Audioengine HD6

Crossover Vehicle

Equipment report
Audioengine HD6
Audioengine HD6

For any audio company, making the leap from the desktop to the listening room is not the simple, slam-dunk proposition it might appear to be. The goals are often at odds with each other and require different skill and feature sets. The desktop experience is more intimate and personal, while the listening room is more inclusive and often shared. Audioengine, however, is not just a loudspeaker company. With an innate grasp of the market, its strength as a desktop and personal listening specialist involves a panoply of products from powered speakers, to DACs, to wireless systems, to accessories, and cables. The new HD6 loudspeaker is arguably the most versatile piece of gear Audioengine has come up with yet. Powered, DAC-equipped, and Bluetooth-enabled, the two-way HD6 is comfortable on a desk or shelf, or flanking a flat panel, or set out in the room on a pair of stands. The HD6 is a crossover product like few others.

The $749-per-pair HD6 is more than an attractive loudspeaker. Much more. It’s a complete audio system that only needs a source as humble as a smartphone to it get up and running. Separate components and wires? Thanks to the HD6’s built in Bluetooth you won’t need ’em. Or perhaps you’d like to hook up an old-fashioned source component like a CD player or even something really ancient like a turntable via a phonostage. No worries—there’s also a pair of analog inputs. No muss, no fuss.

There are a lot of features built into the HD6, but its ultimate success hinges on the loudspeaker’s quality. The HD6 is a two-way compact, roughly a foot tall. The bass-reflex enclosure has a rear-mounted, horizontally slotted port. Each HD6 employs a ferrofluid-cooled silk-dome tweeter with a neodymium magnet. The woofer is a 5.5" Kevlar/woven-glass/aramid composite with a rubber surround. It’s housed in a cast aluminum frame for rigidity and increased heat dispersion. The cabinets are available in several finishes, including walnut and cherry veneers as well as satin-black paint. Also included are detachable grilles with hidden neodymium magnets.

The right speaker accommodates the brains of the operation—amplifiers, DAC, and Bluetooth, as well as a set of analog inputs and an optical digital input. You’ll know the right channel immediately by its front panel power light and volume control (an all-analog design). The left speaker connects to the internal amplifier in the right channel via an included banana-terminated speaker umbilical. The amplifiers in the HD6 are Class AB analog monoblock designs with an output of 50Wpc RMS, but capable of 75W peaks. The circuit boards for the power and preamp sections are vertically mounted for mechanical shock protection. Audioengine also touts the use of gapless-core toroidal transformers, which have a more tightly radiated magnetic field. Translation: lower noise. AE points out that its toroidals are lighter than standard, lower-cost “EI” transformers and also generate less heat.

Keep in mind that the HD6 is not a fully active loudspeaker system. The internal crossover is passive in contrast to professional “active” monitors that insert an electronic crossover in front of each discrete amp per transducer—sending only the audio signal required for that specific driver. The HD6 is more like a conventional amplifier/loudspeaker rig, only with all the electronic bits and bobs squeezed into a single speaker. Given the tight internal confines, the HD6 sports an oversize aluminum heatsink on the rear panel of the master speaker to address any potential thermal issues. An amazing piece of packaging sleight-of-hand, if you ask me.

The HD6’s Bluetooth features aptX coding—an advanced audio codec that’s also backwards-compatible with almost any BT device. How extended is its range? Answer: In the real world it all depends on the home, but I found its performance suitable to any medium to large room depending on the home’s construction and floor plan. Both the BT receiver and optical input utilize the AKM AK4396A DAC, widely known for its low-noise and fidelity. The optical input configures the AK4396A as a bit-perfect 24-bit DAC, and can accommodate sample rates up to 192kHz.