Elac’s original Debut series, designed four years ago, was a true debut… and in more than one sense, because not only was it the first series of its type from Elac, it was also the first series designed for Elac by famous speaker designer Andrew Jones, who had been hired by the German manufacturer to be its Vice President of Engineering. (Jones had previously been chief speaker designer at KEF… and had also worked for Infinity and Technical Audio Devices.)
Despite the model numbers in this series changing only slightly through the addition of a ‘.2’ to the various models (so the B6.2 we’re reviewing here is the successor to the original B6), the speakers are completely different, with new drivers, new cabinets and new crossovers. Speaking of which, it would seem that somewhere along the line, someone at Elac decided that adding a ‘.2’ to the end of the model number wasn’t noticeable enough, so they also added ‘Debut 2.0’ as a prefix to the model number, hence Debut 2.0 B6.2.
What’s new? Everything, as we stated in the introduction, but let’s start at the top, both physically and metaphorically. The tweeter in the B6.2 is a new 25mm ‘cloth’ soft-dome design that has a very wide roll surround. We don’t know why Elac says ‘cloth’ in its specification, because the material used is actually woven from pure silk. Jones says this new tweeter’s frequency response extends to 35kHz, which is quite an achievement for a soft-dome design. Also new is the horn-loading (Elac calls it a ‘waveguide’) of the tweeter, which Jones says not only improves the tweeter’s dispersion, giving a wider ‘sweet spot’, but also “eliminates the diffraction modes inherent in traditional box enclosures.” Not that you can see the horn, because both the tweeter and the horn are totally concealed by an attractively shaped protective grille mesh… which is easily removable.
The bass/midrange driver in the B6.2 has a cone woven from aramid fibre (Kevlar is one type of aramid fibre trademarked by Dupont). The cone has a diameter of 118mm, but the Thiele/Small diameter is 132mm, giving an effective cone area (Sd) of 136cm². (The 165mm Elac quotes in its specification is the overall diameter of the driver basket.) Not only is the aramid fibre cone material new on the B6.2, the shape of the cone is also different, with Jones claiming that the new shape gives “greater stiffness and improved damping, with the increased stiffness enabling more flexibility in design to achieve a smoother, more extended low-frequency response”.
Although the cone itself is made from aramid fibre, the central dustcap (a fairly large 50mm diameter, suggesting that the voice coil is also 50mm, rather bigger than the 25–30mm one would expect to find on a driver this size) is made of Santoprene. The outer cone (roll) suspension is also made of Santoprene. Santoprene is a dynamically vulcanised alloy consisting mostly of fully cured EPDM rubber particles encapsulated in a polypropylene matrix.
The bass reflex port on the B6.2 is not new; it’s the same full plastic port that has both internal and external flares to reduce the possibility of chuffing that was on the original B6 model, but whereas on the original model the port was at the rear, it’s now on the front baffle… as you can see for yourself from the accompanying photograph. This means that you can now move the rear of the cabinet as close to a rear wall as you like, or push the speakers all the way back into a bookshelf or, indeed, recess the speakers into a wall if you like (soffit mounting).
The main grilles on the Elac B6.2 are made from plastic that has been extruded in a honeycomb fashion, over which is attached black acoustically-transparent cloth. Each grille has six plastic pegs that fix into rubberised sockets on the front baffle. We found the speakers sounded best without these grilles, and without the metal tweeter grilles as well.
The speaker terminals on the rear are gold-plated, multi-way types that are recessed into a rather small plastic fitting. The size of the fitting makes it difficult to attach, say, bare speaker wires, but since it’s a connection you’ll only have to do the once, that’s OK. Otherwise, fit your speaker wires with banana plugs. The crossover network is attached to the rear of the rear terminal. It’s compact, with three inductors all cross-mounted, two air-cored and one of which is mounted on the underside of the PCB, three capacitors (two bipolar electrolytics and a metalized polypropylene) and two 5W cermet resistors.
Presumably to keep costs down, the Elac Debut 2.0 range is available only in one finish, a not overly-realistic-looking vinyl wrap Elac calls ‘Black Ash’. Although Elac is headquartered in Kiel, Germany, Andrew Jones does all his designed and development work at Elac’s R&D facility in Cypress, California, while the Elac B6.2 speakers are built in China.
The Elac B6.2 arrived for review at a time when one of our favourite spinners is a delightfully gentle and musically inveigling album by Australian guitarist Rafael Arden titled ‘When the Guitar Sings’. From the very first track (Vous vouriendrez-vous), you understand why it’s so titled, because Arden’s acoustic guitar has a truly ‘singing’ tone. Whether this is due to the guitar itself, or because Arden tunes his ‘A’ to 528Hz rather than to the standard tempered scale’s 440Hz — or perhaps it’s due to a combination of both — but the sound is amazing, particularly on the higher strings and their harmonics. The result was that when playing this disc, the air was alive in front of the Elac B6.2s… we wouldn’t be surprised if this album became one of those classic ‘demo’ discs you hear in showrooms (and at hi-fi shows) throughout Australia. All the works on the disc were written by French/Canadian composer Guy Bergeron who, according to his website, can usually be found “live and acoustic at various events, hootenannies, bike rallies, pig roasts and drink-em-ups across New England”. Arden is easily up to the technical demands of Bergeron’s sometimes difficult works, and despite the difficulties there’s far less fretting and neck sounds than we might have expected. When we did hear these sounds, the Elac B6.2s delivered them so accurately it was difficult not to imagine that Arden was actually in the room… an image helped along by the closeness of the recording.
In order to give the Elac B6.2s more of a heavy-duty workout we pressed the play button on the cutely named ‘Tremolow’, which is the debut album from Brisbane’s own The Creases, which is out now on CD, vinyl and digital. Gabriel Webster’s percussion intro to the opener Answer To proved that despite its rather small cabinet and bass driver, the Elac B6.2s can deliver an impactful bass sound, with obviously solid bass to below 50Hz. We couldn’t hear any overhang at all with any of the percussion instruments. Listen too to Webster’s stick-work on the rims, plus the way the B6.2’s tweeter handles the highs when he’s taking it out on the cymbals. (The album notes specify
it should be ‘played at maximum volume’ — which is intriguing, but not something we’d endorse.) The Elacs capture the depth and rhythm of Jarrod Mahon’s bass, particularly on Is It Love, but the recording of his bass is a bit variable, which is evidenced by listening to it on the previous track, Everybody Knows. But simply the fact that such a small, inexpensive speaker can show up such differences in bass tonality is revealing in itself. The B6.2s also delivered the total musical energy of this Brisbane four-piece with a fine grip on performance.
It didn’t take too long listening to some of our favourite female vocalists to hear where the Elac B6.2s really excel, and that’s right across the midrange, from the upper bass to the high treble. The accuracy of the reproduction of the sound across the midrange was uncanny and the result is that the tonal quality of a singer’s voice is exactly the same no matter what notes she’s singing. Pitch accuracy is also perfect, listening to a piano arpeggio across the midrange for example, every note was reproduced at exactly the same volume, so in this case not only the tonal quality was the same, but also the volume.
One of those female vocalists was Cat Canteri, who is a favourite not only for her fabulous voice, but also because she’s a terrific songwriter, which you can hear for yourself on her latest album, ‘Inner North’, which is her most personal album to date. Her a capella intro to Pentridge Wasteland is beautifully emotive, then as the other instruments join in and the soundscape widens, the effect is mesmerising. Her vocal intimacy on Remember the Time is astounding, the recording of it perfect, and the delivery by the Elac B6.2s also perfect. And if Bridget Agnew doesn’t tear at your heartstrings, you’d better check for your pulse.
As we’d expect from a designer like Andrew Jones, the Elac B6.2s proved to be very easy to drive, so you’ll get great sound from any amplifier — or AV receiver — you care to use, and they’re efficient enough that you’ll easily achieve high sound pressure levels in your listening room without taxing your amplifier’s output stage, even if it’s relatively low-powered.
Elac’s new Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers are far better speakers than the original Debut B6 design they replace and far better speakers than their amazingly low price would suggest. If you’re looking for small speakers, feel free to compare them against anything else that’s on offer, even if they’re two or three times the price. You’re going to be surprised!
Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 loudspeakers
Price: $699 pair
+ Amazing sound
+ Easy to drive
- Vinyl finish
- Best sound without grilles
Enclosure type: 2- way bass reflex
Frequency response: 44Hz–35kHz
Impedance: 6 ohms (nominal)
Sensitivity: 87dBSPL (2.83V/1m)
Crossover frequency: 2.2kHz
Drivers: 25mm cloth-dome tweeter, 165mm aramid fibre mid/woofer
Dimensions (whd): 196 × 375 × 268mm