The toughest challenge for small speakers is usually with large scale music, and so it proved here. I threw at it the full weight of a large orchestra in the form of Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 [Naxos 8.572461] from the marvellous new recording from Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. The speakers had no problem keeping up with the very rapid pace of the famous second movement (a musical portrait of Joseph Stalin) and offered spectacular imaging. However there was a lack of body in the strings, the brass was a little tamer than ideal and the dynamics did not have as much range as I would like, leading to a general diminution of the excitement level. Mozart’s wonderful Divertimento [Philips 5144852], a much smaller scale piece but with wide ranges of expressiveness, brings a similar story. Wonderful imaging, slightly thin string tone, excellent timing but less than ideally dynamic.
They did very well with jazz. “You’d be so Good to Come Home to” on Art Pepper meets the Rhythm Section [Contemporary OJCCD-338] highlights the fine tweeter performance with exquisite results on the strong percussive leads, and a delicious sounding alto-sax from the temperamental Art Pepper. This is an exceptional sounding disk from the early days of stereo (1957), and the Rhythm Section in question is Miles Davis’ own, the best in the business. The bass is fast and tuneful although shaded down somewhat compared to larger speakers. There is a superb balance and no sense of strain whatever the volume level. An excellent achievement all round. Diana Krall’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from her early album All for you [Justin Time JTR 84582] usually brings out the best in speakers and in this case the presentation is gentle with an excellent vocal track showing a lot of subtle detail. The image is very intimate and the guitar sings like another human voice. The piano has sparkle and attack while lacking a little in body.
I was present at Ali Farka Toure’s last concert tour before his retirement and have always held him in high regard. From his crossover album Talking Timbuktu with Ry Cooder [World Circuit HNCD 1381] I selected the opening track “Bonde”. The response speed of this speaker is truly remarkable here, and it’s not just the tweeter but the main driver too that shines. Imaging remains top notch and the strong heartbeat propels the music along. The presentation, as in the classical recordings, is on the cool side, no sugar added.
You can’t help but be moved by Eric Clapton’s “Tears in heaven” from his Unplugged album [Reprise CDW 45024]. The low level triangle notes are clearer and cleaner here than almost any other speaker can manage. Deep bass is strong but a little loose, while transient response is clean and quick. You hear that familiar soulful voice but coming through a little lighter than usual. A strong showing overall. Switching to Paul Simon’s 2011 album So Beautiful or So What [Hear Music HRM 32814-02] I picked two tracks, “Getting Ready for Christmas Day” and “Dazzling Blue”. The ELAC could not match the punch of the floorstanding Monitor Audio Silver 8 which I will be reviewing next, but the vocals were stronger and the all important midrange more prominent. The level of detail is good, the exotic rhythms very effectively reproduced (there’s that tweeter again) while the deep bass is at a reduced level and lacks the precision of the Monitor Audio.
The ELAC BS 244 BE is the larger of two bookshelf speakers in the range, the smaller being the BS 243 BE ($2,200), and the range also includes 3 floorstanding models, the BS 247 BE ($4,200), BS 248 BE ($6,400) and the top model BS 249 BE ($8,000). You can get a matching centre channel model, the CC 241 BE for $1,550. All models share similar technology and can be used together to build a formidable A/V setup.
This is a speaker I have grown to respect and appreciate over its extended stay in my system. Once dialed in, it proved to offer good value for money, excellent performance for its size and to have standout abilities in terms of the refined nature of its top end, its pin point imaging and its ability to produce a big sound without distortion. As always, try to hear it in your own home and see how well it does there rather than in the store. There are a number of excellent speakers at this price point each with its own strengths and weaknesses. One may be warmer, another may dig deeper, some may offer greater dynamics, but this model with its superb imaging and high build quality may be just what you are looking for.
Advertisement: Shop for ELAC loudspeakers at the CANADA HiFi Shop (novo.press/shop).
Distributed in Canada by Rutherford Audio
ELAC BS 244 Black Edition Bookshelf Speakers
Price: $2,800 CAD