Emotiva X-Ref XRT-5.2 loudspeaker Page 2

I liked the sound of jazz double bass through the Emotiva. Throughout Anat Fort's A Long Story (CD, ECM 1994), Ed Schuller's instrument sounded big and boomy but natural, and Paul Chambers' bowed solo on the aforementioned Coltrane track was appropriately warm, the instrument's natural wood sound shining through. The Emotiva's bass continued to impress me with classical music. In the most frenetic passages of Antal Dor†ti's reading of Stravinsky's The Firebird with the London Symphony (LP, Mercury Living Presence SR90226), instruments were perfectly placed on a wide, deep soundstage, and the bass drum had perfect attack and decay, with just the right amount of overhang and no lack of thundering drama. From my notes: "The most accurate orchestral bass drum I've heard from a speaker under $1000/pair."

The Emotiva's reproduction of electronic bass was also impressive. Gary Wilson's bass-synth lines on every track of his new album, Feel the Beat (CD, Tip TP001), were clean, clear, and fast. (This Wilson fanatic feels that this disc is his most creative and diverse since his landmark You Think You Really Know Me, from 1977.) And the rapid-fire bass-guitar riffs by Patrick O'Hearn that provide the foundation for Frank Zappa's guitar solo in "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution," from Zappa's Läther (CD, Rykodisc 10574/76), were clean, forceful, and clearly delineated.

At the opposite end of the audioband, the high frequencies seemed natural and well extended. John Renbourn's flattop acoustic guitar on his The Nine Maidens (LP, Flying Fish FF378) was vibrant and shimmering, with the right amount of metallic bite in all registers. The XRT-5.2's reproduction of the highs mated well with its ability to produce an accurate transient envelope, the result being a natural coherence with highly rhythmic recordings. Listening to "More Than This," from Roxy Music's Avalon (CD, Virgin 8 47460 2), I found myself focusing on the naturally interlocking percussion—and when I played Marc Ribot y los Cubanos Postizos (CD, Atlantic 83116-2), I caught my wife actually banging out on the kitchen table counter-rhythms to the drum lines. Hearing this recording through the Emotivas, it was difficult for either of us to sit still.

I compared Emotiva's XRT-5.2 ($559; all prices per pair) with the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 ($350), the Epos M5i ($899 when last available), and the Dynaudio Excite X12 ($1200).

The Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 had superior inner detail and decay in the midrange and highs, and more fluid low-level dynamics. Its articulation of transients was equal to the Emotiva's, but its upper bass was cleaner. However, the Emotiva had far superior high-level dynamics.

The Epos M5i's highs weren't quite as delicate as the Wharfedale's but were superior to the Emotiva's. The Epos's high-level dynamics and bass extension were inferior to the Wharfedale's, but images were more three-dimensional through the Eposes than through the Emotivas.

The Dynaudio Excite X12 had a more delicate organic midrange than the Emotiva, and while its highs were also more delicate, they sounded more recessed than those of the three other speakers. Still, individual instruments were easier to pick out from the mix through the X12 than through the XRT-5.2. The Dynaudio's naturally warm midbass was cleaner than the Emotiva's, but the XRT-5.2 went much deeper in the bass.

With the X-Ref XRT-5.2, Emotiva Audio has produced a natural-, coherent-, dynamic-sounding floorstanding speaker that represents an extraordinary amount of value for the money. Although other speakers, mostly bookshelf models, can provide more delicacy and inner detail, I can think of no other affordable speaker that comes close to what the XRT-5.2 can reproduce in terms of high-level dynamic slam with rock and orchestral recordings—and its understated physical appearance and small footprint will fit into many listening rooms without raising spousal objections. It's a pleasure to see a company so dedicated to producing a wide range of affordable components for audiophiles.

Emotiva Audio Corporation
135 SE Parkway Court
Franklin, TN 37064
(877) 366-8324