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ELAC Uni-Fi UF5 review: Best speakers under $1,000

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The Good The Elac Uni-Fi UF5 sounds twice as good as speakers that cost twice as much. It's crazy value for money.

The Bad Build quality could be better, bass definition suffers with complex material compared to some other speakers, and they may need an expensive amp to perform their best.

The Bottom Line The Elac UF5 are our favorite speakers under $1,000 combining unheard-of transparency with enough kick to tempt rock and dance fans.

8.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Sound 9
  • Value 10

Speaker designer Andrew Jones is on such a winning streak right now that, if he was a professional poker player, he should be hurtling out a side door as two burly men with goatees and cummerbunds dust their hands and warn him never to come back.

Following up his uniformly excellent Elac and Pioneer speakers was never going to be easy, but the new Uni-Fi UF5 floorstanders are superb. This speaker effortlessly combines the glorious midrange of the UB5 bookshelf speakers with the "rock" tendencies of the Elac Debut. If you're hemming and hawing about which of the Elac models to buy let there be no doubt: It should be this one.

It's not perfect -- the build quality is behind Elac's competitors, for example -- but as before it's the sound quality that you're paying for here. We haven't yet found a model under two thousand bucks that can hold a candle to these.

While the Elac UB5 was almost a carbon copy of Jones' earlier Pioneer EBS73, the UF5 is its own animal. It's better (and cheaper!) than the EFS73 floorstander. So the Elac UF5 snatches the crown from the Pioneers to become our new king of affordable tower speakers.

Design

elac-uni-fi-uf5-13.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Have a decent size living area? Floorstanding speakers are what we recommend. The UF5 adds three 5.25-inch aluminum woofers to the same concentric 1-inch soft dome tweeter and 4-inch aluminum midrange driver used on the UB5.

The speakers are big at 38 inches high by 10 inches deep by 8 inches wide. To help with stabilization, they come with a set of screw-on feet and are fitted with carpet-piercing spikes. There are rubber caps in the box for use with hard floors. Elac's UF5, UC5 center channel, and UB5 bookshelf speakers have extra-beefy binding posts that work with thick audiophile cables fitted with spades or banana connectors.

elac-uni-fi-uf5-05.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The veneer is the same vinyl the company used with previous Elac models, and it's also the one chosen by Klipsch. It's fine, if prone to damage, but in general the speakers' build quality isn't quite up to the standard of the work Jones did with Pioneer, or even Elac competitors like Bowers and Wilkins or Klipsch.

The driver surrounds are probably the weakest part of this design. While they look OK with their silver finish, they don't quite sit flush with the front of the speaker if you run your fingers around them -- they may even feel "spongy". We noticed early on in our testing that one had even come unseated and was audibly vibrating with bassy material. Pushing the surround in with a finger stopped the noise but we don't remember this happening with any other speakers.

elac-uni-fi-uf5-12.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

If you prefer something a little sleeker, the company will also make a Slim version of this speaker and others in the UF range. It'll come with the choice of a satin black or white painted finish. The slim version of the UF5 is also little thinner and a touch deeper and will cost an extra $400. Despite the change of dimensions, the company says the internal volume is the same and it will sound identical.

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