Perhaps the big part of this impending future we are seeing appear in wireless connectivity is the fear we may be ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’; in our keenness to make a less box-shaped future, we risk sacrificing the one thing that made audiophiles out of us in the first place. Good, old-fashioned sound quality. The ELAC AIR-X system, to its great credit, never gives the impression of doing that. It makes a good sound, not one that will please every listener, but a sound quality that is every bit as good as its wired alternatives.
OK, so the die-hard audiophile will never accept a preamplifier replacement that didn’t cost thousands and isn’t made out of battle armour for a tank. There are volume pots that cost more than the AIR-X BASE, and those who use such things will be reluctant to give up their audiophile credentials for a small box that could be mistaken for a computer router. But these are the same people who would never buy an AIR-X AMP equipped loudspeaker because they want the amp out in the room, even if it’s just to show off their taste and the depth of their bank balance. But I suspect the AIR-X system is not for die-hard audiophiles. It’s for those who want audiophile-grade sound without audiophile-grade clutter. Or paranoia.
There’s a temptation to draw comparisons between this and the Audiovector concept, primarily because they launched at a similar time. In fact, they move in very different circles, and comparisons would be as pointless as any other comparison between a floorstander and a standmount. They are both ambitious projects designed to bring good sound to a wider audience, and while they are different in direction and approach, I can find a lot to like in both directions. That said, ELAC’s totally wireless separation of speaker and hub will find many friends.
For my part, I enjoyed my time with the ELAC AIR-X every bit as much as I have done with passive ELAC models. It’s clean and energetic and detailed; all the things you might get from a pair of ELAC BS 403, but active. In the wired world of separates audio, you could find a solution that might better suit your tastes, but again that is missing the point. You’d have to search for that solution where one that does it all is right under you nose.
Type: 2-way, two-driver, standmount ported speaker with active drive and separate control module.
Driver complement: One JEF-5 folded ribbon tweeter, One 150mm AS-XR composite mid/bass driver.
Inputs: on speaker, one XLR balanced, one RCA line inputs. On Hub one pair RCA stereo, one 3.5mm analogue, 1x ELAC WL USB interface, 2x TosLink, 1x USB
Crossover frequencies: 2.7kHz
Frequency response: 38Hz – 23kHz
Sensitivity: N/A (225W Class AB amplifiers driving loudspeakers)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 308 x 166 x 280mm
Finishes: gloss white, gloss black.
Price as tested: AIR-X 403 £2,499/pair, AIR-X BASE £349, Bluetooth adaptor, £119
Manufacturer: ELAC Electroacustic GmbH
UK Distributor: Hi-Fi Network Ltd.
Tel: +44(0) 1285 643088