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

Setup

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The UF5 has a lower than average nominal impedance of 4 ohms, and it dips down to as low as 3.4 ohms. Not only that, the specifications claim lower than average sensitivity of 85dB.

Translation? These speakers will sound their best with high quality, powerful amplifiers and receivers.

There are two ports on its rear panel, so try to avoid placing the UF5 less than a foot from a wall or corner, this tower needs room to "breathe".

Sounds like... music

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The UF5 sells for $1,000 a pair, but it has the poise and refinement of speakers that go for two or even three times the price. Our Rotel RA 1592 stereo integrated amp and Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player were used for all of our stereo listening tests.

The first thing we noticed was the UF5's smooth tonal balance. The bass, midrange, and treble were extremely well matched, so no range dominated the sound on Okkervil River's terrific "Away" album. The tinkling bells, birds, and distant thunder that open "Comes Indiana Through the Snow" sounded like they were coming from behind the speakers. Soundstage depth and center image focus were truly impressive, and the lush arrangements sounded natural.

That album led to Wilco's new "Schmilco," and the easy rhythms rolling through the tunes set our toes a-tappin'. With harsh recordings such as Led Zeppelin's newly remastered "The Complete BBC Sessions" the UF5 revealed all of the live recordings' distortion (intentional and otherwise), but the music's power reigned supreme. Next up, Jazz bassist Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus' "The Distance" album fully exercised the UF5's woofers. The stand up bass's physically powerful low-end definition and body were given their full due.

Switching over to our Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 towers the sound was similar overall, but with a more relaxed treble, and warmer, rounder mid bass, although though the Elac's deep bass capabilities exceeded the Pioneer's. Despite initial concerns that the UF5 was "swallowing" bass on complex music such as Battles' "Atlas," it actually does a much better job than the Pioneer. Both are excellent overall, but the Elac sounds a little clearer, and its more potent bass clinched the deal.

When we compared the tower with the PSB X2T, it brought out the bass in rock music especially, but the midrange seemed shuttered compared to the two other Jones-designed speakers. For home theater we added the UC5 center channel speaker and UB5 bookshelfs as surround speakers, all hooked up to a Sony DN1070 AV receiver. "In the Flesh" from Roger Waters' "The Wall" Blu-ray had dynamics a plenty, and the UF5's power and fury knocked us out.Continuing with "Jurassic Park," the five Elac speakers immersive, room-filling capabilities were up to snuff. The sounds of dinosaur footsteps had the requisite power we could feel, even without a subwoofer in the system. Of course, a well chosen sub will go deeper and supply more oomph, but the UF5 tower speakers alone might be plenty for buyers with small to mid-size rooms.

Conclusion

The Elac Uni-Fi UF5 is hands down the best, clearest sounding tower speaker we've heard for the money. Actually, it's better than that. It's the sort of speaker that an aspiring audiophile could assemble a very respectable system around, and happily live with for decades to come.

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