Best home audio products of 2016 — No.1

ELAC Debut B6


THE GOOD: The ELAC Debut B6 bookshelf speakers look sharp, and boast excellent sound for a bargain price. Home theater buyers can easily partner the Debut B6 with ELAC’s matching Debut Series tower, center and subwoofer.

THE BAD: The Debut B6 is only available in a black vinyl finish.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The ELAC Debut B6 bookshelf speakers offer stellar, best-in-class sound quality that no other speakers can match at this low price.

When Andrew Jones designs a loudspeaker, we sit up and take notice.

Jones built his reputation working with the likes of brands such as KEF and Infinity, as well as designing the $80,000 TAD Reference speakers. After earning rave reviews from audio enthusiasts for such high-end products, he set his sights a little lower and designed a line ofhighly affordable speakers for Pioneer that shattered our expectations of just how good budget-priced speakers could sound.

Jones eventually amicably left Pioneer (though not before shepherding equally affordable soundbarsand speaker pedestals ) and now leads ELAC America’s speaker division. And he’s back at it, pouring his expertise into ELAC’s new Debut speaker series. The Debut line encompasses a full range of surround speakers, including the F5 towers, C5 center and A4 Dolby Atmos models. But here we’re breaking out the Debut B6 bookshelf speakers, and focusing on them as a standalone stereo pair.

After listening to them, it’s clear that Jones keeps outdoing himself with each new generation of his designs.

The all-new ELAC Debut B6 retails for $280 per pair. (UK and Australia prices aren’t yet available, but the speakers should be available in those markets by the end of 2015. The US price converts to around £180 or AU$380 per pair.) For that price, these speakers are so good that they may just spawn a new generation of audiophiles — albeit ones who don’t need the deep pockets usually associated with the hobby.

True, the Debut B6 is more than double the price of the Jones-designed Pioneer SP-BS22-LR bookshelf speakers we’ve praised many times (those models are still readily available). But the ELAC Debut B6 is a substantially better speaker that still remains incredibly affordable. It’s our new go-to budget speaker, hands down.

Design and features

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The ELAC Debut B6 is a fairly large bookshelf speaker measuring 8.5 inches wide by 14 inches high and 10 inches deep (that’s 21.6 by 35.5 by 25.4 cm). The speaker’s medium-density fiberboard cabinet is covered with an attractive “brushed” black vinyl finish, and there’s a removable, black cloth grille to protect the drivers. We liked that the pins that secure the grille are on the speaker’s front baffle instead of on the grille itself; they look like they’ll never fall out or break off.

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When you wrap your knuckles on the cabinet it sounds hollow. We’d prefer a more solid feeling cabinet, but we really can’t “knock” the Debut B6 for that — no other speaker in its price class feels more solidly built, and we heard no adverse affects from the lively cabinet.

The Debut B6 is a two-way, bass-reflex design with a 1-inch cloth dome tweeter set into a deep-spheroid waveguide and a 6.5-inch woven Aramid fiber midrange/woofer. There’s a single bass port on the rear panel.

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The Debut B6’s rear also has one set of gold-plated, all-metal binding posts that work with speaker cables terminated with banana plugs, spades, pins or stripped bare-wire ends. The speaker’s impedance is rated at 6 Ohms. Each speaker weighs 14.3 pounds (6.5 kg).