Week 7, 2019: Using spade connectors with a receiver, Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero speakers review

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 7, 2019

Q. I need a new stereo receiver to use with Acculab 340 speakers and Koss Electrostatic headphones. The headphones are powered by an energizer box that connects to the receiver’s speaker terminals with spade connectors. Based on your columns I am considering the Outlaw Audio RR2160. Is it compatible with spades, and would it be a good choice?


A. Compatibility depends on the size of the spade. It is easier to just use banana plugs because space can be tight on the back panel of a stereo receiver, especially when using both sets of speaker terminals. So, you put banana plugs on the receiver end of the wire, and spades at the speaker end. There are spade-to-banana adapters available if your spades do not fit.

The Outlaw Audio RR2160 is a great choice for most any system but it is $799. I don’t think your Acculab speakers warrant a receiver that expensive. If you plan on upgrading the speakers someday, I would say go for it. For an amazing and affordable speaker upgrade, read on.

Stop the presses for super speakers at a super price: I originally had a different topic planned for this week, but I started reviewing some new speakers that are so outstanding and priced so aggressively, that I had to tell my readers about them right away so I wrote a brand new column. This week some of you may purchase a pair of speakers priced under $500, and if any of you did that without knowing about the new Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero speakers I would feel pretty bad about it.

The Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero speakers are 38-inch tall towers with a small footprint. Each tower uses two 5.25-inch woofers made of woven carbon fiber (each woofer handling a different part of the sonic spectrum) and an Airmotiv AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter. This technology is orders of magnitude better than that found in comparably-priced speakers. The T-Zero listening experience is sublime, and they fill the room with beautiful, spacious sound of remarkable clarity and definition. They are perfectly balanced from bass to treble, have just the right amount of warmth and richness, and bass impact is far better than the published specifications would lead you to anticipate before you hear them. Stereo imaging is outstanding. The best complement any audiophile can pay any speaker is, “they sound like music, not speakers.” That perfectly describes the T-Zero towers, and they sweep you away as you listen.

At times I notice they are less refined and full-sounding than the very best speakers I own, especially when playing complex musical passages at high volume. This is barely even nitpicking, given the price difference between the respective speakers. They also require an amplifier or receiver compatible with 4-ohm impedances. Onkyo’s TX-8020 ($199) or Emotiva’s TA-100 ($399) will fit that bill affordably, and the speakers will benefit from more power if you can budget for it.

When I was first told about the Emotiva T-Zero the price was $499. As I started listening my dominating thought was, “there is no other speaker under $500 that can touch these.” Emotiva has since lowered the price to $399 a pair. Only $399 for speakers of this quality is one of the very best bargains in audio, and will introduce legions of listeners to true high-end sound.

My favorite products to recommend are those that give consumers a chance to experience a taste of the very best, but at a price they can afford. The Emotiva T Zero speakers easily fall into this category. emotiva.com