When we looked at the ELAC B6, it offered better performance for its price than any other bookshelf speaker we had heard. They do well with all genres of music, from classic rock to alternative, classical to pop. The ELAC B4 is the newest member of the Debut line, only with a 4” woofer instead of the 6.5” woofer of the B6. Otherwise the speakers seem almost identical: same binding posts, same vinyl wrap, same grill only smaller. The B4 also performs very well, only it isn’t a speaker I’d likely recommend to most people except in specific cases.
This is a shorter review, as we’ve covered the B6 in-depth in our prior review and the B4 is very similar.
ELAC B4 Listening Comparisons
I compared the ELAC B4 to the two speakers I think it is directly comparable to: The ELAC B6 and the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR bookshelf speaker. The Pioneer bookshelf is also designed by Andrew Jones and features a 4” woofer. When compared to the B4, I find that the Pioneer has a more finished appearance, with nicer vinyl wrap and curved sides. It also sells for $130, but often goes on sale for $90 or even less. The B4 comes in at $180 a pair while the B6 is $280 a pair.
Compared to the Pioneer, the B4 offers improvements in bass, soundstage, and detail. Switching between the two speakers, Diana Krall has a bit more space around her and the instruments have better definition on the B4. The bass that opens Mezzanine from Massive Attack is better defined on the B4 and goes a bit lower. That said, the differences are not huge. If the price difference between the two speakers is $50, then I lean towards the ELAC. If the difference is $90 or $130 (I paid $60 for my Pioneer speakers), then the Pioneer offers a better value.
Moving to the B6, the ELAC B4 gets outclassed here. The opening of Tori Amos’ “Caught a Light Sneeze” is far more impressive on the B6. The drums have more depth and texture, and you find yourself just missing notes on the B4. Whereas the B4 isn’t worth $100 more than the Pioneer in my view, the B6 is easily worth $100 more than the B4. With its larger woofer, and larger cabinet, the B6 can do things the B4 can only hope to do.
Perhaps the ideal place for the B4 is as surrounds in a multi-channel system. In these cases, you are sending the lower octaves to a subwoofer anyway, so the benefits of the B6 are not as great. The tweeter will still be a vocal match to the other ELAC speakers in the front, and you will save $50-100 a pair over the B5 and B6 models. The only issues with the ELAC speakers as surrounds is they are rear ported, so you’ll want to keep it a bit away from the wall.
Good speaker, so-so value
The real problem with the ELAC B4 bookshelf speaker is the other speakers that Andrew Jones has designed. His Pioneer bookshelf speaker offers very good performance in a similar size box, but costs a good bit less. The ELAC B6 offers better performance, and is close enough in price that I’m more likely to save up and buy it instead. As a surround, or in a system with a subwoofer, the B4 will offer a better value. The ELAC isn’t a bad speaker, there are just other models that might work better for most people.