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Old 6th July 2012, 4:01 PM   #1
spAm^bOy Thread Starter
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Default Review: Audioengine A5 vs. Aktimate Mini

Hi guys

I recently bought a pair of Aktimate Minis and tested them against the Audioengine A5s which I also own.

I've put together the review below for anyone wanting a comparison between these two popular speakers. I haven't bothered including photos or specifications because these can easily be found via a Google search. Instead I've focused on how the Minis sound compared to the A5s. Hopefully someone finds it helpful.



Background

I've been a happy Audioengine A5 owner for the past few years. They've sounded great being fed from an Auzen Forte sound card for music and games, and a Panasonic DVD-S97 for movies and cds. Recently my Forte threw a sound card tanty and decided to stop working, so I replaced it with a Xonar D2 that I picked up on eBay for $90. Great card by the way.

I was browsing eBay recently and came across a pair of ex-demo Aktimate Minis for $330 delivered. I thought about it for a few days, and after being assured by the seller they were in perfect condition, decided to take the plunge and see what all the fuss was about.

I'm no audiophile (or any other word ending in phile ) but I’ve always been fussy about sound quality. I also realise that in the world of audio, there’s always a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of cost versus performance, and that beyond a certain price point, the law of diminishing returns becomes apparent.


Testing

Testing was fairly simple. I didn’t perform any double-blind ABX tests or any such wankery. I simply setup both pairs of speakers side-by-side, matched their volumes as closely as I could and then threw a bunch of source material at them (swapping between speakers as quickly as I could) via a number of sources, including the Xonar D2 sound card, Sony NWZ series mp3 player, and the highly regarded Panasonic DVD-S97 dvd player.


Build quality

In a word, excellent. The Minis’ cabinets are solid and the piano gloss white finish is superb - photos don't do it justice. In fact photos made them appear somewhat plasticy and cheap but they’re actually quite attractive in the flesh. I'd put the Minis and A5s on par for build quality, both offering excellent construction and finish at this price point. The Minis are roughly the same width as the A5s but are noticeably taller. The amp is designed by Mike Creek of Creek Audio, and speakers are courtesy of British based loudspeaker manufacturer, Epos. Quality stuff under the hood indeed.

One minor annoyance with the A5s is that they don’t appear to accept a standard size banana plug for speaker wire, meaning I can’t use my home-made speaker cables with them, instead having to use the supplied speaker wire. The Minis on the other hand do accept a standard banana plug. I'm sure the A5’s supplied speaker wire drives them just fine but being able to use my own speaker cables with the Minis is nice, even if only for the placebo effect it probably brings.

Another slightly more annoying ‘feature’ of the A5s is the pop the amp makes when turning them off. Turning the volume down and unplugging the source from the active speaker doesn’t prevent this from happening. I'm not sure it does any damage to the speakers, but it's still an unpleasant sound. Conversely, the Minis don't pop at all when turning them off.


Sound quality

So they look good and use quality components but how do they sound? Drum roll...Amazing. The Aktimates exceeded my expectations the moment I turned them on. I set them up right next to my A5s and AB tested them using the same source and the same material, including Dave Mathews Band, Metallica, John Mayer, Lady Gaga, Jeff Buckley, Sting, Eminem and Paul Oakenfold to name a few.

Bass

I thought the A5s' bass was impressive but the Minis seem to have the same quantity of bass, but trump the A5s with quality. Initially I thought the Minis didn't extend as low as the A5s but I quickly realised the added clarity in the bottom end was confusing my ears into thinking there was less bass. The A5s have a mid-bass hump that can make the low end feel a little uncontrolled and harder to distinguish bass notes.

The Minis don’t seem to emphasis bass, but rather reproduce what the engineer intended. So where a recording is a little thin on bass, that’s how they sound. Conversely, where a recording sounds thick and weighty, that’s how the Minis sound.

I'm perfectly satisfied with the Minis’ bass and for now, have no desire to add a sub. Even hip hop and dance music sounds weighty with plenty of impact and little hint of distortion, even at louder volumes. However If the Minis were relegated to a larger room as main speakers in a home theatre setup, or my preferred genre of music was hip hop or dance, I’d be inclined to add a sub.

Mids

The Minis’ mids are just ‘right’ – not recessed and not forward. Vocals sound clear and natural, sitting well in the mix. Guitars sound tight and full with plenty of crunch, and drums sound tight and punchy, with snare drums sounding natural and with plenty of crack. I tend to focus on drum sounds when listening to music because I’m a ‘professional’ drummer (I get paid to play in a band). I digress.

Voices in movies are crystal clear and sound very natural. A direct comparison left me feeling that voices sound a little nasal through the A5s and I often found myself EQ’ing the mids on my PC to make voices a little easier to hear.

Treble

On paper, the A5s appear technically superior to the minis with their silk dome tweeter, but after extensively AB testing the two, I found the A5's treble to be a little too rolled-off for my tastes and often resorted to EQ'ing the higher frequencies to compensate. The tweeter on the Minis is one of their most impressive features. The highs are crystal clear without being forward or sibilant. Cymbals sound explosive, detailed and realistic, and well produced pop music such as Lady Gaga, sounds amazing with all the intricate layered synth sounds. Overall I feel the Minis have clearer and more detailed treble than the A5s.



Final thoughts

Integration between the Minis’ 5.25" Epos driver and 1" aluminium tweeter is flawless. No one frequency stands out or appears to be enhanced significantly. The sound is very smooth and “Hi-Fi”, or as I prefer to describe it, musical. No matter what you throw at them – Rock, Hip Hop, Dance music, movies or games, the Minis are an enjoyable listen. I once owned a pair of Monitor Audio RS1 bookshelf speakers (nearly $1000) and a Rotel stereo amp (around $500 second hand), and the Minis sound more musical and more engaging.

Make no mistake, the A5s are a good speaker and represent excellent value for money. I was happy with them for several years. However after having had the opportunity to compare them back-to-back with the Minis, to my ears the Minis are better in every way. I’ve therefore decided to keep the Minis and sell the A5s.

The Minis sound so good that I can’t really imagine anything sounding better, without having to spend significantly more than their retail price *cough* diminishing returns. They really do represent incredible value.

If you are on the fence about buying these speakers, jump. Life is short. Sacrifice that morning latte and start drinking instant. Stretch your haircuts out to every 3 months. Sell naked photos of your girlfriend on the internet – do what you have to. Simply put, if you can afford them, buy them.
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Last edited by spAm^bOy; 20th July 2012 at 1:08 PM.
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Old 6th July 2012, 7:29 PM   #2
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Extensive review... Well done..
Will love one myself... I wonder how it will compare to Swann M200Mk3
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Old 7th July 2012, 9:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spAm^bOy View Post
Hi guys

I recently bought a pair of Aktimate Minis and tested them against the Audioengine A5s which I also own.

I've put together the review below for anyone wanting a comparison between these two popular speakers. I haven't bothered including photos or specifications because these can easily be found via a Google search. Instead I've focused on how the Minis sound compared to the A5s. Hopefully someone finds it helpful.

...

Final thoughts

Integration between the Minis’ 5.25" Epos driver and 1" aluminium tweeter is flawless. No one frequency stands out or appears to be enhanced significantly. The sound is very smooth and “Hi-Fi”, or as I prefer to describe it, musical. No matter what you throw at them – Rock, Hip Hop, Dance music, movies or games, the Minis are an enjoyable listen. I once owned a pair of Monitor Audio RS1 bookshelf speakers (nearly $1000) and a Rotel stereo amp (around $500 second hand), and the Minis sound more musical and more engaging.

Make no mistake, the A5s are a good speaker and represent excellent value for money. I was happy with them for several years. However after having had the opportunity to compare them back-to-back with the Minis, to my ears the Minis are better in every way. I’ve therefore decided to keep the Minis and sell the A5s.

The Minis sound so good that I can’t really imagine anything sounding better, without having to spend significantly more than their retail price *cough* diminishing returns. They really do represent incredible value.

If you are on the fence about buying these speakers, jump. Life is short. Sacrifice that morning latte and start drinking instant. Stretch your haircuts out to every 3 months. Sell naked photos of your girlfriend on the internet – do what you have to. Simply put, if you can afford them, buy them.
Excellent review.

I've been looking at the A5's for well over 18 months ... just hoping my crappy Logitech Z2's (or are they Z3's) crap out on me ... Alas, I have 2 pairs, both bought because I was too close to the shop at the time ... ie: Impulse buy.

Have you got a link to the ebay listing? Or company website? I want to follow up on these some more. I need a set of speaks for music, and these sound like a good choice.

On a side note, did you find out why the ebay seller was selling them?

EDIT:

Did you get the ones with the IPOD dock? I'd prefer them WITHOUT ipod dock.

EDIT:

DUH... they all come with Ipod Dock. Aktimate.com

Thanks.
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Last edited by synic; 7th July 2012 at 9:37 AM.
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Old 7th July 2012, 6:14 PM   #4
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http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/160825618379

That's the eBay listing for them.

I believe they were being sold simply as they were excess stock. Either way they were in as new condition with no marks or scratches. As a bonus, being a demo model, they're well and truly run in.

Like I mentioned in my review, I've owned a speaker/amp combo that's "worth" 2.5 times the Aktimates, that didn't sound as good.
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Old 11th July 2012, 1:22 AM   #5
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I'm glad I went with the mini's, have had them for 3 years now and they have been perfect for my use. No urge to upgrade at all.

It was between the A5 and the mini's when I was looking but I never saw a directly comparison. Good to see yours
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Old 11th July 2012, 2:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DraGoN-BoY View Post
I'm glad I went with the mini's, have had them for 3 years now and they have been perfect for my use. No urge to upgrade at all.

It was between the A5 and the mini's when I was looking but I never saw a directly comparison. Good to see yours
I believe the Aktimates offer much better detail and a clearer midrange and low end than the A5s and that the cost over the A5s is warranted. If the A5s are "good" then the Minis are "excellent". That's the magnitude of the difference between them in my humble opinion.

I like the Aktimates so much that I have added a custom made sub (using a Danish Peerless woofer and O-Audio mono amp) and use them for watching movies and music DVDs (Panasonic DVD-S97), and listening to music (Asus Xonar D2) in a small room 2.1 HT setup.

Dialogue is crystal clear (unlike the A5s, which I had to boost the midrange via an EQ whenever I wanted to watch a movie/tv show) and with the sub, explosions and low end effects sound great.

I really think to improve significantly on this setup (for a small to medium room) you'd need to spend thousands. Seriously.

Like I mentioned in my review, I had $1500+ worth of speaker/amp combo and the Aktimates sound better.

If I moved house and needed to fill a large room. I'd look to upgrade to a pair of floorstanders or possibly try and source some larger bookshelf speakers. For small-medium rooms though, I don't feel this combo can be improved upon without spending silly money, and even then, the sound might only be "different" and not necissarily "better".

All I know is the Aktimates/sub combo sounds very impressive to my ears and as a result, I've no inclination to upgrade any time soon - and this is coming from someone who has a pair of custom made iems, because they're fussy about sound quality.
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Old 16th July 2012, 9:32 PM   #7
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Sounds like I really need to consider a pair of Mini's
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Old 17th July 2012, 12:07 PM   #8
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I've had the minis for 2 years now, and agree with everything you've said in your review.

Now we just need a mini vs maxi comparison review
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Old 17th July 2012, 7:03 PM   #9
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interesting, what about Mini+ vs A5+?
i think i'll still get the A5+ though, possibly with sub for $800, the mini+ are $600 alone.
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Old 17th July 2012, 7:51 PM   #10
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interesting, what about Mini+ vs A5+?
i think i'll still get the A5+ though, possibly with sub for $800, the mini+ are $600 alone.
Funnily enough my housemate recently bought the A5+ so I've had the privilege of being able to compare the A5, A5+ and Minis.

I think the A5+ does improve on the A5's sound a little, in that the treble isn't as rolled-off as the A5, however the overall sound signature is the same.

I quickly just did a comparison between the A5+ and Minis with the same source material and immediately I noticed with the A5s the hi-hat was barely audible and something overall just didn't sound "right" - it's as if the sound was muddy and the integration between the woofer and tweeter wasn't very smooth - like I could tell where the sound from the tweeter was coming from.

Instrument separation is significantly better with the Minis and the driver integration is perfect.

I don't mean to come off like an Audioengine hater, because I'm not.

But having owned both, I can say the Aktimates sound so much better, that even at full retail, they're worth it.

If I had the choice of owning the Minis and never adding a sub, or owning the A5's with a sub, I'd take the Minis. You have to hear the difference to believe it.
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Old 18th July 2012, 5:55 PM   #11
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Nice review!

Quick question, have you got the A5's sitting on the desktop stands (or some other isolation foam), or are they sitting directly on the desk?

Reason I ask is because I noticed a massive difference in Bass and Mids with my A2's after I put them on the isolation stands. ie, mids clearer, bass less pronounced.
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Old 19th July 2012, 11:19 AM   #12
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I didn't have the A5's on stands, but I didn't have the Aktimate's on stands either, so the comparison was quite fair. I do however have thick adhesive foam pads under them to move them up off the flat surface.

My housemate did have his A5+ on stands and my previous comments still stand. My humble opinion is that you can put the A5s on stands, use better speaker cables, better power cables etc. but they'll never sound as good as the Aktimates.

Again, I don't mean to come off like an Audioengine hater because I still think they're good speakers. But I don't know anyone who has heard both the A5 and the Minis and preferred the A5s.
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Old 19th July 2012, 7:44 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spAm^bOy View Post
I didn't have the A5's on stands, but I didn't have the Aktimate's on stands either, so the comparison was quite fair. I do however have thick adhesive foam pads under them to move them up off the flat surface.

My housemate did have his A5+ on stands and my previous comments still stand. My humble opinion is that you can put the A5s on stands, use better speaker cables, better power cables etc. but they'll never sound as good as the Aktimates.

Again, I don't mean to come off like an Audioengine hater because I still think they're good speakers. But I don't know anyone who has heard both the A5 and the Minis and preferred the A5s.
No no, no disrespect intended. I value what you wrote in this thread. Was just curious is all.

...and now, thanks to you, I have to spend some money. lol.
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Old 19th July 2012, 9:40 PM   #14
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No no, no disrespect intended. I value what you wrote in this thread. Was just curious is all.

...and now, thanks to you, I have to spend some money. lol.
You'll be glad you did!
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Old 20th July 2012, 7:55 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wilchelus View Post
No no, no disrespect intended. I value what you wrote in this thread. Was just curious is all.

...and now, thanks to you, I have to spend some money. lol.
let us in the thread know if you bu them and where from, the A5+ are widely lauded whereas this is the first time I'm hearing of the Aktimate speakers.
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