Emotiva Airmotiv T1 review: Affordable tower speaker kicks ass, takes names

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The Good The Emotiva Airmotiv T1 is a large, affordable three-way speaker featuring high-end appointments including a folded ribbon tweeter. The T1's sound quality offers close to the holy trinity of sound quality: full punchy bass, expressive midrange and airy highs. The bass response is deep enough to forgo the need for a separate sub in smaller rooms.

The Bad Bulky appearance, utilitarian black finish.

The Bottom Line The Emotiva Airmotiv T1's dynamic sound will appeal to audiophiles on a budget who are hankering for a big-speaker sound for music and home-theater systems.

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8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 9

Review Sections

Today we're witnessing a renaissance for budget home-theater components. Entry-level gear is explosively good these days, as evinced by great-sound-for-the-money offerings from companies like Elac America, Fluance and Emotiva.

While Elac is arguably the most consistent and definitely the most visible, we have also been impressed by the products we've seen from Emotiva. The company's Airmotiv 4 was perhaps the best near-field/desktop speaker for the money, and its electronics are top-notch too.

Now the same can be said of its T1 tower speaker. It has that big-speaker sound that kicks butt over smaller models, with a vivid, engaging presence that belies its affordable price. Yes, the Elac Uni-Fi UF5 is better still, but it is also $300 more expensive. If you want to wring the most value out of $700, then the rock'n'roll Emotiva T1s are a superlative choice.

Design and features


The Emotiva Airmotiv T1 floor-standing speakers feature a passive three-way design with a folded ribbon tweeter.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One thing is for certain: the Emotivas look like they mean business. With their sharp angles and "none more black" color scheme, these are the stealth fighter jets of the speaker world. You can park them in the hangar right next to your Netgear AC1900 router and Alienware Alpha PC. (If the angled industrial look is a bit much, you can soften it with the included magnetic grille.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

The towers are elongated versions of the B1/AirMotiv 5S, standing roughly 38 inches high by 8.5 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Like the more-expensive GoldenEar range, Emotiva's products use a folded ribbon tweeter -- a folded piece of metal that "squeezes" out high frequencies. The speaker adds two extra 6-inch woven fiber woofers to the B1's single 5.25-inch midrange. Be aware that the speakers are rear ported and don't come with bungs if you plan to put them close to a wall. In terms of performance stats, the speakers have a claimed frequency response of 37Hz - 28kHz, a nominal impedence of 4 ohms, and are reasonably sensitive at 88 dB.

Sarah Tew/CNET


It didn't take too long to discover the Emotiva Airmotiv T1's can-do attitude; it's an exciting, dynamically alive speaker. We had them hooked up to a Rotel RA-1592 stereo integrated amplifier and an Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player for all of our listening tests. There's a big round bass port on the speaker's backside, low down near the floor, so the Airmotiv T1 will sound its best a few feet away from rear or side walls. Like nearly all tower or large bookshelf speakers, the Airmotiv T1's sound improves when placed even further out into the room.

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