You may recall the recent review of the quite expensive Adam Compact loudspeaker which uses an ART tweeter, designed by Oskar Heil, and here we see another variant from ELAC in this beautifully clad speaker design. This time it’s called the JET tweeter, “developed to perfection on the basis of the famous ‘Air Motion Transformer’ by loudspeaker pioneer Dr. Oskar Heil. Its principle: a concertinaed foil membrane is driven by a strong magnet system of neodymium rods.”
“This ‘motor’ drives the air considerably faster than the conventional pistonic technique. High sensitivity and extraordinary dynamics are the result.” All this comes from the ELAC web site.
“Due to continuous improvement, the JET III tweeter now creates an effortless and airy resonance-free image up to 50,000 Hz, and with its linear frequency response is ideally suited for the reproduction of DVD-A and SACD.” Owners will probably use their JETS for more than that, given the influence of these formats so far, which would definitely cool their JETs.
“The woofers of the 200 series are designed in the ELAC proprietary aluminium sandwich technique. In a special glueing procedure, an aluminium foil of 0.2mm is joint [sic] to a pulp fibre cone to form a sandwich membrane.”
I should comment further to clarify things here that we’re dealing with a very large and shallow aluminum diaphragm attached to a very long excursion rubber surround, coupled with a voice-coil/spider assembly that can be powerfully driven by the large magnet assembly behind it.
The finish on our review pair of FS 207.2s was a sleek, shiny gunmetal colour, and the cabinets are ported at top and bottom on the rear, with high quality bi-wire gold-plated connectors near the bottom. Equally shiny black and cherry lacquer finishes are also available. Technical details include crossover frequencies of 120 (lower to top woofer) and 2700 Hz, with nominal power handling of 120 watts rms and peak capability of 160, though I’m sure this latter is a conservative figure, especially in view of a recommended amplifier power range of 30 to 250 wpc. The system is said to go down to 36 Hz, and overall sensitivity is rated at 86 dB anechoically, and 89 dB in a normal room for 1-watt input. Nominal impedance is rated at 4 ohms, with a low of 3.4 at 220 Hz. Each speaker weighs roughly 32 pounds.
After all this, looking at the measurements should be easy, eh? Well, maybe, but, as with the Adams, the response measurements don’t quite capture the sweet, wide dispersion treble this speaker emits: concentrate more on the smoothness of response in this gentle slope, because in listening the 207.2 does not sound treble shy but very open and fast in its upper octaves. This is partially confirmed by the close tracking of all curves, either PNS (Pink Noise Sweep) and SAR (Summed Axial Response) at top, or the individual axial curves measured at 0, 15, and 30 degrees off axis below. Their close agreement indicates wide dispersion and even sound quality virtually anywhere in the listening room. And I should also note that the slight disparities at the bottom end are easily explained. The lowest curve is that with the “bung” (as B&W have called it - the round foam port plug provided) inserted in the bottom port at rear, while the next up shows its insertion into the top port, these allowing a bit of fairly subtle tuning of the bass to suit different room placements. Because I use subwoofers (a pair of Sunfires) with my reference Energy Veritas, I have employed foam inserts to plug the ports for this reason, and yet another: so doing also increases the back loading of the woofers to tighten bass transient response and reduce excursion distortion. Now, this may not be a factor, given the exceptional design care taken in both speaker systems’ woofers, but why have extra bass energy you don’t need that’s generally harder to control in a given room, anyway?
Looking at the impedance/phase measurements is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, I have rarely seen such a uniformly low impedance in a loudspeaker before, and here it seldom rises above 4 ohms, being mostly just below that in the upper bass, and above in the lower midrange. This is a measurement with a message, and that message is “current”! Tubes are definitely out with the ELAC, I would say, unless you listen at quite low levels. Since impedance usually determines frequency response to a larger extent with tube amps, you won’t have large variations of the sort you might get with some speakers, you just won’t get much power out of the amp, and audible distortion is very possible. Tube life could also be adversely affected because of the above-normal current demands. Tube lovers, you have been warned,
The good news is the especially accurate electrical phase of these speakers, seen at top. They present an even and stable low impedance load to an amplifier, so relatively few solid state watts are required to make them sing. And the smooth transition through crossover to the tweeter in both phase and impedance curves means that imaging, especially with the wide acoustic dispersion, should be exceptional.
And that nicely leads us into the listening part of this review. Those seeking unusually transparent reproducers without filling large listening room spaces with radiating area (and without leaving large spaces in their savings accounts) will want to audition these ELAC speakers. Their sound is very sweet and airy, with an excellent soundstage outside the speakers when placed to suit the boundaries of your room. Lateral imaging is precise and the soundstage quite deep.
I’m not sure lovers of big dynamics will be fully satisfied, but with an amplifier with sufficient oomph, the 207s can boogie, and the woofers will handle large excursions cleanly with current. It perhaps depends on the size of the room as much as anything. This is, in sum, a very fine compact speaker at a very reasonable price, with true high end credentials, and in the expected German traditional way, very nicely finished, as well as providing a high level of sheer sound quality.
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