Emotiva ERM-1 versus Axiom Audio M2i
I have owned the Axiom M2i's (LCR) (custom piano black finish) for several years along with the Axiom QS4 surrounds (custom paint). The price of the standard finish M2i's is $148. I have been very pleased with both the speakers and Axiom customer service. The M2i's have a 1" titanium tweeter and a 5.25" aluminum woofer and weigh 11.2 lbs. I choose the M2i's based on excellent reviews and because I only had room for a small bookshelf speaker. It matches very well with my Outlaw LFM-1 Plus sub/Velodyne SMS-1 sub EQ. My 5.1 system is in our living area cross wise at the end of a 13x37x8.5 carpeted room (liv/din/kitch).
I have read with interest the reviews both pro and user on the ERM/ERD system as a possible upgrade. I ordered a single ERM-1 to do a test comparison with the M2i. See full specs here:
I set up both speakers side by side in the living room about 2.5' away from the wall on 30" stands. I used my Sony STR-DA4ES receiver to drive them as left channel A and left channel B rather than the XPA-5, too many connectors to switch. I level matched the sound output with a RS analog meter on tripod with pink noise at 80dB's and noted the dB setting on the Sony. To attain 80dB's the M2i was set at -31.5 and the ERM-1 at -37.0 on the Sony volume readout. The Axiom is rated at 87dB's and the ERM-1 at 89dB's, but the difference was actually more than 2dB's. I played random music on the ERM-1 for about 6 hours before this test. All tests were done with analog direct and the sub off. I tested the ERM-1 with the tweeter switch in the +2dB position which I prefer. The boundary switch was off but is very effective when I place the ERM-1 against the wall.
I used the same test CD that I made to review my ERC-1.
R. Kelly ..... Gotham City ..... Jive Records (I did not make this up)
The Beatles ..... Because (acapella) ..... Capitol
Nora Jones ..... The Nearness Of You ..... Blue Note Records
The Gipsy Kings ..... Volare ..... Nonesuch
Diane Schuur ..... Funny (But I Still Love You) ..... GRP Records
Lyle Lovett ..... She makes Me Feel Good ..... MCA/Curb
Ambrosian Singers ..... O Tannenbaum ..... Columbia
Ben Webster/Ella Fitzgerald ..... In A Mellow Tone ..... Verve
Voices Of Ascension ..... Sicut Cervus ..... TDK
Pete Fountain ..... A Closer Walk ..... Decca
Sara K. ..... Oh Well ..... Chesky
Dave's True Story ..... Dear Miss Lucy ..... Chesky
Steve Porcaro and David Paich ..... She ..... Sheffield Lab
LA Chamber Orchestra ..... Water Music/Handel ..... Delos
Scott Hamilton ..... That's All ..... Concord Records
Jerry Hadley ..... All I Ask Of You ..... RCA Victor
Clark Terry ..... Pennies From Heaven ..... Chesky
Rahsaan Roland Kirk ..... In A Mellow Tone ..... Warner
Oscar Peterson ..... North York ..... Telarc
With my wife's help as the switcher, I used the following comparison test procedures. She did not know which speaker was connected to A and B. She drew papers from a bowl, either A or B and used that for the start of the test. She kept a note as which one was the first played first and then she switched back and forth as I would pause and restart the music. I could not see the selector or the front panel display on the Sony. I would start the music playing using the remote from the ERC-1. When I wanted her to switch speakers I would pause the player/music and she would switch and adjust the output level for each player which I had calibrated before and wrote down the dB settings for her on the front panel. I would then continue the music playing thru the other speaker. I identified them as #1 and #2 as the order in which she switched them. 2 more times thru the 19 tracks we stopped and she drew again and I one time I physically swapped the two speaker left and right.
After one to three switches (or sometimes more) I would make a note as to which I preferred, #1, #2 or N for no preference and then we would move to the next track and she would set A or B to start playing first as before. When we had finished she told me which player was played first in each of the three sections and I determined whether that was player #1 or #2 on my notes. Of the 19 tracks I chose "N" 2 times (no preference). In the other 17 tracks I chose the exact same speaker as "preferred" all 17 times. The other speaker was never chosen as "preferred."
After the test I rechecked the sound level and it matched precisely for both speakers confirming that they were playing at exactly the same reference volume.
The speaker that I preferred 17 out of 19 times, with 2 draws, was the Emotiva ERM-1!
Axiom Audio M2i. First let me say that this is a very impressive small speaker. It is somewhat smaller than the ERM-1 with sides that slope inward from the front to the rear. It weighs 11.2 lbs versus 17.3 lbs on the ERM-1. Also the ERM-1 is 2" higher, 1" deeper, .25" wider at the front and 2.25" wider at the rear. The ERM-1 has two 5.25 woofer versus one on the M2i. The M2i has very detailed and refined sound. The lows are clean and tight and the highs are crystal clear. The midrange lends itself to a very natural vocal reproduction. This is simply a real bargain for the price from an excellent company.
Emotiva ERM-1. This speaker lists for twice the price of the M2i's and sold normally for probably 50% more or so. So much for the comparisons. The ERM-1 is in every way the superior speaker as I thought it might be, but not nearly to this extent. The night before the test I did a test run thru the tracks after I had the speakers set up for today's comparison. It was late and I kept the volume down to about 70dB's or less. I was surprised that the M2i did quite well at these levels. However, today there was no doubt to the winner. The louder the comparison the farther ahead the ERM-1 pulled. I also did a full frequency response test from 63Hz-16kHz after today's comparison. The Axiom actually had a slightly lower extension down only -5dB's at 63 Hz while the ERM-1 had fallen off the cliff at -15 dB's. This is actually great as the purpose of the ERM-1 is not to play much below 80Hz as it is designed to be matched with a fine sub. Emo designed the low end perfectly! At the highs both speakers were very fine performers with ERM-1 a little better at 12,500Hz and above. My surprise was that the ERM-1 (with two 5.25" woofers) did not have any bass/mid hump that commonly produces a bloated heavy/warm sound. There was dip around 160Hz and 250Hz but the M2i exhibited the same behavior so it was room related. In my living room the ERM-1 was exceptionally flat from 315Hz all the way up to 8,000Hz, and it sounded flat too, superb performance. I did a test on both speakers at 80Hz in which turned up the volume. the ERM-1 was still very clean at 80Hz and 93dB's. The M2i started complaining quite audibly at 80Hz and 80dB's. The ERM-1 obviously had much higher tolerance for high output. Understand that this was at 80Hz, the low end of these speakers range and a very difficult test at a steady 80Hz test tone. I was very impressed with the clean output on the ERM-1 and shut it off at 93dB's. Normally my sub will be taking over at this range but it was interesting to push the Emo.
The ERM-1 is a very impressive speaker indeed. It is extremely clean, natural, defined, dynamic and precise even at very high output levels. I didn't have the meter on but after the test I took the ERM-1 for a vigorous test drive at high speeds. It performed well beyond my expectations. I could not believe how well it performed at levels with peaks well above 100dB's. Remember this is was being driven by my Sony receiver. Wait until I hook up the XPA-5 to it. Only in comparison to the ERM-1 did I hear some of the strain on the M2i as I pushed it to high levels. The ERM-1 simply always sounded ultra clean and natural with every musical selection I threw at it. I think some would not at first like the ERM-1 because to me it did not have that "warm/full" sound that many like that translated by me means a peaked area in the 80-250Hz range and the lack of precise definition. I kept marveling to myself how utterly natural the ERM-1 sounded. It was not as forward sounding as the M2i and it had better soundstage depth and more precise imaging. Voices were so perfectly natural and relaxed I felt I was right there. The lack of audible distortion was clearly evident on this speaker. The silk dome tweeter was precision smooth and very transparent. I felt the off axis response of the M2i was excellent, the ERM-1 was better.
It will take a little ingenuity for me to fit it in the place that the M2i previously inhabited but I've already got several solutions in my mind. Why on Earth are they discontinuing this marvelous little speaker for $149? Yeah, I know, most nuts both Emo and outsiders think one has too have a big speaker for great sound, not in my book. I will hook 3 of the ERM-1's and two ERD-1's (surrounds) crossed over at 80Hz to my sub and have a great sounding system with ultra clean bass, super natural midrange and pristine highs.
Last edited by RoadRunner6; 06-12-2009 at 06:02 PM.
OK, very nice review, RR. Thanks for your in-depth comments.
Originally Posted by RoadRunner6
Cut it out about being sixty-four, though, 'cause I'm sixty-four. I'm still eating, so take some encouragement from that.
Sorry Feanor, but I turn 65 next month. I go in to the Social Security office next week to sign up for U.S. Medicare (Federal Hospital Insurance). The good news is that I get to ride the local buses for 50 cents!
Yeah, you're a few months older than me; I'm '65 next March. My claim for my Canadian Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan payments come my birthday has already been acknowledged.
Originally Posted by RoadRunner6
Healthcare at last, healthcare at last, praise God Almight ... but aren't you quacking in terror about a goverment bureaucrat coming between you and your doctor? I don't know about US Medicare, but for my part as a Canadian resident living under "that crap heathcare system" as described by some U.S. senator or other, I have yet to see a government bureaucrat. The misrepresentation of the Canadian system by anti-government healthcare interests in the US media is gross. The late former premier of the province of Saskatchewan, T.C. (Tommy) Douglas, who founded the first, truly univeral healthcare system in that province, was voted "Greatest Canadan of All Time" in a media pole a couple of years ago. Despite the horrors of you system, no Canadian politician who advocated an American-style system could ever possibly be elected.
The big saw from your anti-healthcare interests seems to be "loss of choice". To an outside observer like me, this seems to very much putting the cart before the hourse. To talk about "choice" when 47 million citizens are uninsured, millions more are under-insuraned, and yet millions more in fear of losing their insurance, is an outrage to common sense.
Hi RR6. Good to see someone else has an appreciation for the ERM-1s. I'd watched ebay for some time looking for a pair of bookshelf speakers for 2-ch listening. I checked out the Axioms, Wharfdales, NHTs, Energys and others looking for something used under $300. Also thought about some Paradigms, but for the money I could only afford the earliest versions.
I'd just purchased an Emotiva XPA-5 and read several reviews on the ERM-1s. I checked out the design and felt the value of components, build quality, room adjustments made them worth several times their $149/ea liquidation price. Well worth a listen.
I wasn't disappointed. I also found them to be very clean, dynamic and imaged exceptionally well. I compared them to several other speakers I have (Klipsch, BA, Legacy, T&A,...) and found they held up extremely well against all. I ended up purchasing a third ERM-1 to complete the front end of a surround system. I'll try using them with several surrounds I have. I'm sure I'll find a good match. If not Emotiva has the ERD-1s available for $299/pr which is a song for this level of speaker.
bfalls, as you know, the ERD-1 bipole/dipole surrounds are also matched with the top of the line Emo speaker model ERT-8.3. That says a lot about the power handling of these relatively small surrounds. I am a stickler for having all 5 speakers voice/timbre matched especially because besides mutli-channel sound and movie soundtracks, I do almost all my 2 channel music source listening in 5.1. The tweeters and mid/woofers are the exact same drivers and thus a perfect match. The ERD-1's like the ERM-1's take a ton of power without any signs of strain. Glad you are enjoying the ERM-1's.
I have a dedicated Home Theater. I already have two full surround systems setup. I couldn't pass up the deal on the ERM-1s. I'll wait until Emotiva has a sale on the ERD-1s before getting a full setup. Until then I have have several other surround speaker options. I agree, especially for SACD and DVD-Audio, you want a timbre matched system.
After purchasing the XPA-5 and ERM-1s, I'm wondering what other exceptional values Emotiva has to offer. Since my system(s) are primarily used for HT, I don't really need a dedicated CD player. The UMC-1 looks inviting, but doesn't offer anything more than the pre-amp section of my Sony ES series receiver.
Since I've purchased an XPA-5 and 3-ERM-1s, I'd better play it cool. My wife's been supportive until now, why push my luck. Hopefully Emo will come out with a Blu-ray player worthy of the risk
RR, nice review! Sorry for the late feedback, I've been in the process of moving (no internet).
I'm a budget bookshelf junkie and always find it interesting when someone comes across a new "find". I value the opinions of the folks here, such as yourself, and BFalls from his thread, more so then the so called "experts" who all use the same jargon, and most likely are on payola. Thanks for taking the time to inform us.
Hey guys thanks for the great reviews of Emotiva gear. Always interesting to read about something that's good regardless the price. I've been very curious how ERMs stack up against PSB Alphas B. Can's seem to find the review of the two side by side. If you see one, it would be great to have it posted here in this thread as a reply.
Slightly off topic but I would also love to see a comparison of XPA-1 monoblocks and the Musical Fidelity Supercharger 550 monoblocks (or even 750). If you find that review I'd love to see that as well. Posted here or PM. I've searched and searched without much sucess.
Again thanks for the great work.
Last edited by Rudy Gireyev; 08-03-2009 at 08:05 PM.
I am always interested in hearing about affordable audio gear that performs good. I am a axiom fan and are thinking of getting a pair of m60 v2 but I have heard the Emotiva stuff is ex cellent as well. The main thing here is that we are getting great performance without going broke. You did a god test and it sounds like you actually took the time to set it up right. The funny thing about the human hearing aspect of audio is that you liked the Emotiva better than the Axioms but the next person might be the opposite and that is what the different aspects of the human ear gets us and thats why there are so many brands out there and all of them think they are th best. If we all heard the same then there would be one brand of speakers probably callled speaker brand that we all would love and we would not need the hundreds and thousands of brands of equipment out there.
But I love getting thousands of dollars of sound out of 500 dollar speakers than to get 500 sound out of 5000 dollar speakers.
I demoed a pair of the original PSB Alphas after seeing great reviews on Stereophile and them getting a Class D rating for being a good entry level speaker. I was comparing them to a pair of Klipsch Kg4s, Boston Acoustics HD8s and a pair of Optimus LX5s.
Originally Posted by Rudy Gireyev
They were a very good speaker for the money and I'm sure still are after several revisions. From what I remember of them, the ERM-1s are better balanced and have a much better low-end. I considered the PSBs when I was looking, but these looked better and were a better value. I'm happy I didn't reconsider.
Hey RR6, nice thread. Hope you're enjoying all the new toys you're getting. Unfortuantely our new home has been keeping me from the whole a/v hobby thing for the past 10 months, so I have to live vicariously through you for the time being...
I haven't been able to demo these units because I don't know anyone who's bought them. But I do know Vance Dickason work and I have little doubt those speakers kick serious butt if he designed them.
By the way, I'm with you on the whole size thing - I've found no problem getting great sound out of small speakers.
Thanks for the interesting read.
Originally Posted by kexodusc
I too have seen good results from small bookshelf speakers. I have a friend that has an older pair of paradigm minimonitors and he put them in his main audio room and hooked them to his McIntosh preamp and amp with very high quality speaker cables and we were very surprised at what we heard. Sure they did not put out the bass that his Legacy towers did but I was surprised at how well they sounded when we finally got them in the right spot in the room. I give props to anyone that can make a speaker system that doesn't cost a whole lot of cash sound like they did. In fact his wife came in when we were listening to them and told him that she liked the sound just as well and liked the size of the minis even better.
Yeah, keep in mind that Emotiva and Vance Dickason designed these with THX style performance. The bass is very flat and defined down to 80 Hz and then drops off the cliff. They sound very nice by themselves but are definitely designed to be mated with a quality sub crossing over at 80Hz.
Originally Posted by RoadRunner6
When I went to the Emotiva website that is the feeling I got when I looked at them is that they were designed to be used with a sub and that they are more of a THX home theater speaker than a stand alone 2 channel model. In saying that I am not taking away anything from their 2 channel performance and I am sure that they do sound good for music. I have seen only a few manufacturers that make speakers for home theater(THX) that can also hold their own in the 2 channel world but it sounds like they can. I have never heard them or seen them in person but they do look like they are built well and would be worth hearing.
Originally Posted by RoadRunner6
We're still waitiing
That was a good review RR6.
Back in my day, we had nine planets.
Thank you bfalls. Any chance you may remember which PSB Alphas you were evaluating? A/V, B series or some other?
Originally Posted by bfalls
These were the absolute first version of Alphas, back when it was the only Alpha model. I had read the reviews in Stereophile and saw them in Chicago that year at CES. It was the first bookshelf I'd heard with respectable bass. I met Paul Barton, who seemed like a really great guy. I believe they retailed for $199.
Although I prefer the ERM-1s, the Alphas are a very good speaker. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them, especially for the budget-minded.
I have the same Axiom M2i speakers and was wondering about the ERM-1 speakers. Sounds like you really enjoyed them, especially at loud volume. But how are they at low volumes? Still rich and detailed? One way I jusge speakers is by how good they sound at low levels. How is the low end? Is it possible to be fairly happy without a subwoofer?
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