Keen to know what all the fuss is about but not quite ready to spend a fortune on your audio equipment?
The combination of Project Audio’s Essential III Phono and a set of Audioengine speakers means your first venture into the world of analogue audio can be purchased for ‘Pennies on the Dollar’. The inclusion of inbuilt phono turntables and powered speakers is perhaps one that came with the resurgence of vinyl’s popularity. Not everyone these days is looking for big, bulky systems of the 70s Hifi aesthetic, nor can we all afford them either. A lot of people now accustomed to the minimalism of small Wifi speakers and docking stations are looking for analogue options without all the extra bits and bobs. Enter actives and turntables with phono stages. Four components for the price of two, and a much easier, cleaner way to enjoy the beauty of vinyl records.
Project Audio’s Essential III is the latest phono release from the Czech turntable manufacture, replacing the Debut Carbon as Project’s first audiophile-grade offering in the line up. What makes the new Essential range so good is that Project have moved away from particleboard in their plinth and platter constructions and instead gone with a more premium grade material, MDF. This further dampens vibration and improves the sonic quality of your deck. They’ve also upgraded the cartridge and cables, going with Ortofon’s OM10 over the OM5, replaced bearings, improved motor electronics as well as the turntable’s ground links. Project really have reworked this table from the ground up. But not only that, it now comes in three high gloss finishes, red, white and black, ensuring the Essential III looks as good as it sounds.
But perhaps what gives the Essential III the nod over competing tables of its grade are the little additions you can apply over time. Both platter and cartridge upgrades can be made on this turntable, significantly improving the sonic quality of the Essential III well into its lifespan. Switch to either Ortofon’s 2M Red or 2M Blue and welcome the richer bass, the snappier highs, the improved detail in your imaging. Cartridge quality has an enormous affect on overall sound quality, pulling more information from your records and delivering you greater audio dynamics. And if you’re looking to upgrade cartridges in the future, an equally valuable addition to your turntable is an acrylic platter. Upgrade to a Project Acrylic-it E and the soundstage instantly becomes bigger and more open, further improving both detail and presentation. These are the differences its competitors simply don’t match, making the Project Essential III with Phono a major cut above the rest.
Weighing in at just 15 x 10 x 13cm, the A2+’s are well and truly the baby brothers of Audioengine’s extensive active speaker range. But that doesn’t mean they don’t bite. These little guys offer truly impressive audio for their relatively quaint size. There’s a great deal of difference between mass production and custom built, small batch products, the former almost always disappointing in its performance. So it’s good to know that the A2+, along with its fellow actives within the AE range, are hand built products using quality materials designed with the single goal of exceeding expectations both in value and performance. And boy do they perform.
With the same custom tweeters used in the A5+ range (a speaker almost double the size and price of the 2+), Kevlar woofers wrapped in wood cabinets with three hand polished finishes and tuned front port slots, the Audioengine 2+ speakers offer superb soundstage and imagining. There’s a serious amount of drive in these pint-sized speakers and a surprising level of low-end, charging their way through all genres of music with the confidence and clarity of speakers twice their size.
Along with A2+’s superb sound quality you’ll receive two meters of speaker cable (the right speaker powered by the left’s 2x 15W inbuilt amplifier), USB input, 3.5 AUX input, RCA input and RCA output for the potential addition of a subwoofer. Don’t be fooled by their small stature, the A2+ is stacked with features. But perhaps what’s most impressive about these speakers is the quality of their materials and finish. Just picking up one of these speakers you’ll immediately notice the weight, their stout construction, the quality of the terminals used and the beauty of their finish. These are not production line plastic actives. They’re seriously affordable, seriously well built active speakers batting well above their grade.