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emotiva airmotiv 5 initial impressions

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

 I just received my airmotiva 5 active speakers yesterday around noon time.The speakers appear to be well made and are a little heavy for their size.Of course they are as they should be they contain two amplifiers in each cabinet.Appearance wise they are covered in a vinyl faux leatherette.They are shipped in a outer box containing the speaker box.The speakers are wrapped in a cloth or cloth like white bag and the speakers are anchored in styrofoam.There is a little cardboard box containing the power cords for both speakers and a flyer in a a zip lock bag.Emotiva has included four rubber stick em feet I guess to elevate the front of the speaker tilting it back a little to aim it towards the listener for a desk top situation.The feet are kind of tiny so there is not much of a tilt to be obtained by using them.

At least from what I can tell.

   I do not have a mini to rca adapter for my computer so I set up the speakers on 24 inch sound anchor stands.They are not really ideal for a speaker this small but the stand anchored them to the floor for the best possible solidity.I have them canted towards the middle a bit after reading that they are quite sensitive to positioning.Since i do not have a dedicated preamp yet for my computer sound system I preamped out the front channels of my old denon avr 3806 receiver to the speakers.Initially I listened to them with my onkyo sacd/cd player playing cds.I played three cds through them and initially they sounded closed in a bit.Though the highs seemed pretty good even from the get go.Well I thought playing movies would be a better way of excercising the airmotivs.I pulled the cd player and hooked up my denon 3931 universal player and started playing a movie through the emotivas.I have been listening a lot to my onkyo sacd/cd player lately and when I moved the denon universal player in I forgot how well made the denon player is.This thing is a tank but I am getting away from my initial impressions of the airmotiv 5.Well I have been watching dvds since then and it is now 1:30 am.Well things seem to sound a bit more open now and the general impression is one of clarity up and down.But it is late and I am getting tired so I have shut things down  for the night.

  I am going to excercise these a while before I can form a real opinion of their capabilities,I know they are small but I do miss the bass extension I get from my b&w 683s but to be fair that is a much larger speaker.I think it would be interesting to use the emotivas with a balanced preamp to give them more volume due to higher output from balanced configurations.But I am hoping that there will be more volume when the speaker breaks in somewhat. at least from the single ended connection.Of course this is a small speaker that is less efficient and to ask it to play loudly in even a medium sized room is probably unreasonable.

  Well thats all for now.But I do have to say that I think these will make a fine sounding home theater speaker once they are broken in some.

Edited by buson160man - 9/25/12 at 12:34pm
post #2 of 14

It's good to see another review of the Airmotiv's. I've been wanting to hear a pair. Everyone seems to really love them for nearfield monitor use. 


But I'd have to disagree. There's no way that these are a good choice for an HT setup unless one has particular reasons to chose powered monitors over the limitations they impose in building an HT setup. By definition an HT setup is minimally 5.1 multichannel, not just 2 channel stereo. There are plenty of passive speakers out there that would compete in SQ for less money. Passive speakers are easier (and cheaper) to match with a receiver with the features that someone wants/needs because there's no need to get 5.0 channel line outs.  Airmotiv's are sold in pairs, so one has to by six to build a 5.1 system. It's just not cost effective. Ask on any HT audio forum, and they'll tell you the same. 

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

I have to say that I am not sure these speakers given their compact dimensions will play loud enough to satisfy a lot of people in a home theater setting.But I have had a passive speaker rig with bowers and wilkins 600 series models and while the larger front speakers have a lot more bottom they are in no way any where near as defined as the powered monitors.The ability of the emotivas to sort things out in the sound mix leaves my bowers and wilkins speakers at the starting gate.Looking at the specs these speakers are a lot more linear sounding in their limited frequency range and as such are way more accurate than almost any mass market speaker most people would buy to use with most home theater receivers. And when one looks at the per channel power  ratings on a lot of home theater receivers these days that 100 watt per channel rating is pretty much fictional to say the least.I think if you measured the actual power coming from most receivers when used in 5 to 7 channel use it would be nowhwere near 100 watts per channel.

   The power rating on a powered nearfield monitor such as the emotivas is actually one hundred watts.The power rating on the airmotiv6 which is a larger speaker that has a bit more extension is 220 watts per speaker.To get that kind of power you have to go to a seperates set up with a dedicated multichannel amplifier.

   When you say no way that a powered monitor can out shine a passive speaker you should listen to some of the powered dynaudios or atcs.They destroy most passive speakers beeing able to play very loudly with little compression. If you tried to play a lot of passive speakers at the levels these monitors can play at the speakers would blow up long before they could come close. And at those levels they would not sound anywhere near as clean.

 Of course those speakers are more expensive than the emotivas.Another factor is that powered monitors use a active crossover as opposed to a passive crossover that uses power robbing components.Active crossovers have definite advantages over the passive crossover speakers when it comes to accuracy.Active speakers are generally much more resolving than passive speakers and as such sound a lot more like what the original recording sounds like.I suspect that is why I find them more able to sort individual sounds on movie tracks and generally with greater clarity.

Edited by buson160man - 12/22/12 at 1:24am
post #4 of 14

There are plenty of speakers with a frequency response as linear as the Airmotivs. They may or may not extend quite down as low, but that's OK since for most HT builds people use subwoofers with the 80hz crossover Dolby standard recommendation. 


It's probably not possible for your Airmotivs to use the full 100 watts/RMS. They are bi-amped, but equally. 50 watts goes to driver and 50 watts goes to the tweeter. Tweeters don't need that much power to produce the appropriate levels of SPL to match the drivers. Sounds more impressive than it is. Probably only getting 60 or 70 watts RMS effective usable power.


So let's do the math. Last year's Denon 1612 can output over 70 watts/channel, all channels driven. Even if the Airmotivs can use all of their 100 watts RMS, the difference is negligible since it takes double the wattage to output 3db more volume. So here we have a budget receiver that can keep up with the power output that is effectively being given to the Airmotiv 5s. Notably, this is also the lowest priced receiver that has Audyssey MultiEQ room correction software that can apply EQ filters to the speakers and sub and correct the in-room response to make it more linear. But alas, you can't plug the Airmotivs up to this. You have to spend a lot more money to get a receiver with Audyssey MultiEQ (or better) that has 5 channel preouts. 


Then to build a 5.1 system, someone has to buy 3 pairs of the Airmotiv 5s. If they don't catch them on special, that will cost $1350 for the speakers. There are plenty of speaker options out there that have the necessary dynamics and power handling capability within that budget range. Some won't have the same high level of sensitivity, but most people are not looking for reference volumes in their HT setup. Moreover, this budget includes the possibility of choosing configurations that have towers in the front, horizontal centers to accommodate placement issues, or bipole/dipole speakers to create a more diffuse soundfield in the rear. 


As for your comparison to the B&W 600 series, I'm not impressed by that. I used to own B&W 601s, and my Energy V5.1s that I use with my desktop setup, which sell for about $350 a pair, sound better than the 601s did to me. B&Ws are often noted to be expensive for their SQ. It's also possible that room factors influence your interpretation. Unless you set them up in the same place and did an A/B comparison from the same listening position, that could greatly influence how they sounded to you. 


Since you brought up the Dynaudios, I think the question you have to ask yourself is why Dynaudio and Emotiva aren't strongly pushing their monitors for HT use. They each have passive speaker models. If this idea of powered monitors being the grand solution for an HT setup is as good as you think, wouldn't Dynaudio and Emotiva be heavily marketing it? 


But to reiterate, I don't doubt that the Airmotivs are good speakers. I just disagree with the idea that they are a practical or cost effective choice for building an HT system. 

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

 Have you heard the airmotiv speakers?.After a bit more break in they are sounding very impressive and are very resolute I would say a lot more resolute than most passive speakers in this price range and some I have heard that have high end pretensions. I used to own harbeth esl2s and I have to say these speakers are a lot more resolving than the harbeths.The harbeths were nice for small scale works but they were no where near as resolute as these and were extremely inefficient at 83 db.The emotivas can do a fair job producing greater scale music than the harbeths. I have had a fair amount of passive speakers in my time and I have to say that I find active speakers in my little time with them are as I had stated way more accurate at producing the original  recordings I guess that is why they are professional monitors.Also I have seen the specs on most passive speakers and I disagree that they are as linear in response.Most are quoted at plus or minus 3db.I have seen very few with a linear response of plus or minus 2 db and most of those were also professional monitors.I doubt very much that you will find many passive speakers at  affordable price points that are this linear.The 5s do not extend as low as my large floorstanders the b&w 683s but those speakers cost me 1500 usd.They are passive and do extend lower but I find the emotiva monitors a lot faster sounding and way more resolute.I am hearing things on these that the b&ws completely miss and I was using the biamp feature on my 3806 to power them.Another thing about the B&Ws you really have not heard them until you at least bi-wire them.They sound a lot better bi-wired.They sound a fair amount better still when you bi-amp them. The emotivas cost only 449 usd and that is with amplification that is designed to work specifically with the drivers to provide optimal sound. I do have to say that for home theater use most people would probably use a subwoofer as well.As far as receivers go the denons you mention are designed for multi channel use but just one look at the amplifier section on most new receivers they have a pretty paltry power supply section.Just look at the amplifiers provided with the emotiva actives and you can see the quality of the parts used and the on board toroidal and that is on every speaker which is in effect a biamp mono bloc.And the speaker is not sharing that power supply with a preamp/surround processor etc like you see in a receiver.I have an older denon avr 3806 I am using as a preamp only with the emotivas and the power supply on the 3806 looks a bit more substantial than those on the newer models. I still have my receiver but it is ok sounding but nowhere near as good sounding as high end components.But those high end components have escalated exponentially in price the last few years making it prohibitively expensive for even middle class earners.I think active monitors such as the emotivas are a good way to obtain a fair amount of the high end performance for a very reasonable cost. I guess that is why I have gone to headphones which I find a much more reasonable route to obtain high end sound at closer to real world prices.Paired with a preamp/usb/dac with reasonably priced actives like the emotivas you could realize a pretty good taste of  those higher end components without breaking the bank.

  The emotiva website does state the uses of its monitors and they do mention a possible use as a satellite in a high end surround setup for a small room.

Edited by buson160man - 9/30/12 at 11:08pm
post #6 of 14

It's pretty much an accepted standard to quote speaker frequency response as +/-3 db. On many speakers, the -3db point is typically where the low end starts to roll off. For example, if you look at the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 SEs, they list specs of 58hz - 22khz +/- 3db. But if you look at the actual measurements, you'll see that they only vary by about 1db until they start to roll off. And they are under $400 a pair shipped. 


So Emotiva is trying to make themselves look good by specifying the frequency response the way that they did. And, by the way, since we are talking about frequency response, I would not believe that 27hz -6db figure they also have quoted until it is confirmed by independent tests. Emotiva has exaggerated the low end on their subwoofers with their stated measurements before, and that shallow a roll off curve for Airmotiv 5 below the tuning point seems very, very unlikely.  Not to mention that there's probably a lot of distortion going on nearer the low end if that is possible. 


As far as the power supplies and the amps in the Emotivas, Audyssey MultiEQ on that Denon will have likely have significantly more effect on SQ then the difference in the available power, unless someone is setting up an HT in a treated room. That's generally not the case in this small a budget range. 


Meanwhile, like I said. I don't disagree that the Airmotiv 5s are probably very good speakers. I'm sure that they are. But I don't believe that they are a cost effective or a very practical way to put together a home theater setup for most people.

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

I looked at your bio and I agree we both spend way to much time in a practical sense with audio.But it is a passion with me.You to seem passionate about it too.It is fun and the search for better sound never ends.Trying to do it on a budget is a bit tough but the results can sometimes be be very rewarding when one discovered the right combination of components to make things sing.

   I did not look at the rating for plus or minus 6 but really you can not expect a speaker this small to produce much bass below the 52hz rating stated on the speaker.I never suggested that the bass extension of the emotivas was that plentiful.But I do have to say that the bass is very tight and well defined and a fair amount quicker than most any speakers I have found anywhere near its price.Thes speakers have no detectable overhang in their lower frequencies like a lot of budget speakers have.They do not boost the bass  to simulate a fuller bass response like a lot of manufacturers do with their speakers. I wish you could hear the emotivas I think you  would be surprised at what they can do and you would get my point about their accuracy compared to a lot of passive speakers especially those that are in the emotivas pricerange.

Edited by buson160man - 10/1/12 at 9:16am
post #8 of 14

Sorry. I was just pointing the likelihood of the problem with the lower frequency range spec just because it looks off to me. I know you hadn't referenced it, but you did mention the other frequency response stas. 


I think we are arguing too different things, though. You are saying because the Airmotiv 5s are accurate sounding speakers, that they are a better value than other speakers and would be good for HT. While I do believe that there are going to be comparable passive speakers in SQ, I'm primarily saying that the Airmotivs would have a very limited use for HT because of the lack of flexibility in the speaker line (no center, no towers for those that might like the bigger sound stage) and because they limit the types of electronics that can be used (the receiver must have pre outs).  The latter is actually very important because sometimes the best choice is not to spend much on the electronics, but using powered monitors can easily over allocate the budget towards the electronics because one still has to buy a receiver. 


There's a saying in HT system design: fit the speakers to the room, not the room to the speakers. I think that's better expressed as fit the system to the room, not the room to the system. For instance, if someone has a room of 6,000 cubic feet, they will need to allocate more of the budget to the sub than in a 2,000 cubic feet room (subs performance is dependent on room volume) and would likely need towers, even if they weren't as accurate as smaller bookshelves, in order to create a good soundstage across the front. For every room, every budget, and individual listening preferences, the optimal configuration option will likely be different. Even if I concede that the Airmotivs sound better than any passive speakers in their price range, it's the whole design principle of powered monitors which is problematic, not just how the speakers sound. They just limit the range of choices for a given budget too much. 


And yes. At some point I would like to hear them. I've heard plenty of good things about them from other people, although I wouldn't expect them to outperform my current desktop audio setup. 

Edited by cel4145 - 10/1/12 at 10:28am
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

  Well I have moved the emotivas to my desktop and I am using a peachtree decco 2 as a usb preamp/dac with the emotivas. I am using a audioquest cinnamon usb cable between my computer and the decco 2. Things are sounding a lot better than the inexpensive computer speakers I had before and it should given the expense of my new set-up. I am enjoying netflix a lot more now that I have a better computer sound system.The hook up and set up was a breeze.Just hook up turn on the power and away you go.It was just that easy.No downloading drivers and programming them while hoping the download does not  crash your computer.The 5s are a bit bigger than ideal at least for my desk top but I have managed to fit everything on my desk top but I did have to place the computer monitor on top of my decco 2 on a small book to keep the high gloss finish on the decco free fom possible scratches or marks.I also just played a dvd thru the computer and things sounded even better than the netflix movie streaming.The emotivas have good clarity and things just sound a fair amount cleaner as well with more bass extension but I did have to keep the bass reigned in at the max 4 db cut on the low frequency control.This seemed to be the correct setting in my setup for the most natural bass.

  I have to say that I am pleased with the results so far and hope that things will improve even more when I get more time on the system.That is all for now.

Edited by buson160man - 11/12/12 at 6:19am
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

 Well it has been about six weeks since I got my emotiva 5s and the sound has gotten much better in that period.But I have had to do some experimenting with power cables and fuses to get the most out of my system.I purchased a decco 2 from peachtree about a week after I got the emotiva actives.initially the speakers sounded closed in and I had to crank the volume up to get a sufficient level to listen at.Since then the speaker has broken in a bit and the speaker is playing quite a bit louder at a given volume level on the decco 2 preamp form my cd player using the players outputs.On movies in particular the sound from my universal player is pretty impressive given the 5s compact dimensions.To get where I have gotten I upgraded the stock fuse on the decco 2 with a hifi  tuning supreme fuse(small 5 amp slow blow) and upgraded the power cord to a kubala sosna emotion cord.The denon 3931ci universal has a hifi tuning supreme fuse as well and I am using a nordost brahma power cord on it (wow the picture seemed to really sharpen up on the denon with this cord).On the emotiva 5s I have upgraded the power cords to the emotiva power cords they sell on their website.The emotiva power cords gave the 5s a bit more body and sounded less bright than the stock cords supplied with the speakers.Well the speakers sound has really blossomed and have surprising weight and power for their size especially on movie sound these babies can rock when asked to.They can play loud with no detectable compression at least to my ears.They play loud and maintain their clarity at those levels.

  I also bought a audioquest IE3-US power strip and hooked it up using a harmonic tech ac 11 iec power cord.I used the power strip on the decco 2 and the denon universal player and it really improved the sound of both units.The soundstage improved a fair amount and the sound has a lot more weight and body.There is more detail resolution as well.I recommend anyone looking for a high quality power strip to check this strip out it really does work like they say it does.The strip enables you to get the most out of your best power cord by spreading the benefits to up to three components that are hooked up to it.

   I have to say that I am really happy with the emotiva 5s and even thinking about getting a pair of emotiva 6s to supplant my b&ws and my denon receiver for video sound in my living room.Of course I am going to have to get a suitable preamp/dac to pair with them.And I will be restricted to two channel sound.But judging from what I am already getting from the emotiva 5s when I use them for movie sound I know i am going to be more than satisfied with the airmotiv 6s if and when  I purchase them.The emotivas are really exceptional sounding especially at the direct order prices that emotivas is offering them at.

  If anyone is looking for a reasonably priced speaker I really think you should give the emotivas a shot. I think you  will be quite surprised at their peformance at the almost give away price that emotiva  is offering them for.

Edited by buson160man - 11/12/12 at 8:40pm
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 

 I just upgraded the fuses in the airmotiv 5s this weekend.I upgraded them with 1a small slow blow hifi tuing supreme fuses.After only two days the sound improvement is very noticeable.The tonality is much better for one.The bass is more solid.The pacing of music is much more apparent now.The change is pretty profound all around for the better.I strongly suggest that anyone who has a pair of airmotiv powered monitors upgrade their fuses you will definitely like what you hear from the upgrade.The sound becomes much listenable as well as much more involving.

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

 It has been a few days now and last night I played a movie on the airmotiv 5s.Things have been getting better but when I fired them up today and started listening to some of my favorite audiophile cds I noticed a dramatic change for the better today.I have been pounding it all day today on cds and if I thought it sounded good a couple of days ago it has gotten way better in the last two days since i put the hifi tuning supreme fuses in the airmotiv 5s.Things just sound amazingly lifelike and listening has gotten way more involving.These fives are just unbelievable.They just transport you to the real event.They have so much speed and the pacing has gotten so much better.The dynamics are also very lifelike.The soundstage has gotten much bigger is much more spacious and is very natural sounding.I can clearly hear the space the recordings are made in.I really at this point have absolutely no criticism for what I am hearing from these speakers.Of course the bass extension is only rated to 52 hz at plus or minus 2db but they do not  sound like they are lacking in the bass department.And that is with the bass dialed down by 4db because they are so close to the back wall and the side walls on the right side on my desk top.As you can see I am stuggling to find any weaknesses in their performance because they just do not seem to have any weaknesses at least in my humble opinion.

  Frankly I thought the airmotiv 5s were good but with the upgraded fuses they are truely world beaters and not just on a cost per dollar basis.The fives can more than hold their own against many

high end monitors that are considerablely more expensive.

 To any five owners you have to upgrade the fuses to the hifi tuning supreme fuses because you have not heard the airmotiv 5s till you do.The fuse size is small 1 amp slow blow and of course you need two fuses one for each speaker.And the fuse model is the supreme fuse rom the hifi tuning fuse people.

  Well it is time to go back to the live concerts(just kidding) I have been listening to on my desk top system.

post #13 of 14

Anyone compared the Airmotiv 5 to the Adam A5X since it is similar in size and design?

post #14 of 14

Great read, thanks!

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