Refined, pleasant and well-designed speakers. Tested at $699 By What Hi-Fi? published May 08, 2017
Shown with optional stands
If it wasn’t for AudioEngine dabbling in everything from passive speakers to Bluetooth receivers, you could reasonably assume that its name was dreamt up by The Cheesecake Factory or Muffin Mix school of literal branding.
The ‘engine’ driving its tenth anniversary flagship powered speakers, the HD6 Wirelesses, takes the form of a 50W Class A/B amplifier. This is housed in the left-hand speaker, driving its 14cm Kevlar mid/bass and 25mm silk tweeter.
The signal for the right channel is then fed to the passive right speaker through a banana plug-terminated cable – the ‘wireless’ name shouldn’t be taken too literally here – and you have two thirds of a system in just two boxes.
The debate between powered and passive speakers is push and pull, however, as systems of separates are more flexible when it comes to upgrading. The AudioEngines put up a good fight to sway buyers to the powered side.
While optical, RCA and 3.5mm inputs are at our disposal, we find ourselves swayed by the HD6 Wireless’ name and begin with Bluetooth. This requires screwing the correct antennae into the left speaker’s back panel and pressing the nearby button to initiate pairing.
It’s hardly a taxing procedure, and within seconds we’re reminded of the performance of the brand’s A5+ speakers; these AudioEngines are also quick on their toes, engagingly subtle and dynamically expressive.
Mids are particularly eloquent, with guitar plucking drenched in natural reverb, and weight well distributed to piano keys.
The HD6's handle folky instrumentation and vocals extremely well. It sounds bold and focused, yet full of intimacy.
We’re impressed by the AudioEngine’s resilience to keep moving dynamically – from enthused blows to softer prolonged draws, the varying intensity of harmonica playing is forever fluctuating – and by how their rendition remains faithful as we then stream from Spotify.
Each textured element finds its own spot in the soundstage, with the space, scale and almost trifle-like layering allowing them to cohabit with a sense of coherent order. That sense of refinement extends to the treble, so any crashing percussion is well judged too.
Their presentation isn’t obsessed with grabbing you immediately, but instead eases you into music and uses their precise, insightful nature and unfolding subtlety to keep you there.
But as if just out of finishing school, the HD6 Wirelesses can come across a little too polite and disciplined, lacking some of the fire that make tracks sound more appropriately impassioned.
More concerned with precise footing than energy, the HD6s have a tendency to underplay the track’s backbeat drum strikes, while the rich syncopated rhythms don’t charge along with the attack and punch its radiant tempo requires.
We want to be startled out of our seats by the intro of SBTRKT’s Wildfire, like so many times before, but the AudioEngine’s low-end kick isn’t quite up to the task.
Making use of the RCA output to add an external subwoofer helps matters by bringing more bass, although the socket can also be used to attach an Audioengine wireless adapter for enabling streaming to other Audioengine systems.
Think of the typical size of standmounts, and then of desktop speakers, and the HD6 Wirelesses fall somewhere in between – a size of speaker that could just as easily flank a telly on dedicated speaker stands as bookend a bedroom shelf.
They’ve the sonic versatility to give you free reign too, sounding clean and balanced near or far from walls.
A desktop-friendly rubber pad underneath shows that Audioengine has practicality in mind, as does the inclusion of a volume dial on the bottom metal strip of the left speaker.
Functional and fancy, the brand has also taken into account any vainness on your part. While the HD6 Wirelesses have detachable magnetic speaker grilles, their combination of aluminium-framed drivers, and choices of satin black paint, cherry wood veneer or walnut wood veneer finish make them speakers to be seen as well as heard.
There’s a much more ‘hi-fi’ look and feel to the cabinets than the brand’s more modishly simplistic A2+ and A5+ powered models. It seems only fitting that the aluminium remote is both pretty and practical, too.
The five-star A5+ speakers (and the even smaller A2+) have been at the forefront of the US brand’s powered speaker campaign for some years, and the addition of standmounts shows just how serious it is about furthering its stature in this field.
Ironically, the HD6 Wirelesses need to fire up the sonic engine a little more to get us tapping away as feverishly as some rivals do, but otherwise these refined, pleasant-sounding and well-designed speakers are a credit to the brand.
Anyone starting a system from scratch now has even more choice to grapple with.