This is not a comprehensive review of the Airmotiv 4s speakers. Why not? Well, first, I’m not a professional reviewer, so you won’t see the typical verbal flourish, the frequency graphs nor the genre of musical tastes here that you would with a paid or well-known hobbyist reviewer. So I won’t be getting into the nitty-gritty of a real audiophile review. I’m a word-of-mouth consumer who happens to have a money blog and that’s it. And besides, the reality is, you have to audition something for yourself to determine whether you’ll actually like it or not. A review can only pique your interest to listen to a particular item that you might happen to be interested in.
That said, I’ve been surprised by the sparsity of reviews for the Emotiva Airmotiv 4s speakers (that’s “4 s” not the plural “4’s”). There are a few, and they are generally good (though it seems most audio reviews tend to accentuate the positive no matter the product). But there aren’t many. My review will also be good because, well, I chose to purchase and keep the speakers for a reason. You might not like them, but you won’t really be able to tell unless you hear them and have time to break them in and/or adjust your ears to them. Or there may be a dozen other reasons why you wouldn’t even consider these (style / aesthetics, size, brand, etc.).
The Airmotiv 4s’s (it’s odd to pluralize that) sit 9.5″ (H) x 6.25″ (W) x 7.5″ (D) apiece. They are so small that my existing speaker stands needed something to cover the speaker plate and to lift the speakers a bit, so I bought 2 cork yoga blocks to set them on. These also act as an acoustic damper of sorts, which is nice. The 26 x 32 mm folded-ribbon tweeter and 4.5″ polypropolene woofer produce unusually wide frequency range for the small size: 58 Hz to 23 kHz +/- 2 dB (and a tiny bit wider at +/- 6 dB).
I dare say this is wider than other small speakers I’ve demoed, and these numbers aren’t fudging it. In fact, while I used my subwoofer with them for a time, I decided to remove it from my system in my quest to downsize as it wasn’t really needed with these in a near/mid-field setting. All of this in a package that wallops 50 watts RMS at S/N > 90 dB; THD+N < 0.05% and just under 11 lbs for both. Power is rendered via ClassAB amps (1 per speaker) with toroidal transformers. (Specs taken from the Emotiva website). They’re certainly loud enough for mid-field listening in a modest family or bonus room setting.
The audio quality of the Airmotiv 4s is pretty astounding, and they produce detail in line with PSB Alpha B1’s or Imagine Mini’s, with notably lower frequency response. But out of the box they are not quite as warm as I’d like. Rather, the 4s seems a bit boomy on the bottom end and bright at the top for my tastes. Not a lot, mind you, but noticeable enough. Of course, this could be a result of placement or room acoustics. Be that as it may, Emotiva anticipated this possibility and provided 2 gain adjustments on the back panel of each speaker, one each for HF and LF — so I dialed both back a notch (-2 dB each).
Problem is, though, when you dial down the LF shelving control, you do so at 150 Hz and below. While that eliminates the upper-LF boominess, it also reduces the entire LF range by the amount of the adjustment. So you lose some of the bass that you would benefit from while eliminating the boominess. I compensated for that by pulling up the Windows “Speakers Properties,” selecting Bass Boost and boosting 51 Hz by 3 dB, which is just below the low range of the speaker. To my ears, this resulted in tighter and more punchy bass. You might find other/better ways to accomplish this, but it serves me well. After these very minor adjustments the Airmotiv 4s’s produce the warmer sound I enjoy without the hint of harshness from before, with a wide frequency range for such a small package, all at a very impressive volume output for my application.
For more information on Emotiva products, visit the Emotiva website. ($399/pair, purchased on-sale for $299/pair). Non-disclaimer: I am not an affiliate for Emotiva and receive no compensation for this post.
For a more detailed review, head on over to Stereophile.com.
Note: The current model of Airmotiv 4s has been discontinued — hopefully to make way for a new version.
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