Elac Debut B6 loudspeaker Ken Micallef Part 1

Ken Micallef wrote about the Elac Debut B6 in July 2016 (Vol.39 No.7):

After their big splash at the 2015 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, and following Herb Reichert's munificent review in Stereophile, I was as pleased as a patch of pickled power tubes when John Atkinson delivered to my door the Elac Debut B6 loudspeakers. What began as an audition turned into this Follow-Up review.

In his April 2016 review of the Debut B6, Herb wrote: "The main thing I noticed was how water-clear and relaxed the sound was: open, not grainy or stiff." He also observed that "my critical faculties were ambushed by the Debut B6's good tone and easy-flowing musicality."

Is there much more one can desire from a stand-mounted speaker for under $300/pair?

I've long been on a quest for a pair of minimonitors that could deliver the goods, boogie-wise, joined to such equally important (to me) sonic traits as palpability, texture, dynamics, soundstaging, and, perhaps most important, tonal purity. My DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93s ($8500/pair) consistently hit high notes in all of those regards, delivering full-blown sonic goodness and so much more, 24/7. Depending on the recording, the warm-hearted apes can sometimes overwhelm my diminutive Greenwich Village residence, enveloping me from head to twinkling toes in glorious music, yet with an occasional loose lower octave or two. Alternately, while my chunky Snell J Type/II speakers ($400/pair used, eBay) can't equal the DeVores in most areas, their concise soundstage, transparency, and pinpoint imaging always serve the music. I'd hoped the more contemporary design of the Elac Debut B6 would surpass my dreams and somehow do it all in one tiny-tot package, and for the remarkable price of $279.99/pair!

Inside their very sturdy box, the Elacs weigh little—14.3 lbs each—which made the seven-floor climb to my penthouse pad a breeze. I unboxed the speakers and placed them atop a pair of 24"-high Bowers & Wilkins stands, which are coupled to my wood-slat floor with 1" steel spikes. Recalling my friend and audio compadre Steve Cohen's comment that the all-steel B&W stands might require sonic taming to defeat potential ringing, I placed four small (½") squares of mahogany on the stands' top plates, and the B6es atop those squares.

The Debut B6 is unassuming, even plain-Jane in its low-rent-looking vinyl veneer. But as with all loudspeakers, the magic happens inside. The speaker measures 13.9" high by 8.4" wide by 9.9" deep, and delivers its high-frequency messages through a 1" fabric-dome tweeter, its mid/lower-range notes via a 6.5" woofer with an aramid-fiber cone. The tweeter propels sound through a distinctive-looking, mesh-like, "deep-spheroid" waveguide," to quote Elac. The woofer is reflex-loaded with a flared port. The speaker's sensitivity is 87dB/2.83V/m; its nominal impedance is a fairly happy load of 6 ohms.

Once situated and fired up, the Elacs weren't finicky, performing well regardless of where they landed in my roughly 10' by 15' listening parlor. Positioned 3' from the front wall—the usual spot for my O/93s—the B6es immediately sounded clean and resolute. Bass weight and extension improved when I pushed the Elacs into the room's corners: palpability and texture, even more so. Placing them 14" from the side corners, 60" apart, and 7' from my listening spot added meat-on-the-bones solidity to the Elacs' purposeful (but never forward) sound. That's where they remained for part one of this Follow-Up, connected to my Shindo Laboratory Haut-Brion amplifier ($11,500) via Auditorium 23 speaker cables ($800/8' pair). Also in the system were my Kuzma Stabi S turntable ($1500) with Stogi S tonearm ($1425), Denon DL-103 cartridge (ca $225), DL-103-specific Auditorium 23 step-up transformer ($999), and Shindo Allegro two-box preamplifier ($8500). I also evaluated the Elac Debut B6es with other components I have in for review: Music Hall's MMF-7.3 turntable ($1595, including Ortofon 2M Red cartridge), and Unison Research's Unico Primo integrated amplifier ($2150, or $2400 with optional phono board; see my review elsewhere in this issue) driving the Snell J Type/II monitors via AudioQuest GO-4 speaker cables ($528.75/6' pair).

Bang the drum, loudly
As a former percussionist, I collect percussion LPs of all genres. The instruments of the orchestral percussion section provide a rich dynamic range. If brilliantly played and well recorded, the snare drum, timpani, vibraphone, bells, bass drum, and triangle can exist as sonic touchstones of a sort that only the ear can detect and the heart can feel. Favorite percussion recordings include Ohana's 4 Etudes Choreographiques, performed by Les Percussions de Strasbourg (LP, Limelight LS 86051), Charles Wuorinen's Percussion Symphony, performed by the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble (LP, Nonesuch H-71353), and the Percussion Group Cincinnati's Music of Herbert Brun, Theodore May, et al (LP, Opus One Box 604). Another favorite is Makoto Aruga and Percussion Ensemble's Digital Percussion (LP, Seven Seas K28C-165). Lest that title make you shudder, imagining sampled Lego pieces clicking and clacking in some Atari-like computer game, Aruga and his group perform Carlos Chavez's Toccata for Percussion, and it's brilliant!

Digital Percussion showed the B6's quick and plentiful rendering of dynamic range, tone, and texture. From ppp snare-drum rolls to thunderous bass-drum smacks and equally profound timpani rumbles, the B6es showed no signs of flagging (actually, this was true for every record put to them). And they sounded better as I amped up the volume. There was nothing "mini" here, but a liberal dynamic range expressed most joyously (for me) in the B6's impressive retrieval and delivery of bass. The B6 went lower more easily than any small box speaker I've heard, but that was only half the story. When issuing deep-barreled timpani, booming bass drums, or even coiling electric bass, the B6 combined each note's frequency—the low-tonnage warfare every hip-hop lover demands—with the instrument's texture, timbre, and grip. The B6 consistently rendered this visceral feast in utterly coherent fashion. Only when Digital Percussion's assortment of bells zinged forth did I notice a slight hardening or dryness in the B6's upper frequencies. This trait, too, was consistent from record to record.

My curiosity piqued, I wanted to hear more of the B6's sweet way with woolly bass notes. I dropped on the Kuzma's platter Loscil's Sketches from New Brighton (LP, Kranky 171). Ambient electronic music is something I crave from time to time, perhaps to calm my senses during New York City's summers of urban heat and high-decibel street combat. Loscil covers me in lovely synthesizer fog and oily beats, the gelatin-like waves "possessing and caressing me" (to quote John Lennon). Like a locomotive releasing steam, the B6's squirming low-end bass tentacles filled the room. Its delivery of nearly subsonic bass drops confirmed the B6's bass-emitting prowess, which was seamlessly integrated with the speaker's upper mid and treble.

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.

adrianIII's picture

Second this! One of my most hated phrases in audiophile reviews is "for the price." To me, it almost negates everything else said in the review. "For the price" is also an "out" for the reviewer.

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.

adrianIII's picture

I wonder about this comparison too.

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" crossover?

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

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

adrianIII's picture

I'd venture to say that most human's EARS poop out at 12kHz... especially those reading Stereophile reviews!

GLADYS ZYBYSKO's picture

That may or may not be true, but a speaker that poops out at 12K sounds different (and less accurate) even to someone whose ears poop out at 12K. I don't have the time or inclination to prove this to you, but Google is your friend.

I have no idea why you posted a pointless dig at Stereophile readers .... in Stereophile .... but, there you are. Why you are thus here, I do not know ... nor do I especially care to.

markich17's picture

Hi, I have an amplifier Yamaha AX450 with 65W per channel. Are these spearkers a good match with my ampplifier? Thanks!

David Harper's picture

I have ELAC B6's ( connected to an analog rig) and Polk Rtia5 floorstanders(connected to a digital rig). I love the sound of both speakers. They sound different,but I couldn't say which sounds "better".I put better in quotations because I'm not always sure what that means when referencing audio gear. Obviously I'm not comparing sq when they're connected to completely different systems. But they both sound very good to me. With a good LP, like Eric Clapton "Unplugged" the ELAC's sound amazing. And with good digital material (my player is an OPPO UDP 203) the Polks may be one of the most underrated speakers in all of audio.

Darren1965's picture

I have a par of the elac's B6.5
Hooked up to my NAD C 375BEE 150 watts @ 8 ohms per channel
They sound great.
For the money you can't go wrong.
The NAD controls the speakers with an iron fist and will shack the walls of the house if you want to.
I am also using "TIDAL" HiFi & Master.
MY @ cents worth.

fugue137's picture

My Epos ES12s are broken (torn woofer gaskets on both sides), so I thought I'd give these a shot. I've had them for a couple of weeks now. Driving with Acurus LS11 and A80, various input sources (but suddenly, to my surprise, defaulting to the rather impressive Audioengine B1!). My 24" lead-filled stands and OFC cables are price-commensurate. I've tried them in a couple of rooms with a couple of placements, but not more than about 14" from the wall.

I mostly listen to classical music (and play a bit). I am one of those annoying people who somehow still hear the test tones that "you can't hear if you're older than 17".

I find that these speakers are sorely lacking in treble. They just sound veiled or muffled or something, with a good mid-range and more bass than I got from my ES12s, but little sense of breath or presence. They are pretty directional, and everything is better if I toe them way in and sit right at the sweet spot, but even then my criticism stands.

Help! Any advice? Do I simply need a better amp? Did I just choose the wrong speakers for my room / ears / musical tastes? In a smaller room, with a Yamaha RX-385, my complaints intensify. I'm not overly inclined to put $300 speakers on $700 stands and drive them with a $2000 amp, but I suppose if they're "amazing at any price" it might be reasonable to do so (although I'd rather put the money into a better cello).

I see that Elac has just released a new version, and they claim similar response curves but greater transparency and high-frequency extension. The price is basically the same. Seems almost a no-brainer to return these and replace with the B6.2, but I'm not sure it would help very much. Is something obviously wrong with my setup? Is it time to finally upgrade to Maggies?

Many thanks!
-Ben

flyboy217's picture

Curious, did you ever get it figured out? I find I have to use an equalizer to boost 5 KHz+. I'm genuinely surprised anyone likes them stock. But it might also be my cheap class D amp that's to blame.

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