Emotiva Airmotiv T2 Floor Standing and C2 Center Channel Loudspeaker
- Emotiva Airmotiv T2 & C2 speakers offer good sound for stereo or home theater use
- Very deep bass even without the use of a subwoofer
- Priced lower than equivalent-quality speakers
- Black, industrial styling
- Build quality above the price point
- Air-motion-transformer tweeters neither distort nor ring
- Good integration between drivers
The Emotiva Airmotiv T2 floor-standing tower speakers and the matching Airmotiv C2 center channel speaker will surprise you from the moment you open the boxes. The Emotiva Airmotiv (pronounced “Air-Motive”) T2 floor-standing loudspeakers and their matching C2 center channel speaker aren’t that large (and, in fact, are significantly smaller than I expected), but they are so solid that I’d have guessed that each of the T2 towers weighed more than 100 pounds. Getting the speakers out of their boxes required some serious grunt. I was surprised to find that the actual weight of each T2 tower is only 57 pounds. The C2 center channel is similarly dense for its size.
FLOOR STANDING LOUDSPEAKERS
Three-way, floor-standing tower loudspeaker
Single rear port
1 x High frequency driver: 25×32 mm Airmotiv folded ribbon tweeter
1 x Midrange driver: 5.25” woven fiber cone in a separate, damped compartment
2 x Low frequency drivers: 8” woven fiber cones
91 decibels @ 1w/1m (2.83v/1m)
91 decibels @ 1w/1m (2.83v/1m)
200 watts continuous, 400 watts peak
Recommended amplifier power:
100w – 500w/channel
35Hz – 28KHz (+3 dB)
Dual speaker terminals for bi-amping or bi-wiring
Dimensions (each speaker):
42.1” x 10.7” x 12.25” (HxWxD)
47.5” x 15.75” x 17.25” (HxWxD)
Weight (each speaker):
56.9lbs or 71.3lbs (boxed)
Removable, adjustable spiked footers or rubber feet (both included)
Black cloth over a rigid frame, attaches with magnets for easy removal
$999/pair via direct internet sale or distributors worldwide
CENTER CHANNEL SPEAKER
Three-way center-channel loudspeaker
1 x high-frequency driver: 25×32 mm Airmotiv folded ribbon tweeter
1 x midrange driver: 3” woven fiber cone
2 x low-frequency drivers: 6.5” woven fiber cones
92dB @ 1w/1m (2.83v/1m)
150 watts continuous, 300 watts peak
Recommended amplifier power:
75 – 350 watts
45Hz – 28KHz (+3dB)
Dual speaker terminals for bi-amping or bi-wiring
8.63” x 31.9” x 10.5” (HxWxD) or 15” x 36.5” x 14” (HxWxD – boxed)
36.1lbs or 48lbs (boxed)
Shelf or stand with shock absorbing rubber bottom pad (included)
Black cloth over a rigid frame – attaches with magnets for easy removal
$369 via direct internet sale or distributors worldwide
Emotiva, Floor-standing speaker review, Center-channel speaker review, Airmotiv, three-way, review, 2018, Glenn Young, Price, Value, Loudspeaker Review 2018
The prolific Emotiva company, based in Franklin Tennessee, is owned and operated by the Laufman family. It is best known for electronics and self-powered studio monitor speakers. Its products (particularly amplifiers) have the reputation for offering high value for the money. I came to this review with the preconception that any electronics company would have great difficulty surviving in the highly-competitive loudspeaker market. Was I wrong? Read on…
In preparation for my review of the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 floor standing loudspeakers and the Emotiva C2 center channel speaker, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Dan Laufman, President of Emotiva. One of the first questions I asked was how the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 speakers differed from their award-winning T1 predecessors. The answer was that the design goals for the T2 included lower bass extension and slam with higher volume capability.
Another question I asked concerned the use of the “folded ribbon” (actually air-motion-transformer) tweeters. Mr. Laufman stated that the Airmotiv tweeters (used on both the T2 towers and the C2 center) achieve low distortion by having a large surface area and little to no high-frequency resonances or ringing (the plague of dome tweeters).
The front baffles on the T2 and C2 speakers are a laminate of high-density fiberboard (HDF) and other materials. The HDF was selected over the (far) less expensive and more common MDF (medium-density fiberboard) for its better structural integrity and its greater acoustical inertness. All driver mounts on the speakers are fitted with T-nuts and machine screws so that there are no wood screws used as driver mounts. This ensures better tightness, fewer rattles over the life of the speaker, and the ability to change drivers, if needed, without weakening the mountings. The separate midrange-tweeter compartment is also treated with a mastic coating to control vibration and resonance.
Laufman is also a fan of bi-wiring or bi-amplifying, particularly if speaker-wire lengths exceed 10 to 12 feet. Should the speakers be used with a subwoofer, a crossover point of 50 to 60Hz, with a high-pass filter, is recommended.
When I pointed out to Mr. Laufman that Emotiva is considered primarily an electronics company, and that there may be market resistance to the idea of buying speakers from a company focused elsewhere, the reply was that:
- The Airmotiv speakers should sell themselves by delivering above expected performance
- That performance should be audibly superior enough to garner word-of-mouth support
- The concept of “spending the construction budget where it will be the most effective” is an axiom that applies to speakers as well as to electronics
As mentioned earlier, getting the Emotiva T2 floor standing loudspeakers and even the C2 center channel speaker out of their boxes takes some doing. All speakers are heavy and compact, and one can install either the carpet-spikes or smooth-floor rubber-feet (both included) before leveling the towers. The C2 is smaller, slightly lighter, and easier to set up. Both the T2s and the C2 sport dual binding posts for bi-amplification or bi-wiring. I agree that the speakers sound (slightly) better with bi-wiring. Approximately half of my listening was done with the stock jumpers installed, and the other half with bi-wiring.
And now to the negatives… The Emotiva Airmotiv T2 and C2 speakers are available in any color you want – so long as it’s industrial black. If you are one who admires the blacked-out, “high-tech” look of a futuristic baffle design with woven-fiber drivers, then these are the speakers for you. But if you are expecting something to blend in with the furniture from a visual standpoint, then you’re out of luck. This trio of dual T2s and a C2 center could make a decorator’s dream room look like a sound mixing booth. This goes double if you have black (Emotiva?) components on the equipment stand.
So, considering their (probably) negative appearance-acceptance-factor, it might be best to have the “but they look UGLY” discussion in advance of springing the purchase on your significant other.
There’s yet another drawback to the “blackout” appearance. And that is the speaker terminals are labeled plus and minus by only raised symbols on the black plastic terminal plate. These are hard to see when squatting behind the speaker for hookup. The binder ferrules have red and black stripes, but these are equally difficult to see in low light situations. So, plan on bringing a flashlight for hookup!
So how do the Emotiva T2 floor standing speakers and the C2 center channel speaker sound? Let me first discuss the T2 towers used in stereo mode with no subwoofer.
The T2’s bass filled my 3500-cubic-foot living room with a low frequency response that went so deep that I could have sworn my subwoofer was engaged (it wasn’t). Not only that, but the T2s could play far louder than I wanted to listen. While doing so, the T2s never lost their poise, sounded “chuffy,” or became anything less than perfectly articulate. And this high-volume performance could be achieved with any amplifier that I tried.
Another thing that impressed me about the T2s was the smooth integration between drivers. There is no audible clue as to where one driver hands off to another. In other words, there is no audible “speed difference” between the drivers. I am particularly impressed with the transition from the cone midrange to the ribbon tweeter. I had expected that the fast tweeter would be audibly distinguishable from the (theoretically) slower midrange cone, but I was mistaken. They seem to blend perfectly.
I was also surprised by the tweeter itself. I have heard a version of this Emotiva ribbon tweeter before in one of the company’s powered studio monitors. The studio monitor’s tweeter sounded to me as though it “homogenized the treble sounds.” Yet the same type of ribbon tweeter in the T2 speakers has none of that “sameness” evident. Treble sounds are clean, articulate, and pop from the background music just as a triangle “floats” above the sound of a live orchestra. Why the difference? I don’t know – it could be that the tweeter has been revised, that the crossover frequency is different (the powered monitors were two-way speakers, not three-ways like the T2s), or something else. But for whatever reason, the T2’s ribbon tweeters are a pleasure to listen to.
I also briefly listened to the Emotiva T2 floor-standing tower speakers in 2.1 stereo mode with my PowerSound Audio S3601 dual-18-inch subwoofer review. With the subwoofer in the mix (high and low-pass crossovers set to 50Hz), the T2 speakers developed additional authority and extension. Freed from the need to produce so much excursion below 50Hz, the T2 speakers also sounded far more open. A win all the way around!
As to whether the T2s are the “best $1,000 speakers in audio,” I’d have to say, “I don’t know – I haven’t heard the competition.” There are likely to be equivalent bargains out there (the Andrew Jones designed ELACs? the Golden Ears? others?), but of the speakers I have heard in my room, the T2s are definitely the best for their price so far. In fact, I’d have to say that (in my room and to my ears) I prefer the sound of the inexpensive T2s over every other speaker I’ve tried, regardless of price.
Using the Emotiva Airmotiv C2 center channel speaker with the T2s in 3.1, 5.1, and 7.1 formats, the sound field was not only coherent from side to side, but center-channel dialogue was crystal clear. The three-way C2 could also play far more loudly without breakup than a typical two-way center channel speaker. The fact that the C2 had the same tweeter as the T2 towers seemed to make a huge difference in improving coherency.
The C2 is not a small-sized center channel speaker. In fact, it looks even larger in the room than it does in its photos. But with that size, you not only get higher sensitivity, but more resistance to overload (and subsequent distortion) too. Mr. Laufman claimed that the C2 could even be run full-range without overloading (try THAT with any two-way center channel speaker!). I believe him. The C2 is a very good center channel speaker.
One of the first songs I played (T2 towers only in stereo 2.0 mode) was Béla Fleck and the Flecktones playing “Cosmic Hippo.” Its rolling bass gives lesser speakers the heebeejeebies – (That’s a technical term implying gross bass insufficiencies resulting in audible distortion). (also known as the willies, ed.) The T2 towers didn’t even blink.
The T2 specs claim a -3dB down point of 35Hz, but in my room, the speakers’ extension sounded as if it went at least 10Hz lower. Now that said, my room is “bass friendly,” and may well have given an acoustical boost to the T2 towers that would not be typical of most rooms. But an audio amigo who came to listen to the T2s was thoroughly convinced that the subwoofer was active, even when it wasn’t.
This level of low bass (speaking of bass frequency extension, not amplitude relative to the rest of the audio spectrum) could well be a problem in a smaller room, overloading the room with bass. For smaller rooms, I’d normally recommend the smaller T1 speakers. But if you’re crossing over to a subwoofer, then you could cross over at a higher frequency (perhaps 80 to 100 Hz.) and then cut back the bass at the sub to compensate for the room reinforcement. Otherwise, reducing the low frequency extension of the speaker (normally by restricting the port) can be employed. My favorite method is to restrict the port’s function by inserting a pair of socks. This certainly isn’t recommended, but it can sometimes be effective.
The larger woofers on the T2 (8” diameter vs. 6.5” on the T1 speakers) should have less excursion for a given loudness, and thus (theoretically) lower distortion.
Another favorite played on the T2 towers only was Sara Tavares “Balance” from the album of the same name. Sara’s voice is wonderful to listen to, and the T2 towers presented it with full depth and nuance.
For 5.1, I played the Hybrid SACD version of “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.” The C2 center channel provided as clear and smooth a transition to the T2s as any other speaker combo I’ve yet auditioned. So to throw a monkey wrench into all of this success (and to deliberately see if I could trip up the speakers)…
I queued up “La La Land” on 4K-UHD, HDR, and Dolby Atmos in all its hard-to-mix-down glory. I’ve noticed that previously, when mixing this or any other Dolby Atmos soundtrack down to two or even five channels via my OPPO disc player, that the dialogue was seriously damaged. Is this an artifact of the Dolby Atmos standard, a mixdown issue with my OPPO player, or an artifact of two-way center channel speakers? I’m not sure, but on “La La Land” as well as on “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Bladerunner 2049,” mixdowns have previously sounded funny. But with the C2 center channel in service, all the Dolby Atmos soundtracks’ dialogue sounded perfectly clear and as natural sounding as I’ve ever heard. I’ve tried the same mixes with my RBH HT speakers and subwoofer in service, but the Emotiva Airmotiv gear just sounded audibly better.
I compared the T2 speakers (in stereo mode with no subwoofer) to three other speaker pairs. One was the $2500-per-pair, highly-regarded, Tekton Pendragons. This pair of Pendragons included a crossover-capacitor upgrade, outriggers, and grills.
Since my Tekton Pendragons have been my reference speakers for the past few years, it seems only fair to compare and contrast the Emotiva T2 speakers with the Pendragons:
The T2s do not embarrass the Pendragons. The Pendragons are also really good speakers. They have some advantages over the T2s. Those I can think of include:
You can drive the 8-ohm Tektons with SET (single-ended triode) tube amplifiers with next to no watts – the 4-ohm T2s require more current.
You can annoy the neighbors with the Tektons – their ultimate loudness level is almost absurd. The T2s compress more and won’t play as loudly toward the top of their volume range.
The Tektons “wake up” and sound dynamic at a lower volume than the T2s.
But the T2s also have some advantages over the Tektons:
The T2s have an audibly flatter frequency response than the Tektons (the dispersion of the 10” Tekton woofers seems to narrow in the crossover range).
The T2s image a lot better than the Tektons, and almost as well as the Thiel 1.6 speakers.
The T2s sound more transparent to the source than the Tektons.
I also compared the T2 speakers to the Thiel 1.6 two-way, 6.5” loudspeakers. The T2s image every bit as well as the $1990/pair Thiels, that are famous for their imaging. The T2s, however, can do so with far less amplifier power.
I also compared the T2 and C2 speakers (no subwoofer used) to a set of RBH bookshelf speakers with their RBH 10” subwoofer and RBH (two-way) center channel. Even with the subwoofer in the system, the RBH system failed to present the detail or the bass extension of the Emotiva Airmotiv components.
Other equipment used in this review included:
OPPO UDP-205 disc player & DAC
Mytek Liberty DAC & headphone amplifier
Schiit Saga passive preamp & tube buffer
Carver Premiere 5-channel THX power amplifier
Emotiva BasX A300 stereo power amplifier
Emotiva XPA-2, Generation 3 stereo power amplifier
Yamaha A-S2000 balanced integrated amplifier
Interconnects by Straightwire
Speaker wires by AudioQuest (T2), BlueJeans Cable, and Monster Cable
Note that in every case, the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 speakers (costing half or less, in most cases) outperformed the other available competitors.
The following measurements were made one meter from the front of the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 floor standing speakers:
The following measurements were made one meter from the front of the Emotiva Airmotiv C2 center channel speaker:
In both measurements, note how flat and extended the frequency response is. These are exceptionally good measurements for any loudspeaker.
The Emotiva Airmotiv T2 tower speakers and C2 center channel speaker deliver some of the very best sound I’ve heard, regardless of price.
- The bass extension on the T2 speakers is surprising
- The driver-to-driver integration on the entire Airmotiv line is excellent
- The price of these speakers is very low, considering their performance
- The choice of (included) spikes and rubber feet allow coupling to any floor surface
- The speaker terminals are high quality and allow for bi-amplification or bi-wiring
- Some color other than industrial black
- Availability of optional outriggers to make leveling easier
- Some way to adjust/reduce the bass for smaller rooms
- Speaker-terminal nuts in solid red and black for easier identification
Even when compared to products costing multiples of their price, the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 tower speakers and C2 center channel speaker hold their own without excuse. If you’re an audiophile who wants to maximize the value of your audio investments, consider listening to Emotiva’s Airmotiv speakers. Emotiva offers a 30-day, in-home trial period. During that interval, you can opt to keep the speakers or to return them to Emotiva at your expense for a full refund.
When you consider Emotiva’s home trial period, five-year warranty, sound quality, and inexpensive pricing, these T2 and C2 speakers are bargains. Even a decade ago, loudspeaker performance at this level was hard to come by at any price. Emotiva offers a winner yet again in their T2 tower and C2 center-channel speakers!