It may not have escaped your attention that high-end audio has gone slightly mental. The desire to listen to recorded music in the home has been with us for a long, long time now but some of the equipment being made is pitched at insane prices: one hundred thousand pound plus amplifiers, huge speakers with similar price tags, jewellery-adorned, exotic cabling.
Who would have thought that a company like Naim Audio, for example, would release an pre/power amplifier costing way above £100k during the same period where they announced the Muso, a fantastic and affordable music machine, at under £1k, for the home that is of excellent quality and multi-faceted in its ability and appeal. Why, it’s market forces, dear boy.
The very idea that one could buy a really interesting pair of speakers for £250 seems like wishful thinking, especially given the economies of scale required and the paucity of suitable quality drivers that have found their way into such low-cost designs for years. But Andrew Jones has different ideas. Andrew, who did such great work for KEF before moving on to Pioneer/TAD and now ELAC, has taken full advantage of modern driver technology and mass produced manufacturing costs to produce a range of speakers for that most venerable of German audio companies. These ELAC speakers are making a lot of people sit up and take note of what can be achieved by understanding where to make the inevitable and often savage compromises with such low-cost designs.
He started off with the drivers and these are the B5’s strongest weapon in the armoury. It uses a woven cone of Aramid (heat resistant, strong synthetic fibres often found in body armour) and a 38mm voice coil with plenty of venting around the cone. This would certainly help dissipate heat build up in the magnet assembly. The 135mm driver is capable of very decent power handling while the all-important tweeter is a 25mm cloth dome with what is called a “deep steroid wave guide”, which is fortunately completely free from ‘roid rage. From the outside it looks like it is mounted within the throat of a moulded horn. As far as traditional low‑cost speakers go, the tweeter was invariably the limiting factor and have disappointed for years.
The medite cabinets are interesting in that there is no internal bracing or internal wadding, designed to damp the cabinets internally at all. Rap them with your knuckles and you will hear a rather hollow ring but, if you judge their potential with that blow alone, then you are going to be in for a surprise. Andrew knows, better than anyone, that the cabinet especially at this level, is another whole load of compromises but the fact that he hasn’t damped the lively little cabinets to death inside goes a long way toward their remarkable sound quality I think. Seems like the only cabinet treatment is the entirely predictable wood-grain vinyl wrap which is certainly boring, but inevitable. At the rear is a plastic insert flared port of substantial diameter to ease the airflow and a pair of decent 4mm/screw down connectors mounted straight onto the plate that houses the crossover internally. Personally I wish these connectors had been vertical instead of at an angle as it would have made connections with some thicker cables a little easier. There is a detachable two-piece grille with a full frontal lightweight grid and the drivers themselves are covered in grilles, too. I would suggest some experimentation with the grilles both on and off. I appreciate that they are designed with a specific acoustic purpose.