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Speakers

Listen to this: Designer Andrew Jones takes budget-speaker sound quality to a new high

ELAC America's Andrew Jones talks about his new Debut Series speakers with the Audiophiliac.

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The ELAC Debut B6 (left), and Debut B5 (right) speakers Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I regularly receive emails from readers requesting reviews of affordable speakers. I would love to do more, but great-sounding budget speakers are pretty rare. When I find one, I jump on it! When I first reviewed the Andrew Jones-designed, seriously affordable Pioneer speakers back in 2011 they blew me away.

That speaker line was revised a year or so later, and improved , and more recently I wrote about Jones's higher-end Pioneer Elite speakers and subwoofer. Again, Jones defied my expectations.

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ELAC America's Andrew Jones ELAC America

Jones amicably departed Pioneer in early 2015 and now leads ELAC America's speaker division. And he's done it again: I've heard his ELAC Debut B5 ($230 per pair) and Debut B6 ($280 per pair) bookshelf speakers, and they're so good they just might spawn a new generation of audiophiles, but you don't have to be an audiophile to buy them. (UK and Australia pricing is not yet available.)

Jones told me last week that when he started working for ELAC America he faced a huge challenge, his Pioneer speakers garnered countless raves from critics, including me, and customers worldwide; how could he possibly make better speakers for close to the same price?

First, he didn't want to make speakers that were only slightly better than what he had done before. Jones knew he could make speakers that measured better than the Pioneer models, but it was only after he listened to the first prototypes that he relaxed; the Debut models really sounded a lot better.

Funny, I was thinking the same thing before I heard them, how could Jones top himself, but the proof was in my listening sessions with the Debut speakers. They're much better sounding (and looking) than the entry-level Pioneer speakers.

Jones said the Debut Series speakers and subs are being built in the same factory in China as Jones used to make the Pioneer speakers and subs. He has a long working relationship with the factory techs, so the Pioneer-to-ELAC transition was super-smooth. Jones could communicate exactly what he wanted when going from making prototypes to full production.

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The ELAC Debut S10EQ subwoofer ELAC America

Jones also oversaw the installation of the factory's measurement system, the exact same one he uses in his ELAC America facility in California. That way, the technicians in China and Jones could more efficiently communicate with each other.

The Debut S10EQ subwoofer breaks new ground -- at first it seems rather conventional, but take a look 'round back and you won't see the usual complement of volume, phase and crossover controls, they now reside on an app on your smart phone!

The app also features an automatic 12-band parametric equalizer room-tuning calibration system that's super easy to use. It worked like a charm when we hooked up the Debut S10EQ sub in the CNET listening room. You can, alternatively, forgo the app and use your receiver's bass management to setup the sub.

In addition to the two bookshelf speakers I mentioned earlier, there's a tower, the Debut F5; a Debut C5 center speaker; a Dolby Atmos height channel speaker, the Debut A4; plus three Debut subwoofers. They will be sold through brick and mortar dealers and online outlets, including Amazon soon. The Debut Series was designed in the US, and will be sold in the UK and Australia by the end of this year.

Look for my full reviews of the ELAC Debut speakers and subwoofer soon here on CNET.