Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Audioengine A5+ vs. Emotiva Airmotiv 5
An atypical post on my part but indirectly related to photography since many of us listen to music while editing. I wanted to upgrade my sound setup in the office and auditioned the Audioengine A5+ and Emotiva Airmotiv 5.
Here's the setup:
TOSLINK to Mini cable
Schiit Bifrost DAC "Uber board"
- Loved these speakers and it was so close between the Airmotiv 5 and these speakers.
- Can go stupid loud so easily. So much power.
- Not finicky about placement at all. Can practically aim them willy nilly and they sound amazing.
- Big soundstage.
- Great imaging.
- Warm/Sweet tone and a full sounding mid-range.
- Only one power cable necessary.
- Volume adjustment on the front adjusts both sides simultaneously at equal power levels.
- Great looking bamboo wood treatment (optional).
- Not as neutral as the Airmotiv 5. Has a little more "coloring" towards the warm side and more robust sounding mid-range.
- Mid-range not as clear as the Airmotiv 5 and sometimes murky with male vocals that sounded a bit thick.
- Other reviewers said that these speakers really wanted to just "party" all the time. I did find the bass to be a smidge on the heavy side but not overwhelming at all. I can understand that perspective considering the speakers need to be turned down considerably for 95% of normal listening.
- One side is active and the other side is passive.
- Lacks clarity compared to the Emotiva Airmotiv 5.
Emotiva Airmotiv 5
- Kept these speakers.
- Clarity and detail are amazing. Clarity of the speakers aren't overwhelming or tiring to listen to. Ribbon tweeters aren't too bright.
- Extremely neutral. Less coloring than the Audioengine A5+. More accurate as a studio monitor.
- Ribbon tweeter makes for such clear high frequency. Male and especially female vocals are vibrant and detailed.
- Each speaker is identical. Individual power cords and inputs. There's no differentiation left from right.
- Good imaging depending on speaker placement.
- More than enough power to fill a small room.
- Bass/Bottom end isn't as strong or as full as the Audioengine A5+.
- Placement is very finicky.
- Imaging depends heavily on placement.
- Soundstage does not feel as big as the Audioengine A5+.
- Hard to adjust power levels on both speakers to identical levels because of individual dials.
- Kind of boring industrial vinyl treatment.
- 2 power cables means needing 2 power outlets and 1 additional power cord running around the desktop.
So why keep the Airmotiv 5 and return the Audioengine A5+? It comes down to preference. There's no "right answer". It all depends on what you like and what you need these speakers to do. After hearing the Emotiv Airmotiv 5, I couldn't go back to the Audioengine A5+. There were some songs where the contrast between the two in terms of clarity was too stark. The Airmotiv 5 just had a level of detail and clarity on the upper register that the A5+ lacked. In addition, I firmly believe that the Airmotiv 5 are more neutral and thus more suitable across the board whereas the A5+ have a little more "coloring". Therefore some tracks sound good on the A5+ but others sound murky and bottom-heavy. On the other hand I really miss the A5+'s big sound stage and imaging and terribly easy speaker placement. But since for me, vocals and jazz are the type of music I use to compare the speakers, it was ultimately a matter of having speakers that really delivered a clear and neutral tone. At the end of the day it was a very close race. I could have kept either and been very happy with them. But stylistically the Airmotiv 5 are a better fit with my personality. Industrial but effective.
Your mileage may vary. They really are different speakers. If you like lots of bass and listen to your music loud, I think the Audioengine A5+ might be the ticket.