EMP HTP-551T Speaker System Real-World Performance
I started my audition of the HTP-551T system with Mad Men: Season 1 on Blu-ray. Set in a Madison Avenue advertising agency in 1960, the show's low-key effects and music were well served by the HTP-551T. Dialog was natural, and the ambient clutter of busy offices filled with IBM electric typewriters was amply detailed. The story and characters are beautifully drawn, so I had to work at paying attention to the sound.
I upped the ante with the Vantage Point Blu-ray, which proved more strenuous and wasted no time demonstrating some of the HTP-551T's weaknesses. The film revolves around the assassination of a U.S. president as he gives an anti-terrorism speech in Spain.
On the upside, the speakers produced a remarkably coherent soundfield, placing me in the public square with the crowd before the president speaks. But seconds after the shots ring out, a massive bombing thunders through the square, presenting more of a challenge to any speaker system.
The main speakers handled the dynamics just fine, but the subwoofer didn't keep up its end of the bargain. The explosion didn't blow me away—it didn't have the sort of instantaneous punch I've heard from other systems. The speaker/subwoofer blend was the prime culprit.
The Rolling Stones' Shine A Light on DVD unfurled a gigantic soundstage across my home theater. Front-to-back imaging and specificity was exceptional, so it was easy to pick out individual voices and claps from the adoring crowd.
Keith Richards' and Ron Wood's guitars practically jumped out of the speakers, and Mick Jagger's vocals were clear, but Charlie Watt's drums didn't fare as well. It was a little strange to see Watts bashing away onscreen in all his high-resolution glory, while the sound of his drum kit was lost in lo-fi murk.
Finishing up with some 2-channel material, I listened to one of the most beautiful-sounding recordings released last year—Iron and Wine's The Shepherd's Dog CD. Leader/producer Sam Beam's heavily layered mixes retained the natural warmth of acoustic instruments, and his own hushed, multitracked vocals raised a goosebump or two. With just the EF50T towers in play, the stereo soundstage was admirably deep and spacious.
The three-dimensional character to the towers' sound on well-recorded CDs was above and beyond what I've come to expect from moderately priced home-theater speaker systems. Inspired, I tweaked the speaker/subwoofer balance one more time, which helped flesh out the system's sound on CDs a little, but the changes didn't really alter my estimation of its home-theater shortfall.