Elac Carina BS243.4 loudspeaker

No one thinks I have a good memory, but I can easily remember a few sentences from my March 2016 review of Elac's Debut B6 loudspeaker. The sentence I remember best: "I might be able to forgive you for liking Paul more than John, George, or Ringo, but if you don't grasp the genius of Mel Tormé, only God can save you." I felt guilty for bringing God into the story, but I sincerely wanted everyone to experience the wonder of the Velvet Fog (Tormé) and to realize how good Mel could sound on a pair of $279.99/pair upstart speakers with audiophile pretensions.

And I can't forget this one: "Impulsively, I jumped up and put my hands on their cabinets. . . . They were vibrating like sex toys!" I was not exaggerating.

When Elac's new $1200/pair Carina BS243.4 loudspeakers arrived, I noticed how completely different they looked from the Debut B6s. No vibrating, cheap-vinyl-covered booxes here. The BS243.4s looked sleek, solid, curvy, and moderne, with chamfered front-side corners and a trapezoidal footprint.

The BS243.4's expensive-looking matte-black finish looked like steel. Curious, I tapped the cabinet sides and top with a small flashlight. It sounded like MDF, but each side surface sounded different. I used the flashlight to peer inside and measure the plastic bottom- firing port (6" × 1.75"). This bottom port is able to work because the front of the BS243.4's cabinet is attached to a strong hard-plastic base, making it look like a normal rectangular speaker from the front. However, in the side elevation, the cabinet rises upward front to back about 1.68"—leaving space for the wind from the port to exit gracefully from three sides. I wondered if the cabinet had been designed specifically for desktop positioning, and if my 24" Sound Anchors Reference stands, which are partially open at the top, would properly load the port. Then I remembered . . .

At audio shows, when I enter the Elac room, I always feel this sort of bouncy energy that makes me smile and perks me up. Then, of course, I see Andrew Jones's electric grin jutting above the swarming heads. Then, of course, I see the newest Elac speakers. (There are always new Elac speakers.) On one such occasion, I waited for Andrew to finish his spiel and the crowd to disperse, then found a seat next to America's most popular speaker designer. He laughed as I sat down: "Vibrated like sex toys, huh?"

Moments later, while listening to a song with copious bass, I noticed the curtains behind the left speaker blowing wildly in the wind from the speaker's rear port. I smiled and tapped Andrew on the shoulder and pointed. We both laughed.

1219elac.bac

Description
Elac Americas' Carina series consists of three models: the BS243.4 bookshelf speaker, the FS247.4 floorstander, and the CC241.4 center-channel speaker.

"We are on a nautical theme at Elac, since the Germany office is in Kiel, Germany, an important sailing town," Andrew told me. "Kiel is German for keel, the stabilizer for a boat. So, Carina comes from the Latin for the keel of a ship."

For the Carina series, Jones combines an updated (made in China) version of Elac Germany's famous JET tweeter with a 5.25" aluminum-cone midbass driver with a com- pound curvature that extends frequency response and allows for the BS243.4's relatively high (2.7kHz) crossover point.

JET tweeter
My personal experience suggests that the overall sound of any loudspeaker is greatly determined by the designer's choice of tweeter. For that reason, most speaker manufacturers build their entire line around a particular type of tweeter. Lately, Dr. Oskar Heil's air motion transformer (AMT) has been the tweeter of choice in several prominent manufacturers' lineups. GoldenEar calls their version of the AMT a High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR). Adam Audio calls heirs a Unique Accelerated Ribbon Tweeter (U-ART). MartinLogan calls theirs a Folded Motion (FM) tweeter. And Elac calls their version a Jet Emission Tweeter (JET).

No matter what highfalutin name they give it, the AMT is a simple dipole transducer that squeezes air from the curtain-like folds of a sheet of polyimide film suspended in a strong magnetic field. You can't usually see it, but these membranes have a thin, continuous conductor deposited on their surface.

My friend, audio-design wizard Jeffrey Jackson of EMIA, believes Heil was a god and described to me how the AMT works: "The voice wire goes up and down and back up again . . . it is the direction of current flow being in opposition to its neighbor (like Coltrane's "One Down, One Up") that makes it squeeze or push."

We call them "air motion transformers" because they move air at a velocity several times higher than that of the diaphragm moving it. As a result, the AMT tweeter's sensitivity and transient response are improved.

The sonic effect of all this high-speed, high-volume air movement is, to my ears, one of quiet, fatigue-free detail and apparently low distortion.

Setup
Unlike dome tweeters, folded ribbons allow designers to control both horizontal and vertical dispersion. Therefore, AMTs usually provide wider horizontal dispersion than domes. Andrew Jones told me in an email, "The Carina BS243.4 has virtually no change in response at 15-degrees horizontally right out to nearly 15kHz and still not much change at 30 degrees. Therefore, you cannot easily change the speaker's tonality by how much you toe it in.

"Facing straight forward will give a broad but not super-focused image; a little toe-in will give you a little more focus. What really matters is how close your side walls are. Toe them in further if you are too close to your side walls."

When I asked about how far they should be placed from the wall behind them, he replied, "Twelve inches from the [front] wall is about right in general, but this can be very room dependent. As usual, move them around until they sound good to you."

The BS243.4 is biwireable via rugged-looking binding posts but does not include grilles.

Back in the fog
The first record I listened to critically through the Elacs was by that most artful of singers, Mel Tormé: Live at the Crescendo (LP, Affinity AFFD 100). I wanted to see how the BS243.4 compared to my memory of the Elac B6.

The first songs I played were "Autumn Leaves" and "It's Alright With Me," and the first sonic thing I noticed was a distinct lack of saturated Mel-tone. Standup bass was finger- snappy and flesh-on-strings detailed. Assorted room sounds and applause were well-described. Rhythm-keeping was better than first-rate. But overall, the sound was slightly dry, and some measure of Mel-harmonics were missing.

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

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be HR could also review the new Polk Audio L-100 bookshelf/stand-mount speakers ($1,200/pair) ..... L-100s were favorably mentioned by RS, in a recent dealer demo ....... L-100s are in the same price range as KEF LS-50 and the Elac Carina bookshelf/stand-mount speakers :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BS243.4? ....... Their marketing department has great imagination in selecting their model designations :-) .......

partain's picture

Hence the BS .

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Measurements of Carina AMT tweeters look better than GoldenEar AMT tweeters :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile measurements of Adam Audio AMT tweeters are also pretty good :-) .........

Ortofan's picture

... speakers "sounded more refined than any similarly priced loudspeaker I know of" and that "the word elegant kept forcing itself on me."

But, does he remember stating that the comparably priced Wharfedale Linton Heritage speakers "merge a refined, elegantly detailed, full-range sound with a magnetic personality that made me want to play records—made me want to listen longer, and to understand more of what I was listening to?"

https://www.stereophile.com/content/wharfedale-linton-heritage-loudspeaker-page-2

So HR, if the sound quality of both speakers is refined and elegant, do the ELAC Carina speakers also have that certain "magnetic personality" factor that makes you want to play records and listen longer - or not?

Or, could you be tempted by a pair of JBL Studio 590 speakers, presently on sale for only $880/pr.?

https://www.jbl.com/home-audio/STUDIO+590.html?cgid=home-audio&dwvar_STUDIO%20590_color=Black-USA-Support#start=1

Herb Reichert's picture

I choose my words very carefully

hr

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Refined and elegant without 'magnetic personality', could also mean boring ........ Who wants to go out on a date with a boring person? ........ You want that person to have a 'magnetic personality', also ....... Just a thought :-) .........

er1c's picture

and as always the gentleman poet of audio reviews. I wait for your articles and they are always kind and informative. My Kef LS50 Black Edition and (recent) Rogue Sphinx V3 are my current hot date, and that, thanks to you. Long may you write. (and paint)

Herb Reichert's picture

I am humbled and inspired by your kind words.

thank you and may 2020 be kind to us all

hr

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May HR also keep recommending 'hot dates' in audio equipment till 2050 :-) .........

Long-time listener's picture

These are the kind of speakers I'd go out and just buy without even hearing them--except for two things. First, I'd be happier if that base was metal, rather than plastic. But more importantly, a 6.5" woofer rather than a 5.5" one, with a slightly larger cabinet, would give greater bass extension and would make this a more useful speaker, as far as I'm concerned. I wonder why ELAC made their only bookshelf speaker in the range such a small one?

jimtavegia's picture

At this price range I would not have expected fig 4 to look this excellent. Even the cross-over graphs do not show the huge dips the crossover regions we normally see.

Long-time listener's picture

I can't think of any speakers I've seen measured in Stereophile recently that had a "huge" dip in the crossover region. And for my part, a "slight" dip in the upper-midrange/lower-treble (or presence) region would often be welcome. The Dynaudio Special 40 lacked such a dip, and in addition, had off-axis emphasis in this region, and the result was an unpleasant upper-midrange emphasis. The speaker was in many other respects excellent but I sold my pair because there's nothing like an upper-midrange emphasis to make a speaker sound "hot," "aggressive," or unpleasantly forward. I very much look forward to the return of the mild British presence-region dip, because they were tuning speakers by what sounds good, not by what microphones say is flat.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Recently reviewed Wilson Sasha DAW has a -5 db BBC dip in the presence region from 1 kHz to 5 kHz :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Could this Elac Carina bookshelf model be the first Elac bookshelf model to make it to the Stereophile Class-A limited LF? ........ Stay tuned to this same channel :-) .......

JRT's picture

Nicely done.

(12/29) edit: My first reaction stands, but... I think there is some room for some inexpensive improvement, in that I think it could well use a wide rectangular waveguide on the tweeter, out to the full width of the baffle, to better control the tweeter's directivity, most especially the horizontal directivity over most of the tweeter's passband and down into its highpass stopband, and perhaps to widen directivity at higher frequencies, and to provide a little more tweeter sensitivity with some useful boost to excursion limited SPL for a slightly lower crossover frequency.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

After designing and making 5000 different model bookshelf speakers at different price points, Andrew Jones seems to have finally made a Class-A bookshelf speaker at a reasonable price :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The only downside is (if, any) some side wall resonances in the upper midrange (see, Fig 2) :-) .........

mememe2's picture

Liked the review but baffled by all of the incorrectly hyphenated words. Is this a result of some automatic editing function in some program? e.g. - audio-designer, cheap-vinyl-covered booxes, front-side, com- pound curvature, super-focused image. high-speed, high-volume air movement. There are more littered throughout the review. What gives?

John Atkinson's picture
mememe2 wrote:
Liked the review but baffled by all of the incorrectly hyphenated words. Is this a result of some automatic editing function in some program?

No, it's old-fashioned human error on my part. I prepare the web reprints of the magazine's content by working from the finalized files that are sent to the printer. These hyphens creep in where was a word-break in the print version and I have to manually delete them. Obviously I missed some :-(

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

What's old-fashioned about your human error ? ( which I never seem to notice or bother trying to notice. for gods sake )

If you error, I'd have to say it's on the side of nit picking accuracte descriptiveness .

However, punctuation and ly ending words aside, this publication seems as captivating a read as John Grisham, Michael Connelly & LeCarre, considering it's a technical journal and not a Literary adventure.

Technically I'd "like" to see Stereophile continue doing in-depth Manufacture articles that take readership deep into our well loved outfits like Magnepan, PS Audio, etc. ( even Schiit )

Overall, perfection is over-rated and probably a symptom of a serious personality disorder.

Tony in Venice

ps. I'm hunting down a book on proper use of hyphens.

mememe2's picture

Don't believe in perfection either. How could I, since I'm into music and gear. And no person alive has one side of their face (or body) exactly the same as the other. We all live with im-perfection.

JRT's picture
Tony_Kaz_a_Florida-man_living_in_Venice wrote:

"I'm hunting down a book on proper use of hyphens."

Here is a link to the website of the Friends of the Venice Public Library, including address and map.

https://venicefriends.org/

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for the suggestion, I've been a Patron of the Sarasota County Library System for most of 2019.

I'll find something British on hyphens, they invented the dam things, didn't they? ( of course it was left up to us Americans to improve/refine the language's usefulness & utility )

Tony in Venice

ps. this little hunt-adventure is already pretty far back on my burners.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Brits invented dam English ...... Now it is up to US to perfect it :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Perfection is not attainable ..... but, if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence" ........ Vince Lombardi :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

They never quite caught up with Vince's philosophy, did they. We still talk about Lombardi, back home in Wisconsin, after all these decades. Hmm This shows how little Wisconsin is up-to.

Tony in Venice

ps. My Dear Mother is buried in Manatowoc and I need to visit her one more time before I join her. My people are buried there since the 1850s. Phew!! Six Generations starting 1847

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Packers NFL record this season is 12-3, so far ........ They can clinch the NFC North championship title this season and are definetly gonna make to the Playoffs, this season :-) ......

tonykaz's picture

How did you become a Green Bay Fan ??

I'm from Manatowoc, so, I have reason. Yet, I'm not any sort of NFL fan.

If I had to choose a Team, I'd choose my Packers, I suppose, for birth origins reasons.

My grandparents did business with the Lombardis in the 1940s, everyone was small town people in those days.

Tony in Venice

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I'm not a Packers fan per se ...... I follow all the NFL teams during their entire season ....... I'm a football fan, in addition to other types of games :-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Sorry to say, Detroit Lions are not doing very well this season :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

There is a good reason why the NFL final championship game trophy, the Super Bowl trophy is named as The Vince Lombardi Trophy :-) .......

eriks's picture

Sorry Herb, but with Be, Ti and AMT tweeters I've heard good and I've heard terrible. Was it the material or the implementation?

The best in all categories disappear and sound like nothing at all. If you can tell the type of tweeter by listening to it, it isn't a very good tweeter.

Best,

E

Ktracho's picture

How well do these speakers work on a desktop for near field listening? I'd love to get something like LS3/5a type speakers, but these seem like a potentially less expensive alternative.

Herb Reichert's picture

the Elecs were a too big for my desk; but I would bet some headphones they would work quite well about 12" from the wall behind them.

That being said, for decades, I used my Rogers LS3/5a just above my desk (with factory wall-mounts) and found them to be one of most satisfying speakers I have owned.

hr

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