What happens when real science builds a speaker.
As one who is of limited means, like most of us and does not consider himself an audiophile and who is not a professional reporter or even a reporter at all, I bravely attended the annual high-end audio event called “THE Show Newport” back in May/June 2015 (sometimes I wonder what I am doing). While roaming the halls I kept hearing about “The ELAC room”. People could not stop talking about it, I kept hearing folks asking and telling each other, “Have you been to the ELAC room” and “oh, you have to go check out the ELAC room”, almost like an echo. It wasn’t due to some chain of events brought to you by Murphy’s law or because there was anything flashy going on. No, it was about awe and wonder, it was about a myth busting stack of proof from something totally unassuming and humble, something that had to be heard to be believed. It was a simple pair of small bookshelf speakers from two names, one is rarely mentioned or known about these days and the other is more famous and known.
I made my way to the room turning into a “must do” event. It was really two rooms, one was demonstrating or auditioning a pair of speakers and the other was a static display of the line up from whence the demo pair came. I walked into the static display room first wondering what the story was. There were a couple of people there talking and a table full of literature about the speakers on display. I was not prepared for the shock awaiting me. I turned and walked into the room next door after realizing one of the models was in demo there. As I walked in I did not see the speakers immediately due to the layout of the room, but I heard what I assumed to be floor standing speakers. As I rounded and peaked around the corner I saw a room full of people, a rep holding a tablet of some sort and a pair of small two-way speakers named the B-5 model being driven by a tiny BelCanto integrated amp. My mind was wondering where the floor standing speakers or at least the sub woofer was hiding, but my eyes were seeing only what I just described.
I was standing off axis, but still able to get the idea very well of what I was hearing. (Regretfully, I could only spend a few minutes in the room as being a non-professional, I was trying to squeeze a three-day event into one). What I heard was something I could not get my head around right away, but my mind was officially blown (especially after hearing several much higher priced speakers before-hand) and realizing almost either no difference or in some cases even slightly better performance by these little bookshelf speakers.
I went back to the static room (dragging my jaw along the floor) and was greeted by Chris Walker, Vice president of product development at ELAC North America. He had a big smile and a look that stated he had seen hundreds of folks before me with the same reaction. (A doctor specializing in jaw replacement would have had a field day).
He proceeded to show me the line up and was answering my questions and everything, nice as you please. He told me that the speakers were designed by Andrew Jones, a name lots of folks are familiar with and I myself knew of him from the Pioneer speakers he designed. Mr. Walker already knew I was not with the industry or anything (because it is the first thing out of my mouth when I meet anyone), but decided to shock me again by inviting me to visit ELAC North America HQ.
After spending a couple of months asking myself how it came to be that he picked me to invite and learning I lived close by, I decided to take him up on it. I called and made the arrangements and taking the day off work for this momentous occasion I headed down Friday August 7, 2015.
I arrived at the unassuming location. A pair of suites in a business park, no sign on the doors or anything. This was a new place for them, only functional since about February. It was an open expanse, a blank wall in front, just a conference table and an office on one side and two offices on the other. Chris came out to greet me and straight away showed me to the office of Andrew Jones. I wound up spending the next 3 hours with Mr. Jones getting an education money can’t buy.
Much of what we talked about was technical and while I was glad I had a semester or two of physics under my belt from years ago, I am not able to articulate all that stuff in a way most would understand, so I will need to keep it basic and on point with general stuff. I’ll do my best. (Continued on page 2 below)