Emotiva B1+'s review: Near-field lazers

TL,DR: I have Fostex T50RP headphones, and I bought these Emotiva bookshelves for a desk for a “home studio”. These are like the T50RPs of speakers. This is a fucking home run from me, because I bought em blindly, and got absolutely exactly what I wanted. Planar-like speed, detail, clarity, analytical-ness… from bookshelf speakers. My T50RP headphones were modded to ruthlessly kill the highs. With these Emotivas? I just hear everything above 10khz, but nothing is annoying. This is amazing tweeter technology. Probably the best highs and the best imaging you can get for the price, especially if you’re in the US (if you’re NOT in the US, and want active speakers, you can get Adam T5V’s for less without even needing a speaker amp, because T5V’s are active – these B1+'s are passive). But if you listen to electronic music, you will absolutely need a subwoofer with these.

Now for the fun part:
This quite positive review of the B1+s was done with: 100$ SMSL Sanskrit 10th DAC → 100$ eBay-find Denon AVR-1312 (or 100$ SMSL SA100) → Emotiva B1+'s on my desk. Yes, I need to upgrade. I feel like these amps are “disrespectful” to Emotiva B1+'s. Still, the technicalities of the Emotiva B1+'s are so impressive, I had to share my impressions anyways.

Placement: The most important thing.
Some speakers don’t even care about placement: You’ll get a subtle difference if you move em, but do whatever you want, they’ll just keep their own signature. Not these. You WILL need to mess with placement, and the difference it will make will be gigantic. You can mod T50RPs to make em sound like whatever you want, as much as you can move these Emotivas around to basically make em sound like whatever you want. I really feel like these are meant to be passive Adam T5V’s: These Emotiva B1+'s are near-field lazers. Equilateral triangle or nothing. But when you do this “equilateral triangle” thing, you’re rewarded with great detail, and yes, probably the best highs – and the best imaging – you can get for the price.

Point em straight at your ears, and you’ll know what I mean. Point em even more “inwards” if you want more. Point em a bit outwards if you want more soundstage. Point the woofers, instead of the tweeters, at your ears, for more sub-bass and a good 100hz “kick”. If you leave em on a desk, therefore pointed lower than your ears, it’s a mistake in my opinion. You get more ~200hz frequencies, and that’s kind of… the signature of “cheapo” speakers overcompensating with this “mud” because they can’t do 100hz or less. Anyway, who needs dipswitches (like on the Adam T5V’s) when you can just move the speakers and make em sound different like this? :grin:

But there’s no replacement for displacement.
These are multiple times more detailed and multiple times more expensive than my 100$ Fluance SX6’s (duh) but they’re also twice as small – and it shows. They’ll sound 2 times better if they’re 3 feet in front of you instead of 6 feet in front of you. Still, I was laying in bed with these 15ft away from me, or even under the blanket, and sometimes I still could hear tiny details. Like, “what kind of sorcery is this?”. But yeah, for non-desktop use, you might want, at minimum, these Emotiva T0 towers instead.

In Yosi Horikawa - Letter, I could probably decipher what he’s writing just by closing my eyes and replicating what I hear, because the two microphones pointed next to a (probably) 8.5x11 inches sheet of paper create a 8.5ft of paper panorama in front of me, and he’s going left and right 1ft wide on this paper. Yes, wow. Are these the best passive speakers for gaming? For this price, and with this excellent AMT tweeter, probably.

Yeah let’s start with the treble, for a change. Because my first impression after only a few minutes was “I love AMT tweeters”. Consider this as high praise from someone who is treble-sensitive. Treble-sensitive as in “I got rid of my Klipsch R41PM’s, my Grado SR60’s and even my Sennheiser HD58X’s because the treble was too harsh for me”. With these Emotivas, I just hear everything above 10khz, but nothing is annoying. All without the “grill”. This is perfection. Guitar solos, snares, cymbals, and female vocals will make you stare at the speakers – and treble will never sound harsh. The cracks and pops and distortions in music will also jump at you. Which is definitely a plus, because I bought these for a “home studio”. MP3 users and audio streaming users beware, though: You will clearly hear the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio, even with 320kbps files. With these on a desk, you will understand why people buy CDs and FLAC files (like, “no, these are not maracas and a beach in the background – this is the snare drum getting molested by mp3 compression”).

I listened to CDs, but also a few youtube videos (yes). I closed my eyes, and Daniela Andrade sounded like she was in-between the speakers. And Skylar Grey. And Chris Jones… I don’t know what to add, except that, you know you’re now “a step above” when you forget about placement, EQ, frequencies, close your eyes and just ask yourself “is he/she in front of me?”… when playing heccin compressed youtube videos.

Out of the box, these sound smooth. I don’t trust graphs much. According to the graphs, these are supposed to be equally as bright and as flat as my Fluance SX6’s. Nope. Not at all. These sound smooth. And by smooth I mean “non-agressive, high-bass/low-mids-oriented, with an always-present but never-annoying treble”. Which is the exact damn opposite of my Fluance SX6’s. As they say, it’s not about the measurements, it’s what you do with it. (…cough)

Woofers pointed at my ears, these little speakers will have subwoofer-like lows and still sound pretty neutral. You might be able to get away with… not disrespecting any of your bass-playing friends by not using a subwoofer with these. But these speakers don’t like techno music. For example: UDM - Oblivion. In this song, at 55 seconds, if you have good headphones, or even a cheap Monoprice subwoofer like me, you’ll be surrounded by a ginormous, rumbling bass line. With these speakers? You hear… nothing at all. Well, just a really subtle “low note” trying to be played (and failing).

Sadly, I bought these to listen to, and make (sometimes) electronic music. And for that, you will need to pair a subwoofer with these. For a subwoofer with similar detail, clarity and speed, you’ll need a sealed subwoofer. Which is as expensive as the Emotiva B1+'s (the least expensive I found are Emotiva SU8 or even Kanto SU6/SU8’s). That’s the price to pay. A 100$ Monoprice subwoofer like mine with a big “chuffing” port is perfect paired with big speakers to get a “cinematic” experience and smooth, low, rumbling bass, but will literally mute all the technicalities of the B1+'s by adding mud to all this clarity. Don’t.

At 11:40 here, you hear the clarinet “clicks”. Clearly. At moderate volume. Then, people moving from their chairs, left and right. Not subtle. Clearly. Still, I would not, at all, call these speakers “compressed” (meaning: the tiny details are as easy to hear as… screams, for example). Nope, I don’t feel like that’s “detail that is not supposed to be there”. Just well-placed detail.

WARNING/Reminder about the amps used:
I feel like these speakers are still “analytical-oriented”, rather than “naturalness-oriented”. But… It might very well be the (quite standard) analytical-oriented microphones signatures I hear with more precision than ever. It’s like hearing in 1080p versus hearing a CRT TV. Almost everyone today would say CRT’s are crap, and LCDs are the best. But people who know what good CRTs look like, sometimes believe we’ve gone backwards with LCD screens. Hearing these Emotivas is similar to the feeling you get when looking at 1080p videos for the first time and seeing everything is (sometimes) over-sharpened, with just unreal contrast (coming from studio cameras) – compared to the window to real life next to you.

What can I say. We’re audiophiles. Some people don’t like (some) planar headphones “crispness” and would gladly sacrifice this “crispness” for (some) dynamic drivers “naturalness” instead. Despite sounding very musical, they also got very sharp imaging (again: “near-field lazers”), and some people could be bothered by that. But as a tool for a home studio requiring you to hear all the details and “place” all the instruments left and right? They’re… :pinched_fingers:

…or is the lack of “naturalness” because I have shitty amps? Probably. Again: Yes, I need to upgrade. I feel like these amps are “disrespectful” to Emotiva B1+'s. Still, the technicalities of the Emotiva B1+'s are so impressive, I had to share my impressions anyways.

Finally, THE REAL PRICE, aka the Canadian problem.
I can’t see the USD price anymore on the page, but I believe it was ~300$USD? If you’re in the US, it’s fun, because you also get free shipping. If you’re NOT in the US? Prepare to pay way more than expected. They only ship via DHL. Shipping to Canada meant the total was now 430USD. Oh, and did you know we pay canadian taxes now, when we order something from abroad? Total was then 490USD, or 625$CAD. Are these worth 300$USD? Definitely. Are these worth the equivalent of 490$USD if you’re not in the US? That’s definitely a different story. That’s actually the price of Adam T5V’s, right now on Amazon Canada, and T5V’s don’t need an amplifier.

P.S.: I still shared this here despite using cheapo amps, because any decent amp I’ll buy won’t change anything about the technicalities of the Emotiva B1+'s (except making everything better, especially for the “naturalness”). I’ll get back with more impressions when I’ll get a better amplifier, but it’s been months now since I had Emotiva B1+'s, had other things to do (and buy), and I wanted to share how great these are anyways.


Always great when we LOVE our new investment!!


Running B1+'s from the Emotiva A-100 in a nearfield setup:
Like said above, positioning is very important! The moment I move my head out of the center between them, soundstage gets wonky and imaging goes out the window. They need a moment to warm up every time, during that period I find them to be a bit “clicky” and slow in the treble.

For distance and larger rooms, these are simply too small. For that, bigger speakers and bigger money (B&W 606 for example).

Bass (for nearfield) is definitely not their strong point. So Techno and Harder Electronic genres will be disapointing. Example: blutrot - Wetschmerz is quite lacking in the bass department. Should kick like a mule, doesn’t though.
Acoustic pieces that need some “oomph” like Avi Kaplan - Chains and Chris Jones - Long After You’re Gone come out perfect.

Mids are good. Avi Kapan - Aberdeen sounds perfectly fine, as does most other music where mids are important (which is basically everything with singing).

Treble, is toned down compared to other speakers I listened to. Saxophone lacks that sharp piercing quality and guitars sometimes sounds too dull. This “taking the edge off” is very much appreciated since I am very treble sensitive.
They work quite nicely for strings, such as Max Richter - On the Nature of Daylight.

I paid 300€ for the pair (well, actually didn’t, were a present :slight_smile: ).
Chain: ProJect DAC Box S2+ → Mackie Mix12 → Emotiva A-100 → B1+

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Man you have good friends. :grin: haha


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