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Emotiva Pro airmotiv4 Loudspeakers Review

post #1 of 412
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REVIEW: Emotiva Pro airmotiv4

By:  Steve Guttenberg






Given the increasing popularity and interest in desktop loudspeaker audio here on Head-Fi.org, I asked Steve if he could write reviews of some outstanding desktop speakers for the community here at Head-Fi.  He did, beginning with a review of the PSB Imagine minis, and now these Emotiva Pro airmotiv4 loudspeakers.


Expect to see other articles and coverage from Steve on Head-Fi.org, from time to time!




It doesn't happen that often, but every now and then I come across a speaker that redefines its category. The new Mini Maggies from Magnepan were like that, but those planar magnetic desktop speakers run $1,500 a pair. The tiny Audioengine A2 struck that cord a few years ago, but now it looks like Emotiva Pro's new airmotiv4 ($399/pair with free shipping) has upped the ante.



A different kind of tweeter


First thing, the airmotiv4 is special for what it doesn't have: a dome tweeter. In its place you'll find a Heil air motion transformer. Say what? It looks like a ribbon or planar magnetic tweeter, but the Heil is different. Instead of pushing air to make sound the Heil's pleated diaphragm "squeezes" air. The tweeter uses vapor-deposited, aluminum conductors on a low-mass kapton substrate that sits in a magnetic field. If you were to "unfold" the pleats the tweeter would have six times the area of a 1-inch dome tweeter! That large radiating area requires less movement to produce a given sound pressure level, which dramatically lowers distortion.



The airmotiv4's four-and-a-half inch woofer is no slouch, it uses a polypropolene composite cone material. The tweeter and woofer

are made exclusively for Emotiva, so you won't see them on other brands' speakers. The cross-braced, medium-density 


fiberboard cabinet feels super solid, and it has a 3 mm mastic internal damping layer to further reduce cabinet "talk" to a minimum. There are no external wall warts or power supplies; the airmotiv4 interior houses a hefty toroidal transformer for its two 25 watt, class AB amps, one for each driver. Connectivity options include single-ended RCA or balanced XLR inputs, and before I forget to mention it, the rear panel also has bass and treble lift/cut filters. The airmotiv4 is 9.4 high x 6.1 wide x 7.3 inches deep; the only available finish is textured black.
Sold direct by Emotiva Pro with a 30 day return policy, the airmotiv4 comes with a transferable five-year parts and labor warranty. If I didn't know the retail price I would have guessed $600, but it's actually $399 a pair! The airmotiv4 is, hands down, the best sounding desktop speaker I've heard for this kind of money.



Knock your socks off sound!


What really grabbed me from the get-go was the airmotiv4's finely tuned balance, it does everything well. That said, the Heil tweeter puts the speaker's treble performance well ahead of anything near its price. And in a nearfield speaker design it's hard to ignore treble deficiencies, or to put it another way, when you hear a well-engineered speaker with a great tweeter you'll find out in a hurry what you've been missing. Low distortion speakers like this are easy to listen to for hours on end.


The tweeter is a revelation, especially when you hear it close up in a desktop monitoring environment, listening from 30 to 72 inches away. Cymbals and percussion instruments are clear, pure and effortless, sounding so much more the way they do in real life. Soundstaging abilities are also superb, listen to an audiophile CD like MA Recordings' "Ghatam," by the Antenna Repairmen, and you'll hear a remarkable sense of depth and pinpoint image focus. MA doesn't use artificial reverb or processing of any kind, so the airmotiv4 transported me back to the acoustic space of the original recording venue. The palpability of each strike, slap or rub of the ceramic percussion instruments was eerily realistic.


The speaker's exceptional midrange transparency came to light when I played Neil Young's "Live at Massey Hall, 1971" CD. Young accompanies himself on guitar or piano on all tracks, and I couldn't find fault with the airmotiv4, it was doing everything right.


What about bass? I tested the airmotiv4's low frequency prowess with the "French Dub Collection" and the little speaker handled the music's throbbing beats and drones with ease. The texture and palpability of the bass was excellent, and even when I turned the volume up nice and loud, the airmotiv4 kept its cool. Highly dynamic recordings couldn't fluster the little speaker, at least at the volume levels I can tolerate in nearfield listening. The little speaker is rated to go down to 54 Hertz (-3 dB), and I never found its oomph wanting. Then again you might, so Emotiva will introduce a matching 10-inch sub early next year. 










A game changer

Emotiva has a real winner with the airmotiv4, but they also offer two larger models, the airmotiv5 ($499) and airmotiv6 ($599/pair). The mind reels thinking about what they will sound like.









Pros: Hi-tech tweeter, bi-amped with Class AB amplifiers, superb build quality, wide-open soundstaging, nicely defined bass, free shipping


Cons: You can only get 'em in black




5/5 stars




post #2 of 412
Eyed these off for a while. Decided to go with Dynaudio BM5A MKIIs. But they're 2x the Airmotiv6's price...
I was really hoping someone would review 'em.

When/If an accompanying bass joins the line-up, I'll have to check them out for a nice 5.1 post setup!
post #3 of 412

Sorry, but I don't think I'm ready to consider Steve an unbiased reviewer just yet. Maybe mid-2012 will allow it.

post #4 of 412

This might be just what I've been looking for.

post #5 of 412

very nice, i've been looking to get a new computer system to get rid of my promedia 2.1 (which is already amazing but i want even better SQ + hopefully something with a sub for teh epic bass)

post #6 of 412

Looks an awful lot like my Adam A5's... Hmm... In fact, the entire line mirrors Adam Audio's Pro line. 

Edited by Rdr. Seraphim - 1/6/12 at 12:38pm
post #7 of 412

Thanks Steve,

Great review of a very interesting speaker. 

I've been using a Genelec 6020/5050 2.1 with my computer and love these studio style monitors on my desktop. 

I'm thinking of adding more to every TV in the house but the Genelecs are pricey. 

This line might be the perfect answer!

post #8 of 412

Where did the pricing in the OP come from, as Emotiva's site shows the 6's for $799/per pair and the 5s for $599 ? And as appealing as these look and may sound, Audiomidi still carries stock of the M-Audio DSM1 and DSM2, at $398/$498 per pair with free ship. I don't think the DSMs can be beat at the current closeout/discontinued prices. As for ribbons, the Samson Rubicon R6A and Prodipe Pro Ribbon 8 can still be had for a lot less, and will come very close if not match the sound quality of the Emotiva's.


post #9 of 412

While we have you here could you, Steve,  explain what you meant by this ?

So while lossless audio compression (FLAC or Apple Lossless for example) can be "expanded" to produce an exact digital duplicate of the original audio stream, that's not necessarily the same thing as sounding exactly like an uncompressed WAV file or a CD. To my ears lossless files add a glare or edge to the music and flatten the soundstage.


post #10 of 412

im sure they are lovely, cant seem to buy Emotiva out side the US easily, sure as hell cant demo them.

post #11 of 412
Originally Posted by nick_charles View Post

While we have you here could you, Steve,  explain what you meant by this ?


So it's an exact duplicate, yet Steve hears audible differences. I lol'ed.

post #12 of 412

I know I'm indulging in semantics here, but no reviewer is unbiased. 

*I've been replying to many of your comments expressing disagreement recently, so I want to clarify that I hold absolutely no ill will towards you, and this was meant mostly as a joke. 


Originally Posted by LizardKing1 View Post

Sorry, but I don't think I'm ready to consider Steve an unbiased reviewer just yet. Maybe mid-2012 will allow it.


Edited by Nom de Plume - 1/6/12 at 5:34pm
post #13 of 412

Too bad they only ship to US  :(

post #14 of 412

I have had the Airmotiv4's for a few months now and pair with my sub the make for a great listening room experience. One of the best 2.1 systems I have heard, and clearly the best for the money. 

P.S. Call Emotiva on international shipping as I know the have international customers. You may just have to cover some of the shipping cost.
post #15 of 412
Steve, how would you compare these to something like my Audioengine A5 speakers? (I have A2 as well, but the A5 are noticeably better).
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