In Part One of our article on the Emotiva BasX TA-100 Stereo Preamp/Dac/Tuner with Integrated Amplifier and Airmotiv B1 two-way bookshelf monitor loudspeaker, we looked at the system as a low cost bargain with great sound. In Part Two we were curious what adding Emotiva’s flagship tower speakers, the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 speakers to the system would sound like, and to do so, we had Alan Lewine, well-known jazz bassist, to critically consider the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 speakers as he used them to mix his newest album. Alan’s review follows.
“As a double bassist, composer and music producer, I listen to a lot of music. And while I love music, unlike most consumers, it's also my livelihood. When I'm listening i'm usually listening very critically, so the system must be accurate and able to reproduce the nuances of the recording.
During the time I tested the Emotive Airmotiv T2 (T2) speaker system, I was working in the studio finalizing the mixes of two recording projects from Owlsong. The musical styles varied, but the projects were united in their reliance on purely acoustic instruments (no amps, pedals or synths) and our goal of realistic reproduction of the sounds of those instruments. Acoustic instruments produce a variety of transients and overtones depending on the instrument and techniques deployed by the player, and broad range of harmonic overtones, and the accuracy and the quality of recording and transparency of reproduction is laid bare in playback and easy to distinguish.
To my ears, a high-resolution recording of acoustic instruments provides the most demanding test of any audio system. And for this review, no fancy electronic test equipment was used – I tend to care more about human-discernable differences, but I have pretty good ears.
During the mixing process, I listened closely to every nuance of every instrument over a variety of studio-grade near-field and mid-field monitors (not including Emotiva’s well-considered Stealth 6). However, for each test mix, I like to listen on a variety of systems, from car radio, to cell phone speakers, to high-end home audio. The mix has to work at least reasonably well in each environment, but the home audio system (for which I used the T2) should be the most telling.”
These are large and heavy, and two people are needed to move and unpack. So, Mac Edition Radio’s founder, Harris Fogel, and I set them up in my home living room/music room connected to and powered by the Emotiva BasX TA-100 Stereo Preamp/Dac/Tuner with Integrated Amplifier receiver, a fine and transparent unit with what we hoped would be sufficient power.
The room has a slate floor, and 12 foot ceiling with two walls lined by books, and floor to ceiling windows on another. Because of the position of some difficult to relocate instruments, placement options were somewhat limited. With a little experimenting, we found the “sweet spot” to be about 12-16 inches from the wooden wall behind them and about 6-10 feet from the side walls, leaving the speakers about 12 feet apart centered on my listening couch. I toed them in ever so slightly, providing the effect of a little more space behind them, which helped balance the bass, but also narrowed the sweet spot on the couch a bit.
The Airmotiv T2 tower is a rear-ported, three-way floor-mount tower design with a 32mm folded ribbon tweeter, a 5.25-inch woven fiber cone midrange and two eight-inch woven fiber cone woofers. They weigh 65.9 pounds each and measure 42-1/16 inches high by 10-1/16-inches wide by 12 ¼-inches deep. Emotiva lists (these numbers were not tested by your reviewer) an efficiency rating of 91 dB, a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, and a frequency response of 35 to 28,000 Hz (+/-3 dB) with a rated power-handling capacity of 200 watts continuous / 400 watts peak. Each comes fitted with dual speaker terminals for bi-amping or bi-wiring. Basic black HDF construction with an optional black grill cloth over a rigid frame, attachable by magnets. We generally listened with the grill cloth in place, though discerned no sonic difference either way, so it is an aesthetic choice whether you decide to deploy the grill or reveal the speaker units in their naked glory. The black outer surface seems tough and resistant to marring, and the speaker comes with spiked feet for use on carpet, and rubber feet for hard floors (which we used).
While it is also recommended for home theater use with an additional center speaker such as their Airmotiv C1, we did not test this system in this fashion, only using the pair of T2s to listen to a wide variety of classical, jazz, avant-garde, and rock music, from soloists to large ensembles such as orchestras, but especially to evaluate the test mixes of my recording projects mentioned above.
As such, I was very pleased with the clarity, transparency and range of this system. We listened to the test mixes in a variety of formats: hi-res 24/96, 24/88 and 24/48 modes as well as “CD quality” test pressings at 16/44. The home setup provided an enlightening opportunity to listen with more “air” and a different sort of focus than in the studio.
The system as laid out provided excellent stereo imaging with clearly discernable placement of the instruments and a reasonably three-dimensional stage. I discerned no harmonic distortion at any listenable volume.
As a string bass player, I look for plenty of clear bottom, but without muddiness. So many systems, even high-end, boost the bottom at the expense of clarity, but I did not have that impression of the T2. And the system balanced across the frequency spectrum.
We used a variety of instrumentations on various parts of our projects, including grand piano, conga, bongo, cello, operatic soprano, nylon-string guitar, Cajon flamenco, drums, flute and violin as well as the bass. Each instrument has a distinctive sonic signature determined by the attack (first microseconds to milliseconds of a sound), sustain, release and the overtones generated by the natural harmonics of the instrument in each of these phases. The midrange and especially the tweeter provided wonderful clarity on these. The Airmotiv folded ribbon tweeter appears to resemble a development of the tweeters used by high-end Heil speakers that I recall reading about from days as a junior audiophile in the 70s. I don’t know the details of the technology, heritage or manufacture of these high frequency drivers, but they work for me.
Harris put the speakers through a different test, that of loading up a high-res version of the opening of The Who’s masterpiece, Quadrophenia. When John Entwistle’s bass kicks the room and universe into order when “I am the Sea”, fades into the amazing bass line of “The Real Me”, we were wondering how the combination of Emotiva’s entry level amp and their best speakers would handle it. True to form, with the volume cranked up, the music came alive, an amazing statement about the price and performance value of the TA-100. Not only was this affirmation of how much bottom end the Emotiva BasX TA-100 was capable of pushing, it showed off the rock and roll chops of the T2's.
How did the T2’s handle this gut punch of rock and roll? Splendidly. The bass was powerful, punchy, yet never any hint of muddled bass. Listening to Keith Moon’s drums, and quick transient response of his cymbals, without a hint of grain or distortion typified the sound. Rodger Daltrey’s vocals, and Pete Townsend’s guitar leads, all leapt from the speakers. On “5:15” the horns sounded and felt like they were right in the room, pulsing with energy and drive, and the manic violence of the vocals pushed the song into the high gear. Just wonderful, and Harris was totally in the groove. Happy as can be. We had the BasX subwoofer, but never felt the need to employ it. If this was a 5.1 surround system for home theater use, we would use the sub, but for stereo use, it wasn't necessary, the T2's held their own just fine, thank you.
Bottom line: The T2's are excellent sounding high-performing speakers. At the time of this writing, the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 is available direct from Emotiva for only $799 – and that’s not for one but for a pair. There are much cheaper speakers out there, and much more expensive, but to my ears, these provide most all the audio experience of the expensive speakers at a very modest price. The price-to-performance ratio here is definitively a score. These are great speakers, no matter the price.”
The T2 is currently even more of a bargain, with close-out pricing as Emotiva revises the speakers by dropping the notched design, and tweaking an electrolytic capacitor in the crossover to a film capacitor for better long term stability. Dan Laufman says that it’s doubtful anyone could hear a difference, but maybe in the future, so using the film offers more long term stability. What this means is that you can get some superb speakers at an even lower price if you don’t wait around too long. The Emotiva Airmotiv T2 speaker system and the Emotiva BasX TA-100 come highly recommended.
Alan Lewine, Harris Fogel, and Nancy Burlan, posted 6/22/2019
For more information on the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 speaker system visit: https://emotiva.com/collections/loudspeakers/products/airmotiv-t2
For more information on the Emotiva BasX TA-100 visit: https://emotiva.com/collections/basx-series/products/ta-100
To learn more about Owlsong Productions visit: http://owlsong.com
To learn more about purchasing CD's by Alan Lewine and Ana Maria Ruimonte visit: https://mkt.com/owlsong