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EMP Tek Impression Series E5TiR Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review

by October 27, 2009
EMP Tek Impression Series E5TiR Floorstanding Loudspeaker

EMP Tek Impression Series E5TiR Floorstanding Loudspeaker

  • Product Name: Impression Series E5TiR
  • Manufacturer: EMP Tek
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: October 27, 2009 05:10
  • MSRP: $ 500/pair
  • Dual 6½ " (203mm) Poly-matrix Woofers
  • 5¼" (133mm) Aluminized Poly-matrix Woofer
  • 1" (25mm) Fabric Dome Tweeter
  • Recommended Power 50-150 Watts
  • Impedance 6 Ohms
  • Frequency Response 50Hz-20kHz ±3dB
  • Crossover Frequency 120 Hz/ 3,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity 87dB (2.83V@1m)
  • Dimensions 8½" W x 35½" H x 12¼" D (216mm W x 902mm H x 311mm D)
  • Weight 35 lbs. (15.88 kg.)
  • Available in High Gloss Red Burl or Black Wood


  • PRICE!!!!!!
  • Aesthetics
  • Performance


  • At this price point I'd be a fool to complain about much but…
  • Unstable (needs better footing options including something for hardwood/tile)
  • Dual pairs of binding posts invites damage
  • Height challenged


E5Ti Build Quality

E5Ti_grillONBy now, you've probably heard of the EMP Impression Series E5Ti speakers (the "i" stands for Impression and the "R" designation in the review title refer to the Red Burl finish on the review pair). They've pretty much taken the Internet by storm. EMP Tek, sister company to the well respected RBH Sound, has a history of great sounding speakers that get great reviews. What they usually don't do well on is looks. Well, EMP has remedied that with the E5Ti's. One glance at any of their pictures (professional or even the amateur ones in this review) will show gorgeous finishes with a stunning overall aesthetic. But that's not what has sparked people's interest. No, for that, you have to speak to their wallets.

At a $730 a pair asking price, you've got people doing double takes. They can't help but re-check the pictures and the claimed specs. When they see that the introductory price is a mere $400 a pair, I'm wondering if EMP will have a class action lawsuit brought against them for either causing keyboard damage or head trauma as people faint with disbelief.

Build Quality

E5Ti_grillOFFOne problem I've never encountered with RBH or EMP speakers is packing deficiencies. Again this was the case. The EMP E5TiRs arrived individually boxed with large foam endcaps and a center rib. For a speaker that is only 35.5" tall, that's a lot of protection. Of course, they came in a cotton sock but they weren't double boxed. While this would have added an additional layer of protection, in my opinion it would have been unnecessary with all the foam included. There was very little possibility that any damage that would have gotten past the other protection would have been stopped by an additional layer of cardboard.

Unboxing the speakers, I noted they came with a manual describing the entire Impression line including the E5Ti tower, the E5Ci center, E5Bi bookshelf, and ES10i sub. The speakers also came with a set up "jester cap" style of carpet spikes. These carpet spikes look as if they should come to a point but then end with a small ball. This will prevent much of the damage that you might incur from setting a sharp spike on your foot but also hampers the spike's ability to penetrate your carpet (the true function of the spike). I'm not a huge fan of this type of spike but it seems that manufacturers are choosing this type more and more often these days. I was a bit disappointed that there was no option for hardwood or tile floors. Most speakers will come with two sets of feet (especially with a speaker with threaded inserts like the E5Tis) - one a spike for carpets and a second with a rubber tip for harder floors.


E5Ti_threadAs soon as they come out of the sock, you're going to be amazed by the finish. The Red Burl is glossy and handsome and frankly, quite stunning. While a very close inspection will reveal a few imperfections including splash over of the stain on the brass threaded inserts on the bottom and some dimpling on  the surface, you can spend your whole life with them an not notice. In a darkened room, they will be flawless. Frankly, at a $730 a pair (never mind $400) asking price, a few imperfections are to be expected. One thing that I didn't quite understand was some of the QA issues I found. While finish blemishes can be forgiven, there were some fit and finish issues that might affect sound quality. Case in point was the tweeter on one of the speakers. While it looked flush to the eye, if I ran my finger across it I could tell that one edge was slightly recessed while the other was slightly elevated. This means that the tweeter was actually pointed slightly to one side which can certainly affect the sound quality of the speaker.

Once you get past the finish of the speaker (which is gorgeous), the first thing you'll notice is its size - It's small. At only 35.5" tall, this is a speaker which places the tweeter well below ear level. Most manufacturers (Dynaudio not included) will aim for keeping the tweeter as close to ear height (when seated) as possible. Most speakers measure the best somewhere between the tweeter and the mid (which in this speaker is about 30" off the ground). Unless you own some ultra-modern low to the ground furniture, bean bags, or maybe you've got the whole traditional Japanese mats or Indian pillow thing going on, you're going to be seated quite a bit above that. This means that you'll either have to live with it as is, tilt the speaker back, or raise it up. I've heard suggestions to invest in aftermarket outriggers (not a bad idea in general as you'll see in a bit) but unless they are outrigger stilts, they aren't going to be high enough. You're going to need about 6-8" and I've never seen an outrigger set that high (though you might want to check the discussion thread for this review as I'm sure someone out there will find one just to prove me wrong).

The speaker is designed like many I've seen in recent years with a wide front baffle, a smaller rear panel, and a gentle curve to the sides. There are many sonic reasons for this (internal standing waves being the most prominent) but structurally, it is not one of my favorite designs. Frankly, the smaller rear panel makes it so that the speaker just isn't as stable as it could be. No matter how much I messed with the carpet spikes, I couldn't get it to sit as solidly as I'd like. I don't think this was due to anything other than the shape of the cabinet. Here is where aftermarket outriggers (like the Soundocity ones reviewed a while back) would come in handy. They'd give you a bit of extra height. Plus they'd add some much needed stability to the E5Ti speakers. Unfortunately most aftermarket outriggers would bump up the cost of the speaker by nearly 50%. Fortunately, that still wouldn't get the $400 E5Ti back up to its full MSRP!

E5Ti_tweetmidThe front baffle of the speaker is black and extra thick while the rest sports of veneered finish. There are two 6.5" poly-matrix woofers, a 5.25" aluminized poly-matrix midrange (with a true phase plug), and a 1" fabric dome tweeter under a dedicated screen. The driver compliment alone belies the price of these speakers. Usually, at sub-$1000, phase plugs are for show only and move in and out with the driver. This, however, was a real phase plug. From the front, the speaker really has a very impressive appearance. The only mar to this is a pair of screws near the bottom of the front baffle that are uncovered. If the grille had covered them, the grille would have had to take up the entire front of the speaker - a look to which I am not partial. While the screw head is black and near the bottom, I did notice it right away. I wish EMP had found a way to cover this for a more uniform finish.

The grille is very sturdy for its size. While I generally see plastic grille frames at this price point, the E5Tis instead have an MDF frame. This is only a bit heavier than the plastic but much MUCH sturdier. The grille posts are plastic but hold very securely. The grille is easy to remove and replace and the connection point is secure enough that I never worried about them falling off even with heavy jostling. There is a small EMP logo on the bottom of the grille which is the only branding on the front of the speaker. With a speaker that looks as good as this one does with the grille off, I'm surprised that EMP didn't include some branding under the grille. Hey, you've got those two big black woofers, how 'bout you grab some whiteout and color in your name?

E5Ti_bindingThe back of the speaker is, as mentioned, smaller than the front. There is a port at the very bottom with two pairs of binding posts in a plastic case just above. This is all pretty standard until you take a look at the sticker on the binding posts. It informs you that you are NOT to use the dual binding posts for bi-amping and that doing so would damage your speakers. Well, then what are they for? We here at Audioholics have long maintained that the only reason for bi-wiring speakers is if you wish to add to the coffers of your favorite wire manufacturer. My guess (and I may be wrong) is that the dual binding post plates are in much more demand and therefore are cheaper than the single pair plates. Frankly, I think that EMP is setting themselves up for some complaints as guys, in general, don't read stickers on the back of their speaker much less the directions. Once these speakers start changing hands, you're going to run into a lot of these that have been bi-amped to death.

Manufacturer's Note
Even before the review was undertaken we had decided to replace the dual pairs of binding posts with a single pair to reduce confusion and to eliminate the possibility of damage that Tom mentioned. Units that have already shipped will still have the dual pairs and we remind owners to heed the warning on the speaker and in the manual and bi-wire only, do not bi-amp.

Taking apart the speaker, you'll find a bit sturdier cabinet than what you would expect at this price point. The box (sans the extra thick 1 inch front baffle) is constructed out of 1/2" MDF. There is a dedicated box behind the midrange that is stuffed full of polyfill which also serves as a brace since it’s connected to the side walls of the cabinet. There is an O brace between the woofers which is concealed by the damping material.  There are several wedges placed strategically around the edges of the cabinet for further shoring up.

There is minimal insulation within the box with a few pieces glued to the edges. The port is only flared on the outside. The woofers are a bit light for their size with stamped baskets and modest magnet structures. None of this is really a slam against the speaker as this is basically either at or above the level you'd expect in a $730 tower speaker. The crossover is a second order asymmetrical design that utilizes a mixture of steel and air core inductors and polypropylene and electrolytic capacitors.  There is definitely some cost cutting here but you would be surprised at the lower grade parts we’ve found in some very well known brands costing 2-3 times more than the retail price of these speakers.  At least EMP utilized the better parts where it matters most, the mids and highs.

E5Ti_woof      E5Ti_cross


E5TiR Setup and Measurements

I used a number of different systems to test the E5Tis including a Denon AVR-4310CI paired with a couple of Seymour AV Ice Block 5001 Monoblocks and the Emotiva RSP/RPA analogue separates solution. Both were fed by a Denon DVD-3910 or a PS3 (for Blu-ray playback). All digital cabling was provided by Impact Acoustics with analogue cabling by Blue Jeans or Ram Electronics. The room was treated through the Auralex Room Analysis Plus program with DIY panels and Tri-Traps from GiK Acoustics. After installing the carpet spikes and trying in vain to get the E5TiRs to sit perfectly still (a function of the cabinet shape not a flaw of the speaker), I played around with placement. I sit around 8 feet from each speaker which tend to be anywhere from 7 to 10 feet apart (depending on how I set them up).

E5Ti_comparI played around with toe in and found that the E5Tis needed a little. While the off axis response of the speakers was very good, I found that the imaging tightened up considerably in my room with a few degrees of toe-in. Without it, the center image felt a little fuzzy and not nearly as coherent. One thing I noticed during setup was that one of the speakers was buzzing. This was intermittent and I determined (eventually) that generally happened during playback of frequencies around 250Hz. The buzz didn't seem to be mechanical in nature (I physically restrained the drivers) nor did it seem to come from the grilles (either the main grille or the one over the tweeter). I believe this came from a wire rubbing inside of the speaker. I opened the speaker and moved things around and got the sound to stop but I can't confirm definitely that it was a rubbing wire. Since there was no protection (foam) around the wires, it certainly seems likely. If you run into a similar problem, please contact your reseller or EMP Tek before trying to fix it yourself as you risk voiding your warranty.

One thing I did want to mention was about the height of the speaker. Reference Room 3 (my room) has recently been upgraded to a front projection system. That's great for video and the "movie like" experience but not so great for speakers. I had to make sure that my screen (which could have been HUGE) fit between the speakers. That limited me to an 80" screen. With the ET5is, I wouldn't have had to do that (yes, I realize I could have used a perforated screen but I didn't want to which is a discussion for another time). The E5Tis actually sit below the screen. This is a huge plus for those that are thinking of upgrading to a front projection system and don't want to have to give up screen size for speakers. I still think the speakers are too short but it may actually be a bonus for some buyers.


For laboratory measurements I used TrueRTA paired with the mic from the Sencore SP395A FFT Audio Analyzer amplified by a Sherbourn 2/75B amp. I used the Sencore for the Impedance measurement. Before the speakers arrived at my home for review they took a quick stop by Gene DellaSala's house for additional testing and measurements (and frankly because none of us, not to mention the President of Audioholics, could believe speakers at this price point could sound any good). His measurements and mine correlated well with the exceptions that are noted below. 


EMP E5Ti 1 Meter On Axis in-room
Note - this is not a 1-watt measurement

My measurements were slightly more dramatic that Gene's but the overall shape of the frequency response is the same. Mine drop off a bit above 18k which is probably a mic artifact and there is a bump at 30Hz which is certainly a room affect. As you can see, the E5Tis display a remarkably flat response overall especially considering the price point. The bump at 80-150Hz certainly looks intentional and meant to impress the bass heads in the crowd. It's really hard to evaluate anything much below 100Hz because the room plays a factor with the measurements but you certainly won't have any problems blending with a sub at the THX recommended 80Hz crossover point.

E5Ti_meas_half     EMP-tower

EMP E5Ti 1/2 Meter (my measurement left, Gene’s right)
Purple - On axis, Yellow - 15 degrees off, Orange 30 degrees off

As you can see, off axis, the top end of the speaker seems to mellow out a bit with very little change to the rest of the frequency response. This makes for a very "tunable" speaker that can be adjusted to your liking with little more than changing the orientation of the speaker.

E5TI summed

EMP E5Ti Summed Nearfield Response

To help take the room out of the equation, we conducted a summed nearfield response of the drivers and plotted the results below using LMS.  It can still be seen that these speakers are tuned a bit bassy in the 80-150Hz region which explains why Tom felt they had good punch to them, sometimes more so than the RBH TK towers that utilize a larger side firing woofer. 

Editorial Note on Summed Neafield Measurement
The summed near field measurement of the port and woofer while accurate, is a little misleading because due to the size of the port its efficiency starts to drop off.  That being said,  the speaker is tuned very low.  This gives more of a shelved response on the bottom end when looking at the frequency response of the port itself.  There is usable output from the port down to the 30 Hz region.  Looking at the in-room frequency response, the 30-50 Hz region is 10dB down, but still usable, especially if the speaker is within a few feet of the back wall which in that case it may only be 5 or 6 dB down or less.   There have been a number of people commenting in the forums that for stereo listening they could live without a sub and that is the very reason.


EMP E5Ti Impedance

The EMP E5Ti impedance measured within the manufacturers 6 ohm claim. The asymmetrical saddle points partly explains the bass boost measured and it appears the box is tuned somewhere around 45Hz but the peak in the second saddle point likely reveals some cabinet resonance.  The phase stays within a +-30 degree window which is excellent.  The E5Ti should play nice with nearly any receiver though extra power from a higher end receiver or external amp would certainly be welcome.

Impression Series Listening Tests and Conclusion

I always do two things immediately when I start the listening tests of a new set of speakers - I pop in the Rives Audio Test CD II to test out usable bass in my room and I do a comparison with reference speakers. While manufacturers love to give specs for their speakers, they often will "tweak" them to make the speakers look a little better on paper. Frequency response is one of these. The question you should be asking yourself is, "At what volume?" Sure, a speaker might dip very low but the output might be equally as low. The E5Tis claim a low point of 50Hz. With the Rives CD, I was getting good strong output down to 40Hz and maybe a bit more. This is exactly what I expected from an EMP offering as they are often conservative with their specs.

E5Ti_compar2The obvious choice of reference speakers to pit against the E5Tis are the RBH TK-5CTs (discontinued). These speakers retailed (way back in the day) for a bit more than the MSRP of the E5Tis (when I reviewed them they were around $900). They were rebadged under the EMP and Destination Audio labels for a similar price as well. While there is about a $170 to $200 price difference, the comparison seems apropos. You'd expect the RBH TK-5CTs to outperform the E5Tis (at this price point, $200 is quite a difference) but the comparison to be apt. The speakers are really as different as night and day. While the internal volume might be similar, the TK-5CTs are tall and skinny while the E5Tis are short and fatter. The TK-5CTs have a single tweeter, two (yellow, ugh) midranges, and a side firing woofer in essentially at rectangular box wrapped in vinyl. They have a gloss black top and a large base plate for added stability. Frankly, the TK-5CTs have always struck me as ugly (and I said so in my review). The only real advantages the TKs have over the E5Tis is that they are more stable and the tweeter is higher. The E5Tis look much better overall and have a greater aesthetic appeal.

Sonically, of course, looks matter for very little. Just because a speaker looks like a million dollars doesn't mean it sounds all that fantastic (even if you did actually pay a million dollars for it). I played a few CDs including Yello's The Eye which has some fantastic material for determining bass response, imaging, and movement between speakers. There were some very definite sonic differences between the two speakers which was somewhat surprising to me. I've tested a number of RBH/EMP offerings and they've generally sounded very similar. The E5Tis seemed to have a very full sound (some might call it laid back) likely due to the bump around 100Hz. The midrange felt very uniform and flat and the high end was sufficiently detailed. When I listened to the TK-5CTs, I thought they felt thin in comparison at first. They didn't sound as resonant. A number of A/B switches later and I ended up thinking that the RBH TK-5CTs had a more detailed overall presentation. They sounded "quieter" which is a quality I value. I felt the TKs were better able to present the music uncolored while the E5Tis seemed to resonate more. It's a hard thing to describe adequately in words. If you were to hear it, you'd know what I was talking about.

While I preferred one speaker over the other, this represents my personal preference and not an absolute statement of quality. Both of these speakers are quality, they just have different sonic profiles. At this price point, I'd expect little less. With cost-no-option speaker offerings, the differences between speakers should (theoretically) be small. But with lower cost speakers, compromises have to be made and these compromises generally have sonic repercussions. While both speakers seemed to have similar bass depths, the overall bassy presentation of the E5Tis seemed slightly muddier than the TK-5CTs. Depending on your musical preferences, you might very well prefer the E5Tis. While I think they are a very good sounding speaker (especially for the price), I preferred the TK-5CTs.

BD: Diana Krall - Live in Rio

DianaYou might be wondering what a Blu-ray disc is doing in a stereo review. One thing I love about this disc is that it has a stereo LPCM version. This really gives you a lot of versatility not to mention fidelity. The E5Tis presented Diana's voice with all the delicacy and breathiness I come to expect. The presentation was well anchored in the front of the room with decent of width to the soundstage. What I really noticed with this listening test was how well the E5Tis handled the dynamic range of this recording. When the volume was minimal, you could still hear lots of detail and as the volume increased, the speakers had little problem keeping up. Lower volumes often are the killers of lower quality speakers. The E5Tis had no problem with a wide variety of dynamic ranges.

CD: Lorna Hunt - All in One Day

HuntLorna Hunt's album leaves very little to the imagination. If your speakers are coloring the music, there is very little there in terms of content to mask that. The E5Tis did a lot right with this album. The kick drum was sufficiently strong and lifelike, the midrange was very well realized (Lorna mostly sounded like she was in the room with me) and the high end sounded very well extended. The only problem really occurred when I compared the E5Ti presentation with the RBH TK-5CTs. While both presentations were good, the TK-5CTs sounded much less veiled. While I'm not very partial to certain words as they have a lot of emotional context in the enthusiast crowd, the E5Tis sounded very laid back in comparison. Now some of you are going to take this as high praise and others stopped reading the review at that word, it is only in comparison to the TKs that this descriptor comes to light. On their own, the presentation sounds very detailed and lifelike.


E5Ti_LoveThe EMP Tek E5Ti floorstanding speakers are truly an impressive pair - both in looks and performance. When I first heard them, I couldn't help but wonder what people would think of this review. Obviously, I like them. Obviously they are a great value for their asking price (MSRP $730). But when they hit the shelves at $400 a pair, people obviously are going to look at them askew. They aren't going to believe that anything that good can come at that price. I suggest that we are at a crossroads - a paradigm shift in managerial lingo. Instead of asking yourself what can be wrong with a speaker at this price point, you should be asking yourself why we've been paying so much for other speaker offerings. There is a part of me that is angry at EMP. Angry that they've opened my eyes to the true costs of speakers. Sure, the E5Ti Impression series speakers aren't perfect but for their $500/pair sale price, they are so far beyond what I expected that I actually have to change the bar. When you hear them, I'm betting you'll be doing the same.



EMP Tek E5TiR Floorstanding Speakers



382 Marshall Way
Layton, Utah 84041


About EMP Tek
Engineered Music Products (EMP) was founded in 2007 by Industry professionals with over thirty years experience in designing, engineering and manufacturing high performance loudspeakers for companies such as ParaSound, McIntosh, JBL, RBH Sound, Destination Audio and Fosgate...

The High Performance Loudspeakers designed by EMP differ greatly from the products that sell in mass retail and big box stores. Manufacturers who market their products through mass retail and big box stores have to spend most of every dollar on marketing and advertising, leaving little of that dollar for product development and build quality.

For thirty years, the founding employees of EMP have focused on engineering and manufacturing loudspeakers that stand above the mass produced, profit focused brands that are offered by mass retail and big box stores. In short - these are not your garden variety speakers. 

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStar
About the author:
author portrait

As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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