I've been waiting nearly 12 months to announce my product of the year for 2019: the Emotiva T-Zero tower speakers.
While I take pride in keeping an open mind, I pretty much knew they would win the moment I first heard their magical sound when I first tested them in January 2019. Within minutes, it was clear they would be hard to beat. After a year of testing many other great products, I still feel that way.
With their thoughtful design and exotic Air Motion Transformer tweeters, the T-Zero towers provide more than a taste of what high-end sound is like, and they do it for only $399 per pair. They make music that is airy, rich yet transparent, enthralling and engaging. And they just plain sound good, no matter what you play. When you start listening, you don't want to stop. You may even find yourself playing your favorite songs over and over again, hearing details and dynamics you never knew existed on the recording.
Whenever I encounter a product that I think is something special, I double check my reaction by searching out other critics' reviews as well as the buyers' comments on social media. With the T-Zero, I saw the strongest and most enthusiastic customer response ever, including this one from a user identified as Donald C. that was posted on the company's website:
"I read a review in our Minneapolis Star Tribune about your speakers, and I was skeptical. However, I must say I was truly blown away. They are very balanced and amazingly clear. It is like the guitar player is sitting right next to me in my living room. I am a serious lover of music and I had never upgraded my speakers since my college days (1981). Your speakers are like going from horse and buggy to the space age! My old Advents are now in the garage. Love the fact that they should have been double the price and I still would have been pleased."
Although the speakers are rated at 4 ohms, it is an easy 4 ohms and most receivers and amplifiers will drive them. Some good budget choices are the Onkyo TX-8220 ($199) and the Cambridge Audio AXA25 ($249). Feed the speakers more power and they really come alive. Some of the best sound I heard from the towers was with Emotiva's A-300 amplifier paired with a vintage preamplifier.
I can't wait to see what Emotiva has in store for 2020. (emotiva.com)
Old meets new
Q: I have a Yamaha surround system that is perhaps 20 years old. The receiver model number is HTR-5440, and there are matching speakers and a subwoofer. My grandson tried to connect it to a newer TV, but it didn't work. He said that the sound system is so old that it is not compatible with current TVs. Is there any way to make it work?
A: A fairly decent workaround is to connect the coaxial digital audio output connection from the TV to the corresponding input on the receiver. I say "fairly decent" because the receiver doesn't have the latest surround sound formats that require HDMI, so some audio quality will be lost.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.