Emotiva ERM-6.3 Review Aug 23, 2011 9:32:16 GMT -5
Post by Deleted on Aug 23, 2011 9:32:16 GMT -5
I ordered a single Emotiva ERM-6.3 to evaluate for my own curiosity. I currently own 3ea ERM-1's as LCR and 2ea ERD-1's as surrounds. They are driven by a XPA-5. My room is relatively small and about 13 x 13 x 8.5 but open sideways to a dining/computer area and kitchen, total of about 13 x 37 x 8.5. W/W carpeting and leather furniture.
I planned to consider possibly 3ea 6.3 as LCR in the future if I found the 6.3 to be a significant improvement over the ERM-1's. This I presumed would be a very tough job for the 6.3's. Many here have dismissed the ERM-1 as the baby bookshelf speaker of the Emotiva line. The Audioholics 5 star review was an eye opener for me and I knew this was a high class bookshelf speaker. This is no ordinary entry level bookshelf speaker with a tweeter and two relatively small bass/mids. The weight of almost 18 lbs immediately tipped me off about the build and drive/component quality of this speaker. Also the ERM-1 has the same exact drivers as the top part of the top of the line ERT-8.3. The ERM-1 purposely rolls off below 80Hz quite steeply which is exactly what I wanted for a bookshelf/sub THX style system, which in my opinion is superior to the tower/sub system for a number of reasons with one reservation. That is the bookshelf speaker must be top quality as it is in the Emo line with very high power handling and flat response down to 80Hz. Very few other speaker lines put top quality drivers, magnets, crossovers, etc., in their smaller bookshelf speakers except for those designed to be used in a THX type system with a quality sub.
Over the last several years I have been extremely happy with the ERM-1/ERD-1 system along with my Outlaw Audio/Velodyne SMS-1 sub. My curiosity about the 6.2 and especially the 6.3 prompted me to test the 6.3. I played/break-in the 6.3 with music, test noise (pink, white and brown) and inter-station FM hiss for approximately 100 hours, mostly at moderate levels.
The 6.3 was shipped out by 3pm the very afternoon I ordered it and arrived in Seattle four days later. The factory packing by Emotiva is first class and prevents any damage to the speaker short of a nuclear explosion. The build quality of the 6.3 was superior just like the ERM-1. Take a close look at these Emo speakers and you will see very high quality in every detail. The 6.3 is very heavy (almost 40 lbs) for a speaker just slightly over two feet tall.
Sound Quality and Performance Test Procedures
My main test was an A/B comparison between the ERM-6.3 and the ERM-1. All sound sources and test CD's were from my ERC-2 Emo CDP thru the "analog direct" mode of my Sony ES DA4ES receiver. IMO this is a very good pre-pro for an 8 year old unit. I used the XPA-5 and the Sony DA4ES amp for my tests (one channel only at a time).
I set up the two speakers side by side out away from the wall and any boundaries. The first position was directly in front of the center of the TV display and the normal location for the center speaker but out away from the display at 3 feet. The second location was on the left side of the room where it is open to the dining area. This 2nd location was even farther away from any boundaries.
At the first location I did both FR (frequency response, sensitivity and music listening comparisons). The two speakers were driven by the XPA-5 one at a time. My inability to do an instantaneous switch and the resulting 10-20 second delay to switch speakers made the direct comparison difficult. I first did several sensitivity checks and found that the ERM-1 was about 1-1.5dB's more sensitive than the 6.3. This was generally confirmed when listening to music. During this first location test it was extremely difficult to choose either speaker as having superior SQ. They both sounded very flat and extremely clean and natural in the vocal range.
I thus conducted tests at the second location which allowed me to face the two speakers, again side by side, but directly facing the Sony pre-pro where I stood and did instantaneous switching while I listened to music using the Sony amp which was tested at way over 200 watts with one channel into 4 ohms. I also did more FR tests at the second location. I got very good at making the switch and changing the volume slightly to compensate for the sensitivity difference while listening to music. Good enough that I felt I could make very valid comparisons.
I spent about three days (with two or three bathroom breaks) listening and doing FR checks. I have so many pages of FR results I will just do some summaries below. I used several test CD's and a number of favorite music CD's. I used correction tables for all meter results on my Radio Shack 33-4050 analog meter.
Sound Quality and Frequency Response Results
.....As mentioned above the ERM-1 was about 1-1.5 dB's higher in sensitivity versus the 6.3. (surprise ?)
.....My favorite FR tests are the bass area (depending on the speaker) up to 200Hz and 1000Hz. For these two speakers I tested down to 50Hz. Note I set zero reference at 200Hz. I took some time and set the back panel switches to the setting that seemed to provide the flattest results. (no I don't list them because they are only applicable to my room in the test positions only)
.....At seven feet in position #1.
ERM-1 was 80Hz-200Hz +/- 1.5dB's. (+ 1.5dB's at 1000Hz)
ERM-6.3 was 80Hz-200Hz +/- 1.75dB's. (+ 0.5dB's at 1000Hz)
ERM-1 was -9.0dB's at 63Hz and -19.5dB's at 50Hz.
ERM-6.3 was -8.5dB's at 63Hz and -18.5dB's at 50Hz.
.....At eight feet in position #2.
ERM-1 was 80Hz-200Hz +/- 3.0dB's (-0.5dB's at 1000Hz)
ERM-6.3 was 80Hz-200Hz +/- 3.5dB's (+0.5dB's at 1000Hz)
ERM-1 was -6.0dB's at 63Hz and -18.0dB's at 50Hz.
ERM-6.3 was -4.0dB's at 63Hz and -16.0dB's at 50Hz.
These FR results vary depending on the location of the speakers in the room and the toggle settings on the back of the speakers. Let me emphasize here what a great feature these setting offer in the way of flexibility to tailor the speakers to the room acoustics. I found the tweeter controls and the boundary compensation switch most valuable in attaining the flattest possible performance. Of course many folks out there don't like the sound of flat/natural FR and thus refer to the Emo speakers as boring and dark. I spent many, many hours playing with these settings. I was able at one point top get the two speakers to sound almost identical to my ears. My FR tests confirm to my ears that these two speakers are relatively flat in the critical 80-200Hz range. I say critical because to me this is where many good speakers fall down with peaks that make the speaker sound overly bassy to me and warm (or slightly boxy) in the vocal range. Many prefer this type of sound but IMO it is not flat and flat is beautiful (well, at least in speakers if you understand what I'm saying).
I also did FR tests all the way up to the moon. These two Emo speakers have the same tweeter and obviously are built to very tight tolerances. They followed each other in the tweeter range up with each test signal exactly equal, I would say usually within 0.25dB's of each other and that is as close as my eyes can focus on the meter. I was really amazed to see this as I thought there would at least be some slight differences due to driver variations and enclosure effects. I can assure you that the ERM-1 and the 6.3 are identical twins in the tweeter range and I would presume the 6.2 and 8.3 would be the same.
The FR response continued up just slightly elevated from 1kHz-4kHz on both speakers but not significantly. From 4kHz-10kHz was very nice and smooth. Above 10kHz the level was still smooth and then started a very gentle roll off at about 12.5kHz to 16kHz and dropped quite fast above 16kHz to 20kHz. This is perfect IMO and avoids the overly airy sound that some speakers have which fools the young and the birds in Geebo's backyard into thinking that is great treble. Don't be fooled folks, almost none of those speakers really have FR to 20kHz. Response almost flat to 20kHz was demanded by the marketing department because everyone else shows 30Hz-20kHz +/- 3dB's (yeah sure).
These two speakers IMO are as close to perfect for this OF (old fart) as they can get. OK, drop the fan-boy chants, I call them like I hear and see them. I had no idea what to expect from the 6.3 versus the ERM-1, except I thought the 6.3 might be more clear and transparent in the vocal range but maybe on the "warmer" side. Emo seemed to take the ERM-6.2 and stretch it out and add two 4" drivers in the middle. Many brands would have screwed this up royally IMO and made a nice wide center speaker to impress folks. I should have known Emo would pull it off and keep the 6.3 flat, natural and defined in the vocal range. Yeah, I know, "70% of a movie soundtrack is directed towards the center channel." Well, that is mostly talking/dialog folks and it not that difficult for a good brand to make a very clear center channel speaker. It is no more important to me than the L&R. However, since so many center speakers are poorly designed they end up sounding muddy and boxy in the vocal range. The ERM-1 makes for a great center speaker for the same reason the 6.3 does. The 6.3 is just ever so slightly better for voice/dialog IMO and the emphasis is on slightly. In my listening I would say I preferred the 6.3 about 60% of the time. Many times they were very close in SQ and I had no preference. This is a great compliment to the "little" ERM-1 which they finally sent to the orphans home. Don't be fooled folks, the ERM-1 is one fine speaker, very fine. Many times when I took a break, I would come back and forget which speaker was selected. When I hit play on the ERC-2 remote I could not tell which speaker was playing.
The dispersion is outstanding on both of these speakers. They both drop off quite fast below 80Hz just like they were designed. They both handle tons of power and continue to sound undistorted. They are both natural, smooth and defined without a hint of edginess or over-transparency. I can listen to these all day without my ears eve saying that's enough. I find very few speakers that are like that.
I am keeping the ERM-1's for a number of reasons. They fit better in my limited space. I would have had to folk out more bucks for the L&R 6.3's. I would have needed new speakers stands. The 6.3 as a center is rather large for the space I have allotted for the center speaker. I sold them to a friend who is very happy with the 6.3 as his new center speaker. (Now Emotiva drops the price to $399! Holy Cow!), oh well.
The ERM-6.3 is one very fine speaker and worth many times the current asking price. It is simply superb in flatness, naturalness, transparency for a dynamic speaker, superb dispersion, power handling and smoothness. What can I say, these Emo designed speakers are just what I love in a speaker, designed to go along with an excellent sub (I mean excellent and not a $250 Amazon special). Both the ERM-1 and the 6.3 fell off very quickly below 80Hz, the ERM-1 ever so slightly faster. I did not test maximum volume but I would presume the 6.3 being slightly less efficient will handle 350 watts versus 200 watts RMS as specified by Emo. This might be accounted for by the sensitivity difference. However, the 6.3 might have a slightly higher output maximum for use as L&R.
The Emotiva ERM-6.3 receives the Highest 5 Nut Recommendation, a superb speaker!
(The camera distorts reality here and the distance from the display to the speakers and to the RS meter is farther than it appears in the photo.)