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Emotiva Airmotiv 6s Powered Speaker Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Emotiva Airmotiv 6s. It is on kind loan from a member. The 6s is discontinued but I think it cost US $400 for a pair.

The 6s is a chunky and large monitor as these devices go:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker Review.jpg

I was surprised that there was no gain control available:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker Back Panel Review.jpg

Input sensitivity even with XLR input was very high. I had to drive it with just 0.13 volts for the testing.

The 6S is quite heavy as well with a dense cabinet.

Measurements of the Emotiva 6s was performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics) to subtract room reflections. It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

Spinorama Audio Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker can be used. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Audio Measurements.png


Looking at the listening window (dashed green line on top), the response is flat but with a suck out between 300 and 600 Hz. Below that there is a lot of bass. And above it while ragged, you could kind of pretend it is flat. The crossover is at 2.5 kHz which is quite far from where the dip is. It seems that some kind of DSP processing was used to boost the lows way up as we have seen in some other powered monitors. At the cost of some efficiency, the peaking response from 600 Hz up could have been pulled down for a proper response. But maybe the speaker would not sell as well in quick demos.

And oh, please ignore the vertical scale. I am struggling on how to get this to be calibrated well to what it is supposed to be with powered monitors. I set it to 79 dB at 2 meters as the standard stipulates but then what is computed is well above that. The relative levels are correct however so the dip is the dip.

Making some assumptions about what reflections may exist in a room, we can get a mix of direct and reflected sound and get a graph that attempts to predict what the tonality of the speaker would be:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama In-room Response Audio Measure...png


Clearly we have a built-in EQ here with a dip in 300 to 600 Hz as noted earlier, and a peak between 3000 to 7000 Hz. With some music and ears this would be good, with others not.

At this point, if you are not a speaker nerd, you can jump to the listening section and then conclusions. For others more advanced measurements to follow.

Advanced Measurements
Early reflections which have a strong influence over what we hear in our rooms shows some bad ones:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Early Reflections Audio Measur...png


You would want to absorb floor reflections (blue) to lower the peak at 600 Hz and droop at crossover frequency of 2.4 kHz.

Looking at fuller picture of reflections we see similar issues:
Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Reflections Audio Measurements.png


We see a droop in the response vertically (right) at crossover frequency of 2.5 kHz.

When we combine all the reflections we see the clear step function up around 700 Hz:
Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Full Reflections Audio Measure...png


High-resolution contour plots (1 degree spatial resolution) shows the strong variations in signal on axis (due to frequency response variations):
Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker Horizontal Contour Audio Measurements.png


Vertical slice shows the holes we saw in our 2-D chart:
Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker Vertical Contour Audio Measurements.png


There are no CSD charts as I am still not happy with what I am getting. Making progress though but still not there.

Of course there is no impedance chart because these are powered speakers.

Distortion test is being worked on and not ready to be plotted. But subjective experience below.

Crossover Behavior
The CEA-2034 spinorma chart like above severely underuse the Klippel NFS system since it only cares about measurements every 10 degrees in two dimensions. The NFS computes the entire soundfield so we can perform sophisticated analysis such as what happens in and around the crossover frequency of 2.5 kHz:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker Crossover Soundfield Audio Measurements.png


At 2000 Hz, the woofer is creating most of the energy as we see one more of less unified wavefront. At crossover point though, we have a complex soundfield with the tweeter and woofer mixing and producing that tri-axis response.

As a comparison let's look at what happens to the Revel C52 center speaker as it hands the signal from its mid-range to tweeter:

Revel C52 crossover balloon plot Measurements.png


We see a single projection that more or less smoothly falls off in all directions. More insight is seen when we look at the same but into the speaker:

Revel C52 crossover balloon plot forward Measurements.png


You can almost make out each driver in the acoustic field that we have measured! And see how they are nicely blending into each other.

Of course it is an easier to job to blend a smaller midrange into the tweeter but great help is provided in the form of the waveguide around the tweeter to optimize this.

I will try to run this test in the future.

Very informal Listening Tests
I set up the Airmotiv 6S on my desk and compared it to the JBL 305P Mark ii (i.e. all testing is near-field with speakers around 3 to 4 feet away from my ears). There are multiple dimensions here, all matching the measurements. With content that has upper bass content but not very low, the 305P despite its smaller size has more bass. However, with anything that has deep bass, the 6S pulls way ahead. Translating into real life, light 'audiophile' and jazz type music had a bit more bass on the 305p than 6S. Switch to rock and techno and the 6S pulls way ahead.

Output level testing was interesting. The 6S can get quite a bit louder but has a window after which it gets severely distorted by bass notes. Basically if you can see the woofer flapping around, you are way out of its discomfort. The JBL 305P on the other hand, doesn't distort but gets thinner and thinner sounding. Clearly some kind of limiter is keeping it from blowing its brain. Net, net, the Emotiva 6S can fill a much larger room and higher SPLs. Just don't confuse it with a quality bookshelf speaker driven by a powerful amp. It starts neck and neck and then dies.

Outside of bass performance, when the suck out in low frequencies was not an issue, I thought the Emotiva pulled ahead of the JBL. It is able to play to much higher levels and while bright, I also found the 305 to be so as well. I asked my wife to come and listen which by then was quite annoyed with all the noise I had made. She listened for a few seconds and instantly declared the Emotiva the winner.

Conclusions
There is no reason to buy as speaker that has a suck out in upper bass if you had a choice. If you don't care and want something that plays loud near your desk, the Emotiva does OK. I went into the review expecting the 6S to perform poorly but it did not end that way. The extra bass performance has a lot of value subjectively.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

I had to run this test twice and a bunch more time spent trying to get the darn levels right. In other words, I worked overtime and expect to get time and a half pay for it. Please donate using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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digicidal

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#2
I can't count the number of times I almost pulled the trigger on a pair of these (basically every time Emotiva had them on sale). Whether lucky or unlucky - they were always out of stock by the time I was ready. Although I certainly agree with the lacking low bass on the 305p's, at lower volumes (and with some boundary reinforcement) they do great as cheap PC speakers... and for every other application a sub fixes their worst failings. Much more difficult to remedy the suck-out on the Airmotiv's.

Coincidentally it's an old Emotiva sub that I had backing up my 305p's for quite some time - until I replaced them with Adam T7V's for TV duties and moved the 305p's to the office. Great to see them reviewed, despite not being available for some time now!
 

Doodski

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#6
This is ASR.
We already have too many golden ears ruining everything.
I think the mood is toning down and the peeps are settling in with all this new information and capability. Time will tell :) I was surprised the Emotiva 6S speaker was better than the infamous JBL 305 Mk II.
 

napilopez

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#7
Shame about the suckout, but otherwise looks like a good speaker! Good directivity, mostly flat FR and the upper bass suckout can probably be EQd. It's getting pretty close to schroeder there anyway, so might as well EW to flatten out the response. Shouldn't be too much trouble since it's well into the midrange, methinks

What did you think about the soundstage @amirm? Looks like a wider directivity design than the JBL throughout most of the frequency range, as one would expect from the tweeter used and minimal waveguide.

And those balloon plots:D. By far my favorite thing about the klippel.
 

pavuol

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#8
I can't believe you're Mrs only complaint is ' all this noise ' . She needs a prize for being the world's most understanding wife .
:)
Amir's list of headphones:
Sennheiser: X, Y,Z...
Hifiman: X,Y,Z...
NextBrand: Nextmodel1, 2, 3..
....
Amir's wife list of headphones:
"casual review day": Just-a-brand: Safety Ear Muff standard (-25dB)
"heavy duty test day": NoMatterBrand: Pro safety Ear Muffs (-35dB)
 

kaka89

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#9
I have a hard time understanding the 3d sound field graph.

I assume the colors refers to SPL, but how should I interpret the shape? and the 3 axis?
 
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#10
Greetings, owner here.

This is definitely a surprise. I use these in a 13x17 living room w/ a sub to fill-in the bass. (Even the wife agrees w/o the sub it feels like something is missing.) Ironically, I like these for (what I thought was) very clear upper bass and vocals without ever any harsh "sssss" sound.

Most of the music we listen to is classic rock, classic country & western (ducks), and chamber classical (as opposed to full-on orchestral stuff). Occasionally 80's-style dance: Talking Heads, Duran Duran, maybe some Abba.

My requirement was bookshelf speakers so I bought the largest bookshelves I thought I could get away with, with a straight face. I wanted the 8s, but they were IIRC 50% more price-wise and would have definitely failed the form factor test. (truth be told these did too) All in all, I've been very happy with them, but that's also with the sub. Go figure. I didn't audition any other speakers and bought these entirely on Emotiva's reputation for price to performance ratio.

I am glad they were able to beat-out the JBL 305p's. I would have been really miffed if they couldn't best the flyweight class champ. :)
 
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napilopez

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#11
I have a hard time understanding the 3d sound field graph.

I assume the colors refers to SPL, but how should I interpret the shape? and the 3 axis?
I believe both colors and shape refer to SPL. You see lobing in the 2500Hz image because the speaker is outputting less energy at certain angles - same as if you look at the vertical SPL graph at 2,500HZ. The colors just help you visualize the SPL changes more easily and relate it to the contour plots.

In each case, the areas colored red is the highest SPL, and blue is the lowest- where there is least energy radiated. At the same time, the red parts are most extruded from the center point, and the blue are closest to the center.
 

garbulky

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#12
I'm really glad you did a measurement on these. Emotiva also has measurements on these. So you can compare. I have not had the opportunity to listen to the 6's but I have heard the 4's and the 5's - both (subjectively) performed at the top of its price range (passives included), which really surprised me considering their price. They are still my go to recommendations for speakers on a budget. I didn't think they lacked anything at all in the "upper bass", though the airmotiv 4 appeared to sound like "ported" bass without textural refinement down there.

I am quite surprised these did not ace the tests. Hmmm... Oh well. I would be interested in hearing the 6. From subjective accounts, they appear to outdo the 5 quite well.

It would be nice to see you test the Emotiva T2.

The DSP for the bass is a real surprise. I don't think that was mentioned at all. However I do know that they are active bi amp units.

BTW, are you able to tell us by just how much db the airomotiv's are able to play louder than the JBL's?
 
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napilopez

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#13
Greetings, owner here.

This is definitely a surprise. I use these in a 13x17 living room w/ a sub to fill-in the bass. (Even the wife agrees w/o the sub it feels like something is missing.) Ironically, I like these for (what I thought was) very clear upper bass and vocals without ever any harsh "sssss" sound.

Most of the music we listen to is classic rock, classic country & western (ducks), and chamber classical (as opposed to full-on orchestral stuff). Occasionally 80's-style dance: Talking Heads, Duran Duran, maybe some Abba.

My requirement was bookshelf speakers so I bought the largest bookshelves I thought I could get away with, with a straight face. I wanted the 8s, but they were IIRC 50% more price-wise and would have definitely failed the form factor test. (truth be told these did too) All in all, I've been very happy with them, but that's also with the sub. Go figure.

I am glad they were able to beat-out the JBL 305p's. I would have been really miffed, if they couldn't best the flyweight class champ. :)
It's also worth noting that at low frequencies, we hear more of the sound power vs other curves. So while there's a dip in the upper bass/low mids, it's probably not as bad as it might look from the on-axis curve in a living room scenario.

From the Toole Booke:
 

MZKM

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#14
The 6s is discontinued but I think it cost US $400 for a pair.
$499/pair, the big 8" was $750/each, triple the price!
Emotiva had on-axis measurements for some of this lineup, and it looked better than this, never mind, 10dB scale for the 4s, matches this measurement; the manual states that "the middle of the front baffle at approximately the same height as the listener’s seated head height", so ~6.75" from the top/bottom.

@amirm , you got the zip file?
Preference Rating
SCORE: 4.6
SCORE w/ subwoofer: 6.5


Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 1.06.36 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 1.06.51 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 1.07.01 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 1.07.07 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 1.07.13 PM.png
 
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tomtoo

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#15
This speakers look like a f117. Could be darth vaders speakers. But not bad for the price. I enjoyed the listening test. Very nice review!
 

napilopez

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#16
$499/pair, the big 8" was $750/each, triple the price!
Emotiva had on-axis measurements for some of this lineup, and it looked better than this, never mind, 10dB scale for the 4s, matches this measurement; the manual states that "the middle of the front baffle at approximately the same height as the listener’s seated head height", so ~6.75" from the top/bottom.

@amirm , you got the zip file?
The nefarious duo of scaling and smoothing strikes again!
 
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#17
I own the both the Emotiva Airmotiv 5S and Stealth 8's, as well as a pair of JBL 306P's and the original LSR 305's. I love all of them with the Stealth 8's being the clear winner, but second place in my book has to go to the Airmotiv 5S.

I've used my Airmotiv 5S's in a 5000+ cubic ft. room and they fill it up with absolute ease and clarity. I've used them for HT with pleasure. The JBL's seem like they want to struggle filling up my bedroom. The build quality on the Emotiva dwarfs that of the JBL's. My small Airmotiv 5S is the same weight as my 306P despite being half the size. You can feel the difference in cabinet construction.

The biggest difference between the Emotiva and JBL Speakers is in the treble. The 306P was a welcome upgrade in treble over the LSR 305's but the Airmotiv 5S and Stealth 8's slaughter the JBL's in resolution. The JBL's are a bit kinder for lower quality recordings and have a mid-range to die for. On a desk I may prefer the JBL's for metal and the Emotiva's for just about everything else. In a large HT I have no faith in my JBL's like I do my Emotiva's.
 

ctrl

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#18
Because the acoustic centers (from tweeter and mid woofer) of the C52 are closer together and the crossover frequency is lower than that of the Airmotiv 6s, the vertical radiation around the crossover frequency should be wider and the side lobes less pronounced.

However, the comparison with the directivity balloon of the Revel C52 is a little confusing, since the two coordinate systems under consideration do not have the same orientation.

With the Airmotiv 6s we look from the side and more from the back, with the Revel C52 from the side and more from the front.

A standardized view would help to compare directivity balloons of future loudspeaker reviews (around the crossover frequencies).

I have a hard time understanding the 3d sound field graph.
Maybe Amir can preface the next speaker review with some explanatory sentences about the directivity balloon and show the legend.
 
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#19
Bass performance should be mentioned in a speaker review but IMO not a factor to the speaker's overall rating/recommendation. Laws of physics exist so no bookshelf, or floor standing speaker, is going to have usable bass down to 20Hz.

But what if it does? It still means nothing. I have two 18" Sealed Subs in my room that measure down to 10Hz.

If I take DIRAC and make the bass response of my system "flat" to 10Hz the overall sound is going to be thin with very little audible bass. If I give the low end a +6dB bump then the bass comes alive and the sound overall becomes much fuller. A +6dB bass boost to your average speaker means 6dB less output overall. Most speakers already struggle for decent output.

Given how important bass is to the overall experience, and how no speaker can, or should, compete with a subwoofer, I believe the "Informal Listening Tests" would benefit from adding a high pass filter comparison to help equalize bass extension. So one comparison without a high pass filter and one with.

Why? So that the listening test can focus on what the speakers can do where it matters most (above 100Hz). Any speaker's bass can, and should, be remedied with a subwoofer, so I would rather know which speaker sounds better ignoring their bass performance. A fuller sounding speaker will likely sound better overall even if the midrange and treble are not quite as good.
 
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