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High-End Audio at an Incredible Price: the ELAC Integrated Amplifier, B6 Speakers, and S10 Powered Subwoofer

01-01-2018 | By Editors at Positive Feedback | Issue 95

For the music lover who never really graduated from just plugging in whatever crap he could get his hands on so he could rock out... a guest article by Lance Morris of Lance Morris Walks

Let me preface this review by saying that, where high-end audio is concerned, I am a novice. That's not to say that I don't take music seriously: I've been buying music in many formats for over three decades and I regularly go out to experience live music. Considering how much music is a part of my life, it's surprising that most of my hardware for listening I've just ended up with, never giving it much thought. This is partly due to the perceived high cost of decent audio equipment.

First I'll give you some background. My first serious equipment (read: not a boombox) was handed down to me by my brother. In fact, I still own a pair of bookshelf Polk Audio speakers that he must have bought sometime in the mid-80s and left behind when he moved overseas (along with his entire record collection!). I used his early-80s Pioneer SX-6 until it bit the dust in 2005, and I've had a series of equipment since then which would be best suited to surround sound for my TV. For years and years I've just been buying/borrowing whatever receiver I can procure for under $200.

We were running on a mostly CD-based music diet at home until a few years ago when I finally bought myself a decent turntable. We currently don't have a decent way of listening to CDs at home, as we have separated our DVD player and TV from our stereo. I am hoping that the crappy $20 portable CD player that we bought for road trips is elevated by being plugged into the ELAC.

I am so excited to plug everything in and enter the 21st century!

Initial Set-up

One of my biggest complaints about every cheap receiver I've owned is the ridiculous number of inputs and settings they all have. I always feel like I need to take a community college course just to figure out how to set these things up to get the best possible results. The ELAC amplifier is so simple that even I had no problem setting it up. It only took me about fifteen minutes to get the entire system unpacked and plugged in.

There are 2 analog inputs, one for my turntable and one for my crappy portable CD player; one SUB OUT for the subwoofer; three digital inputs (one coaxial and two optical); one USB type B input for audio; one USB input for software updates; two speaker outputs; and a ¼" headphone jack on the front. So far I've only been using the analog, USB, and Bluetooth connections, but I would definitely like to figure out how to use the digital inputs.

Mobile App

While the remote control is fine for the most basic functions, the mobile app is really the best way to fully experience this system. After selecting your hardware, the next screen allows you to switch between any of the inputs. This screen also displays controls for Master Volume and Offset Volume. I didn't initially have any idea how the Offset Volume feature worked, but after I blasted my eardrums out switching from my turntable to the USB input, I quickly figured out how to use it to my advantage. For each of the inputs, you can adjust the relative volume level. My turntable, my crappy CD player, and my laptop apparently have vastly different output volumes, so this feature is indispensable.

The Setup screen contains all of the key controls. You can change the input names, adjust bass and treble, subwoofer volume, and speaker balance. You can adjust the brightness of the amplifier's screen, switch Auto EQ and Auto Blend on and off, and pair different Bluetooth devices.

Auto Blend is an interesting feature. The app walks you through the process, but after running it once I was experiencing some pretty excessive bass from the subwoofer. I ran it a second time and I'm starting to notice an improvement over just twiddling sliders on my own. Clearly this amp knows something I do not.


First off, any turntable you connect to this amp will need either an external phono preamp or its own integrated one. Luckily my Audio Technica can switch back and forth.

So what type of music am I going to be testing out on this system? I fully admit to being a metalhead. I don't necessarily delve into all the sub-genres, but I am generally happiest when distorted guitars are prominently featured in whatever I'm listening to. On any old dashed-together system most noisy music tends to distort and overload the system. My experience with this ELAC system has been entirely positive with regards to heavy music.

Over the past few years I've become a huge drone metal fan. My band opened for Khanate back in 2005 and I have never experienced bass that heavy. I was wearing earplugs and could still feel the low end reverberating from the floor up into my body. I have never owned a stereo that could do this type of music justice. Sunn O)))'s live album Dømkirke is astonishing on this ELAC system. It was originally recorded in a Norwegian cathedral, and it's easy to place yourself in that setting with the low end droning guitar enveloping the cathedral's organ and the operatic vocals. The big thing about drone metal is all of the amazing alternate tones that happen when feedback sets in and the notes get drawn out into infinity. Having the ability to control both the subwoofer level and the bass and treble to such a small degree works wonders, and so far it's the next best thing to seeing these bands live.

Lustmord's album Dark Matter really shines with this system. The mysterious deep space soundscapes enveloped me. I was able to crank up the subwoofer level to augment the low drones without losing any of the delicate mid- and high-range textures of that album.

Speaking of that low end, I put on the Boner Records reissue of the Melvins' Lice-all. If you haven't heard this, it starts with several minutes of guitar drone before a massive drum hit lands. I was not prepared for the bass levels when that happened (and neither was my cat, for that matter). There has been quite a lot of running for the app to turn down the subwoofer in my house lately. My eardrums and my cat thank ELAC for that Offset Volume feature!

Aforementioned crappy portable CD player

I have now listened to my favorite Melvins album Hostile Ambient Takeover and Liar by The Jesus Lizard. This already sounds better than any higher-grade CD player I've ever had plugged into one of my many sub-par systems. The low end is still incredible and there's no distortion that my ears can detect. Add to that the fact that I have this player plugged into the second analog inputs via the CD player's headphone jack, and I can safely say that I won't be rushing out to buy a new CD player anytime soon.


I decided that I would move the whole system into our TV room for our viewing of episodes 5, 6, and 7 of the Star Wars franchise. It was so worth the effort! I don't remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back in the theater (I was 4), but I imagine the audio at the time couldn't have been much better than this. Every AT-AT footstep was tremendous. The space battle scenes were way more explosive than I ever remember them being, even in theaters. And every time Jabba the Hut spoke in Return of the Jedi I could share in our heroes' dread at being held captive by him.

I also took this opportunity to pop in my CD copy of Ween's Chocolate and Cheese. This system totally passes the "CD played through a Blu-ray player" test.


The Bluetooth connection is okay in a pinch, but it definitely has its issues. I frequently have a hard time attaching my iPhone to the amp, even when everything is turned on and set to the correct inputs. Once connected, it generally works well as long as I'm sitting near the unit. My wife's iPhone connects from the other side of the house at night when she's playing Forge of Empires, which is always a strange medieval music experience. However, the connection constantly cut out when I was listening from my laptop just across the room from the amp.

The sound quality (when it isn't cutting out) is fine. I use Bluetooth headphones and generally don't have a huge issue with the sound quality, but I know many people have strong opinions about this. As long as the connection isn't cutting out, it's perfectly fine if you're having a house party and need music playing continuously in the background.


The USB connection is way better than the Bluetooth connection. The only problem is the need to have a dedicated computer connected to the amp at all times. Since we only have laptops in my house, I just keep a USB cable attached to the back of the amp and plug in my laptop when I want to listen. I've noticed that, even though the software is active on my laptop, if it is still connected to the amp via Bluetooth, the USB connection won't override that. So I do need to manually disconnect the Bluetooth first. Even then I sometimes need to unplug and reconnect the cable, but it is a minor inconvenience.

I've been having so much fun with my mish-mash iTunes library! Playing my years-old 192k mp3 of "C'mon Ride It (The Train)" by Quad City DJ's on this system has led to several impromptu dance parties in my living room. I'm transitioning from Bach to Ol' Dirty Bastard to Django Reinhardt, and the Offset Volume feature means that the levels are pretty right on for everything. It's 9:30 on a Thursday night and I put on "Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliott. The bass is thundering. Me: "Oh, I should probably turn that down." My wife, without even a hint of sarcasm: "Oh, no, it's FINE."

This system is also perfect for discovering previously unheard nuances in so many of my favorite digital albums, especially anything electronic-based. Aphex Twin imbued "Bucephalus Bouncing Ball" with at least twice as many chaotic and deranged noises than I'd ever realized. Again, the clarity and lack of any low-end muddiness is key.

Let's try those old speakers

Finally, I tried plugging my classic Polk bookshelf speakers into the amp. I'm listening to a 1973 pressing of Frank Zappa's Hot Rats. The Polk speakers have never, EVER sounded this good. Well, maybe they sounded amazing when my brother originally bought them, but they've been hooked up to a variety of fair-to-middling audio setups, none of which contained anything close to a decent subwoofer. I did have to crank up the bass and the subwoofer levels a bit, as the low end on the Polks isn't quite as punchy as the ELACs.

This system is perfect for anyone who wants high-end sound at a reasonable price. This system will cost you just around $1230 plus tax. After having attended my first Los Angeles Audio Show, I can say that $1500 is a steal for the level of quality you will get from this ELAC audio system.

ELAC EA101EQ-G Integrated Amplifier

Retail: $699.99

ELAC Debut Series B6 Bookshelf Speakers

Retail: $279.99

ELAC S10 Powered Subwoofer

Retail: $249.99