Audio Engine HD3 Review

The best 2.0 system I’ve tested with an incredible open soundstage and Bluetooth performance out of traditional speakers – Audio Engine nailed it with the HD3’s.

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Hey everyone, Jimmy with JimsReviewRoom. I reviewed the Audio Engineer HD6’s awhile back and absolutely I loved them.  Not only great performing speakers, but the connections it came with made it very versatile.  AudioEngine sent me the little brother to my HD6, these are the HD3’s retailing for $399.  What I’ll do is place my Amazon affiliate links above click on my links, and they’ll give you the most updated prices in real time.

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PHYSICAL FEATURES
Going over the physical features, these come in walnut, cherry, and what I have here is satin black.  It’s a very smooth finish and cool to the touch almost resembling a metal box rather than feeling the traditional wood grain veneer on other speakers.  Overall build quality looks and feels top notch and nothing to really complain about.  The fabric grill is magnetized and can be easily taken off to expose the kevlar woofers and dome tweeters.  In person, they’re surprisingly quite small and they fit perfectly on my desk.  Right up to the edge.  On the left speaker specifically is your on off slash volume knob, to the right is a 3.5mm port to connect your headphones, and the HD3’s do work as an integrated amplifier, helping to get a bit more performance and detail from your headphones.

Looking at the back of that left speaker, going down the list of connections.  Traditional Left and Right RCA cables, 3.5mm input to the right, USB input for audio from your computer, and last, on the top right is for the supplied antenna as like the HD6, the HD3’s can connect through Bluetooth.  Moving down, simply the terminals for connecting the left speaker to the right, a bass reduction switch if you do decide to plug in your subwoofer with the HD3’s, and very last, is the power connection.  The one area that I particularly liked and think is essential to any speaker, the wire that connects between the left and right channels is a banana-style plug for quick plug and play, but the terminals on the back of the left speaker itself  gives you the option of connecting your own wires, so you’re not stuck with just a certain length.

 

BLUETOOTH
Testing Bluetooth, I was able to walk throughout my house with no problems at all with my Pixel XL, the signal had never cut out.  Testing these with headphones I didn’t sense improved audio performance on either my Sennheiser HD598’s and RHA T40 earphones versus simply using my cell phone.  One thing that was missing from my HD6 was a remote control, but considering I sit so close to this these things, they’re always within arms length while my HD6’s were more for entertaining, monitoring, and movie watching.  But the one thing I really wished this had was an Optical in or S/PDIF Port, that’s how some people pronounce it, for that guaranteed lossless wired experience, either from the PC or if you’re using these with a console gaming system.  It’s not a big deal, but you do get a little more performance with optical inputs versus 3.5 or RCA cables, not to mention, another input source.

 

AUDIO QUALITY
But, let’s get into the audio test. The first thing I noticed right off the bat, it sounded as though there was an audio source right there in front of me as though I had a center channel.  I ensured I didn’t have my previous speaker plugged in and sat back a second time, and ran through some more tests.  The sound stage is impeccable and that will be no questions, something that you will experience the first time you try these.  It’s surprising how well just two speakers performed in not only audio separation, left and right audio channels, but also provide an audio reproduction as if you’re right there.

I listened to a live performance by John Legend, and you can hear him on stage, in an open stage, in an open arena, while my other speakers I’m also testing couldn’t reproduce, you simply didn’t hear the “airiness” from John Legend’s voice when he performed in such an open space.   Based on AudioEngine’s recommendations, I’ve had these speakers for several weeks now and surely performed at least 40 hours of burn-in time for the drivers to stretch their legs a bit.  For a 2.0 system, bass is full and very much enjoyable for not having a subwoofer.  At times for very few select genres or songs where low bass resonates, there is an ever so slight amount of droning at higher volumes.  Of course those desiring for that added punch, a 2.1 system or better yet, adding your own sub does help with the matter as you use the bass reduction switch on the back.

The mids are plenty clear and that sound stage helps greatly with the overall immersion of any audio experience.  I would personally prefer a slightly brighter mid range and have the vocals stand out just a little more, but overall, the audio characteristics are accurate coming direct from the factory.  The highs never tinged or were ear screeching.  There’s no listening fatigue from my experience, and that’s with listening to these for some time, and even gaming on these for two to three hours straight.   I can at least say, the HD3’s will sound phenomenal to most people, especially to the average consumer.  Playing the same high-quality FLAC file on my desktop through a wired connection, and then switching it to Bluetooth, you can tell Bluetooth sounds slightly lower quality and you lose some of the very minute details.  For the average consumer and even myself, audio is subjective, my reviews are again geared towards the average consumer…  if I didn’t switch them back and forth, I honestly couldn’t tell.

GAMING SOUND QUALITY
Now, testing these with gaming, hands down the best 2.0 system I’ve used so far.  Again, that sound stage is impeccable and when I’m not using my headset, the openness of these speakers, as it does for music gives almost this 3D effect as if I’m actually there.  Watching these with movies, at times, especially sitting close to these and listening at higher volumes, there is an ever-slight droning of bass, especially in action movies, but overall, it’s not bad or wouldn’t deter anyone from purchasing.  Overall, you really get what you paid for, you get an amazing 2.0 sound system in such a small package, and keep in mind, you still get Bluetooth or wireless performance out of traditional looking bookshelf speakers.  I loved these.  If you’re planning on using these mostly at the desk, forget the HD6’s, save yourself some money, the HD3’s are plenty.  Again, the biggest selling point on these is how loud these little things get, the clarity and fidelity that you get, and last, the openness of its soundstage absolutely makes the HD3’s shine.

So that’s it for this review.  Be sure to follow me on Facebook, twitter and/or Instagram.  You guys take care, and I’ll see you on the next one.