Publisher Profile

ELAC CL330 JET Bookshelf Speaker Review

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ELAC CL330 JET bookshelf speakersForeword

The increasingly popular application of minimonitors as main speakers in a home theatre is understandably wife-decreed in many cases, with the exception of readers who own very large family room fitting for a pair of the largest Apogees and the likes. But minimonitors used to rule the industry.

A reign of the minimonitors took place in the early 90’s when high-end audio makers explored the possibility of big sound in compact cabinets unprecedentedly, and graced the high-end audio scene with a sudden proliferation of minimonitors of exceptional calibers, such as the milestone, $8,000 B&W John Bowers Silver Signature and the $3,000 Celestion SL700, among competing models from Infinity, Monitor Audio, ProAc, Totem, etc. These superb products accomplished important aspects of a full-range loudspeaker’s performance envelope, bringing high-end experiences in the form of bookshelf speakers to legions of audiophiles with small to medium sized rooms for the first time.

I have been using Celestion’s SL700 as my reference minimonitor since 1992, continuously amazed and mesmerized by its expansive dimensionality, thunderous dynamics and fine tonal articulation. To date, its aerospace industry-adapted Aerolam cabinet construction and its crossover and driver designs brilliance are still among the most innovative and original, setting a benchmark that renders even many designs of the day wanting. Along comes ELAC with a statement product that is just as advanced as the aforementioned forerunners in their days.

CL330JET

Low-profiled on the American scene, ELAC is among a group of European hi-fi companies with a rich heritage and significant market reaches in Europe and Asia. ELAC’s legacy was described summarily in my 2002 Review of its 518 floor-standing, full-range loudspeaker.

Priced above the $4,119, 3-way 518, the subject of this review, the CL330JET, is introduced in August, 1999, and has been ELAC’s top-of-the-line, 2-way compact minimonitor equipped with the Jet Emission Tweeter and one of the two twin-magnet, TT180AS woofers used by the 518. At this review goes public, ELAC will have introduced a magnetically shielded edition, the CL330.2 JET.

Constructed with a single piece of extruded aluminum 7.5mm thick, the supposedly inert cabinet is further enforced by an internal, central crosspiece, creating a claimed resonant-free enclosure. While Celestion invented the visually distinctive, front wave-diffusing front baffle ridges using aerospace industry metal, ELAC created a cabinet out of the similar aluminum that begins with a small rectangle at the top for housing the JET, morphing on both sides fluidly downward into a large, rounded shell that encapsulates the high-excursion woofer. With the automotive paint, the ELAC minimonitor appeared highly sculpted and graceful.

Contrasting the Celestion SL700’s acoustic suspension design with a cabinet depth of 9.75 inches, the ELAC’s is a 13.5 inches deep cabinet with an oversized flare port at the upper rear. Visual inspection into the flare port revealed the Jet Emission Tweeter at the far end as a front-firing only design with a sealed back plate.

The JET is a concertina-like membrane energized by a strong, patented neodymium (NeFeB) rod magnet system. The tweeter is claimed to have superior mechanical stress endurance, while possessing 40% less in volume and weight than a conventional cone, and yet capable of exciting the air faster than ordinary pistonic tweeters. The minimonitor‘s JET is specified to handle a considerably wider frequency range of 2.7k Hz to 35k Hz, in contrast to the 3.8 k Hz crossover point demanded of the floor-standing 518’s JET.

The aluminum foil-impregnated 7-inch woofer is also given the task of covering a much wider range of 40 Hz to 2.7k Hz, while the two woofers of the 518 has only to cover the range of 28 Hz to 500 Hz. A pulp fiber cone in double asymmetrical rubber surround, ELAC claims the woofer has an maximum excursion range of 1.5 inch. A fiber-reinforced polyamide custom basket houses the singular TT180AS.

Raising the CL330JET to listening heights is the matching, sizable LS330 all-aluminum stand, which also offers 6 degrees of vertical angle adjustments via a rear, upward-pointing spike in conjunction with 2 front stationary spikes, being coupled to the speaker through specially provisioned coupling notches at the bottom of each speaker. The hollow stand has openings beneath the top platform and bottom plate for cable management.

In compliance with EU standards, the CL330JET’s bi-wiring terminals are fitted with blind plugs identical to the 518’s which inadvertently accepts banana plugs only through the side.

Setup And Audition

The CL330JET was able to load my 12 by 27 by 8 feet listening room impressively without inducing driver distortions even at very high level, a particularly noteworthy feat the Celestion SL700 was known for. At 4 feet 10 inches away from the front wall and 3 feet 6 inches away from each side wall, the ELACs were 10 feet away from the listening position, which had another 7 feet of space away from the rear wall. Moving the speakers closer to the listening position made the presentation progressively less dimensional and less integrated.

Both horizontal and vertical dispersion of the ELAC’s JET tweeter were more directional than my Celestion SL700’s dome tweeter. Hence, to obtain the most dimensional soundstaging, the LS330 stand’s vertical adjustment option became most indispensable as the speakers were found to perform most optimally when toed-in completely and tilted slightly upward to fire at the listening position. Although application of ASC Flat traps along side walls was unnecessary, placements of my pair of 20-inch ASC tube traps at corners behind the ELACs improved textural articulation around mid-bass.

47 Laboratory’s $8,100 4713 Flatfish CD Transport & 4705 Progression DAC with Power Humpty served initially as the primary digital front end, supplanted afterwards by the company’s $26,500 PiTracer and Audio Note’s $30,000 DAC 5 Special. Harmonix Reimyo’s DAP-777 20bitK2 solid-state DAC also provided additional insights.

In the order of price, amplifications used included 47 Lab’s $7,100, customized Gaincard S in dual mono configuration as the least expensive, and Harmonix Reimyo’s $17k CAT-777 preamplifier and the matching $27k PAT-777 power amplifier as the costliest. Audion‘s $15,995 pair of 23 Wpc, volume control-equipped Level 6 Golden Dream 300B monoblock, Loth X’s 9 Wpc, $15,000 JI300 300B integrated amplifier, and the $19k amplification system of Audio Note’s $10k phono M5 and Linn’s $9,000 Klimax Twin stereo power amplifier were also rotated with the ELAC minimonitors. Digital and interconnect cables were Audio Note’s Sogon, and speaker cables were AN’s bi-wiring SPx.

In dynamics, the 47 Lab Gaincard S-driven CL330JET depicted soprano Kathleen Battle’s extravagant, majestic vocalization in Johann Strauss’ “Voice of Spring” (New Year’s Concert, Deutsche Grammophon 419 616-2) without sounding compressed. Scale and volume of Dame Battle’s intonations also took on very finely detailed texturing via the JET tweeters with tremendous upward frequency extension, and were meticulously sustained in their vitality even at insane volume levels.

The JET membrane’s dispersion method created a sound highly conducive in soundstage delineation. There was a wealth of information in depicting depth of stage and Dame Battle’s intonation amidst a stage-full of players. Listening to this CD via the Gaincard S-driven CL330JET would give any listener a better dimensional sense of the event than watching the DVD version. Granted that the Redbook CD contained no ultra-sonic materials for the JET to expound upon, the airy, dimensional presentation imparted unmistakable sonority to the vocalization nonetheless.

Changing to the amplification of the M3/Klimax Twin yielded a dynamic potency from the CL330JET that my Celestion SL700 also exhibited but at probably 75% of the ELAC’s vigor.

For instance, while in portrayal of the aforementioned vocal passages the Celestion was no less dynamic in comparison, the pair of ELAC when driven by the AN/Linn system was substantially more overwhelming in rendering the accompanying Berlin Philharmonic by way of its powerful, ported woofers. The bottom-end vigor that transpired from the woofer’s cone excursions could actually be felt in both the listening position and the speaker’s rear flare port, by pressing the hand against the exporting rush of air.

Propelled by the same partnership of Audio Note preamplifier and Linn power amplifier, the DSD heritage of the hybrid SACD Des Lied Von Der Erde, or “Song of the Earth” (Duetsche Grammophon 471 635-2) received due homage when the JET tweeter reenacted the extremely resolute upper midrange and above, while the 7-inch, twin-magnet woofer empowered the most impressive scaling agility I’ve heard in a minimonitor.

On vocals, the concertina-like JET tweeter as powered by its neodymium magnet engaged the differing characteristics of the mezzo-soprano and the tenor in a showcase of tonal openness and responsive, expeditious transients. Successive tests of volume increase did not cause the German speaker to distort at the slightest extent. Pierre Boulez’s Mahler with the Vienna Philharmonic was an occasion for celebration in its enduring originality as well as evocative performance, and the German minimonitor’s exacting stance served the music well.

Yet, the best vocal realization was to stem from a freshly available, JVC XRCD24 in the presence of admittedly expensive tube amplifications, such as Harmonix Reimyo‘s $44k system.

Sounding dynamically liberated and tonally pristine, the latest 24-bit super analog XRCD24 , Jheena Lodwick’s All My Loving… , exhibited an unprecedented level of fidelity that made the CL330JET sound larger, and portrayal of double-bass plucking in track 7, “Are you Lonesome Tonight”, and track 13, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, was of such distinction in articulation and fidelity that the instrument sounded resolute and tight via the ELAC’s seemingly disproportionate woofer, according a most convincing testimony for the agility as well as sensibility of the soloist. In addition, ability of the range-extended lone woofer in agitating air must be experienced in person to be appreciated, as volumes of air thus generated evoked a realism rich in details and formidable in force. Most remarkably, in songs produced with a minimum assortment of instruments, such as “Emerald City” and “It’s Now or Never”, Ms. Lodwick’s voice had a transcending elation via the wide-banded JET, as if the air was energized by an Apogee-like full-size tweeter panel in the abundance of nuances and vitality. In this regard, the CL330JET far surpassed any 1-inch dome tweeter I’ve experienced.

Having resorted to a wide variety of music with diversified origins and quality in this review, I feel that the XRCD24 Super Analog disc was most conducive in exploring the potentials of the minimonitor.

Other Perspectives

In contrast to what tube amplifications were able to induce from the CL330JET, there were moments when the $7.1k 47 Lab integrated and the $19k tube/transistor system of AN and Linn would heighten the singular characteristics of the JET appreciably and debatably.

More frequently with regular CD than with audiophile recordings, the potent woofer as effected by the solid-state amplification sounded strangely discordant with the JET, developing a more indulgent, self-conscious sound that would rather detach itself from overall coherency, as opposed to imposing over the tweeter, resulting in a less involving presentation. Concession must be given here that just as not all tube users will prefer his music the way I do mine, neither is the case with solid-state aficionados.

With that said, corroboration of ELAC’s JET and twin-magnet woofer as supported by either the $15k Loth X JI300 or the $44k Harmonix Reimyo CAT-777 preamplifier and PAT-777 amplifier attained such increasingly concerting unity, that tonal signatures of instrument and vocals alike was infused with a high-end quality embodied with the luminance of live sound. It was as if oxygen was purer in the listening space from the air and top-end extensions produced.

Conclusion

Via the CL330JET’s, foundation of all music types connoted substance, and although the larger, full-range 518 with its twin woofer system had sounded decidedly communicative and powerful, I found the CL330JETs’ performance eminently admirable. Subjectively, the CL330JET’s dynamic tweeter/woofer duo surpassed my Celestion SL700’s prowess in dynamics and frequency extension, sounding even more remarkably like a full range unit.

Reproducing the frequency range of 2.7k Hz to 35k Hz, the smallish JET tweeter radiated a sound even more expansive in scale and more agile in transient response than my Celestion SL700’s renowned 1-inch metal dome tweeter. The JET tweeter also sounded consistently richer and more opulent than the Celestion with the same amplification. Moreover, the fact that the JET tweeter was able to transpire all the glories of the frequency range of 2.7k Hz to 35k Hz single-handedly, with densely delineated tones and orderly images, convinced me of the greatness of this technology and the recognition it should receive.

The CL330JET’s ported 7-inch woofer, the twin-magnet TT180AS, also did ELAC tremendous pride by commanding a disproportionately exerting bottom-end louder and more open than the SL700’s. Given the considerable range of 50 to 2.7k Hz, the twin magnet unit single-handedly traversed the entire range assigned to it with punctual transients and solid slam.

Lastly, the CL330JET’s one-piece, extruded aluminum cabinet with automotive-like finish and the equally attractive, customized LS330 stand entices eyebrow-twitching fingerprinting from its owner, while its overachieving sonics significantly advances the state-of-the-art in floor-saving minimonitor designs.

Summarily, the ELAC CL330JET sounded more full-range than the Celestion SL700, outperforming it in significant areas and magnitude, and the German minimonitor’s MSRP was actually highly competitive against the Celestion SL700 when adjusted for differences in cost of living. Retrospectively, although I thought the CL330JET was more deserving of tube amplification for the sound I favored, many readers will undoubtedly be astounded by what the CL330JET will do in a quality, solid-state system as well.

The fact that neither the tweeter nor the woofer of the CL330JET showed the slightest sign of overload when playing orchestral passages at full force convinced me that ELAC had developed a magnificent woofer and a tweeter of wonder that have matured to the point where relevance for the optimization of its drivers can well be taken to a higher level, in which further development in their own role as full-range units is merited.

Being an Apogee user, I will be very excited if ELAC would exploit the JET technology into introducing an Apogee-like full-range model, one that will certainly make Dr. Oskar Heil’s invention another milestone in audio history.

The ELAC CL330JET’s were the most dynamic and resolving minimonitors I have used to date.
———————————————————————————

Distributor’s Response:

Dear Constantine,

Thank you for such a wonderful review of the ELAC CL330JET speaker system.
We are extremely happy that you liked what you heard and appreciated the
technology incorporated into the system.

The only comment that we can make is that unfortunately due to the very weak
US dollar, the current retail price for the speaker is $3,900.00 per pair and the
stands are $1,700.00 per pair, for a total system price of $5,600.00.

Regards,
Dick Ravich/ELAC

Associated Equipment:

Digital Front End
47 Laboratory 4705 Progression DAC
47 Laboratory 4705-G Gemini Progression DAC
47 Laboratory 4707 PiTracer CD Transport
Audio Note DAC One 1.1x Signature
Audio Note DAC 5 Special
GW Labs DSP Engine
Harmonix Reimyo DAP-777 20bit K2 DAC
Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player

Amplification
47 Laboratory 4706 dual mono Gaincard S with DACT24 & Cardas
posts
Audion Golden Silver Night 300B monoblocks
Decware SE84C
GW Labs 270 tube power amplifier
Harmonix Reimyo CAT-777 preamplifier
Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B stereo amplifier
Linn Klimax Twin
Loth X JI300 integrated amplifier
Reference Line Preeminence Two passive preamplifier
Reference Line Preeminence One Signature power amplifier]
Z-systems RDP-1 Reference Digital Preamplifier

Speakers
Apogee Duetta Signature
Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver
Celestion SL700
ELAC CL330JET
Genesis VI
Loth-X BS1
Rethm 2nd
Tannoy Churchill Wideband
Tannoy TD10

Cabling
Audio Note Sogon digital cable (1m, RCA)
Audio Note Sogon interconnect (2m pair, RCA)
Audio Note AN-Vx interconnect (1.5m, RCA)
Audio Note AN-V silver interconnect (RCA 1m, 2 pairs)
Audio Note AN-SPx speaker cable (2m, bananas, bi-wired)
Audio Note AN-La copper speaker cable (8 feet, bi-wired)
Canare L-5CFB 75-ohm digital cable (RCA, 1.5m)
Canare D206 110 ohm digital cable (AES/EBU, 1.5m)
Cardas Quadlink 5C (8 feet)
Granite Audio #470 silver cables (RCA 1m, 2 pairs)
Granite Audio #560 AC Mains (2)
Harmonix Reimyo Studio Master AC cord (2)
Illuminations D-60 75 Ohm digital cable (1.5m, RCA)
Loth X
Van den Hul MCD-352 (8 feet)

Accessories
ISO, Salamander Synergy 20 (2), ASC Tube Traps and Flat Traps

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