ELAC, Andrew Jones kick down door to T.H.E Show Newport 2015


the_show_newport_logo_2015There’s no business like show business. This entry-level story starts not with Andrew Jones but with Marjorie Baumert. You’ll recall that Baumert is the organizational force behind the annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. And like many other professional audiophiles, Baumert could be seen walking the floors of both Munich High-End and T.H.E Show Newport this year.

In Germany, Baumert reaffirmed her commitment to hold back three rooms from traditional exhibitors at this year’s RMAF so that properly affordable systems could be shown instead – an idea cooked up between Steve Guttenberg and I last September. “We’re still going with the $500, $1000 and $1500 rooms…” said Baumert, “…but we’re going to show vinyl and digital systems in each.” What more could one ask for? Newcomers to RMAF, especially younger folk, will have something to get their teeth into.

L-R: Faith Turner, Marjorie Baumert, Bill Leebens at T.H.E Show Newport 2015

Baumert’s plans straight-talk directly to this site’s core mission of bringing better sound to a wider audience. In previously canvassing the hive mind for system suggestions at those price points, you guys came up trumps. (Only articles on Pono and Ethernet cables have solicited greater reader response).

Whenever I stop to consider a starter system, my mind goes first to loudspeakers where I invariably think of the US$129/pr standmounts designed by Andrew Jones for Pioneer. I still run a pair of the SP-BS22-LR (reviewed here) at DAR HQ, powered either by a NAD D 3020 or a Rega Brio-R. Both configurations puts soundbars and Bluetooth speakers to shame.

This Brit is no no Jonesey-come-lately: he cut his teeth at KEF and Infinity before solidifying his reputation under the Technical Audio Devices (TAD) banner, itself a subsidiary of Pioneer.

May 2014 brought the first sign of trouble: Pioneer had plans to withdraw from the AV market and it was looking for a buyer. Six months later came news that Onkyo and Pioneer were to merge in March/April 2015 but with the latter being the lesser shareholder.

Upon arrival in Munich I learned that Andrew Jones had jumped ship to the freshly minted American division of ELAC. In California, Jones had taken up a position as the vice president of engineering. Discussing this news over dinner with 6moon-ing colleagues I expressed hopes for another entry-level loudspeaker. Others had their doubts: surely Andrew Jones would start over at the high-end? After all, that’s where he earned his industry stripes.

Over lunch in Manhattan’s East Village a week or so later, Steve Guttenberg informs me that Jones was busy readying his first range of ELAC America loudspeakers in time for T.H.E. Show Newport.

Guess where I was headed?


ELAC America’s new range is appropriately named: Debut. It comprises two standmounts, a floorstander, a centre channel, three smartphone-app-configurable subwoofers (not pictured) and a Dolby Atmos add-on. Each could be found on static display in the first of two rooms committed to ELAC’s Stateside splash. Across the hallway in the second room, Andrew Jones could be found conducting a demo of the Debut B5 standmount.

The entire system on show had reportedly arrived at the Hotel Irvine in two suitcases, including speaker stands sourced from Amazon.com for US$49. On amplifier duties was the all-in-one integrated Bel Canto C5i (US$1895) C7R (US$2995) – financial overkill?

Jones was clear that the B5 has been designed “from the ground up” and is a very different beast to that which he built for Pioneer. Instinct and audio memory combine to tell me that Jones’ ELACs aren’t as warm sounding as his Pioneers. On the new model we a have a 1” tweeter with a “deep spheroid wave guide” and a 5.25” mid/bass driver made from aramid fibre, better known as DuPont’s Kevlar, and chosen by Jones for its superior stiffness-to-weight ratio.

An “intricate crossover” brings the two drivers together for 6 Ohm nominal impedance, 85db sensitivity and a 46Hz – 20kHz frequency response. Affording the Debut series their faux-metallic look is vinyl wrap and yes, they are made in China.


I hung around in Jones’ demo room for longer than usual in order to gauge reaction to the Debut B5’s price: US$229/pr. Predictably, those numbers were met with double-taking consternation: “Two twenty-nine?” “Are you serious?”, “What the %$#?”. The slightly larger B6 standmount will sell for US$279/pr.

An indictment of the high-end’s upward-spiralling pricing? Or perhaps ELAC America is fully hip to the middle class income erosion that threatens to put only high-end (US$10K+) and super-affordable (below US$500) models on serious sales charts. All the more reason then for show organisers like Marjorie Baumert to cater to those with skinnier wallets.

The Debut Series is set to go on sale in September – just in time for RMAF’s October 2nd-4th runtime. The arrival of ELAC America’s Debut B5 means Baumert now has one more passive loudspeaker around which to base her US$500, US$1000 and US$1500 rooms. That’s news in a space where active models often offer the greater bang-for-buck.


Putting a high-end designer in charge of an entry-level model is smart business. It imbues the hardware with designer authority. Buyers know that each part of the design and component has undergone close scrutiny and full optimization; they buy with confidence. It’s a mystery why other manufacturers haven’t followed suit with this potent design/sales model. Imagine a $500 integrated amplifier from the brain of Mark Levinson or a $300 DAC from Ed Meitner. Unlikely sure, but hey, just imagine.

Like the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR before them, the Debut B5 are what you recommend to pals making inquisitive noises about getting better sound in their lives without busting the bank. Don’t forget: for non-audiophiles, spending $1000 on loudspeakers is tantamount to insanity.

Further information: ELAC America


T.H.E. Show Newport 2015 coverage sponsored by LH Labs:


Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. So is the Debut D5’s price US$229 a piece or a pair? I think you are saying that is the price per pair, but I’m not absolutely certain. Often reviewers fail to be clear about whether speaker pricing is per pair or each.

    • Debut B5 price is US$229 per pair. Just so you know, I never quote pricing as per each speaker.

  2. Ethernet, really? That must be very bottom of the long list of things I’m interested in. (no criticism of DAR in their for keeping its customs happy)

    I’m looking forward to Jones’ next next-level-up offerings, hopefully some coaxials. Thats my vote for interesting!

    • I suspect the Ethernet pieces solicited greater reader interest because of their more controversial nature.

  3. Actually, the integrated was the Bel Canto C7R “receiver,” augmented with their “ulink.” The C7R was recently price REDUCED to $2595 US list. Speaker cables were “entry level Audioquest.” I left the room thanking the very personable Mr. Jones saying “I think you just saved me a LOT of money!” I WILL be buying these! An interesting comment by Andrew during the demo was that he wanted a sound that “invited you in.” Also his partner in the adjacent room with the static display mentioned that they were trying iterations of the tweeter’s “waveguide” by printing them on a 3-D printer – clever, eh?

    • Ah, thanks Bob for the clarification on the C7R – correction made above. And thank you for extra intel on the 3D-printed tweeter wave-guide.

  4. Elac have had a fabulous omnipolar ribbon super tweeter in their arsenal for decades, sometimes as built-in part of certain models, otherwise available as an add-on. It’ll be interesting to see whether Andrew Jones does anything with that tech of theirs in future more upscale efforts for the brand…

  5. Excellent news, especially for those in Germany and other places where Pioneer didn’t bother offering their Andrew-Jones-designed speakers for whatever bizarre reason…

  6. Love to hear the buzz about this speaker. So, will the future recommendation to friends be: 1) Aries Mini + AudioEngine A5+ – OR – 2) Rasberry Pi Streamer/DAC + Elac Debut B5 + ?amp? + ?cables?. I had a friend buy the AudioEngine A5+ for his bedroom after he liked the A2+ I gave him for his desktop. I find both the A5+ and A2+ to be awfully good. Seems the biggest room for improvement is with highs. Curious if the Elac will be able to beat the A5+ and if so, the cost of entry..

    • I see Audioengine’s active MO and ELAC’s passive solution as each keeping the other honest. This can only be a good thing for entry level consumers.

  7. Great to see Elac following the obvious business model, offering a product for all budgets.
    Own a pair of the pioneers and would happily listen to them if my $8500 speakers were no more. Elac already have cutting edge tech can only get better with Jones’s input.