- Review Price: £2250.00
EMP Tek’s first UK offering is the Impression range, which comes in a number of configurations with prices ranging from £1,500 to £2,250. The package on test here is the IMP-7.1-2, a 7.1-channel system that comes with a pair of E5Ti towers for the front channels, two pairs of E5Bi bookshelf speakers for the surround and surround back channels, an E5Ci centre and the ES10i subwoofer.
If you have neither the room nor budget for surround back speakers then it’s also available as a straight up 5.1 system (IMP-5.1-2, £1,900). And if you’re not into towers then EMP Tek also offers a couple of systems that use E5Bi bookshelf speakers for the front channels instead, the 5.1-channel IMP-5.1-1 (£1,500) and 7.1-channel IMP-7.1-1 (£1,900).
Anyone shelling out this sort of moolah on a speaker system should demand faultless build quality, and that’s what you get. All of the speakers are gorgeously crafted and reassuringly hefty – lifting the towers out of their boxes on my own was incredibly difficult, but even from my hospital bed I could still appreciate their superb constriction.
Not only are they well made, but also fabulously stylish. Each speaker is clad in an eye-catching high-gloss red burl finish, a refreshing change from the usual wood-effect finishes used by many speakers in this price range. That said, they’re also available in high-gloss black ash if you prefer. The cabinets are fashioned from 0.5in medium density fibreboard, an inert material that minimises sound colouration, and this is doubled to 1-inch for the front baffles to help reduce acoustic radiation from the cabinet.
The E5Ti towers stand 1.2m tall, giving them real presence in the room, and the curved sides exude elegance, tapering back towards a thinner back panel. Remove the grilles from the front – held on by plugs as opposed to magnets – and you’ll uncover no less than six drivers beneath. At the bottom are three 6.5in poly-matrix woofers, above which is a 1in poly-silk soft dome tweeter sandwiched between two 5.25in aluminised poly-matrix midrange drivers.
Not only does this arrangement suggest power aplenty (recommended input is 100W) but the quoted 40Hz – 20kHz frequency range also makes them ideal for use in a two-channel hi-fi environment. The rigid cones used by these drivers resist flexing to deliver an accurate sound, while the magnetic liquid cooling used in the tweeter ensures higher power handling. A current limiting device inside the speakers’ crossover network prevents the tweeter from being over driven.
Inside the E5Bi bookshelf speakers is a single 5.25in midrange driver and 1in tweeter (the same ones used in the tower) delivering a frequency range of 60Hz – 20kHz. On the outside, they look like miniature versions of the front towers, with the same curved sides and tapered rear, and like all of the speakers, they feature gold-plated binding posts.
The E5Ci centre sports the same drivers as the E5Bis. Again, this shares the dreamy build quality and sumptuous styling of the other speakers but with bulky measurements of 216(w) x 184(h) x 197(d)mm, it’s better suited to a dedicated cinema room than a living room AV cabinet already packed with other kit.
Providing the bottom-end grunt is the ES10i powered sub, which is fitted with a 100W power amplifier and achieves a frequency response of 35Hz – 150Hz. It’s a very attractive subwoofer, too, thanks to those unusual curved edges. On the back is a useful range of controls that make it easy to tune the sub to your acoustic needs, including dials for gain and crossover control, the latter ranging from 40Hz to 180Hz. They’re joined by line-level input and output phonos, a phase switch and two sets of high-level springclip terminals, one for inputting signals from an amplifier, the other for connecting speakers.
After firing up ”Hellboy” II on Blu-ray, the first thing that jumps out is how crisply this system conveys its DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. It scatters the soundstage with sweet, twinkly treble, creating a sense of openness that lends itself particularly well to subtle scenes and music.
It also means there is lots of detail in the mix. This is best demonstrated by the movie’s Troll Market scene, which the EMP Teks handle with spellbinding dexterity. Fairies flutter from front to back, background voices break though the hustle and bustle and the whole scene feels alive with a whole range of different textures being eked out by every speaker.
The Impressions are also strong in the midrange and low-end effects are suitably powerful. The towers and satellites work in harmony with the subwoofer, crossing over seamlessly and providing a solid, unified sound.
The subwoofer provides decent punch to ”Hellboy II’s” action scenes, particularly the battle with the Golden Army at the movie’s climax. The robots stomp forward with deep, meaty footsteps, while Hellboy and Nuada’s crunching punches and kicks land with well-rounded thumps.
It doesn’t have the same commanding, floor-shaking presence as subs from the likes of Teufel or Monitor Audio, but its still hugely entertaining stuff. During quieter moments it also subtly underpins the sound, giving every scene a depth and richness that not all speaker systems can offer.
It also takes loud high-pitched effects in its stride and keeps harshness at bay. As a result, the chaotic action during Hellboy’s battle with the Elemental is consistently exhilarating but smooth on the ear. You also get clear, prominent dialogue – given extra body by the centre’s excellent bass handling – and the surround speakers provide remarkably full and expansive surround imaging, particularly when you’re rocking the full 7.1 system.
With music, the system’s naturally detailed sound comes into its own. House music hi-hats are crisp and perky, and with jazz recordings you can hear the saxophonist’s breath and the plucking of guitar strings. The overall sound is lush and well-balanced, making this a great system for lovers of both movies and music.
The EMP Tek Impression range is another in a long line of impressive speaker systems to hit the TrustedReviews test bench recently, providing sophisticated, detailed sound quality, elegant looks and amazing build quality. If you’re after a little extra oomph in the bass department you might have more joy from some of its similarly-priced rivals, but for most people this system really will leave a lasting impression.
Score in detail