The Best Value Loudspeaker Available? Meet ELAC’s New Debut B6.2 by Andrew Jones

I spent last weekend in the chilly environs of Chicago, attending AXPONA 2018 and listening to all that is new in the world of audio. On the first morning, I was fortunate enough to stumble into ELAC’s room where the man himself, Andrew Jones was in attendance showing off their new Debut B6.2 bookshelf loudspeaker¬†and new EA series integrated amplifier. The sound these speakers were putting out when I walked in was larger than life, and truly shocking for such a small cabinet, so I sat down for a longer listen.

After listening for a few minutes, I asked Andrew for some more details. He was happy to gobsmack everyone in the room by informing us that these speakers were retailing for a mere $299. A number that I could hardly believe, as these clearly outperformed much more expensive speakers I had heard from big names like B&W’s CM series.

The Debut bookshelf comes in two flavors, the B5.2, which features a 5-1/4″ aramid fiber driver with 1″ cloth dome tweeter, and the B6.2 I heard at AXPONA, which features a 6-1/2″ aramid fiber driver and the same 1″ cloth dome tweeter. In the new Debut 2 series, Jones moved the port from the rear of the speaker to the front, slightly increasing its profile, but also providing noticable sonic improvements in the same standard 2-way design.

There is no question that these speakers were absolutely outstanding for the money, with a deep and authoritative bottom end that can play as low as 44Hz, excellent imaging and plenty of air in the treble. It would be hard for me to level any serious critiques at them, especially given their price point. They easily outperform other bookshelves I have heard that cost 3-5X as much.

At this moment, if someone was to ask me what the best speaker value I am aware of is, it would undoubtedly be the ELAC Debut B6.2 speaker that I heard at AXPONA.

The new Debut 2.0 series is already for sale on Amazon, and will soon have a forthcoming integrated amplifier released at the $700 price point, allowing a complete two channel system for under $1000.

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Dave Upton

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15 Comments

  1. @Dave Upton this brings up something I've been considering, of changing my surround speakers from di-poles to direct radiating, specifically using the B6.2s. For decades I've liked di-pole surrounds, but lately I notice the sounds being put in the surround channels is changing. It used to be mostly atmospheric, but more and more I hear very distinct sounds, especially voices and they just don't blend well using di-pole surrounds. The characteristic of the sound is fundamentally different.

    My main speakers are Thiel CS 3.6, and after my Thiel SCS3 center took a powder, I searched around for something that could replace it and not cost a fortune. Eventually I found the Uni-Fi UC5 was an excellent match, for a very reasonable price. Plus, I have to admit, I like Andrew Jones' emphasis on phase coherence, which is what Jim Thiel lived for in speaker designs. I would try Uni-Fi UB5s for surrounds, but what I like about the Debut Gen 2 is they've moved the port to the front, so I can place them on shelves as close to the wall as I want. The Uni-Fi are rear port. Plus, I can get (4) B6.2s for just a little more than (2) UB5s. The room is about 20×25, with surrounds in pretty ideal locations, well to the sides and behind the viewing area.

    Do you have suggestions, impressions, or any input on direct radiating vs. di-pole surrounds with modern soundtracks?

  2. Sam Posten

    My only complaint with these is that they eschewed ceiling bounce Atmos speakers like the AJ Pioneers do. Wonder why?

    Probably decided to have separate Atmos models that sit on top, rather than two variations of the bookshelf models, as well as the separate Atmos version. Fewer SKUs to accomplish the same thing.

  3. JohnRice

    @Dave Upton this brings up something I've been considering, of changing my surround speakers from di-poles to direct radiating, specifically using the B6.2s. For decades I've liked di-pole surrounds, but lately I notice the sounds being put in the surround channels is changing. It used to be mostly atmospheric, but more and more I hear very distinct sounds, especially voices and they just don't blend well using di-pole surrounds. The characteristic of the sound is fundamentally different.

    My main speakers are Thiel CS 3.6, and after my Thiel SCS3 center took a powder, I searched around for something that could replace it and not cost a fortune. Eventually I found the Uni-Fi UC5 was an excellent match, for a very reasonable price. Plus, I have to admit, I like Andrew Jones' emphasis on phase coherence, which is what Jim Thiel lived for in speaker designs. I would try Uni-Fi UB5s for surrounds, but what I like about the Debut Gen 2 is they've moved the port to the front, so I can place them on shelves as close to the wall as I want. The Uni-Fi are rear port. Plus, I can get (4) B6.2s for just a little more than (2) UB5s. The room is about 20×25, with surrounds in pretty ideal locations, well to the sides and behind the viewing area.

    Do you have suggestions, impressions, or any input on direct radiating vs. di-pole surrounds with modern soundtracks?

    John,

    I think they would do a fantastic job as a surround. The issue with surround di/bi-poles as you mentioned is that thent tend to be phasey, and lose performance delivering direct sound. I personally use Legacy Phantom HD's, which are not a dipole, but use the side drivers to fill in the SBIR dip that being mounted on the wall causes.

    In your case, it's hard to imagine a better budget option than the Debut B6.2's. I always prefer to timbre match my surrounds and mains if I can, but it's not nearly as critical as some people think. I'd say go for it.

  4. JohnRice

    @Dave Upton this brings up something I've been considering, of changing my surround speakers from di-poles to direct radiating, specifically using the B6.2s. For decades I've liked di-pole surrounds, but lately I notice the sounds being put in the surround channels is changing. It used to be mostly atmospheric, but more and more I hear very distinct sounds, especially voices and they just don't blend well using di-pole surrounds. The characteristic of the sound is fundamentally different.

    My main speakers are Thiel CS 3.6, and after my Thiel SCS3 center took a powder, I searched around for something that could replace it and not cost a fortune. Eventually I found the Uni-Fi UC5 was an excellent match, for a very reasonable price. Plus, I have to admit, I like Andrew Jones' emphasis on phase coherence, which is what Jim Thiel lived for in speaker designs. I would try Uni-Fi UB5s for surrounds, but what I like about the Debut Gen 2 is they've moved the port to the front, so I can place them on shelves as close to the wall as I want. The Uni-Fi are rear port. Plus, I can get (4) B6.2s for just a little more than (2) UB5s. The room is about 20×25, with surrounds in pretty ideal locations, well to the sides and behind the viewing area.

    Do you have suggestions, impressions, or any input on direct radiating vs. di-pole surrounds with modern soundtracks?

    John,

    I think they would do a fantastic job as a surround. The issue with surround di/bi-poles as you mentioned is that thent tend to be phasey, and lose performance delivering direct sound. I personally use Legacy Phantom HD's, which are not a dipole, but use the side drivers to fill in the SBIR dip that being mounted on the wall causes.

    In your case, it's hard to imagine a better budget option than the Debut B6.2's. I always prefer to timbre match my surrounds and mains if I can, but it's not nearly as critical as some people think. I'd say go for it.

  5. Dave Upton

    I always prefer to timbre match my surrounds and mains if I can, but it's not nearly as critical as some people think. I'd say go for it.

    Thanks, Dave.

    Truly timbre matching surrounds to the front, in my case, would require risking my $ on the used market, and would probably still cost in the multi-K$. That's just not going to happen. Even though I spend more time watching movies, music is still my #1 priority with the system, so replacing the Thiels is not feasible, due to what it would cost to get something I'm as happy with for music.

  6. JohnRice

    Thanks, Dave.

    Truly timbre matching surrounds to the front, in my case, would require risking my $ on the used market, and would probably still cost in the multi-K$. That's just not going to happen. Even though I spend more time watching movies, music is still my #1 priority with the system, so replacing the Thiels is not feasible, due to what it would cost to get something I'm as happy with for music.

    I hear you. I love Thiel's sound as well, though I've sort of fallen in love with Legacy and tend to find it hard to look elsewhere. I understand how it goes!

  7. Yeah, they weren't cheap, the wife was horrified when I bought two pairs, but they're gorgeous to look at, and sound fantastic. My problem right now is that the room is actually a bit small – moving will do more for my sound system than any gear upgrades.

  8. Sam Posten

    My only complaint with these is that they eschewed ceiling bounce Atmos speakers like the AJ Pioneers do. Wonder why?

    Sam, do you mean having the ceiling bounce part built in to these? Because they do make ceiling bounce Debut 2.0 A4.2 speakers separately (I own those). Maybe as a cost-savings measure? If you want both you can buy both, but if you have no need for Atmos then you're not paying extra for something you won't be using?

    For towers costing more than the B6.2 I can understand maybe building them in as they don't add too much to the overall cost, but for what the B6.2 are selling for, and what the A4.2 are selling for, perhaps they would have had to add a considerable amount to the cost to combine the two.

  9. I don't have a good answer for that, Sam. Maybe the numbers crunchers over there are trying to streamline their offerings? Kind of like how Apple tightly controls how many iterations of products they'll offer?

  10. Sam Posten

    I mean why not offer both? With and without built in bouncers, same as Pioneer AJs? The pioneers are among the best value speakers out there because of the bounce!

    I'm speculating, but ELAC and Pioneer are vastly different companies. I did work for a major manufacturer (photo, not audio) at one time, and number of SKUs can be a major consideration. It's not like it's just one more product, it doubles their Debut non-center speaker line. Instead of the B5.2, B6.2, F5.2 & F6.2, now they have all of them with and without reflecting, and they still need to make a stand alone Atmos ready model. Pioneer is more of a mass market minded company than ELAC. It makes sense to me.

  11. Dave Upton

    I hear you. I love Thiel's sound as well, though I've sort of fallen in love with Legacy and tend to find it hard to look elsewhere. I understand how it goes!

    The Calibre looks like a sweet "bookshelf" model, for those who want performance more like a floorstander. If I was in the market, and price range, I'd sure like to give them a spin.

  12. Isn't it a bit more flexible to have the Atmos speaker separate from the bookshelf/tower, anyway? Depending on the specific room and distance to seating position, one could raise the rear of the Atmos module a tad if necessary to get just the right angle of bounce.

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