ELAC has clearly grasped that if you are to sell loudspeakers to an audience that would instead prefer things were invisible (or at least no bigger than a Coke can), you have to make it sexy. The Vela range replaces the 400 Line that has been a staple of ELACs mid-priced offering for many years. The incoming range abandons the traditional rectilinear styling of that series with post-formed corners and oblique angles to produce a beautiful loudspeaker design with tactile textures to add to its allure.
The slopes are what mark out the Vela. The top has an inset aluminium plate with black anodising that gives it a slick look when combined with the gloss black or white finish of the cabinet. However, it’s the base that really sets this speaker apart from the crowd: ELAC has created a die-cast plinth that integrates a downward firing port with a V-shaped opening; it looks great from most angles and in theory allows greater flexibility of placement than a standard rear-firing port. This sort of design detailing alongside the very high fit and finish of the speaker as a whole mark ELAC’s BS 403 out as more domestically friendly than its competitors.
The same plinth is incorporated into the two floorstanders in the Vela range – the two-and-a-half-way FS 407 and three-way FS 409, but in those models there is a base plate beneath that extends the footprint and provides for spike fixing. The BS 403 is the only bookshelf model in a range that extends to one further iteration in the CC 401 centre channel, which does not have the die‑cast base.
ELAC has used drive unit tech from the 400 Line in Vela, so in the 403 there is one of the brand’s distinctive Crystal Membrane midbass drivers, a six-inch example with a 95mm cone supported by a large roll surround. This is a sandwich driver with a paper cone backing bonded to a sheet of stamped aluminium foil, a combination said to reduce colouration and improve power handling. The large surround provides for plus/minus 15mm of excursion, so it should be able to ‘belt it out’ if required. The Jet 5 planar tweeter is a variant on the Heil Air Motion design with neodymium magnets and a claimed response up to 50kHz. It uses a folded foil membrane that requires so much precision in its construction that robots are used for the most demanding part of the process.
Sensitivity is a lower than average 86dB, and nominal impedance is four Ohms, so it needs a bit of power for best results. ELAC makes a dedicated and suitably shiny stand for the BS 403 with a glass base and polished aluminium column, but as this wasn’t supplied, I made do with a Custom Design FS104 Signature stand with its filled central column and Blu-tack under the speakers.