EMP HTP-551T Speaker System

The home-theater market's love affair with big displays and skinny speakers hasn't peaked just yet—screen girths are still expanding and speakers are on the verge of anorexia. The folks at EMP (Engineered Music Products) were hip to that fact when they cooked up the seriously svelte HTP-551T speaker package.

EMP is a new name on the scene, so before we go any further, an introduction is in order. Some of you may be familiar with EMP's "sister" company, RBH Sound. Both brands are based in Layton, Utah.

Not that there are any products shared between the two brands. On the contrary—RBH continues to do what it does best, building high-end home-theater speakers that are sold through CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design & Installation Association) dealers. EMP's focus is on lifestyle and value-oriented products sold exclusively on the Web with a 14-day, no-questions-asked return guarantee.

The HTP-551T package includes a pair of EF50T tower speakers, a compact center speaker, the EF50C, and a pair of even smaller EF50 surround speakers. Got a 7.1-channel A/V receiver? No problem, extra EF50s run $362 a pair.

FYI, if you buy this system, you might receive a set of boxes with a different brand and model numbers. It turns out that EMP has another "sister" company, Destination Audio, and some freestanding products are shared between them. If EMP runs out of the EF50-series speakers, they will send the identical Destination Audio CS500 series. In fact, EMP sent a CS500T and CS500C to be measured, which caused some confusion until we learned of this potential switcheroo. My review system consisted of the EF50 series.

It wasn't obvious at first glance, but the pewter-gray front baffles are user replaceable. They're held in place with small pins that fit into holes on the speaker cabinet, much like a speaker grille would. Prices for the vinyl-wrapped rosewood, cherry, and black baffles range from $34 for the center speaker's baffle to $138/pair for the towers'. In any case, black cloth grilles are fitted to the baffles.

The rest of the speakers' medium-density fiberboard cabinets are covered in lightly textured black vinyl. The center and surround speakers' backsides are fitted with threaded inserts to facilitate wall mounting, and EMP's all-metal binding posts accept banana plugs, spades, pins, or bare-wire ends.

The speakers all feature the same 1-inch poly silk dome tweeter and 4-inch aluminized fiberglass matrix woofer. The tweeter looks pretty standard, but it's protected from overzealous home-theater antics by a fast-acting, automatic resetting fuse. Nice.

The woofer's gleaming aluminum skin is vacuum deposited over the fiberglass cone to produce a rigid yet damped diaphragm. It's the first of its type I've seen. All of the speakers are acoustic-suspension (sealed-box) designs.

Okay, not all the speakers—the E10s subwoofer is ported at the bottom and sports a dished 10-inch aluminum woofer. Looking over the specs, I noted the sub features a bona-fide Class AB 100-watt power amplifier. Hmmm, Class D digital amps are pretty standard in subs, but some audiophiles prefer analog-amped woofers. That's the theory, but real-world sonics are something else again.