i see what you're saying and if you compare it like that, there are way too many speakers for you to compare then. I think the most important thing is really getting down to what you need. I can tell you right now that the Swans MKIII will sound like crap bring it outside to your backyard since they aren't designed for that. Swans are very strict with the position and where you sit (standard triangle setup) in order to get the best sound. I've thought about the inputs/outputs as well because maybe during special occasions, i could bring the swans downstairs to the living room and hook it up. However, thought about it, firstly its not gonna sound AS GOOD as nearfield setup, secondly I'm gonna have kids poking at my drivers which definitely ain't happening. I've owned Grados sr80, sr325i and rs1 and I can tell you that you're right, its a different sound signature from grados and swans. Leans towards the Sennheisers but not as dark. Gives a very comfortable and relaxing sound. Bass is there for sure, doesn't lack punch at all, maybe the old MKII lacked it but guarantee the new MKIII with double the power does give full bass.
Anyhow let us know what you end up with, it'll be good to have another Swans MKIII owner here.
With the inevitable Christmas cash I'll be getting and some leftover funds from my holiday bonus I was deadset on getting a pair of the Swan M200MkIII to try out and compare against the A5's. But the more I researched the more I had to think twice.
Going by reviews on Head-Fi, 6moons and other audio related forums some users slightly questioned the bass. The overall impression I get is that the bass is tight/controlled and works well with the music but might lack punch to some listeners. I'm not a basshead but listen to enough house/reggae/hip hop to want that 'thump' from time to time.
Some users likened the sound of Swans to Sennheiser headphones. I wasn't a big fan of the HD580's I had and replaced them with Grado SR225's, never regretted it. The A5's (to my ears) do seem to liken a comparison to the Grado sound signature (bright//forward sound) .. would I regret buying something compared to something I didn't enjoy in the past when I have what I like now?
Otherwise from that the sound impressions seem to be very very good. I've started listening to a lot more female vocalists and acoustic style music. The Swans seem perfect for that.
One major difference is flexibility. Swans offer one set of input/outputs. A5+ have 2 sets plus a line in. During the summer I grill/BBQ as much as possible in my free time and like taking the A5's in the backyard and plugging in the iPod to have some music. I use them on my desk now but before I had them as my TV speakers in my old apartment and had a Squeezebox connected to them. If you plan to use them in a similar setup no need to go to the back of the speaker and switch cables as needed. If you just need them for your computer then not an issue but having the flexibility there is nice if needed.
Minor difference is the warranty. Swan offers 1 year, Audioengine is 3 years. I've had my A5's for 5 years with no problems.
One category the Swans blow away the Audioengine is appearance. No contest in my opinion.
Now I'm left to wonder if I should try them out or not. I can use that money more wisely on reacquiring some AKG K701 which I've wanted to hear again after coming back to the site ....
Are there any Bay Area Head-Fi'ers who own the Swans who would be interested in meeting up to do a direct sound comparison?