is well-regarded for its low noise and high fidelity. Due to the high signal-to-noise specs of the ES9281A PRO and the added benefit of double redundancy power source conversion and filtering, the DAC3 presents impressive low noise and low distortion characteristics.
The DAC3 can decode up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD128. The Dongle DAC also supports MQA and will complete the final unfold of any MQA file.
Look for 3 separate reviews in early-January but this is one of the easiest systems to recommend; warm and dynamic presentation, surprisingly detailed, and the value for the money is excellent.
The 2.75-inch drivers have some inherent limitations and I prefer the HD3 at moderate volume levels; remember that this system is on your desktop.
Adding the S6 compact subwoofer and setting the crossover around 100Hz proved to be a good compromise. The S6’s crossover is a variable low-pass filter, and will not adjust the audio for the RCA output connection. This is a full range line level output.
The one negative is that the subwoofer does not free up the HD3’s drivers by taking the bottom octaves away; the S6 does an excellent job of adding a rather strong and defined bottom end, but the HD3 don’t become a pair of ATCs or Spendor 2-way bookshelf speakers in the process.
We’ll have a lot more to say about these components over the next 2 weeks but a very solid system at the asking price.
Where to buy:
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