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Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 review: Clearer sound, better build quality, same incredible value

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The front-mounted port

Sarah Tew/CNET

Elac recommends partnering the B6.2 with any receiver up to 120 watts per channel. The speaker has a reasonable 87dB sensitivity and a 44Hz - 35kHz frequency response, which means it will fill small to medium-size rooms. Thanks to that front-mounted port you can even put them relatively close to the wall, though we still recommend leaving an inch or so of space to avoid boomy bass.

Clearly better sound

We were mightily impressed by the original Elac Debut B6 when we reviewed it in October 2015, and it has been our go-to budget bookshelf speaker ever since. We know its sound well, and a lot has changed with the new Debut 6.2: the cabinet, bass port, crossover, woofer and tweeter for starters! 

And yes, the sound is different, too. The original B6's sound feels comfortable and easy to listen to, and right away we noted the B6.2 has a livelier, clearer sound. Obviously designer Andrew Jones wasn't content to rest on his laurels.

To get started with this review, we set up the B6 and B6.2 on tall metal floor stands in the CNET listening room, hooked them up to a Sony STR-DN1080 ($598 at Walmart) AV receiver and an Oppo UDP-205 Blu-ray player, and listened to Jesus and Mary Chain's "Stoned & Dethroned" album -- turned up loud. "Stoned" has a more melodic Ramones-ish or Pixies-like vibe, and the original B6 sounded big and bold. Whether quiet or loud, the B6 felt right, especially for a speaker at its price level.

Switching over to the new B6.2, the soundstage grew bigger and more three-dimensional. The heavily layered mix of acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums and vocals were more clearly revealed. The mix's massive reverberation positively bloomed over the B6.2; upon returning to the B6 the sound flattened out. 

The two speakers' differing character also held when we compared acoustic music. The B6.2s midrange sounded more present and immediate, while the B6's sound was a little more laid back. The high frequencies are brighter and better resolved on the B6.2, and it provides a more transparent window on the music. 

The B6 is softer and blurrier, with a warmer tonal balance that had more weight. The B6.2 is leaner in the mid-bass but is also better defined. Bass did go satisfyingly deep for a speaker of the B6.2's size however. When we played test tones it reached the high 40-Hertz range.

Next we moved the older Elacs out of the way and brought out the terrific Q Acoustics 3020 ($220 at Amazon) speakers. It's a smaller speaker than the B6.2, and it sounds smaller, too. With Wilco's "Schmilco" album, the B6.2 had a more intimate, you-are-there sound than the 3020, which put more space between us and the music. With Miles Davis' "Nefertiti," the band's propulsive drive, Davis' horn, and the transients of Tony Williams' drums sounded more realistic over the B6.2. The 3020 couldn't keep up; we felt like we were missing out on some of the band's grooves.

Should you buy it?

Even after our listening tests with the new version, we still very much enjoy the original B6. If you own a pair of these older speakers and still love the sound, we can't make a blanket recommendation to upgrade to the B6.2. On the other hand, if you crave more clarity, the B6.2, would be well worth considering.

Yes, the Elac Debut B6.2 trades some bass weight for enhanced clarity, and that's the main sticking point. The original B6 earned our Editor's Choice award as the slam-dunk best speaker in its class, but we're not yet ready to give it to the B6.2. The year is still young, with plenty of promising models on the horizon. We'll see how the B6.2 holds up during more comparison tests throughout 2018.

In the meantime, if you want a new set of stereo speakers today for home cinema or music, the Elac B6.2 is an excellent choice.

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