Review: Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII – Better in stereo

Review: Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII - is not perfect: But we still dare to call these speakers highly recommended.
4.2/5 - (22 votes)

Review: Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII – With the Forte speakers, Argon wants to offer an alternative to Sonos speakers that should not necessarily cost much more. The Danish brand focuses on ‘real’ stereo and the possibility to play TV sound. A dedicated turntable entrance should be the icing on the cake.

In this review we take a look at a few new speakers from the Forte line. It already existed for a while, but is now being renewed with a second generation. The Forte devices are among the bestsellers of Argon Audio, next to their turntables. You may know that name as the main supplier of the Scandinavian AV store chain HiFi Klubben, which is also active in the Netherlands. However, Argon’s products are also available elsewhere.

The Forte A5 MKII consists of a pair of separate bookshelf speakers. They are compact devices, available in different color versions. Despite a modest price of 699 euros, these speakers are equipped with a lot of things, such as Bluetooth streaming, an input for a record player and HDMI-ARC. This makes the A5 MKII an intriguing alternative to a soundbar as a way to improve your TV sound. This is how Argon also positions this speaker set, pointing out that two separate speakers will deliver a much better sound image for both music and movies than a single wireless speaker or soundbar.

The Forte A5 MKII can therefore also be seen as an alternative to speakers from Sonos, although the aspiring buyer should think carefully about what he is looking for. The Argon devices have their strengths that are missing from Sonos. However, they only offer Bluetooth in terms of streaming. So you can’t easily merge several Argon speakers into one zone, for example, and there is no user-friendly app in which you can find all streaming services. We are surprised that the Argons support the aptX codec when streaming Bluetooth, something that is not played out so explicitly. The Danes also recognize the even better aptX HD variant.

Awake readers will have noticed that these are Mark II versions. These new versions have just appeared and add that HDMI-ARC port and Bluetooth 5.0, among other things.

Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII – specifications

What Active speakers
Assets 80 Watts
Inputs analog cinch, phono-in, HDMI-ARC, optical
Streaming Bluetooth (SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD)
Dimensions 16.5 x 23 x 27
Weight 4.1 kilograms

Own style

In the budget and lower middle class segment, we are increasingly seeing loudspeakers that are very neatly finished. Just think of products such as the R-series from Polk or the speakers from Q Acoustics. the same vibe hangs around the Forte A5 MKII. The most heavy housings look anything but cheap. The seamless finish of the black version we received is beautiful, without a screw in sight. A large copper colored metal ring is mounted around the tweeter and the woofer. Separate and you have to love it, but it does have something luxurious about it. The white version seems to be a bit more subtle, with silver rings that are less noticeable compared to the main color. There’s a third color option, walnut, which comes across as a lot more extroverted. The rings around the drivers here are gold – flashy. If you don’t like those slightly more extreme color contrasts, it’s best to install the supplied grids. With the black version we got grilles in a dark gray Scandi fabric with slightly lighter accents that are attached magnetically.

The speakers show off small feet at the bottom, so that they can immediately be placed on a sideboard or a TV cabinet. For our test, we placed them on small IsoAcoustics mini stands. They are actually intended for studio use, but are an interesting option if you have a low sofa and classic stands are too high in relation to your sitting position.

Own approach

From the front, the Forte A5 MKII speakers look like classic speakers. However, they are active models, with all connections and the amplification built in. So you don’t need any other equipment to get sound out of it. That certainly attracts many music lovers, which explains why both similar all-in-one products recently appeared. Then think of the Dynaudio’s Focus speakers or the LS50 Wireless II from KEF. The common thread with all these products is that they make hi-fi speakers active and offer them as a stereo pair. Two separate speakers are much better suited for playing music in stereo. From one device, even with separate speakers or drivers for left and right, it is very difficult to really create a soundstage and give the experience of an artist on stage. Or positioning sound effects in a movie to the left and right of the screen, that too is difficult.

The Forte A5 MKII does differ from rivals from KEF and co by offering a simpler concept. Which in turn translates into a softer price tag, as you have to pay several thousand euros for many rivals. What does simple mean now? For example, there is no wireless connection between the two Forte speakers, but you lay a cable between the two. This is included and has a length of approximately five meters. In addition, operation is done entirely via the remote control. There is no app for your phone and no display or buttons on the speakers themselves.

The master is on the left

One of the two Forte A5 MKIIs is the master. This is where you plug in the power cable and you will find all connections. There are quite a few: an analog aux input (for example for a CD player), a phono input (for a turntable), an optical input and an HDMI-ARC. In addition, there is a sub-out to connect a subwoofer and a USB port that has no musical function. It’s just an extra that allows you to charge a smartphone or tablet.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of this approach is that the master speaker must always be on the left. If the socket or your record player happens to be to the left of your TV cabinet, you should therefore look for longer cables. Which can sometimes become difficult, especially with turntables, because the connection cable is best not very long. In short, it would have been useful if you could decide for yourself whether the master speaker is on the left or right. What if you place that master speaker on the right? With music it may not be such a problem, when watching TV it is disappointing that sound effects play on the left on the right side of the screen (and vice versa).

The phono input is without a doubt a positive addition. Most active speakers or Sonos-like ones have at most an auxiliary input. If you wish to connect a record player to those devices, you should therefore choose a turntable with a built-in phono amplifier. Or place an additional amplifier between the record player and speaker. You don’t have to do that here, you can just connect any record player directly. As long as it has an MM cartridge at least, which is almost always the case with a player under 1,000 euros.

A wide soundstage

We connect the Argon speakers to our LG OLED55C9 in the living room, and then also connect the Pro-ject The Classic turntable that normally hangs on the music system. The Forte A5 MKIIs immediately turn out to be good with HDMI-CEC commands. As soon as we turn on the TV, the speakers turn on and the HDMI input is selected. That’s exactly how you want it; no cries of “why is there no sound!?” and no family members who have to look for the box of the speakers to choose the right input. You can easily adjust the volume with the television remote.

Thanks to a wider appearance of these speakers, we get a coherent sound image when watching a few episodes of ‘Derry Girls’. The witty dialogues seem to come out of the screen. Which is clever, given that the Forte A5 MKIIs are placed asymmetrically around the TV because of a wide TV cabinet in our living room. Intelligibility is excellent, and the eighties hits that make up the soundtrack are played powerfully. Not bad, and certainly the musical performance is indeed better than an average mid-range soundbar. What such a soundbar usually has is a subwoofer. Not a very accurate sub in general, but one that can provide something extra in action movies. Can the little Argons compete with that? Not quite, but that’s not so surprising. In terms of bass, you can only get so much out of a small speaker cabinet. Nevertheless, the Fortes do manage to come out stronger than you would expect – an advantage of built-in amplification that is tailored to the speakers used. Therefore, when listening to music, there is not a feeling of lack of bass unless you really opt for something like deep techno or classic tracks with organs. In action scenes, such as the fight between Wonderwoman and the god Mars towards the end of the first DC movie with the Amazon queen, the impact of large explosions and divine punches is therefore rather limited. If you’re really into a spectacular experience, you should at least consider supplementing the two Argons with a subwoofer. That option is there, thanks to the sub-out.

Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII

But aside from that consideration, the A5 MKIIs deliver excellent musical performances, which is also a plus for many films. The choice for a slightly warm presentation with a nice low middle makes most music sound fine when we stream via Bluetooth.

And if you connect a record player? We don’t really detect noise or other distortion, something that you can sometimes notice between tracks with the cheapest phono preamps. After listening to a number of vinyl albums, we would conclude that the phono input does its job competently – and even ‘good’ when you consider the product type and its price point. In our opinion, it could sound a little less thin and focus on a clear display, although the marriage with the Ortofon cartridge on the Project may play a role there. Which would have been nice by the way: an autosense function on the phono input, so that the speakers switch on when you let the needle touch a record. So you have to press the power button yourself.

Conclusion – Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII

The Forte A5 MKII is not perfect: you have to place the master speaker on the left and the phono input has to be slightly better. But we still dare to call these speakers highly recommended, because the list on the plus side is very long. Moreover, Argon offers many interesting functions at a reasonable price. There are not many active speakers that both sound good and can serve for TV sound and are completely ready for a record player. The solid finish and compact build are also worth mentioning, as is the Bluetooth streaming that is implemented well above average here. And yes, the fact that you get to hear real stereo sound is a big plus.

Pros of Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII

  • Bluetooth with aptX support
  • Built-in phono amplifier
  • Full and slightly warm presentation
  • A lot for a reasonable price
Negatives of Argon Audio Forte A5 MKII

  • No WiFi streaming
  • Master speaker should always be on the left