Bookshelf speakers have become somewhat of a rarity. As technology evolves, audio manufacturers are increasingly more focused on compactibility. I’m all for saving space and moving away from gargantuan entertainment setups, but I also enjoy the depth and richness provided by larger, traditional bookshelf speakers. Fortunately, Polk, Klipsch, Pioneer, GoldenEar, KEF and Creative Labs continue to create excellent products for those who prefer the bass response efficiency of port tubes combined with the flexibility of passive speakers.
Creative Lab’s newly released E-MU XM7 speakers are specially designed for the Sound Blaster X7, a superb USB DAC amplifier that works wonders when combined with this speaker set. The E-MU XM7 speakers come in two different finishes: a light brown wood grain with a metallic finish, and a matte black wood grain. The speakers aren’t small, and measure at: W=174mm X D=232mm X H=298mm. If you plan on using these on your computer desk, make sure you’ve got plenty of surface space, especially if placing the X7 beside them. If you’re installing the speakers on a stand instead, make sure the top plate is large enough as the speakers don’t provide additional fastening features on the bottom.
It takes seconds to assemble the E-MU XM7. The package comes with long bundled cables that easily connect to the gold-plated binding posts on the back. You can even use banana plugs (not included) and plug them directly into the speaker terminals, but keep in mind that any extra materials added to the cable insulation can compromise audio quality.
"Creative Lab’s newly released E-MU XM7 speakers are specially designed for the Sound Blaster X7, a superb USB DAC amplifier that works wonders when combined with this speaker set."
If you’re pairing the E-MU XM7 with the Sound Blaster X7, you’re presented with three listening modes via X7’s software: Energetic, Neutral and Warm. The modes may come off as cliche advertising gimmicks similar to the image sharpening features found on modern HDTVs, but they actually work surprisingly well.
Enclosure : Wooden enclosed bookshelf
Configuration : 2-way
Frequency range : 50 Hz - 20 kHz
Speaker impedance : 6 ohms
Maximum input power: 60 W
Woofer: 5 inch (132 mm) special combination diaphragm
with oversized magnetic structure and shielding
Tweeter: 1 inch (25 mm) silk dome tweeter
Weight (each): 4.35 kg
Energetic is geared towards movie watching and gaming. It brings out minute details in explosions and gunfire, making action-oriented scenes truly immersive. Neutral is precisely what it sounds like, a reference mode used for monitoring, and probably the most evenly balanced option if you’re constantly switching between media. Warm gives bass more texture and richness when listening to music. The options are practical and different enough to switch back and forth when jumping between media, but I found myself reverting back to neutral and playing around with the mixer settings whenever I wanted to change EQ settings.
"The E-MU XM7 speakers are remarkable for gaming. Playing racing games like Forza or Project Cars feels like an entirely new experience."
As with most bookshelf speakers, there is a break-in period of around 30-40 hours. (Could be more or less depending on your listening conditions). After the break-in period, the E-MU XM7 speakers become more effective at low volume settings. Vocal clarity is particularly impressive, and remains crisp even when the volume is completely lowered.
2 x E-MU XM7 Passive Speakers
2 x Soft Grilles
2 x Speaker Cable 2.5m
Positioning is especially important with the E-MU XM7 speakers. It’s imperative to space each unit out evenly, while slightly tilting both speakers inward. If the speakers are too far apart or too outward facing, much of the sound escapes to the sides and you won’t hear as much detail. This can be a real issue if you’re short on desktop space, so it’s really important to plan ahead.
If you end up using the speakers with your living room entertainment setup, we highly recommend Pyle’s PSTND14 Dual Heavy-Duty Steel Support Bookshelf Speaker stand. The top panel is just the right size, and the stand is perfectly sized to sit comfortably next to your entertainment setup. Ironically, placing bookshelf speakers on a bookshelf is not recommended. Bookshelf speakers are designed to sit at least a foot away from the wall, so cramming them tightly in a bookshelf can significantly compromise audio quality.
"When combined with the excellent Sound Blaster X7, the E-MU XM7 speakers give gamers a high-end entertainment system for less than seven hundred dollars."
The E-MU XM7 speakers are remarkable for gaming. Playing racing games like Forza or Project Cars feels like an entirely new experience. The E-MU XM7 brings the roaring sounds of car engines to life, and it’s impossible to imagine going back to playing games without them. Survival horror games give an even better example of how well the speakers perform. Titles like Alien Isolation and Outlast are more chilling and dreary. You can even hear the slime dripping from the Alien’s mouth as you hide in the locker. It’s a fantastic experience.
Music on the E-MU XM7 is beyond phenomenal. No matter what genre is thrown at the speakers, they deliver sublime audio. The balance between vocal clarity and bass depth is flawless. Voices never sound muffled, and the bass never feels like it’s overpowering other frequencies. The quality further extends to movie watching. This is the closest you’ll ever come to a true home cinema experience without spending thousands of dollars.
Creative Labs has built their reputation as a high-quality gaming audio manufacturer, but they’ve become so much more. They’ve managed to create a remarkable product lineup that appeals to both audiophiles and gamers on a tight budget. The E-MU XM7 speakers are currently priced at $269, which is very cheap considering their performance. When combined with the excellent Sound Blaster X7, the E-MU XM7 speakers give gamers a high-end entertainment system for less than seven hundred dollars. When it comes to getting a bang for your buck, it doesn't get any better than this.
Review by: Tin Salamunic