Audioengine 512 Portable Bluetooth Speaker


Link to Specifications
Let's face it, there are times when one's big audio system just doesn't work for the situation at hand. The small barbecue gathering on the deck/patio, the picnic in the park, laundry day, the list is endless. Enter the value of bluetooth speakers and their easy portability and instant sound. But, being honest, most small bluetooth speakers sound little better than the transistor radios of the 1970's.

While Audioengine has been making bluetooth speakers for several years, the capsule-shaped 512 is a bit of a design departure. Until now, Audioengine speakers have used slit-style bass ports. The 512 uses a rear passive radiator, yes you read that right. Granted, it's just 3" x 1.75", but like any passive radiator the bass frequencies (60hz) it produces sound more natural to this reviewer. A pair of 2" drivers take care of the mid and high frequencies. The 10wpc is powered by class D amplification.

Listening with my wife to Ed Sheerin broadcasted from my iPhone after a one-touch pairing on the 512 made her morning. His vocals were clearer and more three-dimensional than her Amazon Echo. Being a country fan, "Kiss Me" rates highs on her list. The 512 does a nice job of individualizing the various percussion instruments. 


The black or forest green capsule casing is a combination of wire mesh front and back, with polycarbonate trim bevel circling length-wise. Across the top are six buttons: Play/Pause, AUX, -, +, Bluetooth, and POWER. In a bit of smart ergonomics, the Play/Pause and Power buttons are slightly larger.   On the left side under the rubber waterproof cap is the Auxillary input and USB charging jacks. Four rubber feet on the bottom allow for a true stable placement. The 512 weighs in at 2 pounds, but actually feels heavier. The battery is projected at up to 12 hours on a charge. My experiences were very close time-wise.


In a true test of portability I took the $169 Audioengine 512 on a 3512 mile auto trip around the great American west. Playing the 512 at rest stops while eating lunch, in hotel rooms large and small, indoor and outdoor pools, a cousin's patio, and a creekside campground was insanely convenient. 

While enjoying a lunch break high up in the southern Colorado Rockies, Michael Buble's eclectic mix of crooner, jazz, tropical, and pop covers demonstrated just impressive the passive subwoofer performs. The various bass instruments, especial the string bass had detail, including note differentiation. "Kissing a Fool" and "Quando, Quando, Quando" engaged me enough to make me forget the spectacular 14,000ft Collegiate Peaks scenery. 

Bluetooth range is a bit of a hot-button issue with me, both straight line-of-sight, and around corners. The 512 does not have an external antennae, therefore it's range is not as great as their HD3 and B2 models in my tests, especially thru walls. Outside, I measured about 94 sighted feet. Sound quality-wise, the SBC codec allows for quite enjoyable listening.


Normally, I use ear buds while doing yard work, but I found myself grabbing the 512 and listening while pulling weeds, etc.. While I don't promote and actually despise those who blast music outdoors, jamming out to the album Who Are You from about 25 to 40 feet away the 512 had enough power to provide worthy dynamics and range. Enough so that anytime Keith Moon's kamikaze drumming took center stage I'd stop and air bang along to the master.

The forte of the 512 will be how it performs in a small space. Be it a kitchen, bedroom, home office, or dorm. Placing anywhere about 8-12 inches from a rear wall provided the best bass support in my experience. The second key is not to sit too close, allow the capsule's stereo separation capabilities to shine. In a 10x10 home office, the 512 sat some five feet away and sounded a hell of a lot better than a pair of Altec Lansing computer speakers. 

The prime demographics for the 512 will be teens and the under-thirty crowd. If my students are any indication, the 512 has the potential to be wildly popular. Between using it in my classroom, and kids stopping to visit on my deck, the comments and time spent pairing their phone to play their favorite tracks, Audioengine has a definite winner. The typical statements included: "It sounds like way bigger speakers.", "Heavy bass, man", "Hear all those instruments", and "That would fit easily into an outer pocket of my backpack!".

One student asked if the 512 sounded better than typical TV speakers. Since it has an AUX jack, why not find out? Definitely an improvement. Dialogue is crisper on smaller LCD's, and background music has much more impact. One caveat, you may need to go into your TV settings to activate and adjust tone levels.

Final Thoughts
As much as any audiophile craves and prefers listening to music on their main rig, sometimes you need portability, yet more than ear buds or headphones. The Audioengine 512 fills that gap with its easy portability, lengthy charge-life, durable design, and most importantly, top notch portable bluetooth sound. If you're sending a kid off to college, the 512 is an excellent gift that's sure to survive the physicality of college life. Audioengine has hit another home run! 
Mark Marcantonio

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