Elac Debut B6 loudspeaker Ken Micallef Part 2

How would the B6 fare with voices? Playing Johnny Hartman's I Just Dropped By to Say Hello (LP, Impulse! A-57), I felt I was looking at the baritone singer's tonsils—the leading edges of his purr of a voice were extremely well defined. Kenny Burrell's guitar was drier than I recalled on past recordings, as was Hank Jones's tinkling piano. Milt Hinton's deepest bass notes were well extended, but the upper mids of his double bass sounded a wee tight, even slightly compressed. This dryness and tightening of upper frequencies was a minor foible, particularly as it was joined seamlessly to the midrange and bass frequencies. And it never detracted from the Elac's elegant, musical sound.

Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (LP, Prestige PRLP 7166) and Kraftwerk's Tour de France (LP, Kling Klang STUMM 310-5099996610916) confirmed all of my previous findings. Miles's romantic hard bop blew sweet and cool: John Coltrane's tenor sax riffed incandescently, while Philly Joe Jones's ride cymbal swung hard, with excellent stick definition, decent body and decay, but little sense of "air" or space around the cymbal. Kraftwerk's driving bass blips pulled me in, like a humming, low-end tractor beam to my forehead, but there was a slight aridity and a hint of compression to the upper-register synthesizers. The B6's reproduction of both records was still very engaging, with absolutely zero sense of boxiness, chestiness, grain, or foreshortened notes. Carried on the Elacs' mighty bass notes, the music flowed, majestically and powerfully.

Elac, Music Hall, Unison Research
Changing perspective to a closer-proximity setup in a slightly smaller room immensely benefited the Elac Debut B6es. The speakers were now 4" from the front wall, sitting 3' apart, and 5' from my listening position. Virtually hemmed in on all sides, the Elacs were powered by the Unison Research Unico Primo MOSFET integrated amp (80Wpc into 8 ohms) with 12AX7-tube triode input stage, and fed by Music Hall's MMF-7.3 turntable. I felt I'd hit on a beautifully synergistic system. Why can't you plan these things?

Compared to the larger Snells in the same system, the Elacs went deeper, sang more forcefully, and had a lusher tonal balance. There was less "air," for sure, but also more muscle, more low-end extension, more tactile oomph. (And due to my nearfield listening position, I felt more immersed in the music than when the Elacs were powered by my Shindo-Kuzma setup: is this the allure of headphones?)

I continued to listen to the Elacs up close and personal. Digital Percussion now simmered and stormed, the various drums having more impact and greater density. They sounded as fleshy as a troupe of Kodo drummers kicking my shins. Dynamics were exceptionally powerful, particularly in one segment in which the rising swell of a gong is executed in unison with a missile-like snare-drum buzz roll. Again, no "air," but the overall sound was full, deep, and forceful.

"Trane's Blues," from Workin', sounded more cohesive but just as swinging in the nearfield setup. Philly Joe's ride cymbal loomed larger, and Miles's trumpet flowed like liquid velvet. Paul Chambers's double bass pulsed grandly.

I thought Loscil's ambient electronic dread might present too much of a good thing so close to my sweet spot, but rather than overwhelm me, the Elacs simply condensed and focused the music—straight to my gut. The massive bass signals were fully transmitted, oily, and dank, sealing me in an ominous but pleasurable cocoon of synthesizers and what felt like dry heat.

The B6's strongest traits—resolution, bass rendition, dynamics, and wonderful leading-edge definition of instruments and voices—piled even higher in my happy nearfield cell. Careful to maintain the same ear-to-tweeter height (as I did throughout this review), I could sit there forever, being rewarded with high-definition, Technicolor-infused music on a practically celestial plane.

Returning to Johnny Hartmann's enjoyable croon, I still detected a slight aridity in the upper guitar and piano notes, but the overall sonic picture was so full, rich, and immersive that criticisms of the speaker's upper-frequency deficiencies now felt trivial. With the stereo acting as the control panel of my intimate music ship, I felt I could dial in anything—jazz, electronic, classical—heck, even some Ferlin Husky or Rusty Draper—and the combo of Elac, Music Hall, and Unison Research would take me on a beautiful journey.

During my listening for this Follow-Up, I had the chance to compare the Elac Debut B6es with Wharfedale's Diamond 10.1 (discontinued; $299 from various online retailers)—a slightly smaller speaker whose 5" woofer delivers far less bass extension/richness. Where the Wharfedales outperformed the Elacs, however, was in overall tonality—they were sweeter and more natural than the Elacs, whose dryish tweeter could sometimes make music sound ever so slightly processed. But this is nitpicking on a Donald Trump scale, blowing hot gas over what amounts to little reality.

The Elac Debut B6 is a prime music maker. Its faults are outweighed by its generous and flowing musicality, its graphically precise but never mechanical sound, its goodly retrieval of low-end fundamentals, and its thrilling dynamics. Anyone looking for an overachieving stand-mounted minimonitor in the $500–$1000 range better shift their view—the Elac Debut B6 is a knockout.—Ken Micallef

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

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.

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


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!

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].


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


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!


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.

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!

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.