ELAC Adante AF-61 loudspeaker Page 2

It’s easy to tell when you’ve got things right though, for the sound snaps into focus and the bass suddenly makes sense. The company claims a 87dB sensitivity for the AF-61 [see KH's Lab Report] but it was clear on audition that it likes a good, powerful solid-state amplifier – the Nagra HD monoblocks and Constellation Taurus were spectacularly overkill, downwind of a dCS Vivaldi One player.

sqnote.jpgQuick On Its Feet
If you’ve owned ELAC speakers before, then the general cleanliness and airiness of the Adante AF-61 may surprise you. It has a distinctly open and extended sound that owes little to the past – it is fast, explicit and involving, with an evenness that’s highly impressive. Furthermore, the way it fills the room with a wide-open and very assured sound is quite something. Indeed, there are faint echoes of a big KEF Reference series of yore, albeit with more agile and modern drive units that are less inclined to sit on transient details.

Sir Elton John’s ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ [Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; MFSL UDCD 526] is a case in point. This is a great slice of early ’70s rock that buzzes with energy, powered by his piano wizardry, and high voltage electric guitar, then given added impetus by his cranked up staccato vocals. The Adante AF-61 is absolutely in its element with this sort of power pop, delivering a wide soundstage inside which every strand of the recording is captured with impressive clarity.

718elac.bac.jpgSpooky Soundstage
Images were locked in space and backing instruments easily heard through the dense and compressed mix. His vocal work was forward of the instrumental melee, hanging above the proceedings imperiously and sounding very clean – albeit just a touch dry in tone. But I could hear Sir Elton’s every last vocal inflection, making the recording sound eerily open and direct. As the cranked up fuzzbox-drenched electric guitars kicked in, it was obvious that they were forward of the rest of mix, when so often they’re just buried back in the middle distance. For a floorstanding speaker of its modest – in high-end terms – price, its soundstaging was seriously impressive.

The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Being Boring’ [Behaviour; Parlophone CDPCSD 113] hailed from 15 or so years later and is – aside from vocals – totally electronic. In this case the speaker’s great spaciousness and panorama were still there, ensuring the Adante AF-61’s deftness of touch with rhythms really shone through.

This is a multi-layered piece, with harmonies set behind multiple layers of synthesisers and a drum machine punching out a beat that’s very much in the style of then-fashionable indie-dance. Here the AF-61 deftly captured the interplay between the bass drum, snare and cymbals, making for a most propulsive listen and investing the music with a real sense of direction and purpose.

Tonally, this big ELAC is impressive too, though I wouldn’t say it’s the speaker’s strongest suit. I cued-up some sunny latin-jazz, ready to bask in the louche strains of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ [Getz/Gilberto; MFSL 1-208] and lots of fun ensued, with much foot-tapping going on – although I felt the Adante AF-61 couldn’t quite capture the warmth of the track. It would be unkind to call this loudspeaker clinical, but it is certainly on the ‘cool’ side of neutral. So the midband and treble are very clean – admirably so – even if they don’t always quite nail all of the richness of colour that’s present on a recording.

Seamless Transitions
This doesn’t detract from the AF-61’s superb wideband delivery – the double-bass was strong and animated, lacking no physical heft, just as ride cymbals and other assorted percussion were carried in a delicate and extended way. Best of all was the seamlessness of the sound. For a loudspeaker with so many drive units and passive radiators fitted, it was a triumph. So, the song’s famous sax solo was beautifully carried, with a super smooth transition between treble and midband drivers.

Indeed, the great strength of the Adante AF-61 is its overall cohesion, for it remains pretty much unflustered by the type of music that you play, or the volume-setting that you choose to play it.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
This isn’t just a mid-life range refresh. ELAC’s new Adante AF-61 is a highly sophisticated design, with ingenious engineering in evidence. The result is an extraordinarily capable floorstander for the money – with power, poise, detail, space and rhythm. It is ‘affordable esoterica’ – had it come more lavishly finished in a fancier cabinet, some would happily pay three times the price for this sort of sound.

ELAC Electroacustic GmbH
Kiel, Germany
Supplied by: Hi-Fi Network, Gloucestershire, UK
01285 643088