ELAC Navis ARF-51 Active Loudspeaker

hfnoutstandingThe new ELAC Navis 'powered speaker' series is a slick system alternative, whether or not you use it wirelessly

As one of the largest-scale speaker manufacturers around, US/German company ELAC has what can sometimes seem like a baffling range, all the way from very affordable mini-monitors and 'subwoofer and satellites' packages right the way up to very high-end floorstanding designs. And apart from the sheer breadth of the lineup, this diversity allows it to explore a variety of technologies: in this range there's no signs of a 'one design fits all, just in different scales' approach.

One striking example is the new Navis series, combining what the company calls 'powered' speakers with the option of wireless communication, and available in standmount and floorstanding flavours. The smaller two-way ARB-51 sells for £1795 a pair, while the ARF-51 is nearly twice the price, at £3590, with both models available in a choice of gloss black or white, or Ebony Emara wood finish should you prefer a more 'old school' speaker look.

The optional Navis Transmitter Air X2, which allows the speakers to be used wirelessly – well, without any physical connection other than mains supply – is just £129, or the speakers can be partnered with the Discovery Connect DSC-101W-G supplied with the review pair, at £399.

Track Record
This is far from the first powered/wireless design from ELAC, but the Navis series is different. Rather than being the work of ELAC HQ, it's been designed by the US arm of the company, and more specifically by Andrew Jones.

Now Vice President of Engineering at ELAC America, where he heads up a dedicated design facility in California, Jones has a well-respected track record extending back through KEF, Infinity, TAD and Pioneer, and a reputation for designing speakers able to perform well beyond their price. He set out his stall soon after arriving at ELAC with the little B5 and B6 speakers [HFN May '16], the B5 selling for $230/pr!

So the Navis series is very much a Jones design, and the ARF-51 certainly cuts an impressive figure in its gloss black finish, standing just over a metre tall yet slim at just under 19cm wide. And the speaker feels reassuringly solid, not just due to the fit and finish of its drivers, cabinet and bolt-on stabilising plate/plinth, which spreads the footprint of the speaker for greater stability and accepts the spikes. The all-up fighting weight of the speaker is just over 20kg, with stability further assisted by the location of all the electronics toward the base of the enclosure.


Active Design
The driver complement kicks off with a concentric treble/mid unit, the 25mm soft-dome tweeter being mounted centrally within a 10cm aluminium-cone midrange for enhanced integration and focus, both the shape of the mid cone and a mesh grille helping control the tweeter's dispersion. Below that sits a pair of 13.5cm bass units, again with aluminium cones, while within the speaker are the amplifiers for each driver. These comprise a 160W BASH (Bridged Amplifier Switching Hybrid) module for the bass, a similar 100W amp for the midband, and a 40W conventional Class AB amplifier that drives the tweeter.

ELAC may, rather modestly, describe these speakers as being 'powered', but by any accepted use of the term this is an active design, with separate amps for each drive unit, and a user-adjustable electronic crossover. There are ±1dB adjustments for the mid and treble, a +1/–4dB selector for the bass, and also a 60Hz/80Hz/flat high-pass filter, handy should you want to use the speaker in conjunction with a subwoofer. The idea here is that – at least when used wired – the speakers are 'analogue in, analogue out', with no digital intervention in the signal path. It's worth noting that the amps used here are all analogue, including the BASH modules for the midrange and bass, which combine a modulated switching power supply with a conventional Class B amplifier [see Investigation, HFN Feb '15].

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