Audioengine A5+ Speaker Upgrades

  1. cssarrow
    Greetings Head-Fi-ers!
    Here is a simple mini guide for squeezing a little more out of the Audioengine A5+ (should also apply to the A5).
    Section 1: Replacing Chengx & Yihcon Capacitors on Main PCB
    Section 2: Replacing Unbranded Capacitor/Resistor on Crossover PCB
    Section 3Bypass Polymer and Ceramic Capacitors for Cleaner Signal Path
    Section 4: Improving Dampening Material for Housing & Wires
    Section 5: Finish Connecting All Wires to Inputs & Outputs
    Section 6: Sound Quality Review
    I've decided to go with Panasonic capacitors as my replacement, but other brands should work just as well.
    Here is a collection of suppliers that others and I have found to work well.
    They are not in any way, ordered as a hierarchy chart.
    • Nichicon
    • Nippon / United Chemi-Con
    • Panasonic
    • Rubycon
    • Sanyo
    • Mallory
    A5+ Amplifier PCB Capacitor's List:
    I will not be held liable if you end up messing up your speakers.
    Medium End Upgrade
    (2) Purple: Nichicon KG "Gold Tune" Type II 4700uF 35V 22mmx45mm (Type III is better, however hard to find and expensive)
    (4) Violet: Panasonic FR 22uF 50V 5mmx11mm
    (6) Gray: Nichicon Muse KZ 100uF 25V 10mmx16mm
    (1) Maroon: Nichicon Muse KZ 470uF 25V 16mmx25mm
    (5) Orange: Panasonic FR 1000uF 25V 10mmx25mm
    (1) Brown: Panasonic FR 220uF 16V 6.3mmx11.2mm
    (2) Green: Panasonic FR 47uF 63V 6.3mmx11mm(35V was not available, higher volt is fine, just more expensive at times)
    Nichicon KG Type II was picked due to cheaper cost and more accessible.
    Nichicon Muse KZ was picked due to the fact that it's a capacitor for audio equipment and is cheaper than most other ones.
    Panasonic FR was picked due to it's low ESR, high ripple current, and slim size to fit on this particular pcb (Panasonic FR > FM > FC)
    Higher End Upgrade:
    (2) Purple: Nichicon KG "Super Through" Type III 4700uF 35V 30mmx50mm (Do not exceed 30mm diameter)
    (6) Gray: Elna Silmic II 100uF 25V 10mmx16mm (Elna Cerafine or Rubycon Black Gate works too)
    (1) Maroon: Elna Silmic II 470uF 25V 16mmx25mm (Elna Cerafine or Rubycon Black Gate works too)
    I do not recommend going over the sizes that i supplied, which for the pcb, is already oversized, but will fit.
    You can choose to replace the Panasonic FR, It is ultimately up to you.
    SECTION 1: (Replacing Chengx & Yihcon Capacitors on Main PCB)

    Stock PCB:
    Layout PCB:
    Replaced With:
    Nichicon KG "Gold Tune" Type II 4700uF 35V 22mmx45mm
    Nichicon Muse KZ 100uF 25V 10mmx16mm
    Nichicon Muse KZ 470uF 25V 16mmx25mm
    Panasonic FR Capacitors
    Navships's Silver Plated OFC Hookup Wire 18AWG (Navship is an ebay seller for hookup wires)
    Front Side Angle
    Left Side Angle
    After: (Pictures shows dual 22AWG Wires, which i am not currently using) [18AWG SPOFC]
    Front Side Angle
    Back Side Angle
    Left Side Angle
    Right Side Angle
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    A5+ Crossover Capacitor & Resistor Upgrade:
    SECTION 2:
    (Replacing Unbranded Capacitor/Resistor on Crossover PCB)
    Stock Capacitors (4.7uF, 8.2uF, and 22uF at 100VT) (You need to buy two of each, each for each speaker)

    Stock Resistor: 7W3R3J (You need to buy two of each, each for each speaker)


    Replacement Capacitors: Mundorf MKP Series Film Capacitors
    4.7uF 250V 19mm x 28mm
    8.2uF 250V 22mm x 33mm
    22uF 250V 29mm x 44mm

    Replacement Resistor: Mundorf M-Resist Supreme Resistor
    3R3 20 Watt,  Wirewound, Non-Inductive, +-2% 11mm x 51mm

    Replacement Wire: Silver Plated OFC Hookup Wire 18AWG

    Left Speaker Crossover
    How to remove the capacitorscut the leads, use flat screwdriver to peel it off the epoxy, clamp leftover leads with tool, solder and pull off.

    Front Side Angle

    Back Side Angle

    Left Side Angle

    Right Side Angle

    Under Side Angle
    Right Speaker Crossover
    Front Side Angle

    Back Side Angle

    Left Side Angle

    Right Side Angle

    Under Side Angle
    (A5+ is now straight wired and soldered to tweeter & woofer, no more multiple crimp connectors in between degrading conduction [audio quality])


    A5+ Bypass Polymer and Ceramic Coupling Capacitors:
    SECTION 3:
     (Bypass with wire, replace with Elna Silmic II electrolytic capacitors)
    (Input/output capacitor & resistors)
    (Brief Layout)

    Both Stock Ceramic and Polymer Capacitors are 10uF 25V.

    Bypass: (Doing it)
    4 Ceramic Capacitors & 2 Ceramic Capacitors are bypassed with a wire. (C9/C10/C7/C8/C18/C17)
    2 Polymer Capacitors are bypassed with a wire. (C39/C40)

    NOTE: You do NOT need to remove the capacitors that you are bypassing. Just simply use a wire from point A to point B.
    I chose to remove mine. This may or may not apply to you.


    Before Removal: How to remove polymer capacitors
    Removal Begins: (wet soldering iron tip, touch tip to joint, with finger or clamp, pull slightly to opposite side)

    Removal Finished: (Be careful, don't force it too hard, the pcb leads will rip off)

    Capacitors Removed:

    Bypass wire: (Leftover 16AWG SPOFC)

    Cut Wire: (strip wire, tin wire with solder, and cut into 4mm bits)

    Bypass Finished:
    Top View:

    Front View:

    Left Side View:
    Upgrade: (Improving signal coupling capacitors)
    2 Polymer Capacitors are replaced with 4 Elna Silmic II 22uF 25VDC Electrolytic Capacitors (C4/C21)
    2 Polymer Capacitors are replaced with 2 Elna Silmic II 22uF 25VDC Electrolytic Capacitors (C3/C22)

    Making two Polar Capacitors, Bi-Polar:
    Keeping Leads/Legs Shot Before Soldering: (Pre-Out)
    Don't make it overly short
    Adding Elna Silmic II Polar Capacitors: (Pre-Output)
    Place polar capacitors to slot C21 and C22 on the pcb, and solder with the correct polarity.
    These spots are located at the bottom right of the board vertically to one another.
    I decided to bypass mine with a wire instead as there is no DC current measured (in the millivolts) which would be beneficiary in providing better sonics.
    Note: C3 & C4 requires bipolar capacitors for future protection against DC voltages so it's best to have capacitors there.
    Adding Elna Silmic II Bi-Polar Capacitors: (Amplifier Coupling/Input)
    Test First before using Hot Glue.
    Use generous amount until they no longer wobble.

    A5+ Dampening Material Upgrade:
    SECTION 4:
     (Improving Bass with Dampening Material [Housing & Foam for wires])

    Products Chosen:
    Open Cell Foam For Housing: (Dampening Material)
    Defraction Ring For Tweeter: (Dampening Material)
    Adhesive: (DAP Alex Plus Acrylic Latex Caulk Plus Silicone)
    Supplies(acoustic foam not shown)
    Filling The Gaps:
    Dampening Left Speaker:
    Semi-Dampening Right Crossover​
    Dampening Right Speaker:
    Optional: (Tweeter Dampening)
    A5+ Finalization Stage:
    SECTION 5:
     (Finish Connecting Wires To All Input & Outputs)

    (Improving wire quality from mini pcb to main pcb carrying input/out signal)
    1. crimp/dupont connectors are eliminated, straight solder (signal improvement)
    2. Improved wire quality (signal improvement)
    3. Amplifier IC's stock thermal paste changed to Prolimatech PK-3 (thermal improvement)
    4. Twisted wires lower electromagnetic interference (signal improvement)
    • Solder or use crimps to connect the wires to Woofer & Tweeter
    • Add Hot Glue if using solder, to help hold the soldered areas in place (heat will loosen the joints).
    • Put Woofer in, screw in the 4 screws.
    • Fill Speaker Ring & Tweeter Cup with a generous amount of Silicone Caulk (or alternative adhesive), put on and push down, whip away excess.
    Give it a day or two to dry.
    1. This will help dampen the cup/ring/woofer from vibrations, silicone is very flexible and will not crack, so continuous *loud* music playbacks will not hurt the adhesive nor distort your music.
    FINAL RESULTS: (painted black gloss + extra ferro-fluid for tweeter magnets)
    A5+ Sound Quality Review:
    SECTION 6:
    (Pros and Cons)

    Let the testing begin!
    May the odds be ever in your favor!
    Before conducting this test, i would like to thank some people for making this mod possible.​

    1. Transworld  (XtremePlace) - for his electrolytic capacitor/wire/film capacitor/resistor/dampening upgrade IDEAS
    2. Handy Ray (Head-Fi) & Maxx_Power (diyAudio). - for his bypass/decoupling/coupling/dampening/adhesive upgrade IDEAS
    ​Steve (Handy Ray/Maxx_Power) has been the biggest contributor to this mod, so if there's anyone to thank, it'd be him
    Speakers: Audioengine A5+ on DRUGS
    DAC: NuForce DAC-100, ASUS Essence One "Muses" Edition (Modded), and Musical Fidelity M1
    C7 Cable: Audioengine & Artemis Cables Power Cable
    RCA Cable: Artemis Cables "Silver Bow" (Pure Silver) w/ Valab "Early Bird" Rhodium Plugs
    Speaker Cable: Silver Plated OCC 24AWG Wires in Quad Litz soldered to CMC Silver Plated Pure Copper Spades.
    Speakers are wall mounted with Pinpoint AM-40B/B-Tech BT77 mounting sets.
    They are 8 feet away from one another, horizontally, and 4FT from the ground.
    Audio files are mainly 16bit/44.1khz with a few 24bit/96khz tossed into the mix.
    Most of the tests are conducted with ZERO loss FLAC Files.
    I will be using a iPhone 5 for pre-testing purposes (Burn in).
    I've owned Audioengine speakers for nearly 3 years now,
    Primarily started with the A5 until experiencing driver & tweeter noise, along with more pesky ones such as the "autosleep function" kicking in when music is being streamed.
    From those various issues, i was able to RMA the speakers and receive a free upgrade to A5+ thanks to Marshall from Audioengine.
    The original A5 had a good overall sound for the price.
    Good punchy bass, sound separation, fast transient response from the kevlar woofers, treble that rolls off at the right moment, and that "Fun" sound.
    When comparing the A5+ to the A5, since i've had it for years, i could tell the differences spot on.
    First thing i noticed with the A5+ versus the A5 was the clarity and bass response.
    The new horizontal intake from the back of the A5+ seems to have helped it improve on bass punch impact.
    Now being rearranged differently, the A5+ also gained in clarity and micro-detail perhaps from the intake modifications or now that there is more room on the left side speaker due to the heat-sink being enlarged and outside of the enclosure.
    Besides those two key improvements, i haven't really found any differences between the A5+ & A5, however just without the autosleep (now being manually controlled with remote) feature and tweeter noise now gone, i would have gladly paid $100 more for it.
    After the mod/upgrade, there is no longer just a few key improvements like with the A5 > A5+.
    There were a series of improvements that i've noticed with the A5+ after the mod was conducted.
    They were:
    1. Bass/Treble/Transient Response
    2. Clarity
    3. Detail/Micro-detail
    4. Vocals
    5. Midrange
    6. Transparency/Neutrality
    7. Sound Stage
    8. Instrument/Vocal Separation (Imaging)
    Yes, i noticed this within the first 5 minutes of playing a 16bit/44.1Khz FLAC file (Pop Music).
    There were so many improvements that actually hit my sweet spot, i was flabbergasted.
    Let's start from the top.
    BASS was probably the largest improvement that i've had the joy of hearing.
    Being a fan of mostly hiphop/pop and all music upbeat, it nailed my sweet spot hard with a 50-caliber round.
    Before the A5+, the A5 was punchy, but not enough.
    With the A5+, the punch was there, but there was no impact that my 6th sense could pick up.
    Now with the upgrades, let me just say, my lungs tremble when i hear the bass response.
    The transient response from the driver sure did a large ordeal for the bass after the upgrades had been done.
    I cannot stretch this matter far enough, as i've never truly understood "impact", especially in headphones until i had auditioned the Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3.
    For speaker impact, i was sure, this was it.
    The transitions of the treble were heightened and it's peaked took much longer before it smoothed out.
    Perhaps because of this, did it play a roll into making the sound more neutral.
    CLARITY/DETAIL improved significantly.
    There were more micro-details when instruments were being played, end strokes vibration noises can now be somewhat heard, unique voices such as Amy Winehouse and other raspy artists now had more definition to their vocal character. The whole panoptic detail i felt was overall improved.
    Definition for instruments, computer generated sounds, and vocals was like going from a 720P movie to a 1080P.
    I am addressing these four things at once, as i feel they belong/benefit with one another.
    The speakers are put exactly to where they were before mods, the same place they were years ago, and yet, i feel as if the noise floor has lowered tremendously and that there was an expansion in the sound stage.
    The sound stage widened and depth, blooming.
    Imaging before the upgrades had been done made the vocals sound very narrow, as if there was a blank space somewhere in orbit between the vocal and background instruments/generated sounds.
    Before i was able to sit between the speakers and hear vocal from the center, but a little far off between that point and coming to the speaker, there was no dynamic/expansive sound going towards that way that can be heard.
    The upgrade expanded/stretched out the vocal, and with the help of clarity/detail, was i able to feel more of what the singer wanted me to hear, and because of that, the mid range was improved (being easily heard unlike before).
    The best way to simplify this is that now there is a more full sound coming from the speakers.
    You can say before was like 2D circle, and now it is a 3D sphere.

    All of the above may have contributed to making these speakers sound like neutral studio monitors.
    I don't feel as though the bass response has helped in this matter for neutrality, but does so for keeping these speakers "Fun".
    The sound now is less electronic and more analog.
    Everything hits, and when it does, it feels genuine.
    Now i could see why people eventually move on to more neutral sounding speakers (monitors).
    1. Time
    2. Money
    3. Health (smoke from soldering will affect your health)
    4. Breakage (possibility of breaking your speakers if not done correctly)
    In the end, every upgrade that was made, had the attribute in which provided for me, an improved sound signature.
    Everything new was more pleasant sounding than the old.
    It was like transitioning from Fun Speakers to Neutral Monitors while still keeping most of the Fun.
    Even with the new impactful punchy bass response that is now available, to me, it still sounds better when paired with a sub-woofer that is capable of hitting the 30-80hz region.
    Just a little more sub-bass would be perfect.
  3. KimLaroux
    Haha, sorry but I can't help but find this one funny. [​IMG]
    I suppose we could get into quite a discussion if we were to define "audiophile properties" in capacitors. It's just bothersome that those brands don't publish specs in their datasheet...
    Considering the other brands do not publish those specifications, how did you come to this conclusion?
    I'd be quite shocked, in all honesty, if "audiophile" capacitors from Elna and Nichikon did not have lower ESR and higher ripple current than the Panasonic. Though the fact that they don't publish these values kinda makes you wonder...
  4. cssarrow
  5. KimLaroux
    Yeah many manufacturers hide the part # on chips. Some even drop black epoxy on them so we don't see.
    It's lame, really. There's so much marketing nonsense surrounding "hi-fi" and "audiophile" hardware that publishing objective measurements would limit them in their claims... so they don't. Just. Lame.
    I'm not familiar with the A5, but is this a passive crossover on the "behind tweeter PCB"? I thought those were active monitors. *looks at their website* Oh yeah, they do market them as powered speakers... my bad.
    Do you plan on upgrading the crossover? It seems to me as this would have greater effect on sound quality. And the options are endless. But then I suppose it would be silly do buy caps with individual price higher than the speakers themselves...
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  7. KimLaroux
    The "tweeter capacitors" are part of what's called the crossover.
    Active monitors have an electronic crossover before the amplifiers. This divides the signal in two, which then goes trough a dual stereo amplifier. One amp for the woofers and one for the tweeter. Active monitors therefore don't have the large capacitors, resistors and coils that make up a crossover.
    Mundorf aren't the most expensive. They are reasonably priced compared to other brands. If you wanted to spend 500$ per cap, you'd still have many options to chose from. But hey, they are audiophile approved. =D
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  9. cssarrow
    Anyone know a good place to purchase speaker dampening material and foam for wires?
  10. KimLaroux
    I see that you are planning on replacing ceramic capacitors with MKP types. If the ceramic capacitors were used for power decoupling, then changing them for MKP might not be a good idea. In fact, in may me worse. Ceramic capacitors have better performances than MKP for power decoupling.
    Also, if you want more people to read this thread, you should add a new post when you edit the original posts. Simply editing will not make the thread show up in subscriptions feeds, and it won't bump it up. In fact, I thought you made no progress because of this. The only reason I'm here now is because your last post made the thread show up in my subscription...
    Edited to remove picture from quote.
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  12. KimLaroux
    I am not knowledgeable enough to tell if MKS or FKS would be a better choice. I just know, from reading it many times from different sources, that a small value ceramic performs better than film for power decoupling. But when you consider the many technologies used in film capacitors, I would not be surprised to see a film perform better. Going for ceramic is just the rule of thumb.
    This is why it's good to expose your thread while you're brainstorming. It's a good way to get the attention of more people, which raises the probability of a knowledgeable person giving better advice. [​IMG]
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  14. KimLaroux
    Maybe you could look at the datasheet for the chip amplifiers. Can you tell me their part number? I'm curious what the datasheet recommends.
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