EMP Tek Impression Series E55Ti Review

EMP Tek Impression Series E55Ti

EMP Tek Impression Series E55Ti

“EMP’s E55Ti floor standing speakers provide a big, engaging sound with clean high frequency detail in an attractive, statuesque package.”
  • Lush midrange reproduction
  • Clean and articulate high frequencies
  • Attractive, glossy finish
  • Lacks deepest bass octave
  • Taller than average cabinet
  • Some unwanted cabinet resonance

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.

Performance

We tested the EMP E55Ti speakers in a moderately sized, acoustically treated room. Associated test equipment included a Marantz SR6005 A/V receiver, LG BD 370 Blu-Ray disc player, Pioneer PL-61 Turntable with Ortofon OM-5E catridge, Bellari Phono Pre-Amp, HeadRoom Micro DAC and Kimber Kable speaker wire. To ensure proper break-in, we ran the speakers at low volume for 50 hours prior to our listening test.

For listening material, we used the SACD version of Steely Dan’s Gaucho and Toto’s Toto IV, the DVD-Audio version of Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly, and CD versions of Maceo Parker’s Roots and Grooves, Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold and Marcus Miller’s The Sun Don’t Lie.

The EMP E55Ti offer lovely high frequency detail and articulation. We do love our fabric dome tweeters and the E55Ti’s delivered a wonderfully balanced and engaging treble response that delighted the ears without ever fatiguing. Cymbals, brass overtones, strings and sibilant vocal sounds were carried out with veracity and style. We were also impressed at how well the E55Ti’s tweeter held together at extreme volumes. In the end, it took one of our brightest recordings played at a very high volume to get the high-end to break up and, even then, it was at the very top of the frequency response. In general, we were very impressed to hear such great high frequency response from a speaker in this price class.

Mid-range response was lush, dramatic and very much forward in the mix. While not starkly out of balance, the E55Ti’s midrange attributes do tend to jump out into the room and grab you. When listening to Love over Gold, Mark Knopfler’s vocal and guitar performances leapt away from the speakers and sat right in front of us. Though we wouldn’t characterize the E55Ti’s midrange attributes as cold or sterile they weren’t exactly warm and fuzzy, either. Let’s put it this way: If the E55Ti were your date for the night, you wouldn’t take her to a quiet, swank wine bar for some sweet romancing, you’d take her to the dance club for a night of partying and maybe a little night-cap later. The good news is, you’ll still respect her in the morning. She’s got class like that.

The E55Ti’s bottom end is ample, but not nearly as robust as we had expected. Glancing at the six 6.5” woofers in the room with us, we anticipated more from the lowest octave than we got. Changing the position of the speakers relative to adjacent walls reinforced the mid-bass a little, but didn’t make a dramatic difference in the lowest frequencies. Still, we were pleased that the bass response didn’t exhibit the polar opposite by sounding bloated or tubby. They offered just enough punch to be palpable and we certainly heard the tonality of the upper bass octaves clearly and without unwanted resonance; but on Marcus Miller’s demanding bass tracks we were left wanting some more authority in the deepest bass region. Here is where we felt bi-amp capability would have made sense. Were we able to provide separate amplification for the low frequency drivers, our bass experience may have been different. Instead, we decided to connect an 8” then 12” subwoofer to the system and brought them in at about 55hz. With a little assistance from a subwoofer, the E55Ti’s sounded that much more powerful and our overall experience was enhanced.

Aside from the lean bass response, our only other criticisms of the E55Ti include a slight lack of image extension and some unexpected bumps in the midrange band. When listening to the towers, we noticed that the image didn’t seem to extend much beyond the edges of the speakers so we were more easily able to place the source of the sound rather than have the speakers “disappear” in the room. Also, with some of our recordings, we noticed a bit of a bump in the midrange region that somewhat colored the sound of some instruments and vocals. That being said, these are pretty fine criticisms to be making of a speaker that costs about $800.00 a pair. That the E55Ti is able to stand fast amongst very tough competition in the sub $1K speaker department is a testament to the sound quality that emanates from these speakers.

Conclusion

EMP’s E55Ti provides a big, engaging sound with clean high frequency detail in an attractive, statuesque package. Those with a thirst for bass will want to add a sub but we think listeners will appreciate the E55Ti’s lively sound that stays clean even at loud volumes. At $800.00 a pair, the E55Ti floor-standing speaker is a solid value and, with free shipping, easily auditioned.

Highs:

  • Lush midrange reproduction
  • Clean and articulate high frequencies
  • Attractive, glossy finish

Lows:

  • Lacks deepest bass octave
  • Taller than average cabinet
  • Some unwanted cabinet resonance

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