OUR FULL REVIEW IS BELOW, BUT YOU CAN READ THE ORIGINAL MAGAZINE PAGES BY CLICKING THE PAGE ON THE RIGHT TO DOWNLOAD A PDF VERSION.
Despite the objectivity of test processes and measurements, audio reproduction from artist to playback system is, ultimately, a process and chain of subjective ideas. At the design stage, the original concept (or mandate) and the subsequent engineering craftsmanship may be the result of a single visionary or a combined team of engineers… but always steered by a leader.
As German company Elac celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, it has ramped up its global activities by expanding the product portfolio with electronics to complement its wide range of excellently-engineered speakers. And the master-stroke of appointing the highly-respected Andrew Jones (ex-TAD) as its Chief Engineer further strengthens Elac’s strategies.
Jones brings extensive experience from both KEF and, just prior to Elac, TAD. At the former, Jones debuted the Uni-Q transducer, now a KEF signature element refined over multiple generations, while at TAD he introduced beryllium- and aramid-based drivers in the very high-end Reference and Evolution series of speakers. For Pioneer Electronics (TAD’s parent company) Jones created the extraordinarily-good-for-the-price SP series of ultra-budget speakers.
Elac must have been taking notice — Jones’ first designs for the new company are the Debut series, where the wizard waves his slide-rule over an entry-level range that features, even at this modest level, custom-designed drivers rather than common off-the-shelf componentry.
In fact, the number of companies with the necessary resources to permit bespoke production at this level are few and far between. Inevitably, there are cost constraints. Kudos for the cabinet employing MDF rather than chip-board at this price, and braced too in the build of the enclosure, though the old knock test reveals some resonance, and the finish is vinyl wrap (no veneer or gloss finish), though this is, however, of the attractive ‘brushed’ variety, a high-grade and immaculately-applied.
Any costs saved on the B6’s cabinet have been counter-balanced by the level of engineering inherent in the Jones-designed bespoke drivers. The in-house-built tweeter is a 25mm cloth dome type with a large magnet system. The unit is protected by a domed metal fine-mesh grille and sits in a deep spheroid-profile waveguide plate which is claimed to provide a controlled and wide directivity/dispersion pattern while also offering isolation from cabinet resonance.
The mids and lows use an in-house designed 165mm woven aramid-fibre driver, a material Jones has preferred since his Pioneer/TAD days for its stiffness-to-weight ratio, higher self-damping, smoother frequency response and sonic neutrality when compared to elastic/polypropylene drivers. The two drivers sonically blend at 3kHz via a ‘multi-element’ crossover featuring ‘audio-grade’ components. Exploded views of both drivers on the Elac website show a large metal parts count and a rather small plastic parts count, which in itself reflects a healthy quality-to-price ratio.
Elac specifies the B6 as having a reasonable 87dB sensitivity tied in with a 6-ohm nominal impedance. The frequency response is stated as spanning between 44Hz and 20kHz (no envelope stated) while 50W and 120W are the respective nominal and peak power handling specifications.
The overall package presents as a well-built, modern speaker with an aesthetic which will fit many contemporary environments.
Like any good ‘bookshelf’ speaker, it’s essential to place the B6s on a solid foundation. We used 610mm-high three-post Atacama spiked and sand-filled stands. Set-up thus, their level of low-end energy was awe-inspiring. It first hit us with the acoustic bass line on Susana Baca’s ‘De Los Amores’ from her ‘Eco de Sombras’ release. Subjectively, there was bass depth way beyond what is associated with speakers of these dimensions, and that reach is mixed with the undeniable perception of more than adequate quantity and punch. Sure, there was slight ‘boxiness’ that infiltrated the upper bass and lower midrange — the latter providing a subtly enhanced chestiness to male voices and female vocals in the mezzo soprano and contralto ranges – perhaps between the 400Hz to 600Hz range, but it’s hard to nit-pick this aspect of a small speaker when it’s so capable all-round.
From the same album, ‘Golpe E’ Tierra’ depicts Baca’s vocals with stunning expression in terms of inflections and fluctuations where the tweeter/mid combination of drivers melds seamlessly. It’s a fast combo, very detailed and with surprising dynamic snap.
With complex fare such as ‘Untitled’ from the same album, the B6s’ absolutely outstanding separation allows easy processing of all the instrumental layers while not deconstructing the music into soulless individual pieces. In fact, the separation of complexity the B6s are capable of will favourably compare with designs with price-tags into the thousands.
A general strength of good standmount designs is their capabilities for accurate imaging and substantial soundstaging. The B6s don’t disappoint here either. Damien Rice’s ‘O’ is a superbly produced title and the B6s projected a generous stage with images populating the entire space side to side and front to back. The acoustic and electric guitars in this recording projected forward while possessing warmth and body.
Elac has considerable experience in high-end tweeter design via its state-of-the-art JET folded foil design. It knows a thing or two about high frequencies, as does Andrew Jones, and the combined bank of experience has produced a high frequency driver that is capable of rendering fine detail, respectable dynamic expression and good tonal variation from the upper vocal and sibilance ranges, bells, cymbals and the like, even if its ultimate ‘airy’ extension is a tad subdued.
In engaging the talents of Andrew Jones, Elac has pulled off quite the coup – his debut has produced a range of extremely attractive speakers both in terms of design and sonics. The B6 is a glorious standmount that meets the mandate of wringing the best possible performance from a small, inexpensive ‘bookshelf’ speaker. The Debut B6 heroically features bespoke drivers at a price available to anyone on a budget while being capable of performing to a level that will please the most jaded of audio connoisseurs. Elac’s Debut B6s are truly remarkable and Andrew Jones has hit the ground at a gallop…
ABOVE: The whole Debut series (pictured) is designed by Andrew Jones at Elac’s Californian R&D engineering facility; the full range includes floorstanding and bookshelf models, and has all that is required for home cinema, including centre-channel speaker, subwoofers and even Atmos-enabled speaker modules (front left).
+ Good driver engineering, Neat aesthetic, Superb performance
- Subtle cabinet coloration
Speaker type: 2-way, bass reflex
Tweeter: 1 x 25mm cloth dome
Woofer: 1 x 165mm woven aramid-fibre cone
Crossover frequency: 3000Hz
Frequency response: 44 to 20,000Hz
Sensitivity: 87 dB at 2.83V/1m
Recommended amplifier power: 30 to 120W
Nominal/peak power handling: 50/120W
Nominal impedance: 6 ohms, minimum 6 ohms
Binding posts: 5-way metal
Magnetic shielding: No
Cabinet finishes: Black brushed vinyl
Dimensions (hwd): 356 x 216 x 254mm
Weight (each): 6.5kg
Warranty: Ten years