RMAF 2016: a headstart for happiness with the ELAC Element

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Basic. One word to describe the vinyl finish of the Andrew Jones-designed Debut and Uni-Fi series loudspeakers from ELAC. A year or so on from those initial releases we get improved aesthetics – initially aimed at the European market. The Uni-Fi slimline variant comes in a black or white satin finish and is available Stateside.

Sticker price premiums have been levied accordingly. For example, the standard vinyl UB5 sells for US$500. The slimline satin take for US$749. For full range performance we’d add a subwoofer, possibly ELAC’s 10″ active/passive combo box, the S10EQ – it sells for US$499. The ‘EQ’ refers to the sub’s setup smarts where it talks to ELAC’s configuration iOS/Android app over Bluetooth.

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A BASH circuit topology, where a switch-mode power supply feeds a Class A/B output stage, has also made its way into ELAC’s forthcoming Element EA101EQ-G integrated amplifier (US$699). 80wpc into 8 Ohms with on-board DAC that can be fed via USB, 2 x TOSLINK, coaxial, Bluetooth or a pair of single-ended RCA inputs. Output socketry for headphones (6.4mm) and a subwoofer have also been included.

With the latter, things get REALLY interesting. ELAC’s new half-width unit aims to take the pain away from a) integrating a subwoofer into the system and b) correcting for the room’s acoustic make-up.

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In conjunction with Element’s on-board DSP, the ELAC smartphone app runs frequency sweeps to set low- and high-pass filters for subwoofer and speakers respectively before time aligning the whole shebang. ELAC refer to this as ‘Auto-Blend’.

A third measurement then adjusts the complete system’s output for the room – ‘Auto EQ’-ing to a target curve. Potent stuff for such a relatively affordable product.

Of course, the devil sits in the details. Thankfully, ELAC’s Christopher Walker was ready to walk yours truly through the entire process at RMAF 2016 and on camera (whilst Andrew Jones conducts a lively demo in the adjacent room):

Amplifier manufacturers like ELAC (and AURALiC and Devialet before them) now double-up as software developers. That means we, the end user, enjoy a solution that’s anything but basic. An RMAF 2016 highlight for this guy.

Further information:  ELAC

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Written by John H. Darko

John lives in Berlin, Germany. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also a very occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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14 Comments

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  1. love it how companies like this (as well as sonos and oppo with their new sonica series) are making room calibration so much easier….more and more i’m reading of elac as offering great bang for the buck, too…wasn’t one of the key founders/designers working for kef before?

  2. I’m keeping an open mind on this, especially since it seems like a down to earth, affordable solution. However…
    Some companies like Naim, as opposed to Linn, argue that DSP has an undesirable effect on how the music sounds. Making it sound…unmusical.
    I still need to draw my own conclusions on that one as the only DSP I tried was the DSPeaker Anti-Mode 8033 Automatic Subwoofer Equalizer. I ended up selling it and connecting my REL sub directly to the speaker terminals as recommended by REL.

  3. I can see why this was a highlight for you! Amazing feature set for the money. And all to make the speakers and optional sub sound better for a two channel system, easily!

    If they end up offering a matching network streamer or a similar unit with a streamer built in, it will definitely be my next purchase to replace a two channel family room system. Currently housing a Denon RCD-N7, NHT Super Zeros, and an Energy subwoofer. It sounds great for what it is, but took a lot of tweaking to get the phase and blend right.

    • Hi Brian
      In Germany ELAC just lounged the Discovery Music Server DS-S-S101 – for around 1000 Euro included with Roon software and MQA . Quad- Cor ARM A9 PROCESSOR/ Linux-version / multi room function //airplay . Formats > WAV, AIFF ,FLAC ,ALAC , OGG, MP3, AAC Has received very good reviews in Germany .Check out http://www.elac.de

    • Elac has a matching network streamer, but it only supports Roon Essentials, with absolutely no upgrade path to full fledged Roon. It has a 15,000 track limit too. It’s called the Elac Discovery music server.

      However the marketing appears to be misleading, because Elac is not highlighting the limitations with regards to Roon capabilities.

  4. At $499, the UniFi bookshelf is a value, but sounded noticeably better with a beefy amplifier.

    At $749, I don’t think it’s competitive any more, as the improvements are purely cosmetic. I hope I am wrong about the value aspect.

    In the US, for example, we have the Aperion audio Verus bookshelf, which is sold Internet only, but has a 10 year warranty, for $759 a pair.

    Love the room correction and subwoofer EQ features in the ELAC amplifier through…

    • None, sorry. And listening at a show is woefully unreliable: one must listen through unfamiliar speakers, playing unfamiliar music in an unfamiliar room.

  5. I like how the app allows the sub and mains to blend. Any idea if there is a way to EQ the subwoofer but not the mains? I think that EQ on the mains would be a bad idea. Thanks

  6. The whiz bang factor here is off the charts. Amazing! The question, though, is whether the system disappears. If everything is perfectly eq’d and phase corrected but sounds flat or grainy or harsh, then the technology is for naught. To be precise, this is not a yes/no question, especially at this price point. Rather, I suspect it’s a matter of degree. In fact, this system is at about the same price point as the upcoming active KEF LS50. Bottom octaves aside, I do wonder which one will sing best.

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