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.
We cranked Zeppelin, we zoned out to Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert, we sampled the new Muppets Green Album and had our dopamine levels very much maxed by Hayley William’s vocal with Weezer on Rainbow Connection. The quoted power of the Music Center is 120W of Class-D ICEpower into four ohms, or 60W into eight ohms (the Planet Ls are quoted at six ohms), and things sounded great; we also upgraded amplification via the preouts, and found the Planet L’s revelled in the extra headroom made available.
As for the individual sources, the CD player was the most straightforward, with its lovely slot-loading mech gliding the CD into place, with all necessary control from the well-provisioned remote. Replay via the USB socket was very old-school — only MP3 and WMA files, no support for AAC or lossless, certainly no high-res music here.
For the two radio sources we tried the supplied antenna string without success in our north Sydney location — too weak for even strong FM stations and barely a lock with DAB; we gave it a roof aerial connection which yielded reception for both, though a mono button would be useful for weaker FM stations. There are 25 presets available for favourite stations.
We used the optical input from an Apple TV and were thereby able to play our whole iTunes collection with iPad control, an excellent experience. Another way to do this, at the cost of a little battery life, would be to use the optional ‘Well’ dongle in your iPad, iPhone or iPod and stream your music wirelessly and losslessly. For us the apparently simple pairing procedure for the Well wouldn’t work first time; we got more specific instructions from distributor Audio Dynamics and did later get it to work; persistence required.
No such problems with the included big USB dongle plugged into our laptop, which sounded great and confirmed Elipson’s claim of uncompressed music emerging at the other end. If you’re following the manual here, note that some computer terms have suffered in translation from the French — for ‘Configuration Panel’ read ‘Control Panel’; for ‘Material’, read ‘Hardware’.
Aside from our preference of adding a subwoofer, and a little trouble with the optional ‘Well’ for iDevices, we thoroughly enjoyed the six weeks we spent with the Elipson system. It provides genuine hi-fi results in a style-laden package, whether you run them minimalist for great and clean results, or play around as we did, ending up with them taking an optical digital feed from a computer-fed asynchronous DAC, out of the Music Center’s pre-outs into a big pre-power amp combo and back to the Planet Ls via the subwoofer. A few more cables than most buyers will desire! But it proves
the versatility of this system, as well as its natural beauty.
Elipson Music Center / Planet L loudspeakers
Price: $1999 / $1199
ElIPSon Music Center
Power: 2 x 120W ICEpower (Class-D) quoted into 4 ohms, 2x 60W into 8 ohm, no distortion specs quoted
Display: LCD, adjustable/automatic brightness
Sources: DAB+/FM radio, CD
Inputs: 3 x auxiliary (2 x RCA phono,
1 x minijack), optical digital, antenna,
USB Outputs: stereo preout, subwoofer (filtered), headphone minijack
USB playback: MP3, WMA
Wireless ‘Well’ playback: 16-bit 44.1kHz from provided USB dongle or optional Apple dock connector Optional floorstand: $149
Dimensions: 330mm diameter x 73mm height
Warranty: Two years
Epsilon Planet L
Type: bass reflex two-way coaxial drivers
Drivers: 25mm fabric-dome tweeter,
6.5-inch paper-cone mid/bass
Quoted response: 48-20,000Hz (no envelope quoted)
Stands: Table-ring provided, stands $299, wallbrackets $229, ceiling mounts
Colours: black, white, red
Dimensions: 290mm diameter
Warranty: Five years