Elipson Music Center & Planet L loudspeakers
Elipson’s Planet L spherical speakers make quite the design statement in any room. These are no mini spheres; they’re big old eyeballs, as many a visitor to S+I HQ called them — the sphere diameter is 29cm, and they seem even bigger.
When combined with their accompanying silver cylinder-section of a Music Center (sic), you have a complete and simple system. There is much detail to talk about here, which may make things sound clever and complex, and you can certainly option it up with additional equipment, as did we. But this remains one for the aesthetes, in terms of having just that beautifully-styled cake-tin control unit combining built-in amplification with CD player, digital radio and streaming sources, and then those spherical speakers with their surprisingly heavy stands that hide the cables within. You can clear out the rest of the house, and relax. Because while things may look fab, this is not a triumph of design over performance. The sphere is a good shape for hi-fi. Things are great all over.
The speakers can sit on a flat surface using the supplied table rings, but look rather more impressive on stands, wall brackets or ceiling mounts. (See our Verdict panel for pricing of these optional extras.) For this review we bolted them to their exceedingly heavy floorstands.
OK, a long list of abilities to be described for the Music Center. It has both FM and digital radio with a DAB+ tuner; these (unusually and pleasingly) share a single antenna connection, for which a string antenna is provided. It has a slot-loading CD player on the front, and it’s easy to add additional sources using any of the three auxiliary inputs (two with full-size RCA sockets, one a minijack), or the optical digital input, or the USB slot which can read from a stick or a hard-drive. A small and light remote is well stocked with buttons to control everything.
Then there are wireless options — the Music Center comes with a dongle for the USB socket of a computer, while there’s an optional dongle for an Apple device such as iPhone, iPod or iPad. Either of these will then stream your music direct and cable free, not to mention doing so at full and uncompressed CD quality (assuming your source material is of such lofty bitrate). Remember that if you send music from your computer this way, you’ll no longer have audible audio available from the computer itself.
There are also outputs available on the Music Center — pre-outs if you wish to use a more powerful amplifier, a headphone socket that is rather trickily positioned around the back, and a subwoofer output.
We almost immediately made use of that subwoofer output. The clarity of the Planet L speakers was clear from the first hour of music we played; they’re punchy and dynamic, revealing of detail and capable of excellent soundstage picture painting. There’s some bass there, the specifications saying 48Hz to 20kHz within a -3dB envelope, but the spheres simply didn’t have quite enough of the bottom octaves for our tastes, even after experimenting with different positioning to make the most of their rear ports.
The addition of a subwoofer balanced out the spectrum (you can set the Music Center’s bass filter from 100Hz to 200Hz), and the combination achieved brilliant imaging and soundstaging in particular, as well as a rich and genuine hi-fi sound that should impress all who hear it, and indeed knock out those not used to such niceties of sonic reproduction.