Let’s admit it, if money wasn’t an issue, most people would prefer buying a floorstander over a bookshelf. Why? It’s because of the ‘big’ sound. And what most people think makes that big sound is big bass. By that definition, if you give a person a bookshelf speaker that has the lower end capabilities of a floorstander for half its price, they’d be stuck between a poor deal and a fantastic one. Obviously, the real world isn’t paradise and that equation just can’t happen. Or wait, can it? Elac’s BS 184 bookshelf speakers have something that’s aimed right in that very direction, and I am going to follow them down that path to see how far they reach.
Out of the box
The shape of these bookshelf speakers haven’t changed and knowing Elac’s history, they probably won’t. That glossy black cabinet shaped like a rectangular cube, also found in Elac’s floorstanders, doesn’t look or feel all that bad—because every Elac speaker comes with the customary ribbon twitter and those silver, dustcap-less drivers, which in the case of the BS 184s amounts to one of each on the front baffle. I’ve seen this so many times that I almost feel at home when I remove an Elac pair from its box. The back panel has a reflex port on its top half while the bottom half is dedicated to the bi-wirable speaker terminals.
Sticking to convention
To start with the customary, the JET III tweeter is a ribbon high-frequency driver that’s constructed entirely beneath Elac’s roof. It’s blessed with a special Neodymium magnet system that helps in clarity even when the ribbon is rendering in the frequencies of 50kHz. The acoustic tuning element used for this tweeter is made of open-poured foam that helps in manipulating the directional and frequency response of the driver. Like I said, I’ve heard this tweeter several times in the past and though it has its ‘ribbon-ness’ in check, there are some sharp drawbacks that seem to take forever to blunt. Let’s hope the BS 184’s tweeter has ironed them out.
The silver driver is made of an aluminium sandwich combined with the damping of a cellulose layer that gives it the rigidity while keeping the flexibility for excursion to a maximum. Aluminium also gives a driver quickness and precision, both of which are solely championed by paper cone drivers but work marvelously well with aluminium too. You can tell by the surround ring that keeps the aluminium cone in place that this driver can be driven to its maximum excursion limits without harming the mechanism in any way. The cabinet has been internally stiffened to keep internal noise to a minimum. The bass port is flared so as to keep the airflow noises to a minimum. Elac also supplied a two-part bass control plug that can be plugged into the reflex port to fine-tune the bass, especially when the speakers are made to sit too close to a wall.
Blessed with a Neodymium magnet system
Thanks to our past experience with these JET III ribbon tweeters, we gave this pair a thorough break-in of about 72 hours. When I finally set them up the way I like it, I could hear a marked change in the high frequency response. The music that I’d put was really brutal—Venetian Snares’ ‘Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding’, but the tweeter did just enough to keep the rapid high-hats from pricking the ear drums. I remember the last time I’d done this with an Elac pair, the JETs just sent my ears ringing for the next two hours and I was frightened of putting the volume any higher than a quarter ways up on the amplifier. When I heard Alex Machacek’s ‘Improvisation’, I got to hear the fine details hidden in the treble, like the fingers sliding down the fret-board, the cymbals shimmering into the reverb tails and a lot more that’s just indescribable. There seems to be forwardness in the highs that you don’t get through standard tweeters, which is sometimes too shrill for the ears to take. But when you have the ribbons that are on this pair, the forwardness brings the details that were hidden from your ears earlier to the forefront. With the acoustic guitars on Kings of Convenience’s ‘Quiet Is The New Loud’, I even got to hear the fingers actually press on the fretboard. That’s something that I’ve never heard coming from bookshelf speakers.
Attempting to behave like Floorstanders
Now, for something even more spectacular—the lower-end. I can’t tell you just how deep the BS 184 can go when given the right kind of music. In Vaetxh’s single ‘Clipper’, there are several bass channels with most of them in a range that falls somewhere between 100Hz and 500Hz. But there’s this one bass channel that’s just underneath everything at a good 30Hz. This pair decided to take those frequencies on and did it with such wholesomeness and depth that I couldn’t help going over to the left speaker and watching the aluminium driver vibrate that lower end out. When I put my hand on the reflex port, the air that was coming out of them could easily run a sailboat! Now, I wouldn’t say that this negates the necessity of a subwoofer in a 5.1 environment, but if you can’t afford a sub, the BS 184s will give you enough of the lower end to help you forget your financial shortcomings.
My only real complaint with this pair is in the lower-mid range, because it’s really gotten hidden between that marvelous lower end and the detailed highs. It’s unfortunate because when you listen to a solo violin, or any string instrument for that matter, the instrument lands up sounding thin. You can’t hear the instrument body, rather you hear the tweeters doing all the work. For male artists such as Kings of Convenience, the low-mids are compensated by the 40Hz-300Hz range that gets phenomenal lower harmonics. But with female singers like Bjork, the entire chest resonance of the voice goes missing.
Verdict and price in India
The BS-184 speakers are actually on the smaller side of bookshelf speakers, so their aesthetics will surely have you believing otherwise. The JET III ribbon tweeters here are very talented and they don’t harm a single inner-ear nerve, no matter how loud you want to go. The only real trouble was the lower-mid range that just doesn’t have enough support from both the tweeter and the woofer, and that’s where you’ll have to make the call. The price tag of Rs. 48,000 is very affordable, but if it’s vocal music you’re interested in, it might seem a bit too steep. However, if you are into bass-heavy genres, you’ll be in for a ride of your life.
AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news
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Oct 27, 2016