Tower speakers are a mainstay of both 2-channel and multichannel audio systems. Emotiva’s Airmotiv T1 tower ($699/pair) is a notable entry in the genre thanks to the price and performance it offers. With its 3-way design, dual 6.5″ woofer, and AMT (air motion transformer) tweeter, this is a tower designed to beat the competition at its price point.
This hands-on mini review is the second in a series covering the individual components of an Emotiva BasX and Airmotiv 7.2-channel surround-sound system. The complete rig will be the subject of a forthcoming full-length review that references the mini-reviews of each component. For now, let’s take a look at the capabilities of the Emotiva Airmotiv T1 tower speaker.
Features and Specifications
The Airmotiv T1 is a 3-way tower speaker that’s equally well suited for use in two-channel audio systems and home theater surround-sound rigs. Like the rest of Emotiva’s Airmotiv lineup, it uses a folded-ribbon AMT tweeter to reproduce high frequencies.
The 25 x 32 mm AMT tweeter crosses over to a 5.25″ woven-fiber cone midrange, which in turn crosses over to dual 6″ woven-fiber cone woofers for the bass. The rear-ported cabinet measures 37.625″ H x 8.38″ W x 11.625″ D and weighs 40.1 pounds.
These speakers feature beveled baffles that combat diffraction. Aesthetically, they have a high-tech, angular, somewhat industrial look. A pair looks formidable with the drivers exposed, but magnetically mounted cloth grills can be used to make the speakers more discreet for decorative purposes.
According to Emotiva, each T1 can handle 150 watts RMS and 300 watts peak power. It’s a 4-ohm speaker with 88 dB (2.83V/1m) sensitivity and a rated frequency response of 37 Hz to 28 kHz (+/-3 dB). Dual speaker terminals support bi-amplification.
I reviewed a pair of T1 towers in my home theater room, which measures 11′ W x 9′ H x 24′ D. The rig includes a Sony VPL-VW365ES 4K HDR projector paired with a Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 G3 screen (120″ wide, 2.40:1 aspect ratio), Roku Ultra and Chromecast Audio streamers, an Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and the other Emotiva gear.
The 7.2 surround-sound system contains the following gear: One BasX A-700 7-channel amplifier ($599), one BasX MC-700 7.1 AV pre/pro with 4K and HDR pass-through ($599), two Airmotiv T1 tower speakers ($699/pair), one Airmotiv C1 center channel ($249), four Airmotiv E1 wall-mount surround speakers ($269/pair), and the two BasX S12 subs ($399).
Emotiva’s A-700 multi-channel amplifier powered the rig.
I listened to the T1s in two contexts: Two-channel stereo (with and without subs), and surround-sound. And what I heard redefined my expectations of what $700/pair 3-way tower speakers can do. The greatest compliment I can offer is that these are the least expensive towers I have reviewed. And yet, once I got the system configured, I did not feel as if anything was missing as compared to pricier speakers that I’ve used in the same context. In particular, the quality of the AMT tweeter on the T1s is great, they measure well from the main listening position, even before applying room correction.
Now, before I go on, it’s worth mentioning that Emotiva makes the T2 tower, a speaker that offers higher sensitivity, as well as higher power handling. But, it’s the same design. The point being, if you need more output than what the T1 offers, Emotiva has that covered.
A pair of T1s, working on their own with no subwoofer, sound great when used in the context of a traditional audiophile 2-channel system. The only caveat is that their 4-ohm impedance makes them a tough load for entry-level AVRs to handle. But Emotiva’s A-700 amp had no problem pushing the T1s to very high output levels while delivering delicacy and detail that typically costs a lot of money if you buy boutique brands.
Even without the help of a subwoofer, the T1s have plenty of bass output that’s tight and tonally neutral. I was impressed with what I heard when I used them in a “pure” 2.0-channel configuration. A quick measurement confirmed that at the main listening position, the speakers offer a frequency response that delivers what the specs promise, with extension down to 35 Hz.
Remarkably, the T1s measured almost as flat at my main listening position as they did from 1 meter away, negating the need for EQ except to deal with unruly bass response below the room’s Schroeder frequency, which is the point where the room starts to be the dominant factor in bass response, and not the speakers.
Powered by two of the A-700 amplifier’s channels, the T1s exceeded the performance I would commonly expect from a $700 pair of speakers. I put them through my usual musical paces using the online-shashki Forum Speaker Evaluation Tracks playlist, with ear-pleasing results. Soundstage and imaging, as well as transient response, micro-dynamics, and detail rendition were all present in copious quantities
The only thing I found was missing from the 2.0 presentation was the ultra-deep bass that subwoofers—or giant audiophile speakers that cost as much as a new car—provide. Even then, the absence was felt only in tracks that contain that sort of bass, such as my mainstay base test track “Disc Wars” from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re not familiar with how the rich blend of Daft Punk and the London Symphony Orchestra can sound through a system that digs down to 20 Hz or below, what the T1’s offer would probably blow you away.
Modern electronic music is one thing, but on the other hand, if I played The Beatles, or The Cure, or 1980s-era Prince, or Peter Gabriel, or Paradise City by Guns and Roses (and I do enjoy blasting that track every now and then) the speakers just plain rocked. And those tweeters, those sweet-sounding folded-ribbon AMT tweeters! Wow, they manage to render vocals with incredible clarity.
I credit the use of an AMT tweeter for how good the Airmotiv T1s sound.
My philosophy on bass is that even the best speakers sound better with the help of one or more good subwoofers. Adding the two BasX S12s to make a 2.2 rig (with the crossover set at 80 Hz) gave the system the depth I craved. For artists such as Bassnectar, Deadmau5, Jon Kennedy, Datsik, Infected Mushroom, Schoolboy Q, and others. For me, extra extension into the bottommost octave is crucial to getting deep satisfaction out of music. In my BasX S12 review, I noted that even one of them markedly improved a system’s ability to handle “Disc Wars.” But it was running two S12s and the T1s together in a 2.2 system that did the track real justice.
Another remarkable quality of the speakers is how well-behaved the off-axis frequency response is, both in terms of what I heard and what I measured. At 30° off-axis, output remained linear except for a slight drop off in ultrahigh frequency extension; instead of measuring flat up to 20 kHz and beyond, there was a slight dip in response at the topmost frequencies of 16,000 Hz and above. But overall, what I see is a speaker that has very well-behaved dispersion characteristics.
At the $700/pair price point, Emotiva’s Airmotiv T1 towers are easily among the best deals out there for audio and AV enthusiasts seeking speakers that do not compromise performance-wise, even when compared to competing options that cost considerably more. I’m not here to name names, but you can spend twice as much on tower speakers that feature AMT tweeters and not necessarily get better subjective sound quality or measurements out of them.
When used as a part of a high fidelity stereo system, be it with or without subwoofers, Emotiva’s Airmotiv T1 Towers are more than up to the task of delivering the sort of performance you’d expect from speakers costing a thousand bucks or more per pair. Plus, because it is part of the Emotiva Airmotiv family, these are timbre-matched speakers. You can mix and match the T1 with other Airmotiv speaker models Emotiva offers in order to assemble a configuration that best suits your needs. The T1 is versatile and offers a lot of bang for the buck, so it gets my recommendation.
That’s all for now in this hands-on. Stay tuned for the review of the full 7.2 surround-sound configuration, where I will discuss how this system handles home theater surround-sound duty.