Last year, I reviewed a part of the ELAC Debut Speaker System and left in figurative awe. The kicker was that we did not even review the highest-end choices available at the time, our original intention to prove that gateway audiophile speakers do exist in the out there.
We wanted to take it further and it ate at me a little bit afterward, since each component comes independent of one another. With this as my motivator, I finally test the ELAC Debut F6 Floorstanding Tower Speakers to complete my impressions and potential of the lauded budget-oriented lineup.
Editors’ Note: This will be our culmination and should give some insight how low (or high) you can go in terms of price and build experimentation. Along with what we already had before, beyond the two F6 Floorstanding Tower Speakers ($379.99/each), we added B4 Bookshelf Speakers ($179.99/pair), B6 Bookshelf Speakers ($279.99/pair), and finally an S10EQ Powered Subwoofer ($499.99). Each of these aforementioned units come separately.
Like before, the look is functional with MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and brushed black vinyl skin, along with metallic feet on all corners for an uncomplicated, yet opulent appearance. The speakers themselves have cloth grilles that are removable within seconds to reveal the driver, and the pegs that hold them in place are affixed on the front rather than detach. Things continue to be practical on the rear with a single bass port and metal gold-plated binding posts in the rear, working with whatever wiring method you choose, whether it be stripping the wires or using banana plugs. On an opinionated note: ELAC actually recommends that you take off the front grille for clearer sound, and surprisingly enough, the speakers are much nicer to look at aesthetically.
The F6 themselves feature a three-way bass reflex driver with for fuller sound. On top sits a 1-inch cloth dome tweeter, a 6.5-inch cone woven aramid-fiber midrange driver, and two 6.5-inch woofers also done in the same material cone. Crossover frequency is 100/3,000 Hz and response is rated between 39 to 20,000 Hz. Sensitivity is at 87dB at 2.83 v/1m with Impedance rated at 6 to 5.4 Ohms (nominal/minimum Ω).
The dimensions of 43 in / 8.6 in / 10.0 in (height/width/depth) are appropriately large and heavy at a net weight of 46.7lb, even looming over then F5 a bit. The hollow feel typical of the bookshelf speakers is not as pronounced, although the characteristics still exist on the F6. I wouldn’t call them cheap but the actual frame remains solidly built and the electronics underneath are expertly concealed.
When Andrew Jones unveiled his labor of love over two years ago, the F6 had only been available in international markets. It wasn’t until last spring that these pseudo-premium towers quietly found their advent to North American owners, alongside the introductory B4 bookshelf speakers. Regretfully, these went overlooked as reviewers held the initial ELAC B5/B6/F5 models in high regard and quickly moved on, effectively making these monoliths the ultimate unknowns of the range.
Armed with a Denon AVR-X6300H AV Receiver that can power up to 11.1 built-in channels of audio before external amplification, doing both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X at a maximum 9.1.2, means that we could let our imagination run wild. To test the overall performance, we mixed and matched whatever ELAC speaker we already had for a flexible arrangement, after calibration.
The general feeling is that the F6 takes the experience a little farther in weight, depth, and power. The amount of immediacy portrayed can easily hang among larger towers and confidently do their magic in moderate-sized rooms up to 800 square feet, certainly having no problem filling our listening area.
Purveyors of warmer audio will like the authoritative reach and inherent emphasis on deeper bass, a characteristic shared with the bookshelf B6 except better realized. They really don’t need to be partnered with the ELAC S10EQ subwoofer if you’re in it just stereo enjoyment, for example, acoustic Hi-Res Audio (DSD/FLAC/AIFF/ALAC/PCM) albums like LAGQ Latin from the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and Café Bleu: The Style Council are handled in centered and pleasant fashion.
Vocal detail was accurate and naturally balanced for Devon Allman’s “Turquoise” and the jazz crossover “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones, bringing the recording to the forefront without deteriorating the instrumentals. The dynamic captured the studio essence almost to a tee, except bigger and noticeably potent to match.
I decided to pull my way up in surround performance by alternating between the Debut ensemble that was available, with the F6 pair, a C5 Center Speaker, S10EQ subwoofer, and four ELAC A4 height add-ons being permanent fixtures for the 7.1.4 rundowns—because science is damned for subjective listening. Fortunately, the F6 provided a lot of freedom when utilized exclusively as front channels, because we could pair any variant while covering up inadequacies of lesser speakers. Appropriate expectations for both towers.
First, we did a setup that included two ELAC B5 speaker acting as the surrounds and a pair of ELAC B4 bookshelves in the back (F6/B5/B4). Conjecturally, it really came together considering the smallish dimensions of rear satellites and did an excellent job capturing the background ambiance. The action fed through the added channels is further spread and dimensionally even. As a result, the F6/B5 combination effortlessly captured the action without distortion, while the B4 can avoid being overworked. It also helps that this the more affordable configuration to boot.
Upgrading to the B6 bookshelf speakers as surrounds and B5 in the back (F6/B6/B5) was better, just not enough of a transformation than many would assume. Our medium-sized listening room clearly had an audible threshold, which the aforementioned setup already met with ease. We believe this has to do with the B6 being overqualified, which makes sense considering these large bookshelves were intended to be in front before opting for the upright models—ELAC even points this factoid out too. Knowing this, we cannot imagine someone incorporating all B6s to surround/rear duty; they deserve an honorable mention, but is an arbitrary alternate as a whole.
No matter how you pick, ELAC holds a considerable edge over competing mainstays like the Polk T Series and Pioneer SP-PK52FS. In fact, our movie experience with Star Wars: The Force Awakens exuded richness in projection and scale, while the tenseness of Gravity gripped ears until the finale. We remained impressed as each build continued to punch above their weight to rival that of Bowers & Wilkins CM Series and most of the Reference lineup from Klipsch. The F6 are resolute hitters when the action was at its most cinematic even though walls themselves sometimes gave to audible vibration.
It is more than fitting that the ELAC Debut F6 Floorstanding Speakers reached expectations once again, exactly like the prior half we reviewed before. However, they probably should since these towers are prime examples of the entire lineup—aimed at supreme music listening and home theater applications, at a fairly obtainable level.
By the time of this review though, Andrew Jones will be eagerly toiling away on his next generation of ELAC speakers, except those units will be vying for premium appeal—an upmarket category that is exclusionary in practice and few will ever attain. Luckily, the Debut collection won’t need to challenge arrangements that are thousands more and already do a damn convincing job of portraying what’s possible in talented hands. All in the pursuit of performance, refinement, and amazing value for money.