Powered Speakers? Really? Now? Why?...There are so many of them…
Well, let’s see. They are efficient, small-ish (some) and you don’t have to worry about an amp, great for computer audio etc. Oh and maybe they sound **** good (when connected properly). Monitors? Near-Field, Mid-Field, Outfield? Let’s get it together.
I dabbled into the powered speaker world over a year ago or so. I wanted something for my laptop as well as my ipod via the dock connector. I decided on the Audioengine A5s. Great purchase for me and they did what they were intended to do- laptop & ipod use (via line-out). I connected them to various DACs / Pre-amp combos, Ipods, Ipad, Clip+ (all via line-out). Sounded very good and I was pleased.
If you have been around here for a while “pleased” is a never ending story and the quest for “more, more and more” always seems to creep up.
When I was making my decision on the A5s, the close second choice was KRK RP 5 or 6. I always wondered about them after my purchase. Very different aesthetically as well as connecting options but same price range (give or take)…………..Hmm……….
A5s- One speaker holds it all (input, power) and the L & R attach themselves via speaker wire. The A5s have 2 inputs (both 1/8” mini)(one top, one rear) and a usb charging port for iPods (top). Also has an RCA line-out. Volume control is on one speaker (controls both).
KRK- Each speaker is its own boss (input, power, volume control etc.). Two balanced inputs (XLR, TRS) and one unbalanced (RCA). Each has an IEC connector for power and each has its own input and volume control as mentioned (rear).
A situation facilitated itself and I got my hands on some KRK RP6 G2, not too long ago. I connected them to various DACs / Preamps etc. in all possible ways. I went balanced and unbalanced with various cables and adapters. I wanted to try all the connections and make sure everything was working as advertised and there were no issues with any connections.
I was impressed with their sound whether it was a balanced or unbalanced connection. Variety of music and formats (Rock, House, Trance, Hip-Hop, 16/44.1, 16/48, 24/48, 24/88.2, 24/96 and even some 32/192 vinyl rips. All lossless and all on laptop). I have moved all my CDPs, DVD-A/SACD players downstairs w/ my floorstanding speakers. All computer audio in the office. All my music with a click of a touchpad.
Well, how did they compare?
The RP6 just had more overall better presentation (b@lls). Filled the room completely with emotion and then some. They responded to everything without looking back. It was full-bodied and kept on coming.
I personally don’t like to break up the spectrum (bass, mids, highs) when I listen. Seems a bit tedious and not fun. We all listen to different kinds of music, so emphasizing a particular aspect is a moot point, imo. I like the overall sound picture. If something is lacking, you’ll catch it, without trying to break everything down. Overall presentation throughout a variety of music.
The A5s don’t get set too far behind. I’m lucky I was able to compare them side by side. Neither lack presentation or bass, but the KRK just sound more complete and fills up bigger rooms easier than the A5s, without giving in.
There are many lessons to be learned as we travel in time through this site. I have learned many in my five years. One of the most important ones- don’t ever bash a product unless you are positive your connections and chain are all in order (examples- connecting HD650s to an ipod and saying they suck…connecting an amp to iPod via headphone out and saying it sucks….saying something hisses and makes noise when connected improperly…) I went back to a lot of the reviews and communicated with the individuals on certain gear used and found out a lot of negative reviews had a lot to do with connections. They were connecting to the outputs of laptops with all the noise and various soundcards that were not up to the task of proper signal path. You must have a proper signal path and must feed these speakers with proper nutrients.
Through the years I have collected many cables and adapters for various implementations. I connected these speakers in so many different ways for weeks that it was really tiring, but at the end of the day, I knew I had exhausted the possibilities of something going wrong and double checked. Connecting gear correctly is paramount and nothing else will matter if your signal path is not on par....Again noted...
Both these speakers are very quiet with no music playing. Yes, I test volume on max on pause and do all kinds of things to make sure there is no hiss, interference RF ghosts or what have you.
I had the A5s a long while before I acquired the KRKs and honestly I was very happy with them (and still am). If I had to do it all over, I would just go straight for the KRKs. I would not have known it until they were side by side, however, before they were side by side, I enjoyed the A5s without comparing. Again, the A5s don’t lack imo, just the KRKs make the picture deeper and clearer. Neither one sounds “tinny” or “lifeless”, like I read before purchase….Connections, connections…Chain, chain…
Wherever your path takes you, just make sure your connections and chain are in order and I don't believe you'll go wrong with either choice. Get several different types of cables to try everything out. Not different brands, just different connecting options…Throw an adapter in there if you want to try a different balanced / unbalanced flavor. (No, they do not degrade sound quality).
I prefer going preamp out personally to either of these. It’s great to control the volume that way and the attenuation is much better. Couple of DACs I tried were too “hot” to even turn the volume one turn on the speakers. Set it right and forget about the volume on the speaker, just control with pre-amp.
All my listening was lossless (FLAC, WavPack or ALAC) w/ Foobar (WASAPI, KS or ASIO), Winamp (ASIO), iTunes (straight dirty DirectSound..lol)
I finally settled on these setups: (Can't tell from pic, but speakers are 8" from wall).
KRK RP6 G2- Balanced- XLR To TRS w/ E-MU 0404 USB (Pre-out).
KRK RP6 G2- Unbalanced- RCA-- Woo Audio WA2, fed by an A-GD NFB-3 or LD DAC_I (Pre-out).
Audioengine A5s- Mini To RCA- A-GD C-2, fed by NFB-3 or LD DAC_I (Pre-out).
Audioengine A5s- Mini To RCA- A-GD FUN (A) (Pre-out) & Line-In To iPod w/ Dock.
I can also connect headphones to any of these setups if I’m not in the speaker mood. Good times…