Emotiva Airmotiv B1 Bookshelf Speaker Review

Last updated on: 2-9-19
Bottom Line: a cutting edge design with great specs for the price. A bit dark and industrial looking. Definitely a very strong competitor in the value-tier.

shown with and without the magnetically attachable cloth cover

Important Specs Overview

Speaker type: passive, 2-way, back ported
Continuous power handling: 70 W
Peak power handling: 150 W
Impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: 86 dB/W/m
Frequency response range: 48 – 28k Hz (+/- 3dB)
Driver size: 5.25 in
Unit weight: 9 lbs
Cabinet dimensions: 7 x 8 x 11 in (width x depth x height)
Warranty: 5 years

Review And Discussion

Emotiva is a small and more recently formed American audio company that caught our attention when various publications and usergroups started to tout their budget-tier speakers, in particular the the Airmotive B1 reviewed herein.

The standout feature of these speakers is the folded ribbon tweeter, which is a new and still relatively uncommon design choice with budget-tier bookshelf speakers. The larger surface area, in comparison at least to a more common 1 inch dome tweeter, allows for a more accurate and even response curve that also has a higher range. While most dome tweeter top out at around 20k Hz, the Airmotive B1 tops out at 28k Hz. Now you might be thinking: what’s the point of that if the human ear can only hear up to ~20k Hz? Well, in addition to the response curve staying nice and flat up to that point, it also means the tweeter has a lower floor, which means the woofer has more room to really focus on the midrange and dip lower. While Emotiva isn’t reluctant to say this is a 2 channel or surround speaker that’s best paired with a subwoofer (a usual standard with bookshelf speakers), the quoted response range within a 3 dB differential is actually excellent for a two way bookshelf speaker. It’s definitely possible these would suffice as standalone satellites, which we wouldn’t say for a lot of other two way bookshelf speakers. But, two-way bookshelf speakers will always have limited bass – a single midwoofer can only do so much.

The main driver is a woven fiber/cloth blend which, if made well, has the propensity to sound really great at near/mid range. The downside of paper/cloth drivers is that they’re more delicate and prone to damage or general wear and tear. Emotiva offers a 5 year warranty on the Airmotive speaker lineup though, which is top of the line coverage for budget speakers.

The power specs are quite good too – a 70/150 W rms/peak speaker will get plenty loud, though these might not suffice as the base of a full sized home theater system. Emotiva has a few towers in the same lineup (reviews forthcoming) which we assume are intended to for that specific purpose.

The cabinet is a fairly boilerplate black MDF with rounded edges, while the baffle is an interesting geometric shape that slightly embeds the woofer and puts the tweeter in a small horn. These are definitely forward speakers, meaning you’ll want to aim them at a sweet spot where the user would presumably sit.

The square and octagonal basket is kind of industrial looking, not the slickest thing ever, but a minor aesthetic criticism. Or you can choose to cover them with the included cloth grills which are magnetically attachable. Size wise they remain relatively compact and light for a 5.25 inch ported speaker, but they will need room in the back for the port to breathe.

Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition

This is the only budget tier bookshelf speaker with a newer ribbon tweeter and cloth cone that we’ve reviewed thus far. The specs are excellent for the price and this kind of design has a propensity to sound really great at closer range. Cheaper alternatives with comparable specs do exist, but the Airmotiv B1 appears to be a really great overall value and strong competitor in its price-tier.

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