ELAC ADANTE AS-61 LOUDSPEAKER

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - By Thomas J. Nor­ton

GER­MANY-BASED ELAC was well known in the 1960s and 1970s for its au­to­matic (Mira­cord) turnta­bles. The com­pany dis­ap­peared from North Amer­ica in the en­su­ing decades while tran­si­tion­ing into a ma­jor Euro­pean loudspeaker brand. A few years ago, it de­cided that the time was right to re­turn to the U.S. mar­ket. To pro­duce new de­signs for that move they lured vet­eran speaker de­signer An­drew Jones away from his ex­tended gig at Tad/pioneer. The ELAC De­but line (now in its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion) came first and se­ri­ously shook up the bud­get speaker sec­tor. That was fol­lowed not long af­ter by the pricier, but hardly pricey, Uni-fi se­ries. (Re­views of both the Elac De­but and Uni-fi se­ries speak­ers in 5.1 con­fig­u­ra­tions can be found at soun­dand­vi­sion.com.)

It was in­evitable that ELAC would climb higher up the price lad­der, and the first re­sult of that process is the new Adante range. But the climb was only a few rungs. While the Adantes will be con­sid­ered ex­pen­sive by K-mart shop­pers, in the au­dio­phile world their prices are highly com­pet­i­tive.

The AS- 61 stand­mount model is the least ex­pen­sive speaker in the Adante range, which also fea­tures the AF- 61 tower and AC- 61 cen­ter-chan­nel speak­ers. Its fea­tured at­trac­tion is a co­in­ci­dent midrange/tweeter. An­drew Jones has used this type of driver in all but the least ex­pen­sive of his de­signs, in­clud­ing his PRE-ELAC work. In a co­in­ci­dent driver, the tweeter is lo­cated at the apex of the midrange cone, which re­stricts dis­per­sion at the low end of its range to bet­ter match the lim­ited top-end dis­per­sion of the driver cov­er­ing the midrange. In the AS- 61, the tweeter is a soft dome (pro­tected by a web-like grille), but the other driv­ers use alu­minum cones.

The AS- 61 com­bines this co­in­ci­dent midrange/tweeter with a larger woofer. But the “woofer” you see from the out­side is ac­tu­ally a pas­sive ra­di­a­tor. The ac­tive woofer is a 6.5-inch de­sign mounted in a sealed box lo­cated en­tirely in­side the cabi­net. This driver fires into a sec­ond cham­ber to­ward the back of that 8-inch pas­sive ra­di­a­tor, which in turn passes the bass to the out­side.

A pas­sive ra­di­a­tor acts like a port, but with­out port noise or res­o­nances. The woofer con­fig­u­ra­tion used here also acts as a me­chan­i­cal low-pass fil­ter, pas­sively rolling off the top end of the woofer’s re­sponse above 200 Hz. Al­though a 200-Hz cross­over can be use­ful, it’s rarely seen in three-way de­signs since the low-pass leg typ­i­cally re­quires a large, heavy, and ex­pen­sive in­duc­tor. The AS- 61’s midrange/ tweeter cross­over point is 2,000 Hz.

The AS- 61 is avail­able in gloss black, gloss white, or matte rose­wood fin­ishes. It’s solid and well-braced, and fit­ted with two sets of ex­cel­lent-qual­ity, bi­wire-able bind­ing posts. I used sin­gle wiring for this re­view. You’ll also likely need ELAC’S match­ing ASBT-101 stands, which the com­pany makes avail­able as a $600/pair op­tion.

SETUP

I ini­tially set up the AS- 61s about 44 inches from the clos­est wall be­hind them (mea­sured from the cen­ter of the front baf­fle), roughly 9 feet apart, and 11 feet from my lis­ten­ing po­si­tion. The sys­tem driv­ing the speak­ers con­sisted of a Marantz AV8802A pre-pro (with its room EQ,

tone con­trols, and other in­ter­nal pro­cess­ing by­passed), a 5-chan­nel Pro­ceed Amp 5, and a Marantz UD7007 uni­ver­sal disc player. The ca­bles used were Kim­ber AGDL (dig­i­tal link from player to pre-pro), vin­tage Car­das Hexlink (pre-pro to power amp), and Au­dio­quest Rocket 88 (speaker). All mu­sic sources were from CD. The Adantes come with eas­ily re­mov­able grilles se­cured by mag­nets, but I left them off for all of my tests and lis­ten­ing.

LIS­TEN­ING

The sound I heard from the AS- 61s im­pressed me im­me­di­ately. With good source ma­te­rial their top end was neu­tral— nei­ther rounded off nor over­cooked. Si­bi­lants were clearly de­fined but un­ex­ag­ger­ated (or at least as nat­u­ral as closemiked vo­cal­ists can be). Lightly brushed cym­bals, del­i­cate fin­ger sounds on gui­tars, the sheen of stringed in­stru­ments, and a singer’s prepara­tory breath in­take at the be­gin­ning of a vo­cal track were all beau­ti­fully cap­tured. The imag­ing was solid, and the sense of depth (when present in the record­ing) proved very sat­is­fy­ing.

The Adantes ex­celled on voices, both male and fe­male, pop, and clas­si­cal. Leo Kot­tke’s al­bum My Fa­ther’s Face has long been one of my fa­vorite ref­er­ence discs for how clearly it shows off Kot­tke’s crisp gui­tar play­ing and dis­tinc­tive voice. The lat­ter isn’t his strong suit, but I’d be sur­prised to ever hear it sound bet­ter than it did on the AS- 61s.

The bal­ance there, and with other vo­cal­ists in­clud­ing Nils Lof­gren, Holly Cole, The King’s Singers, Sinne Eeg (if you like great jazz vo­cals, check out this Dan­ish star’s record­ings), Jose Car­reras, and Leon­tyne Price, was su­perb.

There was only one per­for­mance area where the AS- 61 dis­ap­pointed me: bass ex­ten­sion. But that was in my room. My open-con­cept lis­ten­ing space is huge, and this isn’t the first time I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced less-than-deep, solid bass with a pair of speak­ers un­der re­view, in­clud­ing ones far more ex­pen­sive than the ELACS. But it’s also true that oth­ers, in­clud­ing the sim­i­larly priced Mon­i­tor Au­dio Sil­ver 10s, can pro­duce a much more sat­is­fy­ing sense of weight in the low end than the AS- 61s—in the same speaker and lis­tener po­si­tions. (To be fair, the Sil­ver 10s have two 8-inch woofers and a larger cabi­net.)

De­spite its low-end lim­its, the

AS- 61’s bass was tight and boom-free, so there was prom­ise there. It’s no se­cret that the room it­self, and where speak­ers and the lis­ten­ers are po­si­tioned in the room,

are just as im­por­tant to the bass re­sponse you hear as the speak­ers them­selves. My close mea­sure­ments on the speaker taken near the 8-inch pas­sive bass ra­di­a­tor us­ing the Om­n­imic mea­sure­ment sys­tem (not a lab­o­ra­tory-grade in­stru­ment, but use­ful and suf­fi­cient to the task here) showed that with­out any help from the room the AS- 61 falls off

steeply be­low 50 Hz and its - 6db point is just over 40 Hz. The room can usu­ally be counted on to of­fer at least some gain in the low bass, though that de­pends on the room’s size, con­fig­u­ra­tion, and any open­ings to ad­join­ing spaces. In a space as big and open as mine, the ben­e­fit is lim­ited.

It was no sur­prise, then, that when I moved the speak­ers a foot closer to the wall be­hind them and a foot closer to­gether (and the lis­ten­ing seat for­ward by roughly the same dis­tance), I got bet­ter and some­times even sur­pris­ing re­sults. The bass tight­ness re­mained, but it was now en­hanced by a re­ward­ing in­crease in bot­tom-end punch.

Be­low roughly 45 Hz, there was still lit­tle use­ful re­sponse. But there’s a so­lu­tion for that, one strongly rec­om­mended for any stand­mount or book­shelf speaker, par­tic­u­larly in a big room: a sub­woofer.

ELAC sent us its Adante SUB3070 sub­woofer ($2,500), a rel­a­tively com­pact 77-pounder equipped with two 12-inch, alu­minum-cone driv­ers and a 1,200-watt (max­i­mum) BASH amplifier in a sealed cabi­net. A first sam­ple proved faulty (a likely vic­tim, per­haps, of an early pro­duc­tion run), but a re­place­ment for the de­fec­tive sam­ple worked beau­ti­fully.

The SUB3070 has a setup feature de­signed to min­i­mize your room’s ef­fect on the sub’s re­sponse. You first down­load ELAC’S Sub Con­trol app and link the phone with the sub via Blue­tooth. You then hold the phone as close to the woofer as pos­si­ble and en­gage the app. This gen­er­ates a low fre­quency sweep tone in the sub, which at close dis­tance should re­sult in a near ane­choic mea­sure­ment. You next take a sim­i­lar mea­sure­ment at the lis­ten­ing po­si­tion. The soft­ware in the sub then cal­cu­lates a cor­rec­tion curve that’s ap­plied to the sub­woofer. Any er­rors

in your cell phone’s mi­cro­phone ap­pear in both mea­sure­ments so the app can com­pen­sate for them. It’s all very slick, and no mea­sure­ment de­vices apart from your phone are needed. The main short­com­ing is that it only op­ti­mizes for one po­si­tion and can’t av­er­age read­ings for mul­ti­ple seats.

The Sub Con­trol app also pro­vides full re­mote con­trol for all of the im­por­tant setup func­tions, in­clud­ing level and phase, plus four op­tional, pre­set tweaks to the cor­rected re­sponse (Nor­mal, Mu­sic, Cin­ema, Night— I used Nor­mal through­out) and eight sep­a­rate bands of para­met­ric equal­iza­tion for ad­di­tional fine tun­ing. I found this para­met­ric EQ ex­tremely use­ful, but to em­ploy it ef­fec­tively you’ll need some sort of ex­ter­nal mea­sure­ment de­vice, such as the above­men­tioned $300 Om­n­imic sys­tem from Parts Ex­press that I use for in-room mea­sure­ments.

Af­ter op­ti­miz­ing the sub’s re­sponse with the app, the re­sults were ex­cep­tional. I threw all of my fa­vorite mu­sic se­lec­tions at it, in­clud­ing pound­ing drums, deep or­gan pas­sages, and growl­ing synth bass. To­gether with the AS- 61s, the SUB3070 never left me want­ing for more. No small, sin­gle sub will fully en­er­gize a room as big as mine (by “en­er­gize” I mean roll down your socks and turn your belly to jelly). But I heard and felt ev­ery­thing I needed to hear, and then some. The sound­track from Blade Run­ner 2049, as played back on an al­most full Adante sys­tem con­sist­ing of the

AS- 61s, the equally su­perb AC- 61 cen­ter ($2,000), the SUB3070, and, as NON-ELAC out­liers, Revel Con­certa bi-pole sur­rounds, was a vis­ceral ex­pe­ri­ence. Noth­ing fazed

this setup. Even when played at lev­els I would never use for ca­sual guests, and rarely even for my­self (or vis­it­ing au­dio nuts), I didn’t hear a hint of strain or harsh­ness.

CON­CLU­SIONS

I’ve said plenty here about the

AS- 61’s bass in my rather large lis­ten­ing space. In the speaker and lis­ten­ing po­si­tions that best serve both my two-chan­nel mu­sic and home the­ater needs, the AS- 61’s bass was tight and well-de­fined, but lean. But when I moved it closer to the wall be­hind it, and also moved the lis­ten­ing po­si­tion for­ward, ev­ery­thing was in bet­ter bal­ance. The bass wasn’t world-beat­ing, but it still should make two-chan­nel mu­sic lis­ten­ers ex­tremely happy.

With the pair of AS- 61s in their orig­i­nal po­si­tions. sup­ported by a good sub­woofer, the sit­u­a­tion com­pletely changed. The Adante’s clear, rich midrange and nat­u­ral high fre­quency sparkle con­tin­ued, but was now fully sup­ported to be­low 30 Hz. With the Adante SUB3070 sub­woofer pro­vid­ing the lowfre­quency grunt needed for my room, I heard a sys­tem that could eas­ily chal­lenge far pricier speak­ers. Used this way (or with­out a sub for mu­sic in medium-sized spaces, up to per­haps 3,000 cu­bic feet), the ELAC Adante AS- 61 earns an en­thu­si­as­tic Top Pick.

The AS-61 fea­tures a 6.5-inch woofer con­tained within a sealed box in­side the speaker's cabi­net. This passes bass on through an 8-inch pas­sive ra­di­a­tor.

Elac's Sub Con­trol app con­nects via Blue­tooth and lets you tweak all fea­tures on the SUB3070.

The Adante AS-61'S soft-dome tweeter is pro­tected by a web-like grille. The speaker's other driv­ers use alu­minum cones.

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