Audioengine was formed 6 years ago out of a desire to bring reasonably-priced and great-sounding studio monitor speaker designs to the consumer audio market. The Audioengine team succeeded beyond their dreams with the Audioengine 5 powered loudspeaker, a wildly popular speaker for the computer audiophile generation.
Getting the speakers right, they moved on to DACs. The D2 24-bit Wireless Computer Interface is the flagship thus far and the subject of this review.
The D2 is a quality DAC transmitter and receiver pair. They allow you to transmit and control a digital audio signal from a source and receive it as either a digital or analog signal. The two small, beautifully made boxes contain all you need for true plug and play — transmitter, receiver, two power cables, USB cable and RCA cables. I had the system set up and running in five minutes. My weapons of choice? My reference system (fabaudio Model 1s, Audio Research pre and power, and Cardas and Transparent cabling) and my new MacBook Air running Apple Lossless files.
Audioengine’s paperwork suggests a break in will improve the sound. To my ears, they sounded damn good right out of the box and continued to do so over many hours of listening. The D2 needs no home network, passwords, syncing, etc. It’s really idiot proof.
The boxes are whisper quiet, including the precise Output Volume potentiometer. Two lights, Power and Pair, are on and away you go. I plugged the D2 Receiver into the Spare on my Audio Research SP9 Mk. III and the music sprang to life.
Up first was Steely Dan. Never a bass pounder, and with the bass a little shy in my very well damped music studio, Donald and Walter sounded somewhat treble heavy. But that’s par for the course, I remembered. Just for poops and giggles, I clicked on Salonen’s amazing DG Rite live from LA. The bass drum whacks had me smiling for their warmth and depth. Yes, the bass is there. Powerfully. And with break in, you may get some sub 50 Hz from the Dan in your room.
For more serious listening, I compared my two CDs of the Cleveland Orchestra’s star flutist, Joshua Smith, playing Bach Sonatas on splendid Delos CDs. My only criticism of these magnificent CDs was the slight bloom from the original acoustic that blurred some detail. The Audioengine D2s replicated the CD in the most wonderful fashion. I’ll report back (see Comments) when I convince my wife to do some ABX testing with Mr. Smith, file vs. disc. In the here and now, I can very much enjoy the sound through my fabulous fabaudios — yes, I forgot the source many times. As such, Audioengine’s maxim is living large in the digital domain. Music is alive and well, and from a computer!
Under the constant glare of lengthy review mode, the boxes did hint at some RF interference, although rarely. Both boxes were in the music studio, but the range can go much further. Also, no matter how hard they tried, some of the refinement of a 10K CD player eluded them. But at $599, they are a musical steal. The Burr Brown PCM1792A DAC left meat on the bones and offered a long and wide soundstage. Many inexpensive digital devices sound effective out of the box, but fatigue after a marriage. Not the D2s. No musical divorce is needed. They’ll hang in there with the most stellar company, and for that quality alone, the D2 deserves an Audiophilia Star. But add price and build, and you have a superb computer solution. Buy with utmost confidence.
Further information: Audioengine