When Emotiva announced it would bring its new lineup of passive Airmotiv speakers to CES 2016, I knew I would be spending some time in the company's room at The Venetian. I must confess, even my most optimistic expectations of what these aggressively priced new speakers would look and sound like were exceeded by what I found in that room.

Honestly, I don't understand how the Airmotiv T-1 towers cost only $350 per piece. I am baffled (no pun intended) by both the output and finesse of the $300 per pair B1 bookshelf speaker. Furthermore, the C1 center is the most serious $250 center channel I have ever seen. The $250 per pair E1 surround had a truly wall-mount friendly, shallow, front-ported design that shows some real thought went into it.

Emotiva also showed off its LCR1 2-way speaker, which can serve various roles including center, mains, surrounds, even height speakers. This flexible model costs $200 per unit, and features twin 4.5" Kevlar woofers flanking a 25mm x 25mm AMT tweeter.

What all these speakers have in common is the use of an Airmotiv folded-ribbon tweeter, and Kevlar midranges and/or woofers. Also, the sturdy MDF cabinets share a similar industrial aesthetic that screams "performance".

Emotiva's T1 Tower Speaker.

The SB1 soundbar was also there, and quite frankly it is a beast the likes of which I have rarely seen in that category. The $500 Airmotiv SB1 is a two-way LCR (three-channel) soundbar. It features six 4" Kevlar woofers, and three 25mm x 25mm tweeters.
Emotiva also brought its new subwoofers to the show, the $500, 10" Airmotiv S10 and the $700, 12" Airmotiv S12. These subs come with amps that feature toroidal power supplies and operate in class A/B.

The Airmotiv S12 subwoofer.
I checked out two clips when I sat for the demo—one musical, and one from a movie. The Transformers: Age of Extinction clip has the cinematic punch you want from a home theater system, rendering sound effects as physical, tangible things. Indeed, I measured 105 dB C-weighted peaks using my cellphone—clearly the system was capable of reference-level audio reproduction in Emotiva's hotel suite, and had headroom to spare.

The music also came through with notable verisimilitude, it was a 2.0 rendition of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis." By the time the track was done, I was totally convinced—the T1 towers are the real deal if you want 3-way floorstanders with AMT tweeters, twin 6.5" Kevlar woofers, and a 5.5" Kevlar midrange—that cost well under a grand. I look forward to an lengthier audition, but at CES there's not time to lounge, I had to keep moving.

The system demo put on by Emotiva simply blew me away. I'm always price-sensitive and have long believed that cost does not always directly equate to performance; sometimes you pay for style, or splashy ad campaigns, or celebrity endorsement. Nevertheless, with the Airmotivs, based on what I heard, you're getting speakers engineered to clearly outperform the competition at their price points. Indeed, although it's cliché to say this or that speaker sounds as good as many speakers that cost twice as much or more. Well, in this case its 100% true for the Airmotiv passive speakers and soundbar I heard... with an emphasis on "and more."