Encel Gelati Bookshelf Speakers Review

Posted on 12th August, 2022

Encel Gelati Bookshelf Speakers Review

Mark Gusew listens to this affordable new standmount loudspeaker…

Encel

Gelati Bookshelf Speakers

AUD $549 RRP (plus optional grilles)

The Encel name needs little introduction for those based in Melbourne and arguably even the broader nation of Australia. Its retail stores dominated the local hi-fi market for decades. Founder Alex Encel is a pioneer of stereo reproduction. In 1958 he assembled a two-channel amplifier, built a pair of speakers and used an English Acos stereo cartridge to hold the very first public demonstration of a stereo system in Australia. The event was advertised in The Age newspaper, and many people came to hear the system play.

This would become a pivot point, not only for Alex's career but for the entire hi-fi industry in Australia – although it's likely that this wasn't apparent at the time. In the nineteen sixties, Alex started importing best-of-breed products from all over the world and selling them in his retail shop in Richmond, named Encel Stereo. 

He also began producing a line of speakers, initially marketed as Encel Speakers and later under the International Dynamics (Interdyn) label, using high-quality Scandanavian drivers from SEAS and with various sized enclosures to suit clients' needs. Highly respected technology and StereoNET journalist Peter Familari, more recently called Alex, “the Godfather” of Australian hi-fi, such was the level of respect given to him and his influence within the industry after many decades.


Credit: Real Groovy Records

THE NEXT CHAPTER

Its retail stores may all be closed today, but the products bearing its name still fetch a pretty dollar on the second-hand market. And now, another chapter of the Encel story begins under the watchful eye of Alex's son, Sam. A new line of products has emerged that's entirely in tune with the evolving market of this new century. The $549 Encel Gelati standmount loudspeaker you see here is one such example.

It's a simple lineup consisting of just one model, at least at the time of writing. It is aptly named – as you will discover – and offers both speakers and grilles that come in a range of mix-and-match colour options to suit your taste and decor. The cabinets are available in various 'flavoured' lacquer and woodgrains, including Birch Black, Vanilla, Caramel Walnut, and Pistachio, Gelati style. The personalisation continues with optional magnetically-attached grilles in your choice of any of the twelve flavours. These comprise Ocean Blue, Eucalyptus Green, Lemon Yellow and Coffee Brown, to name just a few, which are available for $79 a pair. Or, if you prefer a more traditional look, Black or White grilles are available for $49 a pair. Sam told me that “the optional grilles turned out to be the right decision as half of our customers (I suspect those without young kids) enjoy looking at the drivers and don't take grilles at the time of purchase.”

UP CLOSE

The Gelati is a compact bookshelf speaker with 9.5 litres of internal cabinet volume; it measures 301x174x222mm (HxWxD) and weighs 4.25kg. A two-way bass reflex design, it sports a 130mm woven Kevlar coned bass driver and a 25mm soft dome tweeter. Sensitivity is around average for its size at a quoted 86dB (2.83V @1m); Encel recommends an amplifier of 25 to 100W per channel.

I liked the look of my review samples, which were finished in the caramel walnut cabinet and black front baffle with exposed drivers. Fit and finish are first class, much better than expected at this price point. There are no exposed screws or fasteners, and a lovely gold-coloured trim around the drivers completes the classy look. I'm told that Encel tried ten different versions of the aluminium trims until the design team was satisfied with just the right amount of gold and sandblasted finishing. Transparent silicone feet are supplied for use under each speaker, further improving the sound and avoiding scratches to the furniture. I also appreciated the packaging, which has a tasteful and colourful expression thanks to an artistic collaboration with illustrator Alice Oehr. 

I used the review speakers with various amplifiers, mostly a Rotel A12 MkII integrated with a claimed 60W RMS of power per channel. My source was a Bluesound Node 2i using the digital output and streaming Spotify and Qobuz tracks.

The Gelati isn't too fussy about how it is set up and works happily close to a boundary wall – anything from 10cm or more worked well in my room. Things got even better when placed 25cm or more away from the wall, especially when sitting on rigid stands. The user manual suggests – and I agree – that the tweeters sound best when positioned around ear level.


In-situ at Space Hi-Fi (NSW)

THE LISTENING

It is impossible not to be impressed with the musicality and balance of this little loudspeaker. Agile and fun to listen to, it seems to perform equally well regardless of musical genre. 

For example, with Daft Punk's catchy Get Lucky, I was impressed by the amount of bass weight, visceral punch and midband definition that this speaker delivered. It also performed well when reproducing the bass guitar, kick drum and synthesiser work in the lower registers. Pharrell Williams' vocal was clear and set forward from the rest of the mix. Handclaps, cymbals, and intricate guitar work were easily heard, without any particular strand dominating the proceedings. Unlike some other inexpensive speakers, treble was always smooth and detailed and never sharp or irritating. Obviously, it can't produce subwoofer-type bass levels, but everything that it gives low down is usable and proper.

So refined, balanced and smooth is the Gelati that it's clear a lot of listening went on before the design was signed off. I'm told that Sam Encel and other trusted ears around the country gave collective input into the final sound, and I applaud those choices. Generally speaking, well-designed small speakers often shine with superior detail retrieval, and this didn't disappoint. The airiness and spatial envelope recorded on Low by Chet Faker was delivered intact and proved most satisfying to listen to. All the various sound effects, like bird calls, percussion, synth, etc., generated by Glass Animals in Flip were clear and unmistakable. 

Paired with the aforementioned Rotel amplifier, there was no shortage of overall volume and control in the bass department, which proved more than enough for a dinner party in a medium-sized room. Keeping this speaker's overall size and price point in mind, its transient speed and handling of dynamics are even more impressive. For example, the strong bass line in the dance remix of Running Up That Hill by Sgt Slick was super-satisfying, the track sounding suitably powerful, unstressed and cohesive. I also appreciated that this speaker was well able to sound engaging at low volume levels – perhaps as quiet background music – yet it was just as happy to boogie when you're in the mood. 


Credit: Real Groovy Records

The sense of space and control found in Hauser's Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor by Hauser was quite outstanding, with the rich tone of the cello shining as it traversed entire octaves with no apparent effort. Natural sounding musical instruments sounded realistic, so classical music is certainly not out of bounds for this speaker.

The soundstage of Someone New by Hozier provided good front-to-back contrast between the lead vocal line and the musical backing located behind the singer. Tracks like Budjerah's Ready For The Sky or Stranger by Gordi created a large soundstage that was well outside the speakers' physical position and filled the room with sound. Off-axis listening was very good, too, with the ability to hear a focused soundstage from pretty much anywhere in the room, not just inside the magic triangle.

Still, the Gelati does have its limits. It's basically a budget speaker and can't quite provide the pinpoint spatial detail and accuracy of some of its more expensive counterparts. This is probably the only area that stops it from sounding like a speaker at multiples of its price. That said, it's still more than good enough for most listeners, and when you consider that a pair of these is priced equivalently to a premium Bluetooth speaker, there's just no contest. 


Credit: Real Groovy Records

THE VERDICT

Some sixty years after Alex Encel started making speakers commercially, we see a new generation setting a similarly high aesthetic and sonic standard that continues to bear this famous brand name. It may be a local design, but it can easily compete against established international brands. Its difference is in the creative level of customisation, with colour options that doubtlessly appeal to a younger market. The Gelati reminds me that music is about having fun.

Highly recommended, then. This new speaker delivers a colourful, tutti-frutti range of sound that doesn't demand expensive auxiliary components for good results. It represents excellent value for money, punches well above its price and should definitely be high up your audition shortlist.

For more information visit Encel

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    Mark Gusew's avatar

    Mark Gusew

    Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Loudspeakers Bookshelf / Standmount Applause Awards 2022
    Tags: encel  interdyn 



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