ELAC's Debut B5 Loudspeaker Is Not Good For the Money

ELAC's Debut speaker line designed by Andrew Jones includes the B5, a diminutive 2 way loudspeaker that sells for $229.99/pr. It is not good for the money.

This speaker plays louder and without audible compression than any $229.99 speaker has any right to play. It goes deeper, (or sounds as if it does) and without muddying up the midrange, than any speaker of this size has any right to go. And it does this without producing the typical upper midrange resolution and/or tonal neutrality destroying "bump".

A The ELAC B5 has a smoother, and wider frequency response than any $229.99/pr. speaker has any business having, and its off-axis response, at least based on listening and not measuring, is smoother and better-behaved than any $229.99/pr speaker has any right to produce.

But most amazing and impressive, is that regardless of what speaker you are accustomed to—and my reference costs more than $200,000/pr.—you can sit down and listen to, and thoroughly enjoy music reproduced by these speakers created by a man who knows the science and respects the art of speaker design.

In fact, if spending $229.99 comes easily to you, and you own a high priced system, I suggest you buy a pair of these speakers, set them up on good stands and place them carefully in your room if just to hear how good a pair of $229.99 speakers can sound.

These little gems manage to deliver the goods free of the usual mechanical and tonal artifacts one expects from small, cheap boxes. I don't know how Jones managed this. You can figure that if the speakers sell for $229.99/pr. they leave the factory in the box, for under $75/pr.. Okay, I hear you: "cheap Chinese labor" etc.,but everyone producing and shipping from China has the same advantages, yet I've heard nothing that approaches the sonic performance of these speakers at this or even a far higher price point.

I'd say, the ELAC B5 is the speaker that can teach a generation of young people about room acoustics and how to place speakers in a room. Place them correctly and the bass goes surprisingly low, and with low coloration, and with great "tunefulness". Place them incorrectly and they can sound boomy—that's true of any speaker capable of producing deep bass, but that a small, cheap two-way does it, is stunning.

I set up a pair on stands in my living room, driving them with a moderately powered high quality Class "A" solid state amp and then with my reference Music Reference RM-200 tube amp and used a modestly priced CD player. Yes, the amps are far more costly than the electronics that most likely would get used with these speakers, but they are more likely to show the speakers' flaws and the sound produced was surprisingly satisfying, "musical" and convincing. So that's why I say the ELAC B5 is not good "for the money". They are just good.

Put a pair together with a P.S. Audio Sprout integrated amp, and a U-Turn turntable and for under $1000 you (or your child) will have a fantastic audio system just in time for Christmas!

Chucky's picture

I think I get the point of your headline but it's pretty confusing, for folks like me anyway.

analogousluva's picture

I don't like cricket
Ohhh noo
I love it

MChevalier's picture

I've been on the fence about adding these to an auxiliary system (or main system just for fun) since they came to market .. And I think you just convinced me to grab a pair. And now I'd love to know what you think of the little Elac UB5 concentric speaker!

Rudy's picture

I have heard both in the same demo (hosted by Andrew Jones) and the UB5 is a clear step upward. It's not radically different sound, but it gives you much more of the good qualities of the B5. It is slightly larger. It puts out substantial bass for its size (enough that the rearward facing port was blowing around the curtains behind the speakers a few feet away). Aside from the improvements, I found the two are very similar in tonality. Given the demo and my unfamiliarity with the music, I did not have time to check imaging and soundstage, but I would guess the UB5 ups the game there also. The UB5 does sound much larger than its size, though. Cost of the UB5 is around double the B5. (And I feel it's worth the difference.)

The UB5 probably wouldn't cut it in my main system, but I would have no problem using it in a smaller room on a second system. Having said that, it has been hard not to click the Buy It Now button and get a pair of them for myself.

MChevalier's picture

Thanks for the insight .. I appreciate it. I've noticed there's also a 'thin' version of the Uni-Fi coming in around $749 (BS U5 Slim). Whatever the case, it's a good time to put together a reasonably-priced second (or primary) system!

Ortofan's picture

... another option would be to spend relatively less on the amplifier, by choosing one such as the Yamaha A-S301 or Onkyo A-9010, and relatively more on a turntable, such as the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC (with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge).

recordhead's picture

I have the B6 paired with a Marantz PM8005 and I'm very satisfied.

ArnoldLayne's picture

Very nice - reasonable power, but very high quality. Do you feel th e need for a sub?

Kurt's picture

I have a pair in a simple two-channel system: turntable, phono stage, amp, speakers. I love 'em. I notice they dropped to $199 on Amazon for a day recently. I suggest tracking the price if you're looking to get them for a steal.

WaltonGoggins's picture

at $229. B6 now also comes in a "walnut" finish.

hifitommy's picture

i too am confused about your title. is there a way to change it now to reflect your actual opinion, which matches mine.


Ortofan's picture

... made you look.

If the title instead read "ELAC's Debut B5 Loudspeaker Is GREAT For the Money" or "ELAC's Debut B5 Loudspeaker Is Not Good JUST For the Money" would you have been more or less likely to click on the review than with its original title?

Glotz's picture

Other than to be cute... in which Mikey always seems to get a smile out of me.

I would've read it in the first place... lol.

hifitommy's picture

awright you, are yous from new yawk?

fetuso's picture

I was fooled by the headline too. Mickey got us. it was the only reason I read the review as these speakers have been reviewed ad nauseum. Mickey, you owe us a couple of turntable reviews for this.

Wimbo's picture

work in my system.
I've got a Marantz PM4 and only listen to it in its 15 Watt Class A setting.
The B5's are 85db at one metre.

Michael Fremer's picture
I should have noted that...because that is relatively inefficient but I found them easy to drive
Rudy's picture

I don't know if you had a chance to visit the ELAC room at AXPONA, but Andrew Jones did mention that in designing speakers, it is a tradeoff between different parameters, like cost, frequency response, efficiency, etc. His goal for the UB5 (and also this B5, which he also substituted briefly in the demo) was to make the speakers sound bigger than they were (both in size, and in price).

I would have no issues at all recommending either the B5 or the UB5 to someone.

Rudy's picture

Jones also did bring up the question about China. Yes, they are made over there, but are to strict ELAC specifications. He visits the factory frequently, and mentioned that he had set up a testing lab nearly identical to what he uses at his home base at ELAC, so that any issues can be dealt with quickly and correctly.

Kurt's picture

For the title, what about:
ELAC's Debut B5 Loudspeaker Is Not "Good For the Money"

cpp's picture

Mikey what were you smoking when you wrote that title LOL

WaltonGoggins's picture

No doubt in my mind what you were up to.

Ortofan's picture

... this or the also designed by Andrew Jones Pioneer SP-FS52?
Pioneer is currently selling the floorstander for $200/pr.

OldschoolE's picture

Well, there are significant performance differences if you don’t mind a little less efficiency. The debuts perform better. If you need floor stand speakers in your situation, I’d recommend scratching up the extra $300 for a pair of Debut F5s if you can.

my new username's picture

My reply was directed at Ortofan's question, not you OldschoolE.

OldschoolE's picture

No worries, understood. For the record, the Debut F5 is the floor stand/tower cousin to the B5 and about the same size as the 52. (The 52 is also a good speaker). It's just that the Debuts will go lower (due to design of voice coil and the small compromise of efficiency). If you need at least 90dB efficiency or better for some reason, then certainly don't go with the Debut. As for application for TV watching and such it is almost an equal choice with a sub woofer added for movies and such. In other words, you can't go wrong.

my new username's picture

I've heard the SP-FS52 in person (in a living room, not Best Buy where they were purchased.)

I'm a big fan of the 52s. The mid bass is fast, clean, articulate -- something cheap speakers can't normally do. Stereophile made a big splash a few years ago with the smaller Pioneers but didn't consider these (nor their predecessors.)

I don't know if I'll ever get a chance to hear these Elacs, but am in the same buying quandary now as you. The 52s have been on my shortlist for a TV system and their slim tower design would be perfect for where they need to go.

With B5s or similar, you have to add the expense of good stands. For that reason, they actually cost more.

Strat's picture

...reminds me of all the rage over the SP-FS52. I have the Pioneers. I bought them from Amazon on December 6, 2014. I paid $119.98 for the pair. Even at that price I felt taken. This was a perfect example of how much weight the printed word can carry. They speakers back in the box and have been back in the box for some time. I thought about using them in the garage, but they're not good enough for that. I'd sell them to somebody, but I can't honestly recommend them to anyone, I'd be a liar. There were a lot more negative reviews on Amazon than there are now, they must've removed them. I'd love to hear the Elacs but I would only do so if I had a pre-paid return shipping label. Best of luck with whatever you decide to purchase.

my new username's picture

Let me know. :)

dgdeckert [at] gmail

OldschoolE's picture

Even your friends……Sure, I read almost everything on here anyway, but it even got me for a half a second before I realized that I knew what you were up to (you trouble maker you…kidding).

Yes, you would not have gotten many clicks had the title read something like, “performs well above their price point” or “These are great speakers for the money”. While all true, but they have been reviewed almost too much and with those same title accolades.

Your timing was good too as they do make great gifts and help money travel far into putting together a rather nice starter system for well south of four digits for the youngins or college dorm resident or where money is just tight.

fetuso's picture

Mickey has a habit of stealth headlines. Remeber the Kind of Blue review?

WaltonGoggins's picture

Are you aware that they've upgraded their tonearm? Details are at the blog section of their web site.

madfloyd's picture

Both are the same price. B6 has better sensitivity and goes down 2db lower... is the B5 still superior in some way?

Genez's picture

I suppose you needed to have grown up in a home with a certain kind of sense of humor.
Its not a "good" price. Its a GREAT price! lol!

filmguerilla's picture

Hi, is B6 better than this model? Planning to get B6 instead of B5..

avanti1960's picture

are analog?

simply me's picture

the soundstage? Do you have images near and far floating around the room? Would they work with a 25 wpc amp?

foxhall's picture

I used a 10 watt tube amp for a while with the B6 and the mids and highs sounded great but when I swapped back in my Parasound Halo, the ELACs sounded expensive. Yes, it's borderline ridiculous I'm using a $2,000+ amplifier with $229 speakers but I just love them.

OldschoolE's picture

Having heard these myself at least twice, I can say that where soundstage is concerned they do everything right. Bare in mind though that soundstage also has to do with setup. You can take speakers with excellent staging and make them awful if you don't setup properly. The Elac Debuts however don't have a lot of give in off-axis listening, but then many speakers, even high-priced ones don't.
A 25 WPC amp should be able to drive them depending on if the load matches (that would be the ohm rating of the speakers to the ohm rating of the amp). At 25 WPC though you would at least be squeezing the headroom. I would check all your specs first.
Just my.02

foxhall's picture

Unique title. We need more writing with fresh angles.

I think your closing statement "surprisingly satisfying, "musical" and convincing" is accurate for the B6 as well which I've been enjoying for a year now.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

This review reminds me of the small Videoton speakers from Hungary that the UK press raved about in the late 70s, early 80s. I believe they cost 35 pounds per pair. I had a pair in my 8ftx10ft bedroom. They were so much fun I blew out a bass/midrange unit. When I replaced it I found it had a superior diecast chassis (not pressed steel). I sold them when I left the UK, I wonder if they are still playing somewhere?
With the teaser title I was expecting Mikey to say the're not good the're great.
I wonder how these Elac's compare to my 15 year old Paradigm Studio Monitor 20s?

OldschoolE's picture

Hmm, Paradigm Studios are hard to beat I have to say. (I have a pair of Studio 100s v5). I don't think you could really compare the two, it could be like apples to oranges.
My opinion

Keebler's picture

I am using the B6 with a Marantz SR4023 receiver and love the soundstage with these. Well worth the price. Maybe a pair of the B5 in the near future for my son's room along with a turntable.
Thanks for the misleading title, they are just GREAT!!! says Tony the Tiger.