Impressions of the EMP Impressions Tower Speakers

Discussion in 'Loudspeakers' started by fmw, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    My Impressions of the EMP Impressions.


    I'm a solidly mid-fi sort of guy. I left the high end audio world behind about a dozen years ago and never looked back. I appreciate great sound but I've given up on the obsession. It was pointless and expensive. My home theater is what some would call modest and others would call middle-of-the-road. You can see a picture of it here with my new EMP Impressions E55TiB main speakers. With that background I offer some personal impressions of these speakers.

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    You did what?, asked my wife. I ordered some new speakers for the home theater. Why? Because I think they will sound better than what we use now. But you don't know? Not until I set them up and hear them. You're nuts, she said. She's probably right.


    Why EMP? It's hard to say. I thought they were nice looking and not so large that my wife would want them sent to the speaker graveyard. They were designed by people at a fine speaker company, made in China for high value and then sold direct to the public without any middle man markups. Seemed like a deal, so I ordered a pair in black to match my HT furniture. They arrived yesterday by Fedex and arrived in their double boxed glory without a single scratch.


    Setup is just a matter of attaching the enclosed feet to the bottom of the cabinets and wiring them up. I used the rubber feet for my wood floor but they also include spikes if you have carpeting. I had two issues with the setup. The first is that one of the blind nuts for attaching the feet to the cabinet was missing so the screw had nothing into which to screw. I'm not sure what to do about it. I will probably just drill a new hole and put a wood screw in it. The other issue was the binding posts. My preference for speaker wire is to use tinned bare wire rather than connectors. My preference is for the binding posts that have a hole through them to get the strongest possible connection. These binding posts don't have such a hole and aren't what I like personally. Also, the binding posts aren't color coded so you want to be careful to phase them correctly. The speakers are not bi-wireable or bi-ampable, by the way. That is no issue for me but it might be for others.


    The speakers are about 4 feet high, a foot deep and 8 1/2” wide in front. The cabinets are curved and, in the case of mine, covered in glossy black wood grain composition veneer. The fronts sport a piano black finish and include grills which are not shown in the image. The system employs 3 6 1/2” woofers for the bass and a pair of 5 1/4” midrange drivers with a 1” fabric dome tweeter in an MTM configuration for the higher frequencies. There are two rear firing ports. The cost is $695 for the pair shipping included to the 48 states.


    So how do they sound? Basically I would say they are pretty neutral. There is nothing “in your face” about the presentation but they aren't particularly laid back either. The bass is controlled and tight, the midrange is spectacular and I thought the speakers would sound better with a second tweeter apiece but that is just a matter of preference. My ancient ears appreciate a little brightness in the presentation.


    The bass is not loud but extends enough to reproduce the E string on an electric bass with authority. I didn't feel the need to use a subwoofer. I liked the way they played my kind of music all by themselves and that, of course, is the goal with any full range tower speaker. I don't listen to much rock. I am mostly a jazz enthusiast so I don't need bass that reminds me of a woofer laden car approaching from a quarter mile away. I like my bass tight and neutral and I liked the way the Impressions handled it.


    They will play loud without falling into a frenzy of distortion. My wife continually asked me turn things down during my listening sessions and she wasn't in the same room. That tells me that they remained clean well up the db scale. I didn't feel any serious vibration from the cabinets by touching them and didn't hear anything that I would describe as serious cabinet resonance. Nor did I detect a serious mid bass rise. All in all they are pretty neutral.


    Do they compete with expensive high end speakers? No, of course not, but I think they will outperform anything you can hear at our local Best Buy and will hold their own with most speakers in the under $2000 per pair price category. They sound great and, considering the entry level price of $695 per pair, they sound spectacular. Finding something that sounds as good as these for under $1000 per pair would be a serious challenge.


    I haven't run the calibration to integrate these speakers into the home theater yet. My listening has all been CD's played through my Panasonic Blu Ray player and Pioneer Elite VSX-92 AV receiver set to the stereo pure direct mode. Here are some random impressions.


    I started with “I've Been to Memphis” on Lyle Lovett's Joshua Loves Ruth CD. It starts with a guitar then adds drums and then the bass guitar before Lovett starts singing. The bass guitar is punchy and authoritative and the Impressions reproduced it nicely. The snare drum was crisp and quick. No sibilance in Lovett's voice.


    The next track was “Black and Blue” from the Gene Harris Quartet CD of the same name. I like Gene's stuff because he plays something like my all time favorite jazz artist, the late Oscar Peterson. His drummer has one of the most beautiful Zildjian ride cymbals I've ever heard and I thought that cymbal might give me a feeling for the performance of the tweeter. It did and the tweeter handled it pretty well. I could easily hear the sticks colliding with the brass and the cymbal sounded as beautiful as ever.


    My pop music choice was “It's Growing” from James Taylor's Covers CD. Taylor normally sings his own compostions but this album has him singing “covers” or his version of other peoples' compostions. It is extremely well recorded and mixed. As someone who has done some recording myself, the quality of this recording nearly brings tears to my eyes. Here I was listening for the sound of brass. This track has a trumpet in the mix and the Impressions midrange drivers reproduced it perfectly. That's what motivated me to call the midrange spectacular above.


    Finally on to some difficult classical music. One of the most difficult instruments to reproduce in my view is the harpsichord. Unlike a piano that has a hammer which strikes the strings, the harpsichord plucks the strings. That plucking sound should be apparent in any good recording. I used the Bach Quartet in A Minor as source material and was impressed that the Impressions delivered that sound of the plectra against the strings without any difficulty. In other words they are quite revealing and accurate and amazingly so for their modest price.


    So my conclusion is that the EMP Impressions are keepers for my mid fi system and something I would recommend without any reservation to someone looking for a pair of entry level speakers. These are priced like entry level speakers but they have the look and sound of speakers a level up the food chain. They are worth every nickel of the purchase price. Time to get busy integrating them into the rest of the home theater. Go get a pair. You'll see what I mean.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
    fmw,
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  2. AcuDefTechGuy Seriously, I have no life.

    AcuDefTechGuy
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    Congrats!

    They look sharp.

    Are you going to do all manual EQ or Audyssey + manual level adjustments? :D
  3. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    Pioneer uses MCACC rather than Audyssey. I assume it is similar. I will run the auto calibration and then adjust from there. Usually auto gives me a pretty decent presentation but I like to set the subwoofer level and crossover so that it stays out of the way for music and then cuts in with movie LFE. Then I run the speakers as "large." That takes a while to get right but keeps me from trying to fiddle with that stuff when I switch from movies to music and back.
    fmw,
  4. AcuDefTechGuy Seriously, I have no life.

    AcuDefTechGuy
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    So auto + manual like most of us. :)
  5. 3db Audioholic Overlord

    3db
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    Congrats on your purchase. Your description nails what I expereince with my now 6 year old PSBs
    3db,
  6. ousooner2 Full Audioholic

    ousooner2
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    I've found that a small dB boost on the tweeter helps bring these alive. Absolutely incredible for their price if you ask me. Nice review by the way
  7. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    Thanks. The speakers are an amazing bargain. As it turns out MCACC agrees with you. The receiver EQ'd with a fairly steady rise from bass to treble. It wanted a little more treble presence as well and the effect was nice. If I were giving advice to the manufacturer, I would suggest they throw a second tweeter into the design and add $100 to the selling price. It might let these babies compete with $3000 per pair speakers. Seriously.
    fmw,
  8. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    You have to be very careful with using multiple tweeters to avoid acoustical interference issues. I agree with you the EMP's could use a tad more energy in the top end. This can be accomplished by using a tweeter with higher sensitivity and power handling. That is a much better approach than just slapping another tweeter on top.
    gene,
  9. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    Thanks. Yes, if changing the tweeter they use would give it a bit more treble presence, that would be an improvement.
    fmw,
  10. Jimz711 Full Audioholic

    Jimz711
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    First off, nice review it honestly makes me wish that I had a pair.

    The issue is how many improvements do you make and how much does the price increase as a result? I would think for many shoppers once you hit that 1,000 threshold it becomes a whole new issue at least psychologically.
  11. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    There is quite a substantial difference not just in output capabilities, but in dynamics and realism when you compare budget designs to cost no object products that are properly engineered. $1k/pr doesn't get you close to the law of diminishing returns.
    gene,
  12. ousooner2 Full Audioholic

    ousooner2
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    If it's padded down, could you not just add a few dB back? Of course, that's IF it didn't raise distortion too much, etc etc and make the tweeter unsatisfactory

    MULTEQ XT raises every frequency that the tweeter covers (1/3 octave) anywhere from 4-6db
  13. Jimz711 Full Audioholic

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    No claim here that 1k would get you to the point of diminishing returns, far from it, I'm just thinking that a potential customer may be fine paying 800 for a pair of speakers but put an extra 0 on the end and there is just a different stigma applied to the product be it a speaker, a refrigerator, etc. Even looking at forum posts under 1,000 seems to be a magic number.
  14. afterlife2 Audioholic Spartan

    afterlife2
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    Correct me If I'm wrong these were on sale for $500-550 for the pair like a year ago or so? I almost got them, but got the Pioneers 52's instead and 3 weeks later they were floating. :( I'm glad I didn't get them then. I really liked the red burl ones too. Nice review.
  15. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    Don't get me wrong, Jim. I'm not suggesting these are state of the art speakers. I'm suggesting that they are priced like the mass market stuff you would find at Best Buy but they sound better. The reason is that there is no Best Buy. You get the speakers from the company that designed them with no middle man. Manufacturer direct. So there is no magic to it. It's just business.
    fmw,
  16. Jimz711 Full Audioholic

    Jimz711
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    Isn't the current price also a sale? I seem to remember looking at them in January and 799 sticks in my head.
  17. ousooner2 Full Audioholic

    ousooner2
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    They were:

    $799 shipped (with a 30-day free return shipping if needed)

    On Black Friday they'd be: $450ish

    Now they're $347/ea ($694/pr), but with no free return shipping. So this new price is better if you intend to keep them and can't/didn't/won't get the Black Friday pricing.
  18. afterlife2 Audioholic Spartan

    afterlife2
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    I think they were on sale in 2011 a couple of times and early 2012 for $500-550 for the pair. I was close to getting them, but they ran out of the pretty red burl. Then I went Pioneer Andrew Jones crazy after hearing great things.
  19. ousooner2 Full Audioholic

    ousooner2
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    Drivers are supposedly RBH designs so that can possibly cut costs. Cabinets look damn close to the RBH signature line so maybe they can make the cabs in bulk and save? I'm sure most bracing goes into the RBH's, along with the different 'stands', but they look similar and are sized the same I believe. EMP's just look like they've been glossed instead of natural. Reminds me of the EMP e41b. Cheap, but looks to use the RBH beryllium driver. Maybe someone knows if there's any truth to that
  20. Jimz711 Full Audioholic

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    I am sure they are one of the best bargains period. My only claim was if they made some tweaks here and there to make them sound better but ended up going over 1000 they might lose some of their potential market.

    I would describe myself very similarly to how you described yourself in the mid fi region, which is why I liked your review. I decided to up my budget a little over 1000 but before then was looking very closely at the 55's the problem was they'd been out of stock for so long I kind of forgot about them, when I finally pulled the trigger, on my speakers.

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