ELAC’s Andrew Jones Event – January 18, 2020

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SFAS members were treated to another entertaining and educational event at The Shops at Hilltop in Richmond.  ELAC’s VP of engineering, Andrew Jones, speaker designer extraordinaire and truly engaging presenter, gave us his personal insights into the design and development of the Navis active speakers.  Andrew’s career in HiFi has included speaker designs at KEF, Infinity, Pioneer, and Technical Audio Devices (TAD).  Many in the audiophile community consider his $80,000 TAD Reference One to be one of the greatest speakers ever made.

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since Andrew last visited with us and those of you who follow audio news know that Andrew’s been a very busy man over those three years!  When Andrew started with ELAC his first speaker was the Debut, which was met with critical acclaim.  Since then, Andrew has built out the ELAC speaker line to eight different models!  Andrew and ELAC have speakers for almost everyone from home theater to active speakers and subwoofers to the ultimate in high end.

Andrew brought both the Navis B-51 bookshelf and Navis F-51 floorstanding active speakers for us to listen to.  The following is from the ELAC website (https://elac.com/series/navis-powered- speakers/):

Inside each Navis Bookshelf (and Floorstanding) Loudspeaker is a Tri-Amp Pure Analog Amplifier, employing three separate amps for each transducer: a 160-watt BASH AB amplifier for the woofer, a 100-watt BASH AB amplifier for the midrange, and a 40-watt Class AB amplifier for the tweeter. A total amplifier power of 300 watts ensures that each transducer is optimally—and amply—powered, eliminating clipping and crossover distortion, and driving each transducer with authority. Specs like a 110 dBA signal-to-noise ratio and 100 uV noise floor could only come from such audiophile-quality amps!

Andrew also brought with him the ELAC Alchemy* series DDP-2 Stereo preamplifier/DAC/streamer with Bluetooth as well as the ELAC Discovery Series DS-S101-G Music Server/Network audio player and organizer.  The streamer, server and speakers are all you need to make great music!

Throughout his presentation Andrew demonstrated his extensive speaker design experience of over 40 years.  It was clear that his deep expertise in speaker measurements has been critical to his speaker design.

The Audiophile challenge: So, why an active speaker?  Andrew wanted to design an active speaker whose performance could be accepted by the audiophile community – something with sound quality well beyond conventional powered speakers, but with the “walk into a room and play music” convenience that is so prevalent today.  This put him on the path to design and build the Navis.  With an active speaker, some of a consumer’s choices are removed.  Depending on the speaker make and model, not only is the choice of amplifier taken away, but also preamplifier and DAC choices are removed as well.  For the audiophile, the only choice taken away by the Navis is the choice of an amplifier. One has complete freedom with all other aspects of their system. As indicated above, the Navis has a separate, specific amplifier for each speaker in the enclosure.  Each amp in the Navis is optimized for the bandwidth, sensitivity and power requirements of its associated speaker.  Andrew pointed out that this results in an easier load for each amp as compared to a single amp driving a combination of speakers in a passive design. Passive speakers also pose a design challenge in order to produce amplifier-friendly impedances.  Additionally, the crossover network is simpler to design for active speakers.

It should be noted that the Navis speakers have wireless capability with the flip of a switch.  Switching from the analog inputs (balanced XLR or RCA) to wireless allows the user to stream Discovery, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, AirPlay and Roon when used with ELAC’s Discovery Connect wireless transmitter.  Just switch wireless “Off” for a less compromised analog input.

Balancing convenience and quality: Andrew’s job is to achieve the best performance at any particular price point (where he’s been quite successful as evidenced by his ELAC speaker contributions).  In assessing and measuring a particular product Andrew has to make decisions as to which adjustments can be made and which don’t need to be made and while still resulting in a quality product.  He usually uses concentric tweeter/midrange drivers.  The bookshelves are $2,299.98 per pair and the floorstanders are $2,299.98 each.  The floorstanding speakers are designed to have the same overall sound character as the bookshelves, but with a bigger sound and a noticeable increase in SPL. Or, as Andrew said, “you share the load with more drivers and it just gives a bit more than what you get with the bookshelves”.

Listening: We took several breaks to listen to music through the Navis speakers (per the “Andrew Jones Rule”).  The Navis bookshelf speakers did an admirable job filling our 40′ x 40′ meeting room with clarity, broad sound stage and good bass.   The SFAS members were clearly impressed by the performance of these smallish bookshelves.  The floor standers have sonic characteristics similar to the bookshelves, but pressurized our large room with greater ease.  Members were more than impressed with the sonics and presentation of the floorstanding speakers.

Wrap up: We’re all hoping that it won’t take three years for Andrew to come back to visit with us again – I can’t wait to see/hear what he’ll come up with next!

I think Leslie summed up the event best, “it was wildly successful.  It was great seeing new faces at the event as well.  I received nothing but super positive feedback from all.”

* ELAC gained the services of Peter Madnick of Audio Alchemy. Madnick designed the preamplifier, streamer, and DAC combination.

San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society