Pros: Excellent build quality. Versatile all-in-one system. Great near-field imaging.
Since 2005 Audioengine have been making innovative audio gear. The company has released several award winning products and aim to "create products for the way people listen to music today with the look and feel of classic, old-school audio gear." Their newest products the HD6 wireless and HD3 wireless attempt to give consumers an all in one mini system that can play all of your music from any device, be that a computer, smartphone, streaming device or even turntable. Based in Austin, Texas they say
We design and build innovative audio gear that works seamlessly with all your favorite gear and streaming services. No matter how you connect and listen, we’ve got you covered.
So how do they perform? Today I'll be looking at the Audioengine HD3 wireless speakers. Let's see what they can do.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. I have no affiliation with the company and all observations and opinions are my own, based on my experience with the product. The HD3 wireless currently retails for $399 USD and can be purchased directly from the Audioengine website or Amazon.
When you open the HD3 box (which has a convenient handle on top for carrying) the first thing you're presented with is a couple of microfiber pouches with drawstrings sitting in a recessed layer of soft, white foam. Inside the pouches are all the included accessories and cables. The pouches themselves are of a nice quality and hint at a high quality product inside. It's a presentation I haven't seen before and I quite like it a lot. The speakers themselves are also shrouded in the same (albeit larger) microfiber pouches so you can be assured that the surfaces will be clean and unscratched when you first take them out. There's quite a lot packed into the little box, which is a good thing because the HD3 provides everything you need to get the system connected and running though despite the front mounted volume knob a remote still would have been appreciated. Let's take a look at what's inside:
HD3 powered (left) speaker
HD3 passive (right) speaker
Speaker wire (16AWG), 2 meters (~6.5 feet)
AC power cable
Mini-jack audio cable, 1.5 meters (~5 feet)
USB cable, 1.5 meters (~5 feet)
Microfiber speaker bags
Microfiber cable bag
Microfiber power supply bag
Product line brochure
Build and design
The HD3 comes in a choice of three colors: walnut, satin black and cherry. The unit I received is the cherry version. A wooden veneer covers the retro-styled speaker bodies giving a very nice, smooth finish to the surface. On the front is a detachable magnetic grill that's super easy to remove or attach. I chose to leave mine off to protect the drivers from dust but if you remove them it reveals the 2.75″ Kevlar woofers and 3/4” silk dome tweeters. Just under the grills is an aluminum trim with the audioengine branding and under that is the near full-width horizontal, front facing bass port.
At just under 18 cm/7" in height these are the perfect size for the desktop or a shelf and with the color choices and understated aesthetics should fit right in with your decor no matter where you place them.
The left speaker acts as master and the right as slave so all the business end is found on the left with the right only having the interconnect input ports. Things are a lot busier on the back of the left speaker which has:
Stereo inputs & outputs
Stereo mini-jack input
Micro USB input
Bass reduction switch
Power supply connection
Output to passive (right) speaker
On the left speaker's aluminum strip is the power and volume knob, headphone output and wireless pair button.
To think of these as mere speakers doesn't really do them justice as there's a whole lot more going on apart from the 30W peak per channel dual analog class A/B monolithic amplification. There's also the 24-bit PCM 5102 DAC that's been taken from the D1 and a headphone amplifier utilizing the OPA2134 low-noise opamp that provides 2-volt output making it powerful enough to drive a large variety of headphones.
The HD3 provides an abundance of options to connect, including Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, 3.5 mm stereo input, analog RCA input and USB. Also included is an analog output that you can use to connect an external subwoofer.
For most of my testing I used the USB connection from my computer and it's as simple as plug and play. I did find one issue where the HD3 would sometimes cut the first second of a song off when starting up from its idle state. Not a big deal but frustrating nonetheless.
For kicks I also connected my Arcam irDAC-II via the analog inputs and this worked without a hitch. This really is a versatile little system.
Of course the Bluetooth had to be tested as well and for this I connected with my Acoustic Research M20 DAP, Benjie T6 DAP and Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. Pairing is very simple and works flawlessly. The range is very good and I can move around the house without any breakup in the signal unless there's a significant wall in the way. With an unobstructed line of sight the range is rated at up to 30 meters.
It's important to note that the HD3 has a bass reduction switch which frees up the drivers a bit do provide more clarity and control in the mids. It's a handy feature to have if you want to hook up an external subwoofer and take some of the strain of the speakers but I also found the tonality more natural with the extra bass turned off, even if the sound does become thinner. I spent my time switching back and forth between the two modes but left the bass mode Off for most of the time because when it's on the speakers suffer a little from mid-bass bloat and can get a little messy in busy tracks.
Overall the HD3 has an energetic sound with an emphasis on the midrange. Imaging is very good for near field listening, which is what these are designed for, with vocals seeming to float up from the top of my computer's monitor. There's even a pretty good perception of depth that comes out of these little boxes.
With a frequency response of 65Hz-22kHz ±2.0dB it comes as no surprise that these don't produce a whole lot of bass but in a relatively small space there is enough of it there to get things rocking. Kick drums are nice and snappy and have good texture and it's really only the sub-bass that is a little underwhelming but that can be negated by adding an external subwoofer via the analog outputs. In Katatonia's "Leech" from Dead End Kings the HD3 punches along happily, especially in bass reduced mode.
The mids is where the focus of the HD3's sound lies so it should come as no surprise that this is where they really excel. The midrange is crystal clear and rich so naturally tracks like "What Am I to You?" by Norah Jones sound great with her voice rising up above the backing music. With the extra bass switched on there's sometimes significant bleed over into the mids which can become distracting but that's highly dependent on the type of music you're playing.
The silk dome tweeters give high notes a very nice timbre via the analog amplification and blend together well with the upper mids. During testing I didn't experience any harshness and treble sounds natural and not at all artificial. The HD3 strikes a perfect level balance in the highs, bringing energy, contour and airiness but never taking anything away from the rich midrange.
HD3's built-in headphone amp works really well in conjunction with the PCM 5102 DAC and can deliver up to 2.0V RMS which can easily drive all but the most demanding headphones. It doesn't sound as good as a high end dedicated headphone amp but for most people will be more than adequate for music, movies and games when they don't want to disturb others nearby.
For small spaces and near-field listening these speakers should definitely be able to put a smile on your face. They produce a big sound for such tiny speakers and are perfect for desktop use or for a small sized room but they really shine when you're up close and can appreciate their imaging and soundstage. At $399 they are by no means cheap and some might be turned away by the price, especially if they get to see the diminutive size in person. However when you consider that the system also provides a very capable DAC, powerful headphone amplifier, aptX Bluetooth and several other connection options and the ability to connect a separate subwoofer it all starts to make sense. These make regular computer speakers look and sound like cheap toys in comparison. On top of all that they also look pretty darn awesome! If you're looking for an all-in-one solution for your desktop the Audioengine HD3 is currently one of the best options available.