A Guide to Powered Speakers (Updated)

One of the fastest growing trends in music listening is to playback high resolution music files from a PC, Mac or any iDevice like an iPod, iPhone or iPad. The normal place to listen to these is “on the move” or in your study or bedroom. Customers soon learned that the cheap plastic “computer speakers” did not do justice to these HD sound files – or good quality Mp3 for that matter. So they were looking for something better.  There is just not enough room to accommodate a traditional HiFi system in such places so enter powered speakers – simply put, a speaker with an amplifier built in (aka active speakers).
Some turned to the professional powered monitor market but their products are too expensive and do not have the right connections at the back.

The first company to embrace this new market was Audioengine from USA with their A5 speakers, about 2 years ago and that took the world by storm and its popularity spread like wild fire. We were the first in NZ to represent their product line. Audioengine soon released an even smaller, super quality powered speaker the A2. They now have updated the A5 to the A5+ after listening to customer’s feedback adding a remote and fine tuning the sound.

The traditional speaker companies started to climb on the band wagon as well, especially the last 6 months. We looked at them and only chose those products that add something else to this new exciting market. In this blog I tried to capture the pros and cons of each of these new products to help you make and informed decision to what is best for you and your application.  These are my personal thoughts after playing and experimenting with these new products.

Mission Pulse

PROS:

Mission Pulse

  • Built in DAC with USB input so you can extract the sound in digital from direct from your PC’s hard drive and skip the poor sound card and the noisy interior of the PC.
  • Small size so ideal for limited space
  • Excellent build quality
  • Big sound from a small speaker
  • Nicely designed remote
CONS:
  • Lacks some of the treble finesse and openess of the others here
  • Can’t add a sub

SUMMARY
The Mission Pulse will fit right in with any modern decor, these are a stylish pair of speakers that have had a lot of thought gone into them. As long as you don’t want to play really loud levels, Pulse is an excellent option for the study or office. Find out more

Q Acoustics BT3

q-bt3_redThis is the latest powered speaker we have added and is currently our reference set simply because it has basically everything in a power speaker set you will ever need and it leads the pack in so many ways.

PROS:

  • Stunning modern looks with soften edges
  • Available in 3 distinctive colours
  • True HiFi sound as it’s designed and built by a company that produce some of the best awarded stand mount speakers in the industry.
  • The sound is clean and clear with rich midrange and tight bass.
  • Can be played loud without any distortion.
  • Great connectivity with lots of inputs including Wireless Bluetooth

CONS:

  • No USB input (however most new computers have optical out)

SUMMARY

If you like pedigree, style and Hi-Fi sound quality plus need wireless streaming then this is for you. In-fact if you want all this in one package this is your only choice, it will not disappoint!  Find out more

Jamo P345

PROS:Jamo P345
  • Medium size can fit everywhere
  • This is the only set that comes with dedicated table stands and wall brackets that can tilt any direction.
  • Can be use outside under eaves out of direct rain
  • Sounds clean and clear with surprisingly good bass
  • Neat looks in both matt black and matt white finish
  • USB power port so ready for wireless music streaming via USB dongles
CONS:
  • No remote
  • Limited inputs
  • No DAC
  • Limited power so will only fill a small room like a study or bedroom
  • Can’t remove the grills (might be important to some)
SUMMARY

If you want a powered speaker with many placement options like on stands or on the wall or need them outside under eaves then this is your answer ..all options brackets included. Find out more

Audioengine A2+

PROS:

Audioengine A2

  • The cheapest quality powered speakers on the market.
    Cute looks, will appeal to everybody that likes small and beautiful.
  • The smallest of the lot thus ideal for your PC in you study or if you have limited space
  • Built in DAC
  • The sound is amazing for its size. I have not heard better this size full stop.
  • All accessories like cables etc included
CONS:
  • Limited bass, impossible to produce deep bass at this small size
  • The speaker binding posts can not take banana plugs
  • No grills
SUMMARY

If you want something small and neat for your PC and your budget is tight then this is the answer. You can almost buy them just for their cuteness alone. Find out more

JAMO P102 Sub/satellite System

PROS:Jamo P102
  • This is the only powered sub/sat system we have. Its satellites are tiny, can fit in the palm of your hand and the sub is one of the smallest in the world but with real grunt
  • Stunning looks with round edges, comes in both gloss black and gloss white
  • Small footprint but with LARGE sound… the LARGEST sound of them all
  • The sound is clean and clear with deep tight bass
  • Heaps of inputs
  • Built in Dac with two digital inputs one optical for your TV or PC and one coax for your Bluray player for instance
  • USB power port so ready for wireless music streaming via USB dongles
  • Sats comes with nice table stands to tilt them towards your ears
  • RF Remote that can even works through walls!
CONS:
  • Midrange slightly recessed (bettered by the P404)
  • Can’t remove the grills (might be important to some)
SUMMARY
If you like to “hide” your speakers to get that ultimate minimalist look but still need music or movies with power and excitement. With the best bass of them all and if you want to control all this from another room as well then the Jamo P102 is your answer. Find out more

Jamo P404

PROS:Jamo P404
  • Large sound clean and clear tops and tight bass
  • Heaps of inputs
  • Built in Dac with two Optical inputs so ideal for your PC and TV
  • USB power port so ready for wireless music streaming via USB dongles
  • Remote with the most functions of them all even bass and treble adjustments
CONS:
  • Can’t remove the grills easily (might be important to some)
  • Dry sound that can fatigue after long listening
SUMMARY

If you like style and class and want to listen to your music critically and like full control to adjust the sound to your taste from the comfort of your chair then the Jamo P404 is your answer. Find out more

Audioengine A5+

PROS:
  • The original audiophile PC powered speakers and still one of the best
  • Fantastic value for money
  • Great full bodied warm sound and powerful enough to fill a big room
  • Amazing bass for such a size speaker
  • Has variable preamp outputs to drive any powered sub, like the S8 sub
  • USB power port so ready for wireless music streaming via USB dongles
  • Remote to control volume, mute and on/off
  • All accessories like cables etc included
CONS:
  • Sound is on the warm side and might not be for some that like a detailed clear sound
  • No digital inputs
  • A bit large for some applications like in a study or bedroom with limited desk space
  • No grills

SUMMARY

If you want rich, warm, bass driven sound and want to fill a big room then this is the answer. Find out more

If you are in Auckland, you can always drop by for an audition too, just phone ahead to arrange a time. As you see we have most of the models on demo, these two photos also show the clear differences in size between each model.

powered speakers

Powered Speakers from Left:

Audioengine A2, Cambridge Audio SLA25 (Discontinued), Jamo P404, Audioengine A5+, Paradigm A2 (Discontinued).

I hope this helps you choose the right model for you, as always we are happy to help if you have any further questions?

Regards

Tiens

PS: Here’s a quick spec comparison that you might find useful

Powered Speaker Feature Comparison
Model A2 A2+ A5+ Pulse P345 P404 P102 BT3
Tweeter 1″ 1″ 1″ 1″ 1″ 1″
Bass Driver 2.75″ 5″ 3″ + 2x 3″ 4″ 5.5″ 6.5″ (sub) 4″
Power 15w 15w 50w 30w 15w 30w 60w 50w
L+R RCA input Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
L+R RCA output No No Yes No No No No No
3.5mm input Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
3.5mm output No No No No Yes No No No
Optical input No No No No No Yes Yes Yes
Coax input No No No No No No Yes No
USB input No No No Yes No No No No
Sub out No* No* Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Internal DAC No Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth No No No No No No No Yes
USB Power No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
Remote No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes