The Best $600 Speakers In This Part of the Galaxy
Reseñado en los Estados Unidos el 28 de marzo de 2021
• I've auditioned quite a few "bookshelf" speakers in this price range recently, and even purchased a couple. The ELAC UB52 pair are the clear winners. Hands down. Slam dunk. Mike drop.
• After reading & watching scores of reviews, and listening to several promising candidates in stores, I thought that I'd landed on a set of main speakers for my smallish "music room", the KEF Q150. So, I bought a pair of white ones at the end of the holiday 50% off sale. I went out for ice cream with a bounce in my step and a colorful mask on my face. After they arrived (almost a month later), I broke them in for a week or so, and experimented with room placement, height, toe-in, etc. I then did a basic calibration and settled in for some serious listening. There were a couple of nagging issues that I was never able to resolve, despite more than 4 days of almost nonstop measure-adjust-remeasure-listen cycles. Issue 1: They got harsh at higher volume levels, despite being mellow otherwise. Issue 2: Around 3200 Hz, their musical output dropped, and was replaced with an audible "chuffing" sound. The sound seemed to be caused by a rubbing at the junction of the cone and concentric tweeter. Was this also happening at other frequencies, but being masked by the audio? I couldn't seem to find solutions, and was unwilling to live with the issues. So, a-shopping I went again.
• I hadn't auditioned the Elac UB52 model. They were starting to get some serious attention by several respected YouTube reviewers. I caught the beginning of this wave (thanks, Randy "CheapAudioMan"!) right after ordering the KEFs, which were backordered. But, hey, the ELACs were twice the price of what I'd paid for the KEFs. Decisions, decisions. Then I saw a UB52 pair for about $475 (vs $599) as an Amazon "packaging damaged" warehouse deal. I pulled the trigger.
• The ELAC replacements arrived in perfect condition (and the box was in pretty good shape, too). I quickly swapped the speakers, set all equalization to "flat", and threw on an album that I'd been listening to on the KEFs repeatedly for a month (The Decemberists, "The Crane Wife"). The ELACs are reported as being neutral. Golly were they! Everything was there, and in balance. Plus, they imaged as well or better than the KEFs (the ELACs also have a concentric midrange-tweeter pair). I quickly cycled through the test music from the previous month—all of it sounded absolutely fantastic. Even at higher-than-you-really-want levels, they remained smooth and clear. No honking, no buzzing, and—you guessed it—no chafing. I ordered a "Happy Camper" t-shirt and arranged to return the KEFs.
• Celebrity loudspeaker designer Andrew Jones had worked at KEF when they developed the Uni-Q family of concentric drivers. He left there and joined Pioneer, where he learned to work within a very tight budget. The speakers he designed there raised a lot of eyebrows, and—in my estimation—kicked off a race to quality in the budget loudspeaker category. When he left Pioneer for German firm ELAC, he found a company that wanted to up their loudspeaker game at every price point. He used a trickle-down/trickle-up approach, solidly anchored in the mid-tier. The UB52 is his second generation in the lower mid-tier category. They employ totally new, custom-engineered drivers with quality crossover components. Where they cut costs is the cabinet materials, input terminals, and grill.
• So, if you think the ELAC UB52s are ugly, just make—or have someone else make—new cabinets for them (of the same internal volume). Knock yourself out. Then, you'd have the best bookshelf speakers under $1200. Either way, you'll find yourself listening to a lot more music with your eyes closed and a little grin on your face. That can make staying inside a destination.
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