Elac Adante AF-61 loudspeaker Page 2

I tried a variety of solutions to increase the Elac's bottom end, some more effective than others. Using a 4dB boost on my Marantz pre-pro's bass control helped a little, but also produced additional warmth in the upper bass. This wasn't unpleasant, and would likely appeal to some listeners, but it did reduce the openness of the soundstage. In any case, few audiophile preamps and integrated amps offer bass and treble controls.

I finally settled on two other solutions. After some experimenting with the help of the OmniMic system, I found that moving the AF-61s about 6" closer to the wall behind them enlivened the bass extension a bit without ill effects. I also went the subwoofer route, with Elac's own powered SUB3070, which is designed to mate with the Adante models. More about that below, but for most of my listening I reviewed the AF-61s as most Stereophile readers will use them: without bass boost or subwoofer. But as I've repeated ad nauseam in past reviews: A review can tell you only what a speaker's bass sounds like in the reviewer's room, not in yours.

The repositioning alone didn't exactly peel the paint off my walls with recordings of such bass-heavy material as pipe organs or Kodo-style drums, but neither did it offend with a loose, overblown bottom end. With familiar recordings it was sometimes clear that the bass should have been more "there," but what I heard was tight and clean, even with the rise between 150 and 200Hz that's characteristic of my room (worse in the right channel than the left, fig.2). Fig.3 is a repeat of the left-speaker measurements, averaged 10 times,

1118elac.ElacMain-fig2.jpg

Fig.2 Elac Adante AF-61, 1/6-octave-smoothed in-room response (speakers alone, blue; speakers with Elac SUB3070 subwoofer crossed over at 80Hz, red) (5dB/vertical div.)

1118elac.ElacMain-fig3.jpg

Fig.3 Elac Adante AF-61, left-channel 1/6-octave-smoothed in-room response (5dB/vertical div.)

Somewhere in my audio travels I've acquired two sampler CDs released by Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries, aka DALI. They're loaded with superbly recorded tracks, though unfortunately they appear to be out of print (you might find them on eBay at ridiculous prices). No matter—most of the tracks are available on the artists' original CDs, and some even as downloads.

1118elac.3.jpg"In Your Wild Garden," from DALI Vol.2, originally released on Danish singer-songwriter Josefine Cronholm's Wild Garden (CD, Stunt 01232), features the singer backed by piano, double bass, and a lightly played drum kit. It sounded superb through the Elacs, with excellent overall balance, a clear, uncolored voice, and treble detail that was simply there, without exaggeration. Nothing was clearly missing. This track contains little deep bass, but what was there didn't sound thin. I might have preferred a bit more air at the very top end, but the highs weren't subdued in any obvious way.

The same DALI sampler also included the far more familiar "Train Song," by Tom Waits, here covered by Holly Cole, from her album Temptation (CD, Blue Note 31653), a recording every audiophile is required to hear before earning the Audiophile Merit Badge. Cole's voice was solidly between the speakers, if a little "big," as is common with closely miked pop recordings. The bass lines in the spare accompaniment were less prominent than I'm accustomed to hearing from this track, but were nevertheless well balanced, tight, and completely free of unnatural bloat.

A third track from DALI Vol.2, Elvis Presley's cover of "Fever," originally from Elvis Is Back! (CD, RCA Legacy 88697847402), is a superb 58-year-old recording. It sounded just a little rich and warm through the Adante AF-61s, but in a way that many listeners will find appealing, though this is typically a problem created by the room, not the speaker. Here it was definitely my room's fault: a bump in the response between 150 and 230Hz.

DALI Vol.3 sounded even more impressive through the Elacs, especially several superbly recorded men's and women's voices. It was on this disc that I first discovered the Danish singer Sinne Eeg, whose duo album with Thomas Fonnesbæk, Eeg Fonnesbæk, was one of my picks for the February 2018 edition of "Records to Die For." "My Treasure," from Eeg's Waiting for Dawn (CD, Sinne Music/Calibrated 002), was a rare treasure in itself, with clean but unobtrusive piano, double bass, and percussion accompanying Eeg's rich, expressive, open voice. None of this was shortchanged by the Elacs in any way.

While the bass was uniformly musical and never obviously restricted, I've heard fuller, better-balanced bass from DALI Vol.3 from a number of other good speakers in my room, and not in any exaggerated way. The Elac's sound in this regard might well be a plus for many readers but a minus for others. I also suspect that in a more average-size but not necessarily small, fully enclosed room, this critique wouldn't apply. In short, I found little to complain about with any cut on DALI Vol.3.

The Adantes also performed beautifully on material with complex, high-frequency detail. Percussion-heavy recordings, ultimate bass extension excepted (more on this below), were reproduced with all their fast attacks and fine detail intact, but never with over-the-top brightness. Test Record 3: Dynamics (CD, Opus3 CD 8300) may be hard to find today, but it remains a superb collection of excerpts from the Opus3 catalog, much of it from the late 1970s and '80s. (Opus3 now offers many of its consistently great recordings on both SACD and a wide range of 15ips open-reel tapes, the latter at "if you have to ask" prices.)

1118elac.back.jpg

The selections on this sampler include panpipes and flutes (from Yuyachifca, Opus3 CD 7902); small groups as on Knud Jörgensen Jazz Trio (Opus3 CD 8401); a children's choir recorded for this sampler; an a cappella male voice (Eric Bibb singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hand," also recorded for this release); two pipe-organ pieces performed by Torvald Torén: Vierne's Toccata, and a selection from D'Aquin's Noël, both heavy on the upper, trumpet-like pipes rather than the deep bass typical of most organ recordings; and much more.

All of these varied tracks were reproduced beautifully by the Adantes. Any limitations of the AF-61s in my room were only rarely evident, and mostly, though not dramatically, with the full-range Vierne organ selection. What came through with all tracks was a rewarding honesty, with nothing ever sounding wrong. When I thought briefly, for example, that the guitars in the Yuyachifca selection sounded a bit soft, I was immediately rewarded when the pan pipes chimed in with their sweet and articulate breath sounds. The jazz trio was crisp and detailed, the pipe organs vibrant in their reverberant acoustic, and Bibb's unaccompanied voice natural and moving.

Yes, I'd still like my fetish rewarded for a little more sparkle ("air," if you will) at the very top. But the more I listened, the more that desire faded into the background. It also may be simply characteristic of the off-axis performance of concentric drivers in a large room. But I wouldn't make too much of it, given the obvious benefits of such a midrange/tweeter arrangement.

1118elac.bac2.jpgEnter Elac's SUB30370 subwoofer
The more I listened to a wide range of music, the less I was bothered by the AF-61's deep-bass performance in my room. My awareness of it came and went, depending on the recording. But since I had on hand Elac's SUB3070 subwoofer, which was designed for use with the Adante models, failure to try it was out of the question.

With a pair of 12" aluminum-coned drivers driven by a 1200W (peak) BASH amplifier in a small but solid and heavy cabinet, the SUB3070's key feature is an auto-equalization function that makes use of an Elac app downloadable to a smartphone or tablet. You position the phone close to the subwoofer and take a reading, then move to the listening position and take another reading. The EQ software automatically accounts for the difference and equalizes the sub's output accordingly, using the fact that nearfield measurements are largely independent of the room, while the readings at the listening position are dominated by it. (The limitations of the microphone in your phone will be the same for both readings and so will be largely insignificant.) The main limitation of this feature is that it can work with only a single reading at the main listening position, not multiple readings at and around it.

The sub can also be adjusted using the eight separate parametric equalizers also accessible through the smartphone app. You can use both the auto and parametric functions together, but most users should find the auto route alone sufficient. For proper use, the parametric feature really requires a separate measuring device, such as the OmniMic mentioned earlier. Without this, it's easy to overdrive the SUB3070 with careless use of the parametric boost, added atop any boost generated by the auto EQ.

The EQ, of course, affects only frequencies below the crossover frequency to the subwoofer (I chose 80Hz). And most audiophile preamps don't offer the ability to deal with a subwoofer, which is best used when both high- and low-pass filters are available. You can drive the AF-61s full range and simply cross over the subwoofer itself at a low-pass frequency selectable in the app, but that could well make it more difficult to blend the outputs of the sub and AF-61s. This arrangement, in which both the main speakers and the subwoofer overlap across a wide range in the midbass, is one reason audiophiles often have problems incorporating a sub, abandon the effort, and become convinced that subwoofers have no place in audiophilia.

But in my room the AF-61s, properly blended with a well-positioned SUB3070, produced a system with sound in another league from that of the AF-61s alone. With some recordings it made surprisingly little difference. But when I played music with deep-bass content, the difference ranged from subtle (eg, a little more attack on a kick drum) to profound (eg, organ recordings with deepest bass). Sometimes I was surprised at how well the subwooferless AF-61s reproduced the bass drum, while with another bass-drum recording all they managed was the sound of the drum head. In the latter case, the deep extension of the drum's body was fully formed only when I added the sub. Chalk this up to the fact that the bass of the AF-61s alone was not only less extended than the equalized subwoofer but bumpier as well—a phenomenon that affects all rooms, and will emphasize some fundamental frequencies while shortchanging others. Again see fig.2, taken with a single reading at the listening position with the AF-61s alone (blue trace), and together with the subwoofer, high- and low-passed at 80Hz (red). The latter is displaced by 1dB so that both curves remain visible. Otherwise, they overlap perfectly above about 120Hz.

In the home theater
While using the Elacs as part of a home theater won't be of interest to all Stereophile readers, others will appreciate that they excelled with a wide range of film soundtracks, particularly those with good music scores (a prime consideration for me)—though they were also perfectly fine, with sub, at reproducing the firefights, car crashes, and explosions heard in the superhero saga of the month. There's also an Adante AC-61 center-channel speaker ($4000 each), but here I used a single AS-61 stand-mount ($1250 each), turned on its side and placed on a low stand below the screen. The AS-61 uses the same concentric driver as in the AF-61 above 200Hz, and the match with the AF-61s was excellent.

Conclusions
Yes, I had a few mild critiques of the Elac Adante AF-61, particularly for the need, with some music, in my very large room, of a good subwoofer to flesh out the bottom end, which turned a very good speaker into an exceptional one.

But with or without a subwoofer, I liked what I heard from the Adante AF-61s as soon as I hooked them up. I liked them even better after several weeks of listening. When I went back to check a few last-minute details while writing this review, I found it difficult to listen for only a few minutes and then return to my writing. I wanted to listen longer. I had to pull myself away. If that's not a solid recommendation, I don't know what is.

COMPANY INFO
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11145 Knott Avenue, Suites E & F
Cypress, CA 90630
(888) 541-0996
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be TJN or JA or HR could review the new Elac Navis self-powered loud speakers?:-) .........

Moshe Ufnik's picture

"The company's current flagship line, Adante ..."

You haven't been doing your homework.
What about Elac's FS409 or the much higher-priced 500 series?
And did you forget their actual flagships - the Concerto and its little sibling Concerto M?

prerich45's picture

I believe Mr Norton was referring to Elac's new direction, as the 500/400 series and the Concerto lines were not designed by Andrew Jones. I've always wondered, as Andrew puts his stamp on the company, would he gradually design speakers to take the place of their old flagship lines?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The Elac Flag-ship Concentro speakers (almost) look like KEF Blade loudspeakers .......... May be JA could review those Elac Concentro speakers? :-) .................

audio1321's picture

Hello, great article! May I suggest when using the OmniMic System to perform the bass measurements by placing the OmniMic on the floor and splicing the results with the high frequency measurements. This is very accurate considering access to a Anechoic Chamber is not feasible. This is because the reader will not be listening to the system in your space, we don't care to see the room's reverberation in the low end. Thanks :)

Ortofan's picture

... KEF R11 speakers - also priced at $5K/pr.
Or, for just $3,600/pr., one can now get the discontinued R900.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If someone is gonna use Elac sub-woofer(s) anyway, they may be better off buying the Adante AS-61 bookshelf speakers and save some money ............ AS-61 are priced at $2000 - $2500/pair ......... AS-61 was favorably reviewed by TJN for Sound & Vision :-) ..........

jazzman1040's picture

Seeing that the Adante's have been out for the better part of a year, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a review of the new active ELAC's. How a so-called leading audio magazine can afford to be a year late when reviewing a highly anticipated product is beyond me. Btw, Stereophile, you should ditch CAPTCH immediately. It's a ridiculous verification system that took me about 50 clicks to verify I'm not a "robot".

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I got through .......... and I'm a robot ....... Hasta la vista, baby :-) ............

"I Robot" ................ The Alan Parsons Project :-) .............

John Atkinson's picture
jazzman1040 wrote:
How a so-called leading audio magazine can afford to be a year late when reviewing a highly anticipated product is beyond me.

We depend on companies being willing to loan us review samples, and it is getting increasingly difficult to to get samples from some companies. Although I doubt that this was the case with Elac, I suspect that this is often due to the fact that our reviews always include measurements. Companies appear to want a slew of positive non-measurement reviews elsewhere before they will send us samples for review.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Thank you JA for the measurements .......... JA is doing great service to the audiophile community by doing the measurements ........... Defend ton territoire (Stand your ground) :-) ..............

jazzman1040's picture

John, appreciate the thoughtful reply. Sounds like a tough predicament. A suggestion, for products like these that have more of an audience than some of the higher end stuff you review that is bought by scant few folks, maybe you could do a series where you visit the actual buyer's home and conduct the review and measurements with them, bypassing the company altogether. Now that would be innovation and certainly be more authentic than getting a pair from the company!

Mrsnikoph78's picture

In that case, please let the manufacturers know that if they restrict my access to quality information about their products I'm much, much less likely to ever purchase one. I depend on getting a full view of such luxury products to save hassle and shipping costs prior to purchase. Given how impossible it is to demo every great product that gets released, one is forced to shop wherever they can go to actually hear something. That eliminates 99% of the products I discover only on the Internet for a guy like me.

BTW measurements have a relationship to the sound quality of a product but they don't totally define it (they can't, because not everything is or can be measured let alone interpreted). Why fear a glowing review coupled to measurements that might not be "perfect"? Kinda ridiculous.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"I Won't Back Down" ............. Tom Petty :-) ............

Juhazi's picture

TN wrote "Since bass frequencies are radiated from nowhere else on the AF-61, such as a port, these measurements indicates the bass capability of the speaker itself, with no help from so-called room gain."

This is still bad - there will be very little help from room gain when output drops that fast. Room help is most beneficial for closed box woofers that eg. Magico uses in floorstanders.

I don't understand at all why they use 6th order bandpass with a floorstander. Cost of copper is not that high...

(Message EDITED because of a misconception that JA noticed)

John Atkinson's picture
Juhazi wrote:
TN wrote "Since bass frequencies are radiated from nowhere else on the AF-61, such as a port, these measurements indicates the bass capability of the speaker itself, with no help from so-called room gain."

This is wrong - there will always be room gain indoors...

Not with a nearfield measurement, which is what Tom Norton was discussing.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Juhazi's picture

Oops you're right! I was reading too fast.

I EDITED ORIGINAL POST

motberg's picture

The measured response seems a perfect match for my small dedicated room.. but I was wondering about the effect of using these more near/mid-field, like around 2 meters or so.

I currently have monitors but I think the feeling of overall image size may be better with floor-standers.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you already have monitors, and if you are happy with their midrange and treble sound, it may be a good idea to spend the money on powered subwoofer(s) ......... Separate subwoofer(s) allow the flexibility of room placement .......... There are several powered subwoofers available today, which are not very expensive and come with built-in crossovers and output levels .......... Chances are the same company which makes your monitors, also makes matching subwoofers :-) ............

Christian Thomas's picture

Bandpass loading is a superb idea, and this is a particularly interesting embodiment of it. Its advantage over direct radiators is that the acoustic low pass filter created - at 200Hz here - removes a significant proportion of the distortion components generated in the voice coil and magnet assembly. Down at the bass end is where they really start to get going and in some speakers you will see some truly horrific figures. These can't be filtered out by the crossover because they happen after it. If distortion is generated in the cores of the inductors, this too will be filtered. There can also be a small pickup in efficiency, which means that the speakers need a little less excursion, and so again improves distortion.

In this example the ports also vent into the bandpass chamber - which is a totally brilliant idea - so any port noise generated is also subject to this filter and, since that happens significantly above 200Hz, it will get attenuated almost entirely. This also applies to unwanted signal from the rear enclosure. There really is almost no downside to using a bandpass enclosure except that it can be difficult to get it to work above about 250Hz, which can limit your choice of crossover frequency.

Yes, there is a delay in the system, but we know essentially what it is. It's a phase shift of somewhere around 90 degrees at 200Hz (in this instance) and it makes up part of the crossover. It is essentially what you would have got by doing it electrically. What is even prettier is that there is a similar complementary mechanical high pass filter in the loading of the midrange unit, so you can have both the mechanical and electrical parts of each unit's filter be symmetrical. All in all it's a tremendous advance in helping get rid of distortion.

hb72's picture

Thanks for very interesting and detailed explanation of the system. Is 90deg phase angle really the overall phase angle of passive membrane excursion vs voltage input?

Christian Thomas's picture

The 90 degrees is an educated guess at what the target might be for the acoustic/mechanical part of the overall filter. It's exactly the phase shift one gets at the -3dB frequency with a 2nd Order Butterworth. That phase shift varies from zero at 0Hz to 180 degrees at infinity - in a smooth, reversed, s-shape. If you choose a soggier filter shape like a Bessel, then you will get a little less phase shift.

It's probably a pretty good guess, given the measurements above which show near perfect 24dB/octave rolloffs. So from that I would guess that the target is a 4th Order Linkwitz-Riley on both sides, and this is borne out by the fact that they cross over at 1/2 output, or 6dB down. A 4th Order Linkwitz-Riley is made up of two cascaded 2nd Order Butterworths so I would expect both the mechanical and electrical parts (of both drivers) to each have a Q of 0.707, which is the definition of a Butterworth. What is important about this alignment is that the phase responses of bass and mid overlay each other, so the delay at every frequency is exactly the same in both units.

As a caveat it is possible that either practical considerations, or a desire for greater efficiency in the drivers (which keeps them cooler), could mean that the acoustic Qs are higher and that this is compensated for in the electrical part, resulting in very nearly identical responses. Still, 90 degrees is a pretty good estimate, if possibly a near approximation.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Andrew Jones (Elac) is one of the very talented designers around .......... He is very well known for designs with great sound for not a lot of money ........... His various designs have been praised for their great sound over many years by numerous audio magazines/websites including Stereophile .......... When he comes up with a new design, it is worth paying attention .............

lozsgo's picture

How do these compare to similarly priced GoldenEar Triton Towers?

John Atkinson's picture
lozsgo wrote:
How do these compare to similarly priced GoldenEar Triton Towers?

Both are excellent speakers. The GoldenEars will offer more bass, the Elacs a more refined midrange and treble.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

There is a good chance the Elac Navis floor-standing powered speakers will match the GoldenEar Triton Reference in the bass department (almost) ......Triton reference probably will go lower in bass .............. We are waiting for a review in Stereophile :-) ..........

Elac Navis powered speakers are priced at $2,000/pair for bookshelf, and $4,000/pair for floor-standers ....... and they don't need any external power amps and speaker wires ............. Interested? :-) ..............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Who is better? .......... KEF or Elac? ............. JA could be the judge :-) .............

Relayer's picture

I can't help but think the loss of low frequency extension could be solved by getting rid of the 6.5' drivers and just using 3 8' divers for the bass. It would simplify box design and probably lose weight to boot. Footprint, of course, remains the same.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Looks like the AF-61 has somewhat 'screwed up' over-engineering in the bass department :-) ...........

Another good example why measurements are important ............. Thank you JA and TJN ........
Many other audio magazines/websites don't do these kind of measurements ........

The new Elac Navis powered speakers appear to be the very common and very popular bass-reflex design ............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Google search and Wikipedia have info about band pass filter, passive radiators, bass-reflex (ported), sealed box (acoustic suspension) and transmission line designs :-) ...........

Also, look for 'loudspeaker enclosures' in Wikipedia :-) .............

hb72's picture

Looking at the step response I see a considerably longer delay until the passive membrane produces the peak (2.5ms ca after tweeter), a delay that appears consistent with the high order (6th) of the bass unit to fade out on frequency extremes. Note other speakers do 1ms or less (2-ways are usually particularly good, but also the tidal audio akira 3-way + passive membranes!).
The AF-61 has actually never been reported of lagging behind in bass (on the contrary – to my surprise!); still it seems a safe assumption that a driver driving a passive membrane via reflex system might need some semi-cycles to excite the passive membrane to full amplitude (and also to stop it). And I understand that the ear & brain parts are not so sensitive to phase shifts (think of a piano: the perceived sound of a chord involving many keys is not dependent on the exact phases the piano keys are played).
But then I wonder, whether speakers which are coincidental or near-coincidental down to bass (e.g. active digitals ones with FIR) are perceived notably different also e.g. w.r.t. reproduction of bass drums and possibly so for their ability to better convey PRAT etc. than e.g. the AF-61 does. Or are such differences in step response not really audible? Or audible more w.r.t 3d stage rather than PRAT & snap.

@ John Atkinson: any thoughts?

Many thanks in advance

rom661's picture

This feels like a blast from the past. I still own an Amp 5 and was a dealer in the day. It's... good. Surround processor, old demo disks. I don't like to evaluate speakers for two channel setups with surround processors but maybe that's just me. I've never heard a processor as good as a quality two channel preamp. My point for writing though, is simply how much I felt like I'd slipped back into the 90's while reading it. Oh, and the comparison with KEF's, no doubt the 104/2's. Wow.

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