Speaker maker RBH Sound has a well earned reputation for designing and manufacturing premium speaker products. The only drawback, for some, is that RBH’s excellent speakers are only available through specialty dealers and installers which may preclude them as an option for would-be buyers. That’s where EMP Tek comes in. A subsidiary of RBH, EMP produces speakers that take advantage of the same highly experienced engineers as their dealer-exclusive cousins, but offer them directly to customers via the internet. Consider, however, that the internet-direct speaker market has enjoyed some healthy success over the past few years and isn’t such an easy club to join anymore. To stand out amongst a growing crowd of excellent competition, EMP needs to offer something special. In this review, we take a look and listen to the E55Ti, the flagship of EMP’s Impression Series, and determine its relative place in the super popular internet-direct speaker market.
Out of the Box
As an internet-direct brand, EMP’s speakers ship directly to customers from their office in Layton, UT or from one of a handful of authorized internet resellers. For that reason, proper product packaging is crucial. Shipping through UPS and FedEx takes its toll on speaker packaging so it must be robust enough to keep the finish of a speaker from being damaged in transit. We were pleased to see that EMP’s packaging was superb. Both the top and base of the speaker were amply cushioned by thick foam caps. The midsection of the speaker was also protected by two well placed foam sleeves. The speakers were wrapped in a cloth sack and then further protected by a thick plastic sheath. Also in the box with the speakers were the outrigger pieces and associated hardware for assembling the base of the E55Ti speakers.
The E55Ti is available in a Red Burl or Black Ash finish. The samples we received were suited with the Black Ash finish. The finish appears to be a paper-thin laminate with a substantial coat of lacquer applied over it. The result is a highly glossy speaker finish that, from even a modest distance, has a classy appeal to it. Upon very close inspection, however, the less costly nature of the finish begins to become more apparent to the trained eye. The wood-grain laminate that is used lacks the dimension that only a real wood finish can offer. Also, the heavy gloss coating suffers from a slight “orange peel” effect or dimpling that can only be seen under extreme scrutiny. We make mention of these observations because the finish quality of a speaker plays a hefty role in the cost of its production. If it was EMP’s aim to make small sacrifices with finishing the cabinet in lieu of sacrificing driver or crossover quality, we support that intention; we’d rather see performance where it counts than dress up shoddy components in a fancy suit.
Features and Design
The E55Ti is a pretty stunning speaker to behold. At 47 ½” tall, 8 ½” wide (at its widest point) and 12 ¼” deep, the smoothly curved E55Ti tends to make a bold statement in a room. They exude a sense of confidence and refinement that hints at high-end construction and sound.
The base of the E55Ti is comprised of two steel outriggers that can be fitted with either brass spikes or rubber feet, depending on the flooring material upon which they will be placed. This style of plinth serves to de-couple the cabinet from the floor and tighten up bass performance. The rear of the speaker sports two flared ports located toward the bottom of the cabinet. Just below the ports we found a single set of binding posts for speaker wire connection. As it turns out, the E55ti is not bi-ampable. The ability to bi-amp a speaker is not always an advantage but in the case of the E55Ti, it would have made sense. We’ll offer more on that topic in the bass performance section of our review.
The E55Ti’s driver compliment consists of two 5.25” “poly-matrix” woofers outfitted with phase plugs and oriented in a D’Appolito, or MTM, configuration with a 1” fabric dome tweeter sandwiched in between them. Below that, we found three 6.5” poly-matrix woofers stacked on top of each other. By doing some poking around, we were able to determine that the midrange drivers and tweeter seem to be in their own, sealed cabinet within a cabinet, leaving the three woofers a generous amount of cabinet space to work with.
All of the drivers are mounted to a thick baffle on the front of the speaker. The rest of the cabinetry does not seem to be quite as dense as the baffle, however. Whatever the cabinet thickness may be, the side, top and rear walls of the cabinet seem substantially less dense and more prone to vibration during performance. When given the “knock test” the E55Ti had a sort of hollow ring to it. The speaker’s weight also tells a story about the cabinet quality. With a speaker of this size we were expecting a weight of 80 lbs. or more. Surprisingly, the E55Ti weighs in at just 52 lbs. While the lower weight should certainly reduce shipping costs and affect the speaker’s bottom line, we wonder at the ramifications it may have on performance.