When it comes to designing loudspeakers, Andrew Jones is one of the sharpest tools in the box. He has the magic touch and seldom puts a foot wrong in the products that fall under his purview. There is a string of loudspeaker ‘hits’ attributed to him, at every level from the distinctly affordable to the disturbingly expensive. But arguably, it is the ELAC Adante AS-61 that truly makes his bones.
The Adante range was the third series out of the ELAC gates for Jones, with the more down-to-earth Debut and UniFi ranges before it. But good as these models (Debut now in Mk 2 guise) clearly are, Adante is ELAC and Andrew Jones showing what they are capable of when the brakes are taken off. And arguably the AS‑61 standmount is the purest expression of those design goals.
Ostensibly, the Adante looks like a two-way standmount. Closer inspection shows that top driver is a concentric 25mm soft-dome tweeter at the acoustic centre of a 133mm aluminium midrange cone. What you can’t see, however, is that the 200mm aluminium bass cone is actually a passive radiator, driven by an internally mounted and separately chambered 165mm aluminium bass cone. ELAC’s description of this arrangement sums it up perfectly: it’s a three-way, interport-coupled cavity design. Ports connect the separate chambers of the internal structure of the Adante’s cabinet, although there is no external port to contend with. This gives the Adanta AS-61 an ability to deliver an impressive 41Hz in room, with a reasonably benign six-ohm impedance load. The trade-off – such as it is – means the AS-61 has a relatively low 85dB sensitivity.
The speaker is designed to work with its own stands. Cleverly, ELAC designed this to use just the one cross-head screw throughout. However, there are 20 of them needed for each speaker to connect the two uprights to the top and bottom plates, and to bolt the speaker to the stand itself. Mid way through the third screw of 40, I began to discover the need for good battery management when it comes to power screwdrivers.
The lone drawback of the Adante AS-61 is it takes some work to get really, really right. And in the process, it often achieves a ‘good enough for government work’ level of performance that I fear many will settle upon. Actually ‘fear’ is the wrong word – the speaker sounds good even when its installation is relatively imprecise. But the difference between ‘good’ and ‘OMG!’ is a somewhat iterative process of listening, repositioning, and listening again. Toe-in, precise levelling of the loudspeakers, side and rear wall distance, and listener position are all best performed with the kind of accuracy and precision normally attributed to £30,000 loudspeaker installations. When you give the AS-61 that kind of precision, though, you are rewarded with the kind of loudspeaker midrange and high-frequency performance you simply don’t find at this price level. The short answer here is what you hear in most auditions is probably about half of what you can extract from these loudspeakers. Upstream electronics are perhaps less vitally important, but there’s a need to get things right here, too. A good, meaty 100W amplifier – and a very good source – should be the minimum requirement.