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Airmotiv 3b Speakers: Setup and Calibration


During my testing period, I chose to connect the Airmotivs via Bluetooth to an iPhone 6s and MacBook Air.  Connecting the Airmotiv speakers was uneventful.  That’s always a great thing and it’s how it should be.  I powered up the speakers, went to my Bluetooth settings, selected the Airmotiv, (which showed up as ASM-3b in my Bluetooth control panel), and was in business in a matter of moments.

AirMotiv 3b rear

The rear of the Airmotiv 3b's right speaker has a 3.5mm analog line input if you don't want to use Bluetooth

In previous reviews I’ve noted that in my personal opinion Bluetooth audio was still at an early stage.  The reasons for my feelings once again came to the forefront.  I want to note that my two major observations below have to do with the Bluetooth protocol in general. These aren’t specific knocks on the Airmotivs.

Volume control is the first problem.  It’s always relative.  On Bluetooth speakers (like the Airmotiv) how to set the volume properly needs to be explained or it may initially confuse or frustrate some users.  On Bluetooth speakers, volume depends on two separate things.  First, the volume you set on the Bluetooth speaker becomes the maximum volume and then the volume you set on your device (computer, smart phone, etc) becomes a relative volume from that.  

I’ve seen too many instances where someone will become frustrated with a Bluetooth speaker not playing loud enough because they have set the volume too low on the speaker yet see it set to max on their device and cannot figure out why things sound so soft.  Once you understand how volume settings work on a Bluetooth speaker, you can set your volume accordingly and you’ll be fine.  

The second issue has to do with what I call Bluetooth device precedence.  In the majority of cases, this really isn’t a big deal, but it’s worth noting.  Once a device is locked onto a Bluetooth speaker, it hogs the connection and you cannot knock it off.  You need to manually disconnect the device, power it down, or prevent the speaker from auto-locking back on to it by going out of range.  AirPlay, in contrast will allow you to override an existing connection by simply pointing a new device to the AirPlay target and it will disconnect the other device.  This can sometimes become a problem and an annoyance where you have a Bluetooth device locked onto a speaker and want to play music from another Bluetooth source.  If you don’t know which of your devices is locked into the speaker, it becomes a completely unnecessary hassle.  The Emotiva user manual does a nice job of noting this specific aspect of Bluetooth connections.

In summary, for those who are getting their feet wet for the first time with Bluetooth audio, once you understand those two quirks, you can move on.  Knowledge is power, isn’t it?

Calibrating Desktop Speakers?

I can’t recall ever seeing a suggestion to calibrate computer desktop speakers, but I strongly recommend it, no I insist on it, with the AirMovitv 3bs.  If you want to get these speakers to sound their best, then treat them like high quality audiophile speakers.  If you don’t calibrate these speakers properly, then you run the risk of getting audible static from these speakers and you won’t be able to figure out why.  I suggest you follow the standard protocol for calibrating the volume for regular speakers and apply it here.

I calibrated the speakers using a digital copy of the Pink Noise track from Revel’s LFO optimization CD. If you don’t have a Pink Noise track on you computer or mobile device, you can just download a Pink Noise audio file from any of several places online.  

Revel LFO Optimization CD

I used my Revel LFO Optimization CD to calibrate the speakers.

I then played the Pink Noise file via iTunes through the Emotiva Airmotiv 3bs. I measured the Pink Noise using the UE SPL app on an iPhone 6s.  There are plenty of free SPL apps you can use for iOS and Android.  You can also use a handheld SPL meter.  I set both the iTunes and the computer volume to maximum and then gradually increased the volume on the Emotivas until I measured 75db on the SPL meter. Of course, you can always calibrate higher if you so choose to compensate for the wide variability in computer and online audio sources.   

I want to warn strongly against simply connecting the Airmotiv 3bs to a source and then start playing something.  You do so at your own sonic risk.  If you do not calibrate the Airmotivs and just jack the volume up on the speakers, then all you will end up doing is amplifying noise.  In fact, you will start to generate audible hiss from the speakers and it will not be subtle.  It’s just like taking an external amp and jacking the amplifier’s volume up to max.

Once I had the Airmotivs calibrated and sounding good, I was ready to go.


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Recent Forum Posts:

Reyfox posts on March 19, 2016 10:41
These do sound like what I might be looking for. Something that doesn't take up a lot of desk real estate.
Curious as to what a comparison would be between these and say Audioengine's a2+ desktop speakers. Personally, I have zero interest in blue tooth connectivity.
Cos posts on March 15, 2016 18:13
I have had the Airmotiv 4 Powered Speakers for a while when I picked them up at one of their roadshows and could not be happier. They sound great, I like their ribbon tweeter, they play loud if needed and are built like a tank.

Unfortunately they do suffer some of the same problems as their bluetooth counterpart
1. No way to add a subwoofer
2. Bass response, while great for a speaker it's size, will not get the extreme lows

Overall they offer an excellent $ for Sound Quality Ratio
gene posts on March 15, 2016 16:19
Desktop audio is generally a letdown. But leave it to Emotiva to come up with a desktop speaker that defies conventional wisdom. Emotiva's AirMotiv 3b is two way, front-ported speaker that is great-souding, chest-thumping, and takes up minimal real-estate while also being kind on your wallet. What more could you ask for? How about both wired and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a 60 watt stereo amplifier, aptX codec support, and 32-bit DSP.

Read: Emotiva AirMotiv 3b Bluetooth Speaker Review to see why this small-sized wireless powerhouse left us impressed.
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