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Crutchfield Demo Days: Bookshelf speaker shootout with ELAC, KEF, B&W

ELAC Carina, KEF R3, B&W 705 S2

Crutchfield Demo Days: three bookshelf speakers

Dave D.'s Demo Days are always a highlight at Crutchfield. That's where he sets up something cool and everyone who wants to can come play with it, listen to it, ask questions, and get some hands-on time with something we sell.

In this particular demo, Dave set up three sets of bookshelf speakers from different price points: the ELAC Carina, B&W 705 S2, and the KEF R3. The purpose wasn't so much to declare a winner, rather to show how different companies approach the reproduction of sound, and how maybe one sounds better to your ears than another, because all our ears are different.

Read video transcript

Hi, everybody, I'm Dave D. with Crutchfield, and I set up demos for a lot of our advisors, and I find that the benefit behind that...there's multiple layers of it, but our advisors get a chance to really get hands-on with the products that we carry, and they get to listen. They get to see they get the find out the nuances of how things are connected, how they run the actual procedure of how to connect different things together, so it gives them a lot more confidence when talking to customers about what they want to recommend for the right solution for a customer. And today an example of our demo is a comparison between three bookshelf speakers. I've got the KEF R3, I've got the B&W 705 S2 speakers, and I've got the ELAC Carinas, So we're representing three different levels of pricing, with about a thousand dollars between levels, and I was able to set these up, power them with equal power. For the amplification, I used a multi-channel Anthem amp that delivered about 90 watts per channel to each pair of speakers, so it was a level playing ground for them to listen to. And I fed a signal from the Bluesound Node using TIDAL Connect, so they had high-quality streaming going to the amplifier and enabled advisors to really kind of choose their music they wanted to. Things that they know, things that they're familiar with, so they knew the nuances, they knew the different cymbals, they knew when the kick drum was going to start, and they were able to feed that into whatever choice or whatever pair of speakers they wanted to. So I connected the Node 2 to the PreSonus monitor board, and that enabled us to switch between the three speakers. They could quickly compare, turn off one pair, turn on another, they could have all three on if they wanted to, and some did that, but it really allowed them kind of to self-serve the listening experience for themselves without any guidance. And that's a lot of what the advisors want to do. They want to discover things for themselves, and that really enabled them to do it. And when I set up the demo, I actually gave it a listen myself for the first time and went through some songs I knew and jotted down some of the aspects that I heard from songs I was very familiar with. Full disclosure: I have a pair of ELAC Carinas at home, so I knew what they were all about. Being the most affordable of the set, I started with those, and they delivered that flat sound...and I mean that in a very good way. It was a very even-keeled sound on all levels. The high frequencies were very good with the folded ribbon tweeter; the bass was pretty solid. The ELACs are the smallest speaker of the three, which could work for a lot of customers depending on your application. And I switched on to the B&W 705 S2 speakers, and that really emphasized a lot of the high frequencies. A lot of the vocals, some of the higher cymbal frequencies really came out big time. However, they didn't miss much when they went moved on down to the bass and mids, and that really impressed me. I then moved down to the KEFs, the big boys of the bunch, and they were in the middle of the price range with the B&W as being the highest. The KEFs also delivered a flat response, although I found it a little too flat for my listening preference. I did find it would be pretty nice to listen to for long periods of time, because they're not very fatiguing at all. They also had some of the best bass response, especially up against the walls. There were differences in output levels. When you moved to the ELACs you went down in volume. It was pretty noticeable difference, and that I think came across because of the lower sensitivity rating on it, which was 85db, but if they listened more to that and kind of adjusted for their output volumes they wanted between them, it evened out, and ELACs were still some of the favorites. With the difference of the output levels between the speakers I think it helped advisors become aware that it was very important to talk to customers about the power they're using, whether it's a home theater receiver or it's a stereo setup with just an integrated amplifier. You've got to get them the right amplification to get the output power they're expecting. That's crucial, and if you're looking for something that's working with lower power, that has to come into play. The efficiency has to come into the conversation most definitely. So that was another aspect of the listening test that was really important. We didn't set out to have a stiff competition between all the bookshelf speakers; I set out more to have a wider range of speakers to show advisors to kind of get a feel on different price tiers on how they would sound for each, and maybe hear the characteristics of how different companies do different things with the sound. So now we're going to set up the listening test for you. For these three bookshelf speakers we've got a Zoom H6 with a stereo microphone. We're going to position in the listening area same as the advisors and give you a little taste of what these speakers can do. Enjoy. So we love setting up demos here at Crutchfield, and if you have any questions about the demo we set up today or any of the products that you see here, or any products that you may not see, feel free to reach out to our advisors. They may have had some hands-on experience with those products directly. We hope to hear from you, thanks so much.

  • David Baril from Woodbridge, CT

    Posted on 4/25/2022

    Thank you for your evaluation effort, but I think your setup misses a big and speaker equalization. Most of the receivers sold by Crutchfield include an semi-automatic equalization feature (often Audyssey) with a calibrated microphone. In all my past A/V systems with a variety of receivers, speakers, and subwoofers, simply plugging the equipment together and operating it without Audyssey equalization resulted in much poorer overall sound. It only takes 20 minutes or less to perform the equalization using the documented procedures and the calibrated mic and the difference is significant. I recently moved to a more compact system to save space, moving from large floor-standing 3-way JBL Kappa 6's (with 10" woofer and a ribbon tweeter) . to a pair of ELAC2s compact speakers. When I first connected the ELACs to my receiver, they sounded terrible . with the equalization curve from the large JBLs. After re-running the Audyssey setup with the calibrated mic, the ELACs performed very well, as you mentioned in your posting. In the era of many receivers with built-in Audyssey equalization with a calibrated mic (which raises the price of the receiver), it is a dis-service to ignore this valuable feature that allow tailoring of the sound field to the speakers and the room. It would be interesting if you could compare the 3 sets of speakers, each with their own Audyssey equalization enabled.

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