Emotiva Pro Stealth 8 Speaker System Page 2

It’s worth noting that the Oppo BDP-95 is no longer made but sounds nearly identical to Oppo’s current BDP-105 Blu-ray, SACD, and DVD-Audio player. And the new player has more extensive connectivity options than your average high-end Blu-ray player that make it even more suitable for a setup like this. It has HDMI, USB, coaxial, and TosLink inputs for switching in additional sources, and an Ethernet LAN port. Oppo’s less expensive BDP-103, which has mostly the same inputs, may also be worth checking into. Obviously, using the Oppo players (or the similarly featured Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD) as a surround processor/preamp/volume control will only be an option for readers with just a few digital sources. Otherwise, plan on using a surround processor or an A/V receiver with multichannel analog outputs with the Stealths.

I have a few gripes about the design. There was a tiny bit of low-level hiss coming from the tweeters, though I had to be within a couple of feet of the speakers to hear it, and it wasn’t audible when I played movies. And while the blue LED positioned between the tweeter and woofer isn’t very bright, it can be distracting in a dark room, especially the center-channel Stealth. I was OK with it, but if blue light bothers you, a small piece of black tape would be an easy cure.

A Pair of 8s
I spent some time with just a pair of Stealth 8s listening in stereo. Whoa, you can really hammer these guys, and they never sound like they’re working very hard. The Stealth 8s had no trouble producing substantial volume levels with absolutely no strain. A lot of audiophile-oriented designs can’t make that claim, but the Stealth 8s are seriously good loud-speakers. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to listening to The Who’s Live at Leeds concert album with the volume turned up to 11. The Stealth 8 definitely has a rock ’n’ roll heart.

I could also play David Chesky’s incredibly dynamic solo piano piece “The New York Rags” realistically loud without overtaxing the Stealth amps. That’s impressive. I’ve clipped some uber-expensive amps with higher rated power while playing this CD, but the Stealths handled the steepest piano transients with ease. I was present at Chesky’s recording session, so I can tell you these speakers totally nailed the piano’s sound.

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After that high-decibel palate cleansing, I settled back with a high-resolution 24/96 download from HDtracks of the Crosby, Stills and Nash album and the Stealth 8s brought those famous harmonies back to life. Joni Mitchell’s Shadows and Light concert CD from 1980 was also brilliant. The speakers’ effortless dynamics were a real thrill. The midrange is spot on, and the tweeters’ airy treble extension was impressive.

Cream’s reunion 2005 concert from Royal Albert Hall on Blu-ray projected a huge stereo soundstage. The audience cheers appeared well out to the sides of the two Stealth 8s and far forward into the room. I’ve never heard a more convincing surround illusion from two-channel at home. It was so effective, I had to check and make sure I wasn’t playing the 5.1 mix. Nope, it was strictly two-channel.

I also auditioned the Stealth 8s with my two-channel system to play a few LPs on my VPI Classic turntable, Classé 310 LP phono preamp, and Pass Labs XP-20 preamp, and wowza, the newly remastered Allman Brothers Band album on Mobile Fidelity vinyl was a jaw-dropping wonder. Greg Allman’s raw vocal talent, Duane’s gorgeous guitar lines, and the band’s unstoppable rhythm section killed. The warmth and soul of the music were fully developed on the LP, and the sound was sublime. Oh right, the Stealths are monitors after all; they’re designed to tell you exactly what’s going on in the recording.

Three 8s and a Pair of 6s
Venturing into surround territory with the Apocalypse Now Redux Blu-ray, I was a goner as soon as I heard the helicopters circling my room. I’ve watched this film countless times, but sound mixer Walter Murch’s wizardry never ceases to amaze. Now, with three Stealth 8s for front left, center, and right, and a pair of Stealth 6s in the surround positions, the seamless envelopment of the soundscape was unusually complete. The famous sequence in which the helicopters attack a small Vietnamese village, with Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” blaring from speakers in the copters, set my heart racing. The music, explosions, gunfire, and mayhem didn’t come close to taxing the Stealths’ abilities one bit. And later as U.S. Army Special Operations Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) makes his way up the river on a small boat, the jungle’s thick canopy of birds and insects in the surround mix was perfect.

The first Saw movie holds up really well, and I heard all of the subtle ambient cues in that disgusting room where most of the film’s creepy action takes place. The watery drips, disturbing low-frequency rumblings, and the percussive score’s drum sounds ricocheting around my home theater kept me on the edge of my seat. The tense dialogue in that highly reverberant room put me inside the space, which really heightened the experience.

I noticed, again and again, that running a true full-range center speaker, one that goes down to the low 30-Hz range, created a more seamless front soundstage than I have ever achieved with a more bandwidth-limited center. I’ve occasionally played around with full-range centers at home, but they were all a lot bigger and many times more expensive than the Stealth 8. Sure, the Stealth 8 is bulkier than the usual MTM center, but it also sounds better; the 3.5-inch-shorter Stealth 6 does almost as good a job as a center speaker.

I love what the Stealths do well. Their freewheeling dynamics, low distortion, big as all outdoors imaging, rock-solid bass, and airy highs are exceptional, and all the more so considering their relatively compact size and price. Build quality is mighty impressive, and the fine-tuning available with those dip switches is something few competing home theater speakers can match. Perfect they’re not, but no speaker, even ones that sell for a lot more, are perfect. I wish the Stealths were more transparent; my Magnepan 3.7 panel speakers trump them in that area. But while the Maggies’ stage depth and dimensionality are bet- ter, they can’t touch the Stealths’ dynamics or bass power. The has- sles associated with running an interconnect and power cable to each Stealth speaker may also deter some potential buyers.

Like all of Emotiva’s products, the Stealths are sold direct from the company’s Website with a 30-day home trial policy, and you can mix Stealths with Emotiva Pro’s less expensive Airmotiv 4 or Airmotiv 5 speakers to bring down the cost of a home theater system. I own a pair of Airmotiv 4s, and when I put them in the review system as surrounds, they easily mated with the three front Stealth 8s. Then again, for a smaller room, you might be perfectly satisfied running just a pair of Stealth 6s or 8s with your TV. By the time you read this, Emotiva Pro may have released a larger Stealth LCR speaker, with two 8-inch woofers flanking the tweeter, which can be reoriented for horizontal or vertical speaker placement. Emotiva Pro has more good stuff in the pipeline; I can hardly wait to see what they do next.

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