ELAC B6 Speaker Review

Andrew Jones is quite the name in speaker circles. Some know him from his work at TAD, producing some of the best speakers on the market regardless of price. Many more know him from his affordable line of speakers for Pioneer. I got to know him with his line of Dolby Atmos speakers for Pioneer that feature concentric drivers. Now, he is working with ELAC and has produced a brand new line of speakers for them.

The Debut line from ELAC is very affordable, and with the $280 a pair B6 bookshelf it does better than any speaker I’ve heard for the price. The exterior might be a bit plain, but the sound out-performs any bookshelf speaker I’ve heard from the $400 price range and below. Unless you’re willing to spend twice as much money per speaker, you aren’t going to do better than the ELAC B6 today.

Specs
Manufacturer: ELAC
Model: B6
Drivers: 1" Dome Tweeter, 6.5" Mid/Woofer
Dimensions: 8.5" x 14" x 10"
Weight: 14.3 lbs.
Review Date: December 23, 2015
Price: $249.98
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Five speakers and three subwoofers comprise the Debut line from ELAC. There are two bookshelves, with either a 5.25” mid/woofer or a 6.5” mid/woofer, a tower with 3×5.25” mid/woofers, a center with dual 5.25” mid/woofers, and an Atmos module with a 4” mid/woofer. There is an entry-level $250 10” subwoofer, the S10, and then the S10 EQ and S12 EQ that include a built-in equalizer to correct for room issues. Even if you put together a full 7.1.4 channel Dolby Atmos and DTS:X system with the Debut speakers, you’d be paying under $2,500 for all of them.

Listening and Comparisons

For my review I just stuck with a single pair of the B6 bookshelves. With a 6.5” woofer and a 1” tweeter they are rated for frequency response down to 44Hz. Having spent weeks this year comparing almost two-dozen bookshelf speakers for The Wirecutter, I had a lot of experience with speakers in this price range. I also had my two favorites from that testing on hand: The $130 Andrew Jones designed Pioneer bookshelf, and the winning $400 Dali Zensor 1. With the B6 falling right between these two in price, it was certainly going to be interesting to see how well they stacked up.

When it comes to the physical appearance, the Dali clearly shows a level of design above the Pioneer and ELAC models. It is a bit more compact, and looks like a more expensive speaker. The ELAC B6 finish is as plain and functional as you can get. The vinyl wrap is less pleasing to the eye and the touch, and the cabinet sounds a bit less solid when you knock on it. The Pioneer has a very nice appearance for the price, with a curve that tapers towards the rear of the speaker. So the ELAC B6 isn’t really a winner in the looks department, but most of us care more about how a speaker sounds than how it looks.

Pioneer, ELAC, and Dali Speakers

Pioneer, ELAC, and Dali Speakers

Once I hooked all the speakers up and listened to them all, the ELAC B6 showed the work put into it by Andrew Jones. The older Pioneer was instantly outclassed by the much larger and more expensive B6. Better bass, better detail, and a larger soundstage helped place it on a level far above what the Pioneer can offer. The Pioneer is a great little speaker for $130, but the B6 sounds much better than it does in every way.

Pioneer, ELAC, and Dali Speakers

Pioneer, ELAC, and Dali Speakers

With the Dali, the comparison is much closer. Surprisingly the Dali kept up in the bass department despite the smaller woofer. Listening to “Angel” from Massive Attack over and over, it was very hard to distinguish the bass response of the two models. When it comes to clarity and detail with vocals it also came up a tie. I didn’t have a speaker switch with adjustable levels to compare them instantly, but could swap between models in around 15 seconds. Relying on my audio memory for that short of a period, I struggled to choose one over the other.

Just to verify this I added in my personal KEF R300 bookshelf speakers. Once I had those, it was easy to tell the benefits of them in comparison to the ELAC or Dali. My ears weren’t failing me, the Dali and the ELAC are just very close in performance. Of course, with the ELAC selling for $120 less a pair, they certainly aren’t close in price. Even if the ELAC was only delivering 90-95% of the performance of the Dali, it was doing so at 70% of the price.

Conclusions

I’ve been recommending the Pioneer speakers by Andrew Jones since they were released. For the price, nothing sounded better and it was a great place to start. With his new speaker lineup from ELAC, I now will be recommending them instead if you can afford it. For $280 you aren’t going to find a better sounding bookshelf speaker today. If you want to start with a bookshelf and expand out to a Dolby Atmos theater, the lineup has you covered there as well.

The only reason I’d pick the Dali Zensor over the ELAC today is if I needed a more compact model, or wanted it in a different finish. The Dali comes in black, white, and light walnut finishes while the ELAC is limited to black. However you can’t get a Atmos module for the Dali, and you’re paying a big price premium. For almost everyone, the ELAC is the better choice and I look forward to seeing what else Andrew Jones and ELAC can create in the future. Highly recommended.

Review Summary
Product: ELAC B6
Reviewer:
Pros: Fantastic sound for the price, good bass and soundstage, full range available for home theater use
Cons: Design is pedestrian, basic box in a basic vinyl wrap
Summary: They aren't the prettiest speakers on the market, but they might just be the best value. The ELAC B6 bookshelf sounds better than any speakers I've heard under $400 and sets a new benchmark for value.
Value: 5/5
Performance: 3.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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25 Responses to ELAC B6 Speaker Review

  1. John D. December 24, 2015 at 6:39 AM #

    May I ask if your above statement holds true considering that the Street Price of the Infinity Primus P163 is only $200 pair (List is $320 pair) – “For $280 you aren’t going to find a better sounding bookshelf speaker”.

    • Chris Heinonen December 24, 2015 at 6:47 AM #

      When we were doing the bookshelf speaker comparison for Wirecutter, we didn’t listen to the P163 as when we talked to people that had heard both, they all preferred the Pioneer BP22 over it. The ELAC B6 is a much better speaker than the BP22 in all regards, other than the exterior design, so I can’t imagine the P163 would be competitive with it then.

      • John D. December 24, 2015 at 7:34 AM #

        Ahhh OK, interesting. Well in that case a Listening session of the B6 I will surely plan to do. Thank you!

  2. bob December 31, 2015 at 8:02 AM #

    I enjoyed your review. Thank you. I’m curious: How does the Elac B6 compare to your KEF R300 speakers–and the KEF Q100 and KEF Q300 speakers? Thank you again.

    • Chris Heinonen December 31, 2015 at 8:15 AM #

      I don’t have the KEF Q100 on hand anymore so I can’t compare it to that. However, since the Q100 was better than the Dali Zensor 1, and the ELAC is basically the equal of the Zensor, the KEF is going to be a better speaker I feel. However it currently sells for $550 and the ELAC is $280 so you’re paying twice as much to get that better performance.

      The R300 is just better in every way. It’s more detailed, the soundstage is better, the bass goes deeper with less distortion, etc… When I switch between them I can clearly hear what the R300 offers. Of course, the R300 is $1,800 a pair and for $1,760 you can get two ELAC towers, four B6 bookshelves for surrounds, the center channel, and four Atmos modules for a 7.0.4 speaker setup. I’m not tempted to replace my KEF speakers with the ELACs, but if I was starting from scratch, going with the full ELAC system is certainly a better value.

  3. bob December 31, 2015 at 8:21 AM #

    I am now reading your KEF R300 review. And I have read your review, and thoughts, re the KEF Q100 at Wirecutter.com. Your reviews are very helpful and appreciated. Thank you!

  4. Aaron McFarland January 5, 2016 at 7:28 AM #

    So is the bookshelf choice going to be updated at the Wirecutter, or will the Dali still be the bookshelf choice?

    • Chris Heinonen January 5, 2016 at 2:50 PM #

      I need more people to listen before I’m certain. Will be trying to do that shortly after CES.

      • Aaron McFarland January 6, 2016 at 9:15 AM #

        Cool, I got the Elac B6 for Christmas present, and I am pretty impressed with them.

  5. george March 29, 2016 at 1:08 AM #

    in my country I can find dali zensor 1 200 euros less than elac b6. so since they are so close, should I go for dali1?

    • Chris Heinonen March 29, 2016 at 5:31 AM #

      Yes, if you can save yourself the 200 Euros you should.

      • george March 29, 2016 at 5:58 AM #

        thanks

  6. Connor October 5, 2016 at 5:23 AM #

    With the KEF Q100 on sale at $300 right now, how do you think that compares with the B6? I will be pairing these speakers with a Mission Cyrus One amp rated at 25watts per channel. Speaker sensitivity/efficiency is important to me. Kef recommends 10-100watts while Elac says 30-120watts.

    • Chris Heinonen October 5, 2016 at 6:15 AM #

      That’s easy, I’d get the KEF: http://amzn.to/2deu5Y9 The KEF and ELAC are virtually identical in sensitivity, but the KEF is 8 ohms nominal vs 6 ohms so it should be an easier load to drive.

      • Anthony Miller November 8, 2016 at 8:52 AM #

        I had the exact same question. I have an old, Marantz SR6300 driving them and would be using them for retro gaming. I also use a Boston Acoustics PV1000 sub in this setup. I’m between the Q100s and Elac B6s as well. Do your opinion hold true for my use case? Tough call to not go with the 6.5″ driver of the Elacs, but really interested in your opinion. I’d be sitting fairly close to them.

  7. Ash November 21, 2016 at 5:17 AM #

    Is KEF Q300(at $399) better than KEF Q100(at $299) ?

    • Chris Heinonen November 21, 2016 at 5:47 AM #

      The Q300 offers better bass response than the Q100 thanks to a larger bass driver. It can play a little louder and is a tiny bit easier to drive, but if using with a subwoofer you might never notice.

  8. Shijie Zhu December 4, 2016 at 1:59 AM #

    I have a NAD D3020 and Polk RTi A3 now, will i notice any improvement if i switch to Dali zensor 1, 3 or Elac unifi ub5? Which will be the easiest to drive? I have a sub and mainly for music

  9. Ash December 29, 2016 at 11:50 PM #

    For a pair of KEF Q300’s should I use a dedicated center speaker- KEF Q200c or a single KEF Q300 for center channel?

    • Chris Heinonen December 30, 2016 at 7:52 AM #

      Ideal would be a single KEF Q300, since it’s a perfect match, but usually people can’t have one in line with the others. The Q200C will be easier to place so that the UniQ driver is more in line with your ears compared to a Q300 for most people, but a single Q300 is the best if you can manage that somehow.

  10. Gautam February 19, 2017 at 9:38 PM #

    I am trying to decide on Elac B6 or Kef Q100 as my main speakers for my home theater. Reviews suggest KEF Q100 are more detailed.
    1. How significant is the difference? I have grown up listening to the old Kenwoods and Technics which were awesome sounding deck n receivers so like to hear details in sound. Also, i see that the center chanel speaker from the elac is much cheaper compared to the Kef. So which would be a better option considering the center chanel speaker too.
    2. I also plan to have Daytona Air as my rear surround. Is it worth it coz i believe not much sound is heard from the rear surrounds so any average speaker would do the job. Is my understanding right?
    3. Is it worth having Elac B6 and center chanel as my main speakers and Kef Q 100 as rear surround? Will i be doing justice to the Kef’s?

    My receiver is Denon 920.

    Appreciate any suggestions.

    • Chris Heinonen February 20, 2017 at 8:30 AM #

      To your questions:

      1. The KEF Q100 is noticeably more detailed with treble and midrange, but not quite as much bass. With the midrange and tweeter located at the same location from the UniQ driver, there’s no time delay between the two so everything is a bit more detailed, and will sound that way from a wider number of seating positions. On the center channels, the KEF is a more expensive true 3-way design (Tweeter, Midrange, and Woofer) while the ELAC Is a 2-way design (Tweeter with Midrange/Woofer combined). That, along with a much nicer finish for the KEFs, is the reason for the cost difference.
      2. How much the rear surrounds will be used depends on what you’re listening to. With modern films, the surrounds are used quite a lot. Ideally they should match the front and center channel speakers, otherwise voices will sound different through them than they do up front. With the ELAC you can easily get the B4 for surrounds as the tweeters will match, with the KEF the Q100 is the smallest model in that line.
      3. You shouldn’t mix and match if you’re buying them from scratch now. You’re going to get the best results by getting everything from the same line than you will with a mix-and-match approach.

      • Gautam February 20, 2017 at 4:30 PM #

        Thank You Chris! That answers all my queries ?

  11. ??????? July 29, 2017 at 12:14 AM #

    Hello.
    In my country elac debut b6 price is 440 euro and dali zensor 3 price is 340 euro.They both have 6.5″ woofer so they are comparable.I never had the chance to listen both in the same room with the same amp.I don’t like brilliant/bright sound with Highs that produce headache in 5 minutes.I like sweet/warm mids and highs. Also i do like nice tight bass.I also plan to have marantz pm6006 or pm7005 to amplifier my NEW speakers.Which speaker to choose?

    • Chris Heinonen July 29, 2017 at 8:37 AM #

      I haven’t heard the Zensor 3, only the Zensor 1. But at that price difference, and with the Zensor 3 having the larger woofer, I’m likely to pick the Dali. It has better build quality, and with improved bass is likely to exceed the Elac in sound quality. In the USA the price difference goes the other way (The Dali costs more than twice as much) so the ELAC is an easy pick, but for you I’d get the Dali.

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