If you've been looking to dip your toe into the world of speakers and separate electronics, now is a great time to act. Never before has hi-fi, and by extension, home theater, been so competitive at the entry level.
Emotiva has been delivering affordable studio gear for 10 years but has only started getting serious about consumer products in the last couple. The affordable Airmotiv B1 bookshelf and the Airmotiv T1 floorstander are the first entry-level models to appear, and by golly they're good.
The B1 is the cheapest of the two and sounds tremendous for 300 bucks, with performance that's versatile in a way few budget speakers are. Sure, it's not much of a looker, but the magnetic grille will help some.
While competitor Elac still has our hearts at this level, the Emotiva puts up a good fight. While Elac's B6 is more musical, if we wanted to "see" inside a recording, the Emotiva B1 is what we would choose.
Design and features
Emotiva's passive Airmotiv B1 looks very similar to the powered Airmotiv 5S. Both include the same folded-ribbon Airmotiv tweeter and 5.25-inch Kevlar driver, and feature that unique industrial design. The black box is 10.75 inches high, 7.125 inches wide and 8.25 inches deep. The B1 has a foam pad on the bottom that is designed to absorb vibration, making it suitable for use on a shelf or media unit. The company says the 8-ohm speaker will reach down to 48Hz (at -3dB) and will suit 70-watt amplifiers.
The B1 is part of a series which also includes the three-way Airmotiv C1 center channel ($250), the Airmotiv E1 ($270 per pair) surround speaker with 4-inch Kevlar driver, and the Airmotiv T1 three-way tower ($700 per pair).
To get started, we placed the Airmotiv B1 speakers on 24-inch-tall metal floor stands and used a Rotel RA-1592 stereo integrated amplifier with an Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player. This little speaker has a rear port, so don't plan on jamming it up against a wall; it won't sound its best that way.