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Friday
Feb122016

Podcast #726: ELAC B5 Debut Bookshelf Speakers

Last year Ara went to The Home Entertainment Show (T.H.E. Show) in Newport Beach where he saw some extremely expensive AV equipment. There were rooms full of gear costing more than $100,000 and speakers from companies, some of which you have heard of, and many more from companies that only audiophiles would know. There was so much to be impressed with but alas, they were only a pipe dream for Ara as he still had a mortgage to pay and a daughter to put through college. By the way, this year’s “Show” is June 3 - 5 at the Hotel Irvine in Irvine CA.

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ELAC B5 Debut Bookshelf Speakers

Last year Ara went to The Home Entertainment Show (T.H.E. Show) in Newport Beach where he saw some extremely expensive AV equipment. There were rooms full of gear costing more than $100,000 and speakers from companies, some of which you have heard of, and many more from companies that only audiophiles would know. There was so much to be impressed with but alas, they were only a pipe dream for Ara as he still had a mortgage to pay and a daughter to put through college. By the way, this year’s “Show” is June 3 - 5 at the Hotel Irvine in Irvine CA.

What caught Ara’s eye, or ears for that matter, were some extremely affordable speakers from ELAC USA. They were showing off a new design by world renowned speaker designer Andrew Jones. Andrew Jones had previously designed a line of affordable speakers for Pioneer. There were about twenty people in the room when the music started. Everyone’s reaction was pretty similar… disbelief that a small bookshelf speaker costing $230 a pair could sound so good and produce deep deep bass!

Now that Debut line is available we bought a pair of the B5s (Buy Now $230) and put it through it's paces. But first the specs:

  • Speaker type: 2-way, bass reflex
  • Frequency response: 46 to 20,000 Hz
  • Nominal impedance: 6 Ω
  • Sensitivity: 85 dB at 2.83 v/1m
  • Crossover frequency: 3,000 Hz
  • Maximum power input: 120 Watts
  • Tweeter: 1-inch cloth dome with custom deep-spheroid waveguide
  • Woofer: 5.25-inch woven aramid-fiber cone with oversized magnet and vented pole piece
  • Cabinet: CARB2 rated MDF
  • Port: Dual flared
  • Binding posts: 5-way metal
  • Width (each): 7.87 in / 200 mm
  • Height: 12.75 in / 324 mm
  • Depth: 8.75 in / 222 mm
  • Net weight (each): 11.5 lb / 5.2 kg
  • Gross weight (packaged pair): 26.2 lb / 11.9 kg

 

Fit and Finish

The speakers are quite basic in appearance. You can have any color and finish as long as it's black brushed vinyl. The build quality is first rate though. It's essentially an uninspiring box with sharp edges. ELAC chose to spend the money on sound while keeping costs down rather than esthetics.


Performance

Our typical approach to reviewing speakers is to give you our subjective opinions on the performance. But for these speakers we wanted to measure the frequency response objectively. However, our measurement microphone did not arrive in time so we resorted to checking online and found that others were measuring acceptable levels down to 50Hz and a relative flat response until about 10KHz. After that it starts to drop off and at 20KHz the signal is about 7dB less. To drive the speakers we were using an Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver (Buy Now $189) connected to an Audioengine N22 Desktop Amplifier (Buy Now $199).

We listened the the speakers right out of the box and were blown away. There was a sense of openness to the music that sounded great regardless of what we were listening to. The Bass! Wow how could a speaker of that size have so much low end? We couldn’t wait to hear what these were going to sound like after they were broken in! After about thirty hours of playback we fell even more in love with the B5s! We played the gamut of music, Classical, Rock, Country, and Jazz for our critical listening.

First up was Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Specifically from the Immortal Beloved soundtrack. When we were at Sony Pictures we watched this movie over and over again testing our equipment so we know how it's supposed to sound. What we listen for are the triangles about four minutes into the track. They were there but they were not as pronounced as we have experienced before.

Next up was Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds performing Crash Into Me. This is such an incredible track that Dolby used it on one of their demo discs a few years ago. This may sound redundant but it sounded “Live”. Like you were there. You could make out the instruments in clear detail. Everything from the musicians striking the strings of the guitars to the texture of Dave Matthews’ voice. Speaking of live, in Melody Gardot’s “Worrisome Heart” you could hear the room dynamics. And talk about a voice, these speakers were made for her deeper voice.

Now it's time to test the bass and for that please forgive us but we turned to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I know it”. At one minute in you could feel the bass in the floor. We were surprised at how good the entire track sounded. Nothing sounded muddled, vocals were clear and precise, and high frequencies pierced through the bass. Regardless what you think about this track, it shows off what these speakers can do.

We were impressed with everything we listened to. The B5s really perform in a way that makes you wonder how they can only cost $230 a pair. Credit needs to go to the designer Andrew Jones for such an achievement.

 

Home Theater


There is no reason why you can’t use these speakers as part of a home theater:

This 7.1 configuration will cost you $1,700 with free two day shipping from Amazon Prime. If you don’t want towers you can save $330 by buying another pair of B5s which would bring the total cost down to $1370.

 

Conclusion

If you are in the market for speakers you need to give these a listen. Especially if you are on a budget! We have no problem saying that the $230 ELAC B5s will give you the same enjoyment as speakers costing ten times as much.

 

Download Episode #726

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