Which Floorstanding Speakers Do You Recommend? Ask the Editors

floorstanding speakers

Q: I’m looking for budget-oriented but reference-quality floorstanding speakers for a 5.1.4 setup. I will be using my Yamaha RX-A2060 AV receiver, which can drive down to 4-ohm speakers connected to the front LR outputs only. I want to get four identical towers for the front and surround left and right positions with a matching center-channel speaker for less than $2000. I will use the system mostly for movies, but any music I play won’t be classical!

Is the Aperion Intimus 5T a good speaker, or is there something similar I could be looking at? I keep coming back to these speakers for a couple of reasons. They seem to offer reference quality in a budget tower, and they have an impedance of 8 ohms, which the Yamaha AVR can drive on all channels.

BTW, I already have a DIY 12″ TL (transmission-line) subwoofer.

– Chad Bailles

A: Actually, the Aperion website specifies the Intimus 5T nominal impedance at 6 ohms, which is not a problem for the RX-A2060 as long as you set the AVR to expect 6 ohms; more on that shortly. You are correct that the Intimus 5T is very highly regarded; it’s certainly a good choice for your stated requirements. The Intimus 5T lists for $399 each, and the matching Intimus 5C center-channel speaker lists for $299; the total is $1895 for four towers and a center, right in the pocket of your budget.

Another excellent option is the ELAC F5.2 floorstanding speaker ($300 each) and C5.2 center-channel speaker ($200), which means that four towers and one center would come to $1400. The towers also have a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, while the center has a nominal impedance of 8 ohms. We haven’t reviewed them yet, but from all reports I’ve read—and based on the ELAC speakers I have heard—I bet these are superb.

A third option is the Emotiva Airmotiv T1, which sells for $699/pair. With an Airmotiv C1 center-channel speaker for $249, the system you want is $1647. The Airmotiv line has a specified nominal impedance of 4 ohms, but I think that is a conservative figure. AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger reviewed the Airmotiv T1 in a 2-channel system here and in a 7.2 system here. He measured the speaker’s impedance as a function of frequency; as you can see in the graph below, the impedance stays above 5 ohms except for one dip to 3 ohms around 100 Hz. (Technically, the minimum impedance should be no less than 80% of the nominal impedance, so the minimum impedance of a so-called 6-ohm speaker would be 4.8 ohms. A minimum impedance of 3 ohms would, in fact, mean a nominal impedance of 4 ohms.)

floorstanding speakers
Mark Henninger measured the impedance of the Emotiva Airmotiv T1 as a function of frequency. The impedance stays above 5 ohms throughout most of the frequency range, except around 100 Hz, where it dips to about 3 ohms.

It’s important to understand the relationship between a speaker’s impedance and the amplifier driving it. As the speaker’s impedance decreases, it draws more current from the amp. This increases the amount of heat as the amp tries to work harder, and it can increase distortion, especially at the frequencies where the speaker’s impedance is the lowest.

The RX-A2060 AVR provides a speaker-impedance setting in the Advanced Setup menu that can be set to 6 or 8 ohms. If it’s set to 8 ohms, all speakers should have a nominal impedance of 8 ohms or higher. If it is set to 6 ohms, the front LR speakers can have a nominal impedance down to 4 ohms, but all other speakers should be 6 ohms or higher.

In view of this, let’s reconsider the Emotiva Airmotiv T1. As I mentioned, its nominal impedance is spec’d at 4 ohms, but based on Mark’s measurements, it’s really more like 6 ohms. Thus, the T1 would probably work with the RX-A2060 in the surround positions, assuming the AVR is set for 6-ohm speakers. (It would certainly work well in the front LR positions.) On the other hand, if you ran into trouble using the Emotivas, the companies would claim you were using 4-ohm speakers even though Yamaha says not to. So, to be on the safe side, I recommend passing on these otherwise excellent speakers.

That leaves the Aperion Intimus 5T/5C and the ELAC F5.2/C5.2. Take a look at the following table of specs (which also includes the Emotivas just for grins):

Make Model Price Frequency Response Sensitivity Impedance
Floorstanding Speakers
Aperion Intimus 5T $399 each 55-20,000 Hz (±3 dB) 87 dB 6 ohms
ELAC F5.2 $300 each 50-32,000 Hz (±3 dB) 86 dB 6 ohms
Emotiva Airmotiv T1 $699/pair 37-28,000 Hz (±3 dB) 88 dB 4 ohms
Center-Channel Speakers
Aperion Intimus 5C $299 60-20,000 Hz (±3 dB) 88 dB 6 ohms
ELAC C5.2 $200 62-32,000 Hz (±3 dB) 87 dB 8 ohms
Emotiva Airmotiv C1 $249 50-28,000 Hz (±3 dB) 89 dB 4 ohms

As you can see, the ELAC speakers have a much higher top end than the Aperions. Of course, humans can’t hear that high directly, but the speakers can reproduce all the high frequencies we can hear with no attenuation. The low end is roughly equal between the two brands.

According to ELAC, the C5.2 has higher sensitivity and nominal impedance than the F5.2 by design. The center channel carries the lion’s share of the information in a soundtrack, so ELAC made the center-channel speaker a bit louder (by increasing sensitivity) and easier for low-cost AVRs to drive with more limited power (by increasing nominal impedance). The downside is less low-frequency extension, but most home theaters have a subwoofer, so designer Andrew Jones chose that tradeoff.

Given all that, I recommend the ELACs over the Aperions. Even better, the ELAC system is nearly $500 less expensive. Of course, AVS Forum members might have a different opinion, which I welcome in the comments.

BTW, Best Buy carries ELAC speakers in the Magnolia Home Theater section of some stores, so you might be able to audition the F5.2 and C5.2 there. Aperion only sells products from its website, making it difficult to audition them before you buy. However, Aperion offers a 60-day risk-free in-home trial with free shipping and returns.

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