Elac Debut B6 loudspeaker

The first I heard about Elac's new Debut line of speakers was from two 12-year-olds at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2015. "Elac's room is making the best sound at the show," they said.

Elac? I thought. I have an Elac Miracord 40A turntable. Hmmmm...

So I walked to Elac's room and listened to the Debut B5 bookshelf speakers ($229.99/pair). I was impressed—but maybe not as impressed as everyone else in the room seemed to be. In the halls, people were raving: "Did you hear Andrew Jones's new speaker?" Show bloggers went crazy. People kept asking me, "Herb—what'd you think of the Elacs?" My polite response was always, "I'm glad I'm not in the business of making $1000/pair speakers." I'd heard for myself how the Debut B5s did all the audiophile-checklist stuff: Bass, midrange, treble—all seemed pretty balanced. Nothing annoying jumped out to bite my ears. Imaging seemed competent. But I didn't feel that amazingness that everyone else seemed to feel.

I found this intriguing. I also had an intuition that the diamond of the Debut series might be the slightly larger B6 ($279.99/pair), and I asked designer Andrew Jones if I could review it. Usually, Jones smiles and jokes a lot. Now he paused, a serious quizzical expression on his face, and studied me closely. After a long silence, his smile reappeared. "What magazine do you write for?" I told him I was a cub reporter at Stereophile and handed him my card...

Elacrity
By the time I received my review pair, I'd read everything I could find on the Web about the Elac Debut series. I learned that these speakers were conceived at Elac's new design center in southern California. (I got the feeling that this is a reboot for the German company's operation in the US.) And I learned that, before going to work for Elac, Jones designed speakers for KEF, Infinity, and Pioneer/TAD. In fact, Jones may be the only person to see two of his speakers—two really different speakers—reviewed in the same issue of Stereophile: the TAD Evolution One ($29,800/pair) and the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR ($129.99/pair). How often does that happen?

While I was researching the B6, I also saw other people's comments. Everybody raved, sort of, but always qualified their compliments by saying something along the lines of "It's a great, amazing speaker—for $280." This was consistently followed by something like "It won't replace your audiophile speakers," but you should "give it to your kids for their college dorm" or "put them in your basement workshop or summer beach house" or "give them to someone starting out"—and "be sure to recommend them to your non-audiophile friends." What the hay? So the Elac Debut B6es are amazing, but not amazing enough for a place of honor in a genuine certified he-man audiophile system?

As I opened the Debut B6's boxes, I wondered: Should I be reviewing these? Won't I be wasting my readers' time? Then I remembered: I hadn't yet experienced this "amazingness for the price" that everyone else had—including those 12-year-olds, whose ears I respected. I trudged on, and tried not to be distracted by praise that sounds sweet on the outside but kind of sour on the inside.

The B6 isn't flashy: just a two-way speaker in an MDF box that's a little under 14" high. The drivers, also designed by Andrew Jones, are a 1" fabric-dome tweeter and a 6.5" woofer with a woven aramid-fiber cone, crossed over at 3kHz. The tweeter fires through a screen-like "deep-spheroid" waveguide, which is said to shape its dispersion pattern and, in the process, minimize cabinet diffraction. The woofer is reflex-loaded with a port that's flared at both ends. The specs for sensitivity and impedance are 87dB and 6 ohms, respectively.

Jones recommends stands 22–24"-tall stands for the Debut B6. I placed them on my 24" Sound Anchor stands ($700/pair) in the exact positions—28" from the front wall—just vacated by Technics' Premium Class SB-C700 speakers ($1700), which I'd reviewed for the January 2016 issue. All of my listening to the Elacs was done with their tweeters at or below the height of my ears in the listening position. I used a few different amps, including a 36Wpc EL34-powered PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium Stereo amplifier ($2195, under review) with AudioQuest GO-4 speaker cables ($528.75/6' pair).

Listening
I listened to the Elac Debut B6es for days and weeks. I listened to my favorite instruments: pianos, pipe organs, and le piano à bretelles. The bass quality was surprising. The tonal character seemed right on. I listened to a lot of blues and zydeco. The B6es could boogie and strut. I played records I hadn't played in years, and really dug them all.

No matter what music I tried, I heard nothing obvious to complain about. Yes, these vinyl-finished black boxes vibrated more than any other speaker cabinets I could recall, especially at high SPLs. I listened, mostly unsuccessfully, for the audible effects of those vibrations, but overall, I really enjoyed myself. My critical faculties were ambushed by the Debut B6's good tone and easy-flowing musicality.

One day, when the Elacs were sounding particularly good, I asked myself: Why are these speakers being marginalized by their price, while my KEF LS50s—which cost five times as much, but are still considered "entry-level"—are held up constantly, by me and my estimable colleagues, as being of Class A reference quality? Are the two models really that different in quality? I reminded myself of everything that had gone into making the B6, and wondered—How are they $900 to $1900 different from the KEFs, the Technics, the Dynaudio Excite X14s, the Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a's?

COMPANY INFO
Elac Electroacoustic GmbH
US distributor: Elac Americas, LLC
11145 Knott Avenue, Suites E & F
Cypress, CA 90630
(714) 252-8843
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
crenca's picture

in my office. I have them driven with an Emotiva a-100 amp (50w class AB) @ $149 and I am feeding them with 16/44 and higher content from computer via a iFI iDSD DAC @ $199. This less than $700 rig is my "computer speaker" set up, though I have them spaced out nicely and listen critically/pleasure from a good location in the center of the room.

This rig sounds amazing. In fact, it sounds absurdly good for the price. These speakers (and this little amp and dac) should put the fear of God in most sub $5,000 systems of any configuration or brand. I want Andrew Jones' autograph...

harishcs's picture

I was very happy to see Herb addressing the extremely annoying "great speaker-for the price" and "it won't replace your audiophile speakers" comments. Apparently it requires guts to violate one of the main axioms of the reviewer's creed: cost = quality.

David Harper's picture

I don't know which reviews are being referenced in this article, but the review I read in TAS raved about the ELAC's without reservation or qualification.
Sounds like harishcs nailed it; if it isn't overpriced, it can't be very good.

iris's picture

how well do you think these will play with TV and movies. i plan on making this my default all in one system

bdaddy60's picture

Indeed ! I bought a pair of B6's.....they are very very good and a value beyond description in an industry crowded with pretenders at price levels unjustified by anything to do with music reproduction. I laughed at least two little farts out as Herb named names...Kef LS50 and Falcon LS35A, dare I add the Harbeth PES3 and the little Proac's to the list of speakers that the B6's puts to shame at the cash register. Has Andrew Jones gone too far ? I don't care I matched the B6's with a solid well known over achieving integrated (solid state) amp and have been routinely inviting my audiophile friends over to watch them squirm...now we're having fun !!!

SridharPoli's picture

Just wondering how good these Elac B6's are compared to Pioneer floor standers FS52s?
You would be wondering why I am comparing Bookshelfs with FloorStanders? Well I like music to sound in its full spectrum nothing should limit the music coming through my NAD D3020, I dont care if i am listening to small or big speakers, i want everything in the recording including the dynamics, depth, warmness, richness, Timbre, musicality.... Yes, Pioneer FS52's has them all but it has its own limits. They are good for the price no questions about that but will Elac debut B6's or Debut floor standers that i need to target next? I want to go to next level now, please help me with your suggestions. I play music straight from my sony vaio through to NAD D3020.

partain's picture

I am caught in a bind.
I bought the Debut6s and was blown away.
Before I had them two weeks , I decided my amp needed to match the quality of the speakers and got a NAD D7050 . ANOTHER revelation in sound !
My rig now exceeds all expectations.
I read about MQA and that TIDAL is trying it. I stream from TIDAL (hifi).
So , the problem is....is it the speakers , is it the amp ? The MQA ?
Is my hearing coming back ? ( I'm 67 )
It is a sweet problem to have.

bdaddy60's picture

I totally get what your saying I matched B6's with a NAD integrated and have been irritating my "audiophile" buddies with this rig...We're all in our 60's as well. What bothers me about this rig is of course the price. Consumer susceptible to marketing that I am I've spent more on speaker cables than these B6's retail for, in fact the 10ft. pairs of Kimber 4TC with Audio Quest banana's I use are more costly. Time to be content and enjoy music.

GustavoS's picture

Hello,

Very insightful review. I wonder if you would prefer Elac over Paradigm Studio 20 v5, especially for Rock and Roll? Also, are this Elac by itself "very good" for listening to rock and reggae music?

Many thanks!
Gustavo

SridharPoli's picture

Just wondering how good these Elac B6's are compared to Pioneer floor standers FS52s?
Just wondering how good these Elac B6's are compared to Pioneer floor standers FS52s?
You would be wondering why I am comparing Bookshelfs with FloorStanders? Well I like music to sound in its full spectrum nothing should limit the music coming through my NAD D3020, I dont care if i am listening to small or big speakers, i want everything in the recording including the dynamics, depth, warmness, richness, Timbre, musicality.... Yes, Pioneer FS52's has them all but it has its own limits. They are good for the price no questions about that but will Elac debut B6's or Debut floor standers that i need to target next? I want to go to next level now, please help me with your suggestions. I play music straight from my sony vaio through to NAD D3020.

syj's picture

In my humble opinions, after living with them for many months, I can assure that they are all very good speakers as reviewed by Stereophile and else where. Anyway, I think Elac debut B5 is as good as B6, if "NOT" better esp. in the mid range (however, you will need a really very very good amplifier to hear the difference which is minor). I think B5 mid-range has less coloration than the bigger brother, despite its a little less bass, less sensitive, and a little harder to drive.

And I am very certain that the Wharfedale is not as good as the Elac debut brothers. Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 is surely harder to drive than the Elac.
Because, I tested driving the Elac B5 and the 10.1 with Marantz MCR-610.
The B5 sounds very good, 10.1 seems a little constraint and was boring overall. I then switched to NAD D3020 (surely a better Amp than the MCR-610), the 10.1 sounds much better. However, there is no doubt that the B5 is also better via the D3020. I went on to check the impedance graph of Diamond 10.1
in Stereophile review, finding it has less than 5 Ohm, even less than 4 Ohm, in some frequency areas, hence giving the MCR-610 a hard time.

The Debut brothers and the Diamond 10.1 are better with the Amp too. I
listened to them with Exposure Amp and can confirm that they all sound
better than driven by NAD D3020. [My Exposure 2010 power amp and my
friend's Exposure Classic 23 & 28].

Conclusions:

1. Elac Debut B5 and B6 are quite equal in Sound Quality, depending upon
your room size and response. Both are better than Wharfedale Diamond 10.1.

2. MCR-6xx/5xx are very good indeed, esp. the Network Streaming player
and USB player (but both 610 and 611 have problem reading USB or read USB
very slowly) are so good. Their class-D amp is excellent with easy-to-
drive speakers. Elac B5/B6 seem to be a really good match in heaven with
Marantz MCR-6xx,5xx. BTW, I cannot find any difference between 610 and
611. They sounds to me just same. [But, during the break-in period, 611 seems
a little weaker overall, after that they are the same.] Their analog input(s)
are so-so (avoid it).

3. NAD D3020 Analog input is far better than its Digital inputs.
Plus its class-D amp is excellent although just 30Wpc (a little conservative). It is able to drive my father's old KEF 104.2 to some degree,
but within an hour or so it is very hot and the distortion is more
than acceptable. This is a really good "Portable" analog class-D Amplifier.

4. Elac B5/B6 sound better with D3020 (with MCR-61x being the front
end) than with MCR-61x. However, The very low total cost of ownership
(TCO) for MCR-61x/51x with Elac debut B5 will beat (as far as I know)
everything in Hi-Fi world. Just connect them with a pair of good
speaker-wires, you will be very very happy.

crabdog's picture

Would love to see a comparison with the Wharfedale Diamond 225.

Ixtayul's picture

I wold love to see a comparison between B & W CM5 or 2 and Elac B6

GLADYS ZYBYSKO's picture

Um, didn't all the reviewers go equally bats**t over his last "designed from the ground up" inexpensive line for Pioneer?

And didn't they all have tweeters that pooped out at 12k? Despite the "high quality" czrossover?

And didn't they all sound schvach in their audio balance?

I know I sold mine after 6 months of constantly fiddling with placement ... to no avail.