Elac Debut B6 loudspeaker Page 2

The first recording I took notes on was Enrique Granados's The Composer as Pianist: His Recordings for M. Welte & Soehne, Paris, 1913 (CD, Pierian 0002). This artfully produced recording of piano rolls, played by a 1923 player piano recorded in stereo, shows Granados to be a very Spanish composer capable of the most luminous and imaginative harmonies. His palette of pianistic colors saturated the air between the Elacs like an arabesque in the Alhambra, in Granada. Granados's music doesn't unfold logically or thematically. Instead, it spins and turns, building up into a shimmering wall of vibrating sonic splendor. To my surprise, the Debut B6es did nothing to curtail the decorative opulence of Goyescas, a suite for piano inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya and subtitled Los majos enamorados (The Gallants in Love). My notes: "It sounds more luxurious and well-formed than it does through the KEF LS50s or the Technics SB-C700s!" The main thing I noticed was how water-clear and relaxed the sound was: open, not grainy or stiff. My only complaint was how, compared to the KEF or the Technics, all of the left-hand octaves lacked weight and body.

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. Mel Tormé occupies a most special place in my record collection. For the listener's pleasure, he treats old standards and familiar jazz ballads like the tasty, irony-soaked truffles they are, giving them a life they never had before. He smiles as he sings, and I always smile back. Never have I smiled more than while listening to Tormé's rendition of Cole Porter's "It's Alright with Me," from his Live at the Crescendo Club (LP, Affinity AFFD 100). I played this song repeatedly, switching among the Elac Debut B6es, the Technics SB-C700s, and my KEF LS50s. The Elacs made Tormé's interpretation more delightful and quirky, more "Mel," than did those other estimable loudspeakers. With the B6es I felt closer to the Velvet Fog and understood his perverse humor: "Don't step on my blue suede lips (Horrible thought, isn't it?)." I even felt more of the microphone and more of that boozy Crescendo Club air. This record has seldom been more enjoyable. However, something I couldn't quite identify sounded a teensy bit strange. Was it a peak or a dip in the midrange? Maybe somewhere else, too? Closer to 2kHz? I couldn't yet say with any certainty, but I definitely noticed something.

When I replaced the Debut B6es with the KEF LS50s, Tormé's voice became fuller and chestier—more natural. Howard McGee's trumpet was more realistically toned. Strength and energy were increased. However, I was surprised to hear that Max Bennett's bass lines were now less tautly sprung. His staccato pizzicati—which had, just a moment before, ferried the song along so cheerfully—now sounded slightly drunk and thick tongued.

When I switched to the Technics SB-C700s, the detail and color of Bennett's bass notes were fleshed out even more than through the KEFs. Every octave became a lot more clear and articulate. Tonal balance was improved. Nevertheless, the Elac B6es had moved Mel Tormé's performances forward with greater ease than did the Technics. "Dorm-room speakers"? Not hardly!

With the Line Magnetic LM-518IA
To my complete surprise, the 6-ohm Elac Debut B6es thrived on 22W of class-A, single-ended-triode power. It seemed unbelievable: Suddenly, there was heavy-duty thump and pluck—and much cleaner tweet and twang.

When I played "Will the Circle be Unbroken," from the New Appalachians' From the Mountaintop (24-bit/192kHz, Chesky), it all came together—for the Elac Debuts and for me. I sat there listening, shaking my head and mumbling, "Game over! Elacs win!" I was having one of those rare musical and audio epiphanies.

I had attended that first New Appalachians recording session, sitting quietly in the former church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in which David Chesky made this exciting binaural recording. Because the bass player was much closer to the binaural microphone head than I was, his plucking at the beginning of the recording sounded more detailed and powerful than it had from my sixth-row pew. Via the Elacs and LM-518IA, it was forcefully present. I played the music loud because this unedited binaural recording is completely uncompressed, and I wanted to hear every microscopic detail. The upper-bass/lower-midrange energy I thought I was missing from the B6es suddenly appeared, bringing with it an impressive communicative strength. With the Line Magnetic, the Elac B6es weren't just playing music—they were pumping tangible musical energy into the room. It was easy to recognize the acoustic and dimensions of the Hirsch Center (formerly St. Elias Church). I could hear the singer's voice bouncing off the walls and ceiling. I love it when that happens.

$279.99? "For the price"? Are you kidding me?? Screw everybody!

These almost-free little boxes were sounding like the first loudspeakers to break the $1 million price point. Maybe I'd forgotten to take my meds? I needed to calm down and play "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" one more time—just to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.

[Long pause]

I listened to the track again. The Debut B6es still sounded impressive. However, this time I heard that vibrating box—not a little, but a lot. This recording features only a low, chesty male voice and a strongly plucked double bass. A lot of 80–400Hz energy was channeling straight from the artists and through these modest Elac boxes in my 1100-cubic-foot Brooklyn studio. Impulsively, I jumped up and put my hands on their cabinets as the music continued. They were vibrating like sex toys!

Instead of sitting back down, I pulled out Editor's Choice: Sampler & Test CD (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2). I listened to the cabinet side panels with a stethoscope as I swept the Elac B6es with 1/3-octave warble tones. Strangely or coincidentally, the frequency of their loudest excitation (160–200Hz) coincided with an unusual and very narrow (–5dB) dip in their in-room frequency response measured at 1m. Overall, the cabinet's energy seemed most pronounced in the 80–400Hz region—which coincided perfectly with the energy in "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

Andrew Jones told me: "I do have to be very careful in my design choices and how I apportion costs to the different design elements. One of these is the cabinet vibrations: How do I brace, or not, the cabinet, how thick should the cabinet walls be, what grade of MDF etc. These all have influences on the "sound" of the cabinet, and its cost. Just adding bracing does not eliminate resonances, it moves them to a slightly higher frequency. It may actually make them more audible, so it is not a simple choice. Also, the cabinet is the single most expensive item, so I have to be very careful in how I choose to spend my money: Better cabinet or better drivers or better [crossover]. Sometimes it's better for the cabinet to lose out in favor of the other components."

Sounds like a smart approach to me. I await John Atkinson's discoveries with his trusty plastic-tape accelerometer.

With the Rogue Audio Sphinx
You saw this coming. You could already smell the Wild Turkey and see Daisy Mae Duke dancing in front of you, right? Well, here's a complete audio system that plays, sings, and dances so working-class hard it'll have you crawling off the roadhouse dance floor, on your knees through the gravel parking lot, and into backseat of your broke-down Chevy, just to sleep off and recover from what you experienced. Imagine the Elac Debut B6es connected to Rogue Audio's Sphinx 100W integrated amp ($1395 with phono stage), a Halide DAC HD D/A converter ($499), and a Pioneer PLX-1000 turntable ($799) with Ortofon 2M Red ($100) or Shure M35X ($75) cartridge.

I'll stake my criminal reputation on it: This roughly $3100 system will outplay many $10,000 audiophile systems. Channeling the black-crow image on the Rogue's faceplate, these components played the New Appalachians' bleak Ozark-Appalachia lament "The Blackest Crow" with uncanny verity and authentic feeling. Tonal character, heartstring pulling, and tear jerking were 101 proof. Bass was engagingly rich and detailed. Midrange colors couldn't match the LM-518IA's, and the sound wasn't as transparent as the PrimaLuna's, but I couldn't complain: the partnership of Rogue Sphinx and Debut B6 took me to every musical place I wanted to go.

Lest you think this combo was all beer and big belt buckles, I'm here to say that it played Schubert's Symphony 1 with the same jittery ease and faux authority the 16-year-old Franz brought to the composition in 1813. This recording, with Karl Böhm conducting, the Berlin Philharmonic (LP, Deutsche Grammophon 2530216), didn't sound as rich or melodious as it usually does; the Debut B6es lost a noticeable measure of their everyday sweetness when driven by the Sphinx. The Berliners sounded drier and grayer than they should have. Nevertheless, the strings were sweet enough for young Schubert's first crack at a big composition, the horns were in good tune, and the timpani were solid and exclamatory. The Elacs let me get inside and enjoy a work I had never before paid attention to. Isn't that what a good hi-fi system is supposed to do?

Conclusions
Who cares what they cost? Forget about recommending them to only your non-audiophile friends. Elac Americas' new Debut B6 loudspeaker is an extremely competent audiophile design that is more musical and concise than any other speaker I've heard that costs less than $1000/pair. The B6's sound was noticeably colored, but when powered by an excellent amplifier (it seems to like tubes), the effects of those colorations were minimized. Then it played all types of music with enough composure and vita navitas to let Andrew Jones's most clever new creation run with the big dogs in the up-to-$2000/pair field.

Highly recommended to all my friends.

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

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