Elac Carina BS243.4 loudspeaker Page 2

At that point, I had not received Andrew Jones's placement instructions, and the BS243.4s were about 30" from the wall behind them, measured from their cabinet backs. In search of Mel's true voice, I began moving the speakers backward—slowly. While the difference wasn't huge, every inch made a noticeable difference. When they reached 12" from the wall, the Velvet Fog was restored: I was able to enjoy the Carinas at their full tonal potential. I did all my critical listening with the BS243.4s five feet apart, on 24" Sound Anchors Reference stands, and never more than six feet from my listening position.

I experimented with loudspeaker wires from AudioQuest and Black Cat (both sounded good), but I ended up using Triode Wire Labs American Series loudspeaker cables be- cause I liked how they presented the top octaves.

Powered by the Rogue Stereo 100
The $3400, 100Wpc Rogue Stereo 100 is my day-to-day reference amplifier; it lit up the little Elacs, making them sound weighty and dynamic. Powering the BS243.4s, the Rogue made French pianist Alexandre Tharaud's instrument sound so satisfyingly solid and true-of-tone that it fueled my budding addiction to his 2017 album Barbara (44.1/24-bit FLAC, Erato-Warner Classics/Qobuz).

It is always a pleasure to discover another demonstration- quality recording and, simultaneously, become enthused with the artistry of every track on it. If you could hear, like I did, the natural density and tone of Tharaud's piano, you would be calling up your friends, begging them to come over. Like I did. (One night my Russian neighbor came by; he liked the Elacs but hated Alexandre Tharaud and "all that French cabaret nonsense.")

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Keep in mind, I was listening to these modest Elacs in my main reference system: the HoloAudio Spring DAC with Rogue Audio's RP-7 preamp and Stereo 100 amplifier. Of equal importance, I was listening from a quasi-nearfield position: Room-speaker interaction was minimal. With this setup, piano notes appeared clean and fully expressed from impact to extended decay. Bass power and definition were exceptional but not excessive. The bass alignment seemed just right. Consequently, there was sufficient bass drive and hammer-hitting-string detail to properly flesh out the left hand side of Tharaud's keyboard. Notes from Alexandre's right hand displayed satisfying amounts of percussiveness and color.

I used this recording to test the JET tweeter. Was it dull or soft? No. I thought the JET delivered high piano notes with a finely drawn attack and no blurring or ringing on overtones. A nice light filled the air throughout the treble region

With the Schiit Aegir
I had high hopes for the Carina BS243.4 with Schiit's new $799 Aegir power amplifier. If this combo could play demonstration-quality recordings with demonstration-quality sound, a better place.

I already knew the Elacs could do elegant and refined, but there remained in my mind some X-factor, some sonic issue I was not quite noticing. I felt this because, while I listened, my brain kept scanning the soundfield for anomalies, trying to decide whether the BS243.4s can focus and image with sufficient precision. I realized that, despite the Elacs' good dispersion—or perhaps because of it—toe-in was working like the focus ring on a camera lens. But unfortunately, at this point in the review, my brain could not decide when the best focus had been achieved.

Needing assistance, I played dual-mono pink noise from Stereophile's Editor's Choice test CD. Of course, before the pink noise, I listened to the "Channel Phasing" track—which I turned up loud with the 20Wpc Schiit Aegir and discovered how impressively the little Elac-Aegir combo could power the lower octaves, down to about 50Hz. (As usual in my room, the 100Hz region seemed 3–5dB up.)

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The dual-mono pink noise showed me a stable, centrally focused mass—noticeably wider than the images produced by the Falcon LS3/5a, KEF LS50, or Magnepan LRS. The tone of the noise changed very little as I moved one seat right or left from the sweet spot. The vertical window, how- ever, was much narrower: I recommend sitting with ears roughly at the height of the tweeters.

Image of the Passion
As a child, I attended a serious Wisconsin Synod Lutheran elementary school, where it was required that all students sing in the church choir. Our academic year was organized around the Christian Liturgy. As a result, I continue to respond, body, heart, and soul, to musical memorials of Christ's Passion. One of my special favorites is Passion selon St. Matthieu, composed in 1673 by Johann Theile (LP, Harmonia Mundi HMC 1159). Theile's Passion emphasizes the solo arias over the musical accompaniment, which lyrically halos Christ's words with twin violins and the other characters' monologues with continuo. The choir is supported by organ. Astonishingly, the Aegir-powered Elacs reproduced the force, scale, and mass of charged energy inside the Church of St. James, Clerkenwell, London. Few recordings capture a sense of enormous energy like this one. Few recordings locate choir, soloists, and organ with the weight and precision of this one. I absolutely did not expect the $799 Schiit Aegir and $1200 Elac BS243.4 to bring it all through like they did. A very recommendable amp-speaker combination.

With the Line Magnetic LM-518 IA
Remembering how well Elac's B6s performed with the 22Wpc Line Magnetic LM-518 IA integrated amplifier, I switched from the Schiit Aegir to the Line Magnetic, used as a power amp and driven by the Rogue Audio RP-7 preamp. The change in sound quality was not subtle.

Immediately, the BS243.4's top octaves became more transparent, spacious, and detailed.

On Alexandre Tharaud's dreamy arrangement of "Septembre" (also from Barbara), there was a trace of blur on the leading edges of piano notes, but I didn't mind at all because the extended harmonics and resonant, glowing tone of those notes was pure and radiant.

Through the Elacs, Camélia Jordana's vocals inspired admiring reverie. (I had to look her up on Google, and I now follow her on Instagram.) On this recording, the piano tone has layered depth and fragrance. Observing the piano's reverb trails stole hours from my day. Camélia's vocals were obviously flirtatious—something I hadn't noticed through my Harbeth or Falcon speakers.

Now: I can't imagine that Andrew Jones designed the BS243.4 with single-ended directly heated triodes in mind. But to my ears, this combination of $3400 single-ended 845 tube amp plus $1200/pair speaker generated some highly engaging musical magic. I believe this was caused by the relaxed character of the Elac's JET tweeter enhancing the quality of the LM-518IA's extraordinary high-frequency reproduction.

One record in my collection tells me instantly how good my system is sounding—a Kenneth Wilkinson recording that I only enjoy on systems with correct tone and exceptional resolution: Vivaldi's Gloria and Pergolesi's Magnificat, performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge directed by David Willcocks (Argo LP ZRG 505).

Only moments after lowering the Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum cartridge to the groove, it was obvious: The Elac BS243.4s could resolve supermicro information better than any speaker I know in its price range. The choir appeared as genuine little heads with faces and moving mouths, the sound of each singer unique and distinct. The voices on this record are my best tools for measuring loudspeaker distortion, and the BS243.4s seemed as clean and distortion-free as any speaker I have played this record through.

In comparison, the Harbeth P3ESRs played Vivaldi's Gloria with a fuller, more naturally saturated tone and a more dramatic sense of chapel space. The Falcon LS3/5a's made the soloists more present and lifelike—but surprisingly, the Falcons' sound was noticeably more grainy than that of the Elacs, which are extremely smooth and grain-free.

The slender Magnepan LRS panels displayed a sharper focus and more transparency than the Elacs, but the BS243.4s sailed through this complex classical music with inspiring grace and surprising power. Their 5.25" woofer did a more-than-satisfying job with the King's College organ.

Compared to the KEF LS50
To survive and prosper, I imagine the Elac BS243.4 will have to meet or exceed the unrivaled punch and coherency of the extremely popular and similarly priced ($1499/pair) KEF LS50s.

I can confess it now: When I started this review, and right up until this moment in the review process, I was not completely sold on AMT tweeters. They always seemed low distortion but also low excitement. Maybe I've become accustomed to tweeters with a little resonant zing?

That prejudice is gone now. In audio analysis, sequence is everything, and when I switched from the JET to KEF's Uni-Q tweeter, I could finally observe the slight bluntness KEF's ribbed dome lends to the LS50's high frequencies. Suddenly, I could sense the Uni-Q homogenizing voices in the choir. In comparison, Elac's JET tweeter seemed more precise, but also a little rolled off.

The best tweeter is the one I can't hear; on Gloria, the JET folded ribbon seemed completely inaudible, which made the KEF dome seem very subtly but distinctly audible. However, this comparison also showed me that the LS50 had considerably more punch and drive—especially through the upper bass and lower midrange. Overall, the Elac felt refined while the KEF felt vigorous.

Truths be told
In a confession booth or while handling snakes by a pulpit, I'd have to swear: Elac's new Carina BS243.4 loudspeaker sounded more refined than any similarly priced loudspeaker I know of. Mainly, though, the stand-mounted Elac's greatest virtue is its supersmooth octave-to-octave balance. Throughout my review process, the word elegant kept forcing itself on me. Bravo, Andrew and Elac!

COMPANY INFO
Elac Electroacoustic GmbH
US distributor: ELAC Americas LLC
11145 Knott Ave., Suites E & F
Cypress, CA 90630
(714 ) 252-8843
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be HR could also review the new Polk Audio L-100 bookshelf/stand-mount speakers ($1,200/pair) ..... L-100s were favorably mentioned by RS, in a recent dealer demo ....... L-100s are in the same price range as KEF LS-50 and the Elac Carina bookshelf/stand-mount speakers :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BS243.4? ....... Their marketing department has great imagination in selecting their model designations :-) .......

partain's picture

Hence the BS .

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Measurements of Carina AMT tweeters look better than GoldenEar AMT tweeters :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile measurements of Adam Audio AMT tweeters are also pretty good :-) .........

Ortofan's picture

... speakers "sounded more refined than any similarly priced loudspeaker I know of" and that "the word elegant kept forcing itself on me."

But, does he remember stating that the comparably priced Wharfedale Linton Heritage speakers "merge a refined, elegantly detailed, full-range sound with a magnetic personality that made me want to play records—made me want to listen longer, and to understand more of what I was listening to?"

https://www.stereophile.com/content/wharfedale-linton-heritage-loudspeaker-page-2

So HR, if the sound quality of both speakers is refined and elegant, do the ELAC Carina speakers also have that certain "magnetic personality" factor that makes you want to play records and listen longer - or not?

Or, could you be tempted by a pair of JBL Studio 590 speakers, presently on sale for only $880/pr.?

https://www.jbl.com/home-audio/STUDIO+590.html?cgid=home-audio&dwvar_STUDIO%20590_color=Black-USA-Support#start=1

Herb Reichert's picture

I choose my words very carefully

hr

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Refined and elegant without 'magnetic personality', could also mean boring ........ Who wants to go out on a date with a boring person? ........ You want that person to have a 'magnetic personality', also ....... Just a thought :-) .........

er1c's picture

and as always the gentleman poet of audio reviews. I wait for your articles and they are always kind and informative. My Kef LS50 Black Edition and (recent) Rogue Sphinx V3 are my current hot date, and that, thanks to you. Long may you write. (and paint)

Herb Reichert's picture

I am humbled and inspired by your kind words.

thank you and may 2020 be kind to us all

hr

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May HR also keep recommending 'hot dates' in audio equipment till 2050 :-) .........

Long-time listener's picture

These are the kind of speakers I'd go out and just buy without even hearing them--except for two things. First, I'd be happier if that base was metal, rather than plastic. But more importantly, a 6.5" woofer rather than a 5.5" one, with a slightly larger cabinet, would give greater bass extension and would make this a more useful speaker, as far as I'm concerned. I wonder why ELAC made their only bookshelf speaker in the range such a small one?

jimtavegia's picture

At this price range I would not have expected fig 4 to look this excellent. Even the cross-over graphs do not show the huge dips the crossover regions we normally see.

Long-time listener's picture

I can't think of any speakers I've seen measured in Stereophile recently that had a "huge" dip in the crossover region. And for my part, a "slight" dip in the upper-midrange/lower-treble (or presence) region would often be welcome. The Dynaudio Special 40 lacked such a dip, and in addition, had off-axis emphasis in this region, and the result was an unpleasant upper-midrange emphasis. The speaker was in many other respects excellent but I sold my pair because there's nothing like an upper-midrange emphasis to make a speaker sound "hot," "aggressive," or unpleasantly forward. I very much look forward to the return of the mild British presence-region dip, because they were tuning speakers by what sounds good, not by what microphones say is flat.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Recently reviewed Wilson Sasha DAW has a -5 db BBC dip in the presence region from 1 kHz to 5 kHz :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Could this Elac Carina bookshelf model be the first Elac bookshelf model to make it to the Stereophile Class-A limited LF? ........ Stay tuned to this same channel :-) .......

JRT's picture

Nicely done.

(12/29) edit: My first reaction stands, but... I think there is some room for some inexpensive improvement, in that I think it could well use a wide rectangular waveguide on the tweeter, out to the full width of the baffle, to better control the tweeter's directivity, most especially the horizontal directivity over most of the tweeter's passband and down into its highpass stopband, and perhaps to widen directivity at higher frequencies, and to provide a little more tweeter sensitivity with some useful boost to excursion limited SPL for a slightly lower crossover frequency.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

After designing and making 5000 different model bookshelf speakers at different price points, Andrew Jones seems to have finally made a Class-A bookshelf speaker at a reasonable price :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The only downside is (if, any) some side wall resonances in the upper midrange (see, Fig 2) :-) .........

mememe2's picture

Liked the review but baffled by all of the incorrectly hyphenated words. Is this a result of some automatic editing function in some program? e.g. - audio-designer, cheap-vinyl-covered booxes, front-side, com- pound curvature, super-focused image. high-speed, high-volume air movement. There are more littered throughout the review. What gives?

John Atkinson's picture
mememe2 wrote:
Liked the review but baffled by all of the incorrectly hyphenated words. Is this a result of some automatic editing function in some program?

No, it's old-fashioned human error on my part. I prepare the web reprints of the magazine's content by working from the finalized files that are sent to the printer. These hyphens creep in where was a word-break in the print version and I have to manually delete them. Obviously I missed some :-(

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

What's old-fashioned about your human error ? ( which I never seem to notice or bother trying to notice. for gods sake )

If you error, I'd have to say it's on the side of nit picking accuracte descriptiveness .

However, punctuation and ly ending words aside, this publication seems as captivating a read as John Grisham, Michael Connelly & LeCarre, considering it's a technical journal and not a Literary adventure.

Technically I'd "like" to see Stereophile continue doing in-depth Manufacture articles that take readership deep into our well loved outfits like Magnepan, PS Audio, etc. ( even Schiit )

Overall, perfection is over-rated and probably a symptom of a serious personality disorder.

Tony in Venice

ps. I'm hunting down a book on proper use of hyphens.

mememe2's picture

Don't believe in perfection either. How could I, since I'm into music and gear. And no person alive has one side of their face (or body) exactly the same as the other. We all live with im-perfection.

JRT's picture
Tony_Kaz_a_Florida-man_living_in_Venice wrote:

"I'm hunting down a book on proper use of hyphens."

Here is a link to the website of the Friends of the Venice Public Library, including address and map.

https://venicefriends.org/

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for the suggestion, I've been a Patron of the Sarasota County Library System for most of 2019.

I'll find something British on hyphens, they invented the dam things, didn't they? ( of course it was left up to us Americans to improve/refine the language's usefulness & utility )

Tony in Venice

ps. this little hunt-adventure is already pretty far back on my burners.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Brits invented dam English ...... Now it is up to US to perfect it :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Perfection is not attainable ..... but, if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence" ........ Vince Lombardi :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

They never quite caught up with Vince's philosophy, did they. We still talk about Lombardi, back home in Wisconsin, after all these decades. Hmm This shows how little Wisconsin is up-to.

Tony in Venice

ps. My Dear Mother is buried in Manatowoc and I need to visit her one more time before I join her. My people are buried there since the 1850s. Phew!! Six Generations starting 1847

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Packers NFL record this season is 12-3, so far ........ They can clinch the NFC North championship title this season and are definetly gonna make to the Playoffs, this season :-) ......

tonykaz's picture

How did you become a Green Bay Fan ??

I'm from Manatowoc, so, I have reason. Yet, I'm not any sort of NFL fan.

If I had to choose a Team, I'd choose my Packers, I suppose, for birth origins reasons.

My grandparents did business with the Lombardis in the 1940s, everyone was small town people in those days.

Tony in Venice

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I'm not a Packers fan per se ...... I follow all the NFL teams during their entire season ....... I'm a football fan, in addition to other types of games :-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Sorry to say, Detroit Lions are not doing very well this season :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

There is a good reason why the NFL final championship game trophy, the Super Bowl trophy is named as The Vince Lombardi Trophy :-) .......

eriks's picture

Sorry Herb, but with Be, Ti and AMT tweeters I've heard good and I've heard terrible. Was it the material or the implementation?

The best in all categories disappear and sound like nothing at all. If you can tell the type of tweeter by listening to it, it isn't a very good tweeter.

Best,

E

Ktracho's picture

How well do these speakers work on a desktop for near field listening? I'd love to get something like LS3/5a type speakers, but these seem like a potentially less expensive alternative.

Herb Reichert's picture

the Elecs were a too big for my desk; but I would bet some headphones they would work quite well about 12" from the wall behind them.

That being said, for decades, I used my Rogers LS3/5a just above my desk (with factory wall-mounts) and found them to be one of most satisfying speakers I have owned.

hr

David Harper's picture

My ELAC B6 speakers are now in an upstairs closet due to their having been displaced by a new pair of Maggie LRS speakers. Recently I got them out, reconnected them alongside the maggies, and gave them a listen. They were the same speakers I had listened to for a few years past, but now, for the first time, I heard two distinct things I had not noticed at all before getting the maggies. First, the treble had a gritty metallic distortion and second the mids sounded as if they were coming out of a horn. They were still excellent speakers for their price and the inherent limitations of dynamic drivers in a wooden box. But they gave me a new appreciation for the maggies. I wonder how the ELAC AMT tweeters would compare with the Raidho ribbons. That would be a good shootout. Forty years ago I owned a pair of ESS speakers with AMT drivers and I remember them being the smoothest sounding speakers I ever heard. But now I find nothing compares with the maggie LRS (except for electrostats which I dislike for reasons having nothing to do with SQ). And best of all, 700 dollars!!!! Oh, and a new Schiit Vidar amp too.

ajkwak's picture

Carina or Quad S2?

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