ELAC BS 243 Loudspeaker

      Date posted: July 11, 2009

BS 243 without grilleELAC’s Baby Speaker With Big Sound

Sugg. Retail: $1500 pr (CDN)

Size:  10 1/4″H x 6 1/2″W x 8″D w/grille

Distributor: Tri-Cell Enterprises

Here we have a pair of very attractive, very small speakers, our samples finished in Black High Gloss, but also available in Mocha and Cherry veneer. A bass reflex design that’s rear-ported, the BS-243 employs ELAC’s own Jet tweeter, and a new bass/midrange with a “crystal” diaphragm. Here’s what the manufacturer has to say about this new technology:

“With the 240 series, we introduce the first line of speakers with crystal membranes, which stands out due to an especially broad bandwidth of frequency performance. This allows more flexibility adjusting the frequency crossover, so that the listening room can be ‘illuminated’ more homogeneously with sound. Uniform room acoustic stimulation makes the speakers less dependent on a certain position. Therefore, the sound experience is is precise and natural at all listening positions.”

That’s obviously a quite literal translation from the original German from the ELAC  brochure, but the point is better dispersion from the woofer/midrange up to its crossover point (2700 Hz) because of the crystalline facet-surfaced aluminum woofer cone. This is important because this driver carries the important midrange information right up to this quite high crossover frequency.

Accessories included with these speakers are several: first, we have a pair of Imager-like tweeter rings to control dispersion, with odd looking little clips to secure them to the front baffle around the tweeters; there were also 2-piece foam bass plugs to control output from the rear port, with an outer ring that can be augmented by the inner “bung” (as they call them) to provide either partial or full blocking of the port of each speaker. White gloves and a 70% polyester/30% polyamide cleaning cloth are also supplied, nice extras to keep the glossy finish intact and fingerprint free..

My experience with the design of our own Imagers suggests that the tweeter rings would have a moderate effect on sound power into the room at high frequencies, probably less than 2 dB of attenuation off axis, and little effect directly on axis. The bass plugs will also have a moderate effect in reducing deeper bass. With a speaker this small, any deep bass is welcome, so I surmise that these plugs are intended for multichannel use with the BS 243 as surround or centre speaker with subwoofer(s). I did not see much point in doing extra measurements with these in place with the speakers arrayed as a stereo pair.

Looking at the measurement charts, we can see that the crossover transition is fairly smooth, though response has already been rising in the woofer’s upper region, though this may also be caused by driver response overlap. The tweeter is clearly providing more output than the lower-frequency driver, resulting in a rise of 7 dB from 1 kHz to 10 kHz in a quite smooth manner, up about 4 dB at 3 kHz. I’ll say more about this in the listening notes.

Below 1 kHz, we see a very smooth midrange, down into a slightly recessed mid-bass between 100 and 200 Hz, but rising response below and excellent bass extension for a very small speaker. Response is maintained strongly to 40 Hz, down only 2 dB, rolling off steeply below.This is a great speaker to use with a low-tuned subwoofer crossing over in the 40-50 Hz range.
Looking at the upper frequencies, the BS 243  has virtually perfect dispersion, identical at 0 and 15 degrees off axis, and just a dB down at 30 degrees, 3 dB down at 60 degrees. I’m not sure I’ve ever measured a small dynamic speaker with this kind of sound flow into a room. It guarantees exceptional imaging at almost any position in front of the speaker over a wide area.

Turning to the impedance/phase measurements below, we see in the top curve, fairly high but quite benign impedance, with two 20 ohm peaks in the bass, midrange between 7 and 10 ohms, with a rise to 15 ohms through the crossover region, and a comfortable 10 to 12 ohms at higher frequencies. This speaker will be very easy to drive by solid state or tube amplifiers. The electrical phase curve at bottom is even more reassuring, in that the phase shift through crossover is well controlled, at about +/-10 degrees, with dead-on accurate phase at higher frequencies. This predicts spectacular imaging and depth perception from this speaker. Technically, this is a superbly realized 2-way design that should sound better than many much more complicated and expensive 3-way speakers.

And, you know, it does, with pinpoint imaging and depth you can walk into, the image well outside the speakers with good acoustic recordings. I listened to some wonderful Handel Organ Concerto recordings, and Stravinsky Histoire du Soldat on SACD from Pentatone and Telarc, respectively, as well as numerous FM broadcasts, and heard marvelous reproduction of the music. Part of this is not just the dispersion of both drivers, but the overall speed of the JET tweeter, which is well matched by the crystal bass/midrange. Five of these in a home theatre system with a good subwoofer could be quite amazing. The combination of minimal diffraction, excellent bass response, and very revealing midrange and upper octave performance is, I must say, quite arresting.

For listening tests, I used Cardas Golden Presence  bi-wire speaker cable, and found the combination very pleasing. Perhaps a little mellower in characteristics than our standard tri-wire Kimber Select and BiFocal, the Golden Presence seemed a perfect match for the ELAC speakers, very revealing of inner vioces in orchestral music, and providing great clarity with vocals. The measured upper-end emphasis seemed less obvious in listening, translated into a treble sweetness by the Cardas cables.

But we must remember that this is a German speaker design, and they have tended to be bright historically, perhaps designed for more absorptive European salons. This rising treble response suggests the the ELAC BS 243  is not so much a small speaker for small rooms so much as one for bigger spaces, where its ability to fill a room can shine, and its upper-end prominence will not be a liability. And, as noted above, in our quite large room it did not sound overly bright, but very sweet and fast, with imaging well outside the speaker pair, and a sense of height and depth that marks it as a true high end bargain for under $2000. Measurements do not always quite tell the tale, and the BS 243  could very well fill your room with wonderful sound. This little bit of German engineering could turn out to be a classic in the making.

Andrew Marshall

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