When I heard that Elac of America's Andrew Jones had designed a new set of "cost no object" speakers as a follow-up to his amazing and affordable, I was intrigued.
And now, after missing an expected midyear release, the highly-anticipated Elac Adante range is now available in North America. During the lengthy development process, designer Andrew Jones says the speakers have had several tweaks since he first debuted them at CES in January 2017, including a change to a soft-dome tweeter from a titanium/aluminum one.
Affordable in the strict sense these speakers are not. They're designed to appeal to true hi-fi fans, the kind of listeners who might go for something like thefloostanders or the stand mounts. The Elac Adante range consists of:
- AS-61 stand mount ($2,500 £2,600, approx. AU$5,000)
- AC-61 center speaker ($2,000, £1,750, approx. AU$4,000)
- AF-61 floor-stander ($5,000, £5,200, approx. AU$10,000)
Hands- and ears-on first impressions
Firstly, the finish of the speakers is like nothing we've seen from Elac America before. Aesthetically it brings to mind the work Jones did with Technical Audio Devices Laboratories, specifically the Compact Evolution One. The AS-61 has a subtle, brushed aluminum faceplate with aluminum drivers, and while the cabinet was finished in gloss black, the final version will also be available in gloss white or walnut.
One thing you notice when you examine the cabinet is there aren't any ports, just a pair of binding posts on the back. In addition to the concentric/midrange tweeter setup, the bass woofer is actually a pretty ingenious system of drivers (which Jones says he borrowed from Kef). He's put a traditional 6.5-inch driver inside a ported box which then drives an 8-inch passive driver on the outside. Translation? Smoother, more extended bass and better efficiency.
Steve Guttenberg recently reviewed the likable and identically pricedand in our listening room the Elac Adante AS-61 simply dwarf them. The fit and finish of the Elac speakers is far superior, and the extra physical volume and larger bass driver should translate to deeper bass.
Listening to the Adante speakers for the first time at CES 2017 reminded me of the Uni-Fis that had made me grin so uncontrollably the year before. The Adante had the same effortless imaging, voices were incredibly present, and yet it had an even broader soundstage than before. And, the one thing Uni-Fi was missing: that bass!
I was a big fan of the Bowers and Wilkins 805 D3, and CNET's Audiophiliac even more so. It is a crazily transparent speaker, and it breathes life into quality recordings. What it can't do is bass. While the Adante didn't seem as transparent it could do deep bass. The gentle synth "bom" in the middle of "Yulunga" by Dead Can Dance shook the Elac listening room. I haven't heard another stand-mount speaker that sounds like this.
Of the many tracks we listened to the one that impressed me most, however, was a cover of Tom Waits' "Way Down In the Hole" by John Campbell. The track had an amazing sense of space as the vocal track commandeered the room while the percussion percolated like sheets of shimmering water behind him. The underpinning bass track made my thighs vibrate, and I'll admit that was a little bit of an odd sensation.
As with the initial demonstration of the Uni-Fi UF5, the Audio Alchemy amplification Jones used at CES cost many times the price of the speakers, plus he'd included a custom-built industrial power conditioner for good measure.
Will you need to go this crazy if you're looking to buy a set of these? In a word, yes. While, Jones said a good receiver from the major companies -- think Yamaha Aventage, Sony ES or Integra -- should be enough, but we've found these speakers to be very demanding. As with the Uni-Fi, the more powerful and revealing the amplifier, the better. My rule of thumb is usually to spend as much on the amp as you would on the two front speakers, but the Adante is more efficient than the Uni-Fi due to its closed design and so should be a little easier to drive.
Are they the high-end speakers to end all high-end speakers? Read the, but if you have the space, money and time to spend, they are definitely worth an audition.
First published Jan. 7, 2017;10:11 a.m. PT., this review has been updated with new information including shipping dates and additional impressions, most recently on Feb. 5, 2018.
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