Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero loudspeakers
Who says that loudspeakers need to cost a fortune to sound good?
Emotiva has sold me on the new Airmotiv T-Zero series loudspeakers (herein Airmotiv T-Zero’s). This two way design that features a specially designed (32mm) Airmotiv folded high-frequency ribbon and two 5 1/4 drivers that were designed to handle the midrange and bass respectively. According the company’s literature, the high frequency transducers deliver a flat frequency response with low distortion. Along with smooth off axis response they also deliver “superb transparency and uncanny imaging.” The woven fiber midrange transducers handle a detailed midrange with “very low coloration.” The woven fiber low-frequency transducers “with high-temperature voice coils and vented pole pieces deliver clean, crisp bass at all listening levels.”
The cabinet is designed of milled MDF of varying width (the front baffle is 25mm thick while the sides and back are 15mm). Emotiva states that the angled design on the front of the speaker “serve to minimize diffraction effects and room interactions.” I can attest to this. The model T-Zero’s under review are not bi-wireable (you have to go up the ladder to the T1 or T2 big brothers to gain bi-wire capability).
The T-Zero’s have an efficiency rating of 87db so be warned that you really want to have a minimum of 50 Watts to drive these speakers properly. A small SET really won’t cut it. But I am assuming that you would be buying these speakers because of their small footprint. Placing them in a smaller room would be ideal. You wouldn’t need much volume to fill a room like mine, 9’x11’. These Airmotiv T-Zero’s are perfect for a small apartment or bedroom system. I don’t have a home theater set up but I can imagine these would be great as part of a surround system as well.
The dimensions of the speakers are 38 1/8 “ high x 8 9/16” wide x 10 1/2” deep (without the included spikes). The weight is a modest 29 pounds each. There is an included black grill cloth that is easily attached via magnets. I found that the speakers sounded better without the grills but they do look good with them on and only cover the upper portion of the speaker cabinet to protect the drivers and ribbon tweeter.
The question has been asked before; will the Airmotiv T-Zero’s replace any large full range speakers you may already own? Probably not, but for those of you who are starting out in this hobby and even those that already have an audio system, or just anyone who loves to listen to music, these speakers are a great way to enter into a world of true sonic reproduction. At $399 for the pair of Airmotiv T-Zero’s are a steal, meaning that if they cost $800 they would still be worth considering, but at the price Emotiva is selling them for it is a no brainer.
Why is it so difficult for individuals to spend money on a good listening system and not when it comes to buying the latest gadget or hippest shoes? Most of us don’t think twice about spending more on our cell phones than you would on these speakers. Come on people! The Airmotiv T-Zero’s blow away any speaker you would listen through included with your hand held device, the only problem being you can’t carry them around in your pocket. It is unfortunate that when you say the word “audiophile” the first reaction of most people is that you are snob and won’t listen to music on anything that costs less then $10,000. These days, there are so many companies out there that enjoy making a great sounding product that doesn’t cost the consumer a year’s salary. These companies are in business to make money yes, but at the heart of their existence is love of music, plain and simple. Emotiva seems to have captured the very essence of this. Designing gear that everyone can enjoy on every budget.
There seems to be a lot of speakers on the market today that compete in this range but most of these are what you find at the big box store chains. In order to get a pair of Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero’s you need to order direct from them or Amazon, another reason that they can keep the price so low. This seems to be a trend, I currently own a pair of Tekton Electrons, another amazing pair of speakers at any price, but who also sell direct, passing those savings on to the consumer.
When I listen to these super affordable loudspeakers I am amazed at the warmth they produce. I really love ribbon tweeter as these produce a smooth and very detailed top end. Never sounding hard nor do they get fatiguing to listen to. Much to my amazement the Airmotiv T-Zero’s can handle all types of music with ease. I was able to put them through the paces and was never left thinking that they reproduced any one style of music better than the other.
Imaging is large and holographic. Because of their small stature I was able to place them in my room with ease and simply watch them disappear into the background. Instruments seem to float around the speakers, filling in way behind them giving you the sense that the speakers weren’t even on. If there is any fault, and I hate to use this word, it is that the low end is not what you would find in a larger tower speaker. The T-Zero’s are only rated down to 48 Hz, not even a low E on the bass. I don’t want to say that I am missing any bass though. It is there and seems to me that the speakers go lower than 48 Hz but there are times when the bass can be a bit diffused.
At times I was aware of the ports located on the back of the Airmotiv T-Zero’s but again, this is not really a knock, and it wasn’t to the point of being distracting. How else is a pair of speakers this size going to produce the amount of bass that it does? I would recommend getting them away from the walls on all sides, something that shouldn’t be too difficult even in the tightest of rooms.
Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian “Not Zero: In Three Parts” from Not Two, Not One (ECM)
This is one of the great piano trios of all time. Having been together since the early 1960’s the chemistry that these three masters possess is uncanny. You can really hear, feel and “see” the communication going on at this record date. Gary Peacock’s bass is right at center and Paul Motian’s drum surround him like a warm blanket. The T-ZERO’s are able to reproduce the bass easily if only a bit muddy in the low end. The upper end extensions and details of the piano are great and the rim shots on the drums are clear. Each instrument is occupying it’s own space in the image; never getting in each other’s way, also a credit to the recording techniques employed by Manfred Eicher of ECM fame. My only issue is that this recording is mastered pretty low, as I find to be the case with most of ECM’s catalog. This combined with the low wattage of my own amp and the 87 db efficiency of the T-ZERO’s prompted me to turn up all the way on my amp and left me wanting just a little bit more. Another reason to make sure that you have plenty of power to run these bad boys.
Alabama Shakes “Don’t Wanna Fight” from Sound and Color (ATO Records)
This is one of favorite new bands, even though this album is from 2015 (all of us Alabama Shakes fans are waiting for the new one to drop, wink wink, nudge nudge). I guess you would call this R&B but I think of it more has just Southern Rock and Roll. It’s just a band where everyone is just playing their instruments with good song writing, no gimmicks or crazy production values. What you hear is what you get and that is exactly what is happening listening on these speakers. The two guitars are clear and distinct, you can hear the tube amps being pushed to a slight distortion, and without even knowing for certain, the guitar coming out the right channel must be a Fender Telecaster. The lead singer, Brittney Howard, is just outstanding on this record. The Airmotiv ribbon tweeters really allow you to get inside her voice. Hearing all the nuances and scratches she delivers, reminding me a bit of Janis Joplin. The bass and drums are occupying the same space in the mix, directly in the center but these speakers do an amazing job at separating the two. I really feel as though I am there in the studio with them.
Amos Lee “Hang On, Hang On” from My New Moon (Dualtone Music Group)
This is a great track from singer/song writer Amos Lee. I love to listen to this track for his vocals and guitar. There are also some great moments from the low bass, in that post production sub category. Just a well recorded and produced track. The Airmotiv’s really capture the spirit of this tune, delivering Amos Lee’s voice with a clarity and size that belies the size of the T-Zero’s. They handle the sub bass frequency quite nicely, not too woolly and with quite a bit of clarity. There is a great separation of instruments and the fingers on the guitar can be heard clearly, again a nod to that lovely ribbon tweeter. Again I am reminded of how warm these speakers are, or could be just how revealing they are, demonstrating the warmth of my Class AB Simon Audio Lab integrated.
In conclusion, I have to say that up against my full range 4-way design Tekton Electrons that stand at 48” tall, a foot taller and almost half a foot wider I was a bit scared when I first set up the T-Zero’s. How would these little towers compare. Well, call me impressed and even a bit dumbfounded. These guys at Emotiva know what they are doing and have a great product on hand. I can only imagine that as you go up in the line of the Airmotiv speakers you are going to get only more of what I can already hear is great thing in the T-Zero’s. I would also be interested to hear more from what Emotiva has to offer in the way of electronics. If their speaker design is any indication of the quality and dedication that Emotiva has invested in their products then I would have no hesitation in trying out anything that this company releases.
At $2750, my Tekton Electrons are already considered a bargain in the audiophile world, but for $399 the Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero loudspeakers (less than 10 times the price), are getting you one hell of a loudspeaker.
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