Elac BS 244.3 Bookshelf Loudspeakers Review
AUD $2,495 / NZD $2,999
Before being invited to review the Elac BS 244.3 bookshelf loudspeakers my knowledge of the ELAC brand and its product could be considered 'lacking'.
I didn't have any preconceptions about the capabilities of these compact speakers, and so from the moment of opening the carton, this was new ground for me.
Unboxing the speakers was quite exciting really. The impeccable quality and finish of the weighty piano black enclosures combined with the unique driver compliment grabbed my attention.
Initially, I didn’t have access to my speaker stands so I temporarily set the BS 244.3s atop my floor standers so that they could be loosened up a bit and settle into my system.
I was amazed at what I initially heard (more later) and decided that before I start taking notes and forming an opinion, I need to sort out stands and placement in my room. In the interim, I launched into Dr Google for some background information on ELAC and more specifically to learn about those unique drivers.
Founded in Keil, Germany 1926 the company has a rich and diverse history and after the 2nd world war, they became involved in the manufacture of consumer electronics goods.
During this period, the company was also responsible for distributing brands such as Sony, Nakamichi and Fischer into Germany. In the early 1980s, ELAC started manufacturing loudspeakers in-house. They went on to acquire numerous other companies and technologies that complimented their existing capabilities, and in this process, the J.E.T. tweeter from the company A.R.E.S. was obtained.
Each BS 244.3 cabinet hosts two drivers, the 180mm main driver and a JET 5 tweeter. Initially, I thought the tweeter was a ribbon type, but looking closer and checking the specs, it’s a Heil (Oscar Heil being the inventor’s name) Air Motion Transformer (AMT).
Unlike most conventional drivers that use a piston motion to move air, the AMT utilises a folded diaphragm to move air. When actuated, the folds in the diaphragm open and close like bellows to “breathe” air. The technology is fascinating and is well worth a Google if you are keen to learn more.
The surface of the 180mm main driver looks like something crafted from the aerospace industry or a large carbon fibre golf ball. ELAC call this driver the ‘crystal’ driver. ELAC believes the textured finish looks like a piece of crystal. I must concede that my likening to a carbon fibre golf ball is less worthy!
The crystal driver cone is constructed by sandwiching separate aluminium and paper cones together which are then “stamped” to form the final finish.
To quote ELAC:
The aluminium-foil stamping stiffens the aluminium dome, diminishing resonances and minimising colouration while improving power handling and dynamics.
With their crystal driver, the gold coloured JET 5 tweeter and the beautifully finished cabinets ELAC have produced a classy looking pair of bookshelves. Judging by their looks alone I expected these to be very special indeed.
Once my stands were retrieved from storage, I started with the basic speaker/room setup, and with some time and patience, the setup seemed about right. I then played some bassy music to fine tune the positions, finally settling on a location with the front of the speaker baffles about 750mm from the rear wall.
Now back to those initial listening impressions. When I connected the BS 244.3s for the first time, I was taken by surprise at the hugely detailed soundstage and in the initial “throw it together” setup, the sound was somehow not quite right. Conversely, once setup was done properly, the massive soundstage remained, and the focus that was missing before was now pinpoint accurate.
The bass is healthy, but not outstanding, and although the mids and highs are lightning fast, the low end falls slightly behind. In context, both the bass and upper midrange is what you should expect from a high-quality compact bookshelf in this price range and its only because the overall performance punches so very high that this becomes noticeable.
In my scenario where I live in an apartment, adding a quality subwoofer to the ELAC’s may produce the perfect balance and allow that little extra bottom end speed to be added when required.
Having played these little wonders for over two weeks now, with everything from Digital FLAC (TIDAL), CD’s and vinyl, I’m blown away with the ELAC’s speed, detail, attack and imagery.
I found myself playing music that I hadn’t played for some time, just because I was looking to see how deep the ELAC’s could reach into tracks that were particularly well recorded. As a matter of course, I had done all I could to avoid knowing the RRP of these ELAC speakers.
I was making mental comparisons to other speakers I have owned, some costing several times the cost of the BS 244.3s. When I saw the actual price, my jaw dropped.
I’m lucky enough to own Gary Morrison's Pure Audio pre-amp and Dual Mono power-amp, as well as his L1 Phone stage for my vintage Aura turntable. In my view, this is a very organic sounding system that reveals every nuance of the recorded music.
I have since read other reviews of the BSS 244.3’s, and some have mentioned that the speakers are “forward” in presentation and that they could become tiring. From my perspective the BS 244.3s perform exceptionally well, you need to ensure that you’re front end gear is up to the job of extracting the best out of the ELAC’s. It’s the same story we all know so well with HiFi, rubbish in equals lots of garbage out, so you can’t blame the speakers for that.
I remain very impressed, and my baptism into the world of ELAC has been a very gratifying experience. Reluctantly I must return the BS 244.3s to their owner; such is the nature of being a reviewer. One thing I can say with absolute conviction, I will be exploring the wider ELAC range again, and the sooner, the better.
For more information visit Elac.
Bitten by the music bug as a young laddie, Steve Smith has lost count of how many Hi-Fi systems he’s listened to since those early days growing up in Scotland. Now firmly ensconced down under, his passion has led to writing for magazines and newspapers, and he is a familiar ‘tyre kicker’ around closing time in Hi-Fi shops. Steve works for a leading Audio Engineering firm in Auckland and absolutely adores eating haggis.