ELAC Solano BS283 Bookshelf Speakers Review
Paul Sechi auditions a handsome new compact, German bookshelf loudspeaker…
Solano BS283 Bookshelf Speakers
Although a well-known brand to many Australian hi-fi buyers, most would not realise that ELAC is almost a one hundred year old company. Its new BS283 reviewed here takes all that heritage on board and is one of no less than eight ranges. Add to this the company’s electronics, cables and stands, and it’s now a one-stop hi-fi brand.
This speaker is a 2-way bass-reflex design housing a 100mm (inside roll surround diameter) long-throw mid/bass driver, plus ELAC’s JET5 tweeter, which is also seen on the higher-performing and more expensive Vela and Concentro series speakers. The BS283 is compact in stature at 190x250x330mm (WxDxH) but weighs a hefty 8kg. It is designed and manufactured in Germany.
The speaker has a false bottom, making it just 305mm high, while the baseplate – or ‘bass plate’ – adds another 25mm in height. The downward-firing port approach is similar to my previously reviewed Fyne SP500 speaker, which was used for comparative purposes in this review. Both employ an underside bass reflex port mounting allowing the port to breathe into a finite space. Flip over the enclosure, and the baseplate has four receptacles to install plastic screw-in circular ‘pucks’. ELAC’s accessory pack provides all the mounting hardware and round adhesive cork isolators for anti-slip mounting.
In practice, my loudspeaker stand’s top plate was too small for the BS283 puck and cork solution, as I could only get 3 to 4mm of each cork isolator onto the top plate. Plan B removed the pucks and used the cork isolators under the plastic baseplate rib – top-plate issue resolved! ELAC also offers its matching LS80 speaker stands for $695 per pair.
A gentle curve on the front and rear panel adds finesse to the 19mm thick walled MDF enclosure. Aesthetically the black gloss finish is sleek, especially without a front panel grill, and the rear panel has a bi-wirable terminal cup. This speaker is also available in gloss white at the same price. The product warranty is an outstanding ten years and covers full parts and labour.
The mid/bass driver is the company’s own design, manufactured with an integrated dust cap and oversized motor structure – adding considerably to the speaker’s overall weight. It’s a long-throw design which has substantial low-frequency response capability, says ELAC. The rubber roll surround suits Australian humidity conditions. With an effective cone diameter of 100mm, the 15mm roll surround is substantial. The JET5 air motion – i.e. ribbon – tweeter has a stated frequency response out past 40kHz, with a shallow waveguide enhancing dispersion. It is the same type used in higher-priced models.
These two drivers cross over at 2.4kHz. Crossover filter slopes are second-order low pass and third-order high pass. The product specification sheet states an unusually low nominal impedance figure of 4 ohms, and efficiency of 85dB (2.83v/1m) and a frequency range of 41Hz to 50kHz (using IEC 268-5 standard and indicating -10dB response points).
This means it’s quite a tough speaker to drive for most mass-market amplifiers, so ideally, the more power you have, the better. My Primare 100W integrated amplifier worked well enough, alongside a Primare CD player, Bluesound Vault 2i streamer and SolidSteel SS-6 stands and Tributaries Series 8 cables. I also used my dem pair of BS283s with a Perreaux 200iX amplifier.
One of the most impressive facets of the ELAC is its wide soundstage, which stretches beyond the speaker cabinets themselves. The BS283 also gives a deep and multi-layered presentation, making it easy to pick out instrument locations. Tonally, it’s warm in both the bass and midband, but this can be dialled down by moving it out into the room, away from the boundary wall. Doubtless thanks to that lovely JET5 tweeter, timing is very good – being fast, delicate and open. The speaker can be played at all volume levels with similar sonic characteristics yet really comes alive when given some power.
Its innate speed is a gift that never stops giving. With Delirious by Luka Bloom, the ELAC kicked into gear to show great transient attack on the guitar, excellent definition and satisfyingly good decay as the track ends. Midband was clear and defined, and the tweeter never portrayed shouting or forwardness, as is possible on this track. Delving into the upper bass and midband region and Kaki King’s Kewpie Station revealed much the same. The delicacy of the tweeter lets you hear when notes properly start and stop, and also the noise floor between them. Kaki’s guitar work was replicated with excellent speed. Guitar slaps were firm with real weight, much more than I expected.
So Familiar by Steve Martin & Edie Brickellwas handled deftly, with banjo, bass and drums showing a lively rhythm – and the speaker treated the female vocal line sensitively. I found my review pair of ELACs sounded best about 70cm out into my room, with the upper bass sounding tauter and tighter than when pushed further back closer to my bay window. Tonal warmth decreased a little, but the song seemed faster and more propulsive. In absolute terms, though, good as it is, this speaker’s low bass isn’t the best I’ve heard – as you’d expect from a product at this price.
It really excels in the midband, when that very special tweeter begins to kick in. For example, Come Back Baby from Eric Bibb was really well carried. The ELAC showed refinement, subtlety and detail – proving a treat with Bibb’s vocals – and also excellent dynamic range. Never exaggerated or in your face, the sound pretty much felt like a live performance, but with just a touch of upper bass warmth to add weight to the proceedings.
The tweeter is a gift that just keeps on giving, as Dot Allison’s Long Exposure showed. Detailed, dynamic and well recorded, this is a great test track, and the BS283’s high-frequency unit really shone through. The detail at the start of the track was excellent; Dot’s voice was centred, quite light, almost feathery, in a broadly painted soundstage. The ELAC realistically presented musical emotion with excellent dynamic range and well-timed lower piano note weight. That JET5 tweeter never once got brittle.
Bass is impressive considering the size of this little loudspeaker but sounds best when powered by a gutsy amplifier. With Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen’s More Hipper, I turned up the volume and compared my Primare and Perreaux amplifiers. Using the Primare first, the BS283 came out swinging. The introduction was big, with the treble and midband blazing and blending with the warm bass response. The broad soundstage displayed decent depth, and the track was upbeat and carried rhythm well, although the bass wasn’t as coherent as I would have liked. This was fixed with the introduction of the more powerful Perreaux amplifier, which had a leaner and less plummy bass, and seemed more propulsive and musical.
Compared to the Fyne SP500 loudspeaker I recently reviewed, the ELAC really shone in the treble region. Its JET5 tweeter is superb, while that of the Fyne is more forward than the ELAC. The latter’s mid/bass driver delivered a level of detail the ELAC could not match, though, so as ever in hi-fi, it is swings and roundabouts!
ELAC’s BS 283 Solano provided me with many foot-tapping moments during the review period, generating a big sound from a small footprint. Positioned correctly, a pair of these small standmounters should really sing for you. The famous JET5 tweeter is a pleasure to listen to, with a lightness and delicacy that you can never forget. This speaker has a fast, detailed midband with a smidgen of pleasing warmth thrown in. The bass is excellent for the size, but you’ll need a gutsy amplifier to really appreciate this. Overall, this is a lovely little loudspeaker that’s well worth auditioning.
Paul is a music appreciation fan of both live and produced music from diverse genres and cultures. Paul was interested in audio at school, did a thesis in acoustics and by day works as a technology strategist including smart environment standards and integration.
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