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Emotiva Airmotiv B1 Speakers - Desktop/Nearfield Impressions

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Post time 2017-6-22 17:00:04 | Show all posts |Read mode
My comments are based upon my use of the B1s in a desktop / nearfield 2.1 setup.  While the B1s were purchased for use as desktop speakers, I cannot resist pulling them to the front edge & far corners of my desk and then pulling my chair back 4 to 5 feet.  In this position the angle is a bit narrower than an equilateral triangle.  My desk is along the wall of a 2,000 sqft. basement and the subwoofer is located to the right of my desk.   As such my comments are based only upon nearfield use and may not be representative of speakers used in a typical room.  My listening has been only at moderate ranges using a 50 watt H/K AVR-140 receiver.  Please note that my comments below are made relative to my expectations for budget bookshelf speakers.
The Emotiva Airmotiv B1s have a very flat response with some elevation at the very highest frequencies.  See the attached chart.  While the boost at the highest ranges was evident, I found the B1s to demonstrate a level response through the rest of the frequency range.  The chart provided by Emotiva is very consistent to the frequency responses that I perceived.  With the exception of the highest end, I would consider the B1s to be very neutral and level throughout their frequency range.
Consistent with expectations for speakers with boosted highs, the B1s may be considered “bright” by some listeners.  However, this added brightness contributes to the character of the speakers and does not detract from their presentation – unlike the megaphone effect that is often associated with other bright speakers.  While fairly smooth, the B1’s AMT tweeter does not polish away all of the texture that is necessary to contribute a sense of realism from recordings.  I feel the B1s reach a compromise that eliminates the graininess associated with bright speakers, while also leaving enough hint of grit to provide faithful reproduction of instruments and vocals.  In comparison, I believe speakers that are excessively smooth may polish away some of the details necessary to accurately reproduce instruments.  The elevated highs may also contribute to the B1’s ability to pull important acoustic and harmonic information from recordings.  I think most listeners will find that the B1s have very detailed highs.
Consistent with the B1’s posted frequency response chart, I find the mid and bass ranges to be level without any noticeable peaks or valleys adding/detracting to the character of the recordings.  Although level and neutral, the mid and bass sound should not be interpreted as flat or lifeless.  The mids are clear and accurate and the bass is tight and faithful down to the lowest reaches of the B1’s capabilities.  In contrast to speakers with a bit a warmth and extra punch in the midbass area, the B1s do provide any artificial boost.  Instead, they demonstrate very clear midrange and tight bass that I perceive as being accurate to the recorded content.  While some listeners may find this presentation to be too lean, I found it to be faithful to the recordings.
With regard to the soundstage, I find the vocalists and solo instrumentalists to be rock solid in the center, or wherever placed by the recording engineers.  The soundstage is quite wide, consistently seeming to extend 5 to 15 degrees beyond the speakers.  On some songs, the stage is much wider.  I also find the soundstage to be fairly tall.  Sometimes the instruments seemed within a foot from the floor.  Other times, the vocalists and instruments were 1 or 2 feet above the speakers.  The B1’s soundstage is also able to provide a sense of 3 dimensional depth.  While vocalists and soloists generally place in front of the background instruments, they are not so forward that they seem to float in front of the stage.  The soundstage is just deep enough to provide distinct layers for each row of musicians.  Sometimes they are not deep rows, but there is enough distinction to provide the illusion that some musicians were in front of others.  Ultimately, I found the depth and width of the soundstage has been dependent upon the quality of the recording.
The detail from the tweeter and clarity of the woofer contribute to convincing imaging and the distinct separation of sounds and instruments.  I find that different instruments maintain their own space without merging into the space of others.  While the perception of an instrument in space is fairly precise, they may be stretched more horizontally than vertically.  Even so, the instruments are fairly easy to pinpoint in space.  For a budget speaker, I am very pleased with how I perceive individual sounds in space.  
The detail and clarity of the B1s contribute to a very convincing image of an orchestra.  For instance, with classical pieces it was easy to visualize the different sections of the orchestra.  Beyond separating horns from woodwinds, the B1s enables me to identify different types of horns in along the soundstage.  Furthermore, when two different instruments are playing separate and distinct melodies, I am able to envision them in their own respective spaces.  Although these spaces may be wider and not as deep as they would be at a live concert, they are usually presented in a very convincing manner.
While listening to the B1s I enjoy their ability to pull detail from the recordings.  Echo and reverb present in the venue, or added by engineers, adds a special sense of realness to the listening experience.  I also appreciat the speakers’ ability to accurately replicate the sound of different instruments.  It is easy to forget the tiny noises that contribute to the particular characteristics and voicing of an instrument.  For instance, it is easy to remember the ringing that comes from bells, triangles and vibraphones.  However, there should be a clank or ding that precedes these ringing tones.  The B1s provide these details in a clear manner that ensures they are heard, but not so intrusively that they distract from the purity of the ringing.  These details are also heard in the details involving the plucking of stringed instruments, whether it be a finger incidentally sliding along a guitar string or the fretbuzz of an upright bass.  Also, the B1s leave just enough texture in violins and cellos allow me to envision the bow being drawn across the strings.
Because the B1s are neutral and level across the mid and bass ranges, they do not add any additional support to vocals.  Instead they reveal only the capabilities of the vocalists.  If the soprano does not have the depth of an alto, then she will not sound like an alto.  Down lower, a tenor will not be mistaken for a baritone.  Additionally, any gravel and grit in a singer’s voice will be revealed without any additional smoothing.  Because I have historically preferred warmer speakers that add some depth to vocals, it has taken me a little time to fully appreciate the accuracy of the B1s as it pertains to vocals.  I now find this accuracy particularly rewarding when I imagine myself in the audience or studio with the musicians.  However, the level frequency response in the midrange and bass regions may cause some listeners to feel the B1s are less full sounding than other speakers in the price range.  
I found a very flat and natural response was possible when I crossed the B1s at 60 hz.  However, because I still enjoy  a touch of added warmth, I found that I could boost the trim on my subwoofer by a db or 2 if I set the crossover at 80 hz.  Either way I could achieve very natural walking basslines.
There are so many quality budget speakers available.  I hope my personal findings were objective and helpful to others seeking their ideal speaker.  Over time I will be interested to see if others have similar impressions of the Emotiva Airmotiv B1 speakers.

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