A bigger bang: Emotiva Airmotiv 5 speaker

Emotiva self-powered speakers have long been Audiophiliac favorites, but he's just now getting acquainted with the midsize Airmotiv 5s.

The Emotiva Airmotiv 5 Emotiva

I've lost count how many times I've given props to Emotiva's $299 per pair Airmotiv 4 desktop monitor speakers on this blog, but never got around to auditioning the next model up in the line, the Airmotiv 5, which are currently on sale for $409 a pair. The 5 sounds really good, very similar to the Airmotiv 4, just more so. There's also an even larger model, the $599-per-pair Airmotiv 6s, I might get around to checking those out someday.

The Airmotiv 5 has a 5.25-inch polypropylene composite woofer, and instead of a dome tweeter, there's a specially designed folded-ribbon tweeter. Like all of Emotiva's Airmotiv and Stealth speakers, the Airmotiv 5 is a bi-amplified design, each speaker has two 50-watt power amplifiers inside. One amp is for the tweeter, the other one is for the woofer. The speaker's back side has a bass port (a wide slot near the top of the cabinet), along with RCA and XLR input connections. Controls on the rear panel allow for some degree of tonal balance fine-tuning; the speaker also has a front panel volume control. I used the Airmotiv 5 with my Schiit Audio Bifrost digital converter. The speaker measures 10.7 inches by 7.1 inches by 8.3 inches, and the shipping weight for the two speakers is 26.45 pounds.

The Emotiva Airmotiv 5's rear panel Emotiva

The Airmotiv 5 sounds like a bigger Airmotiv 4, with better and deeper bass. I primarily used the 5s as desktop speakers, but they can also work wonders as hi-fi speakers, and fill a room better than the Airmotiv 4s can. I love the Airmotiv 5's sound for music, movies and even watching YouTube videos with questionable sound quality. The Airmotiv 5s' sound balance flatters all music genres, and that bodes well for long-term satisfaction. It sounds clearer than the Audioengine A5+ desktop speakers, that's for sure.

Still, I wondered how the Airmotiv 5 would fare compared with my favorite $499 per pair Adam Audio F5 desktop monitors. I cued up Bob Marley's "Legend Remixed" album; the F5s gave a much clearer picture of the music and bass definition improved, but there was less bass oomph than what I got from the Airmotiv 5s. The F5 countered with improved midrange presence, and treble sparkle shined. The F5s' dynamics were also a wee bit punchier than the Airmotiv 5s'. Wilco's "A Ghost is Born" album told much the same story as the Marley tunes, the F5s sounded more you-are-there realistic than the Airmotiv 5s. Summing up, the Airmotiv 5 is pretty darn impressive, and puts out more bass, but the F5 is more transparent. I think it's worth the difference in price over the Airmotiv 5. Then again, if those two are out of reach, I still strongly recommend the $299 Airmotiv 4 speakers.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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