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Review: ELAC Debut 2.0 – Affordable Dolby Atmos Speakers

ELAC Debut 2.0
ELAC brings one fascinating speaker to the market after offering a lot of quality for the requested price. That is absolutely true for the ELAC Debut 2.0 speakers, which we look at here in a grand 5.1.4 setup.
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Since Pioneer designer Andrew Jones switched to ELAC, the German company was shot in a real overdrive mode. Suddenly it brings one fascinating speaker to the market after another, offering a lot of quality for the requested price. That is absolutely true for the ELAC Debut 2.0 speakers, which we look at here in a grand 5.1.4 setup.

Since the launch of the original Debut series a few years ago we were jumping for these speakers ELAC is German, but because Jones is in the U.S. works and the Debuts originated at the US department of ELAC, they first came to the press in the United States. He was unanimously enthusiastic about it, which of course stimulated our curiosity. The name of Andrew Jones also attracted attention, because this engineer has become a legend in the audio world through his work at Pioneer and luxury brand TAD

Strongly adapted loudspeakers

Eventually it took a little longer to bring in the Debuts , but that allowed us to get started with ELAC Debut 2.0 version. These new speakers are tuned slightly differently than before and are technically highly adapted. The new line received new Aramide fiber drivers, new tweeters and more solid enclosures from black veneer. With some ELAC Debut 2.0 models, the bass port was brought to the front, making them easier to place. The Debut 2.0 floor stands are also quite slim, which makes them less disturbing in a smaller room. Also the center speakers (there are two models) were modified in generation 2, making the ELAC Debut 2.0 version a higher sensitivity. This makes this important speaker easier to control by a less powerful receiver. We think that’s smart, because the center speaker makes or breaks a surround setup.

For our test we received from the Benelux importer Servi-Q an extensive ELAC Debut 2.0 system, consisting of the F5.2 floorstander (349 euro / piece), B5.2 bookshelf speaker (159 euro / piece), the C5.2 center (249 euro) and the SUB 3010 (559 euro). Also included are four A4.2 Dolby speakers of 145 euros / piece, modules that you can place on top of the Debut 2.0 floorstanders and monitors to easily add height channels to your surround setup. You certainly can not call this a terrifying prize. The total price of this 5.1.4 set-up taps to just over 2,400 euros, which is not exaggerated. Yes, the sub is relatively expensive compared to the rest, but in a home theater, this device also has to handle a lot. And, as we shall see, this Sub 3010 is more than a simple wooden box with a woofer.

An app for the bass

ELAC already has a whole history of subwoofers that you can app can operate and tweak. A long time ago, we tested the high-end SUB 2070, a powerful 600-watt subwoofer that can correct problems in the layer after a quick measurement via the smartphone. The ELAC Debut 2.0 3010 does the same, but is positioned lower in the range. The sub is relatively compact (approximately 36 x 34 x 34 cm) and has a 10-inch woofer controlled by a 200 Watt RMS BASH amplifier. There is also a passive radiator, a non-controlled 10-inch woofer that points downwards. Like other ELAC subwoofers, the 3010 stands on a kind of ventilated boost, so that overpressure can escape easily. The construction is not as easy to install as the more expensive ELAC 2070 (with its double woofers pointing up and down) or the thin Q Acoustics 3060s, but you can easily place the 3010 in the room. And that all has to do with the corresponding ELAC Subs app (iOS and Android). The app connects to Bluetooth 4.0 – a newer phone is required – with the subwoofer and lets you adjust a number of settings.

You can choose from an EQ Mode (Flat, Cinema, Night and Music) ), something that you would do according to the viewing time and content. But there are also institutions that you would like to change from time to time, such as a delay and a phase. The most fascinating feature is the Auto Eq function, which we already know from the ELAC EA101EQ-G stereo amplifier. In a very similar way you use a smartphone to make a measurement of a test tone right for the sub and a measurement from the seat. The app then calculates a custom frequency display that addresses certain problems in the layer. Despite the use of a non-calibrated microphone and the inaccuracy inherent in measuring from the loose wrist, Auto EQ works surprisingly well. For example, in our test room, the app identified a number of known room problems, and suggested a corrective curve. In the app you can quickly turn the Auto EQ feature on and off, so you can easily hear what the function does. It is a little regrettable that you can not adjust the calculated curve yourself, as you can do with Dirac or the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app that belongs to Denon receivers.

Easy to install

You can quickly set up the rest of the ELAC Debut 2.0 system. The C5.2 is a relatively small center speaker that feels at home on a piece of furniture under a screen. You can really place it against the wall under the TV screen. That does not always happen. But unlike some center speakers, the ELAC has no bass ports at the back, just in front. Two openings at the front send low tones right into the room. The two woofers flanking a 25-mm tweeter are perfectly matched to each other, which we quickly notice when we start using test material.

The general build quality of the ELAC Debut 2.0 is very solid. It does not look so exciting and you can choose all colors if it is black, but despite the low price you never think: “This looks cheap”. The casings of the speakers are in any case solid and seem to have little trouble with vibrations during testing. Placement is not a big problem. The F5.2 is completely a floor stand for now: slim and barely 18 cm wide. The Atmos modules fit perfectly, just like on the B5.2 monitors. As is often the case with this type of reflective speaker, cable management is a little problem (the speaker cable to the A4.2 is attached) and there seems to be no way to permanently attach the modules to the underlying loudspeaker.

Recently, we tested the Q Acoustic 3000i speakers in a surround setup a set that already comes close to price in a 5.1-arrangement. However, Q Acoustics does not have an Atmos solution, while ELAC with the A4.2 has found an elegant and simple (and inexpensive!) Way to add height channels. The 3000i speakers also perform very well for surround. In terms of design, they are much fresher than the ELACs and they can also be controlled very easily. But the ELAC Debut 2.0s are the better in terms of integration and speed ahead – a real honor, because Q Acoustics is far from bad. An important point of interest is the AV receiver that you want to use with the Debut 2.0. All models have an impedance of 6 Ohm and are fairly insensitive, even the F5.2 floorstander. Floor stands are traditionally the most sensitive speakers in a setup, but the F5.2 taps at 86 dB. No problem on the more expensive Denon and Onkyo that we have used for our test, but for a budget receiver of 300 euros it might be too much to ask. It all depends on the volume level and what you do by the sub, but something to be reckoned with.

Beautiful for music

The last few months we have taken the test surround setups always go to two scenes from ‘Thor: Ragnarok’: the arena battle between Thor and Hulk (sorry for the spoiler) and the final battle in Asgard. We first connected the ELAC set-up to our fixed Denon AVR-X6300H receiver but also to the Onkyo TX-RZ830 which we have been visiting for a while. The test of this brand new receiver you can also read on this website soon. We first tuned the ELAC 3010 via the app, then calibrated the whole system with the measuring systems on board the Denon and Onkyo receivers. A first observation is that the measurement via the ELAC Subs app already yields a relatively good result, even though you only make a very rudimentary measurement via a smartphone. After the calibration with the Onkyo receiver we got a very open feeling surround field, with the LFE channel supporting the speakers very lightly. That made music playback remarkably good. We listened for example to the 5.1 version of ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd via SACD (on an Oppo BD-203), and for the first time in a long time were again struck by how beautiful music in surround can sound. The Debut’s are not unconcerned here, and despite their American origins, they are not exclusively tuned for home theater reproduction.

But back to Thor. We recently watched this film with the SVS SB-4000 mega subwoofer for the LFE channel, noting that it was capable of blowing people over, but also being very subtle when needed. What about the four times cheaper and much cheaper ELAC 3010? Less refined, less powerful, especially if we aim at the highest volumes. But that is normal, given the smaller woofer and the more limited amplifier. If we shift aside those reservations for a moment, we will find the 3010 quite strong. In Flat mode it’s really there as subtle support, we switch to Movie mode, then the soundtrack of ‘Ghost in a Shell’ (on Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, Dolby Atmos) gets a lot more punch.

Very open surround field

This – admitted, not really successful Scarlett Johansson remake of the iconic anime – has a very atmospheric soundtrack with great soundscapes to convey the immense capital of the future. It is a kind of soundtrack that fits well with the Debut’s, which accurately place effects but also radiate. Great for movies such as these – think of ‘Sicario’ or ‘Blade Runner: 2049’ – but in games we like to have a bit more accuracy. At ‘Halo: 5’ on the Xbox One we did find that scenes in large halls sound good in terms of space, but that you could not perfectly position all sounds. You may have to aim a bit higher in terms of speakers to get this ..

Also in the fixed test scene in the Viennese opera house in ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ (Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos) know to convince the Debut. The bombastic Nessun dorma aria of Pucinni’s Turandot completely envelops us, while Cruise goes high in the wings on the fist. It is good how the Debut’s – without being extremely analytical or fierce – still have very noticeable part of the surround mix (such as an instrument falling down or the jumping in the metal cables of the set). Great.

We review the 3010 regularly in this review, especially because the app is just a bit further than ‘stupid’ subs due to its app control. And yes, there are other subwoofers who have some kind of room correction (think of the Bowers & Wilkins DB2D or Monitor Audio Silver W12), but these products have a much larger price tag.

Conclusion

The Debut 2.0 speakers look very traditional, with their black veneer and straight lines. They may not be speakers where you can fall in love immediately after looking at it. But ELAC and Andrew Jones have ensured that every model on the audio surface offers the very best performance. They belong to the top in this segment. The Debut’s connect perfectly together, giving you a well-integrated, realistic surround sound. That is perhaps their strongest characteristic from a home cinema standpoint. But beware: these are speakers that need a better AV receiver to perform really well. A special mention deserves the Debut 3010 subwoofer, which is very smart and easy to install, and the center speaker, which, despite its compact size, exhibits a wide frequency response. In short, the ELAC Debut 2.0 is a very strong entry in the budget class.

Cons

  • Atmos modules are somewhat unhappy on speakers
  • Speakers need extra power
  • Sub is relatively expensive (but still do it!)

Pros

  • Compact but still very good center
  • App for the sub is very useful
  • System integration at high level
  • Prima Dolby Atmos modules
  • Strong in music and film

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