Review: ELAC Solano FS287 floorstanding speakers- The American department of ELAC regularly amazes with speakers that marry a friendly price tag with excellent performance. But the German branch of ELAC also often charms, such as with the new Solanos, which once again feature a JET tweeter and a handsome finish.
ELAC Solano FS287
The FS287 we are reviewing here is the largest speaker in the modest Solano family that ELAC presented at the start of the year. There are only three models: a monitor (BS283), a center speaker (CC281) and this floor stand. Choice stress disappears when you consider these ELACs, and that’s nice. In any case, it is a different approach than with the Polk Spare Speakers which we recently had a visit, because with that line you can choose from no less than nine models. To situate the Solanos for a moment: with the German brand they are placed above the Carina’s. Last year we discussed the BS243.4 bookshelf speaker of this mid-range family.
By offering only three Solano models, ELAC makes it easy for you. That is actually the common thread with these speakers: offering something that can really offer quality but without the large boxes or complexity that usually come with better hi-fi. The Solano line does that by combining better parts and a premium finish with a slimmer line. You end up with speakers that sound good but also do not dominate your living room, the manufacturer says. All elements are also present to build a conventional 5.1 surround setup.
For the techies: the Solano FS287 floorstander at 1,499 euros each that we are looking at here is immediately recognizable as a creation of ELAC from Kiel thanks to the striking JET rib fur tweeter. This is very typical for the (German) speakers of the brand and certainly has its advantages.
Slim speaker with sufficient mass
With its 98.5 x 26 x 30 centimeters, the Solano FS287 is certainly not the largest floorstander. When you see them, you immediately think, “Hey, these are elegant”. We immediately notice the advantages of a narrower profile during the setup. They are not colossi that we have to lift out of the box with great effort and position them correctly while sighing. Yet the Solanos are not feather weights (19 kg), which is also positive. A loudspeaker cabinet must radiate a certain solidity and have the necessary mass to prevent unwanted vibrations. After all, those vibrations or resonances cloud the sound image, so that detail can be lost. The slim impression is enhanced because the housing stops a few centimeters from the floor and rests on a black base construction. So they seem to float a bit off the ground. A nice effect.
A plus is that ELAC supplies four fine yet functional feet per speaker. You should place it, because the high, slim shape of this floorstander provides some much-needed stability. Again positive: for the feet you will not only find spikes in the box, but also damping discs that are finished with cork along the bottom. Just what you need in a room with a softer wood floor or scratch-sensitive tile. It is strange that not every loudspeaker manufacturer thinks about this.
It is smart to be careful when unpacking and setting up. In any case, you have to, but with speakers with a finish such as the Solano you always have to pay extra attention. After all, these ELACs have a very attractive gloss lacquer layer over an MDF construction. Usually, such layers can withstand a lot, but if a firm tap breaks the paint, a piece can pop out. This is not a specific comment about the Solanos; it applies to all loudspeakers with such coatings.
The FS287 is one loudspeaker from the middle class. So you pay a bit more, but at least you get a lot of satisfaction in terms of looks and design. Our test products were executed in a white that would fit nicely in a living room with lots of white tones and a wooden floor. The Solano speakers are also available in a black gloss lacquer.
With the JET tweeter
The Solano FS287 is a 2.5-way floorstander. That is, the two 150mm midrange woofers are complemented by the JET tweeter we mentioned earlier. There is also a bass reflex port to give the bass more body. Do we mean the large opening at the back? Not quite…
A JET tweeter is really something typical of ELAC – and it is also an eye-catcher thanks to the use of a yellow-colored material for the membrane. Interesting to know: ELAC consists of two divisions, one in the US and one in Germany. The former is more in the spotlight these days thanks to the work of Andrew Jones, one of the biggest names in audio, but the German branch from Kiel also produces intriguing speakers. It is often the German models that include a JET tweeter.
The membrane is what a JET tweeter is all about, which is ELAC’s interpretation of the AMT design conceived by renowned designer Oskar Heil. Instead of a dome that moves up and down, a JET tweeter consists of a membrane on which conductive tracks are applied and which is folded like a concertina. This membrane is actually relatively large, but just because it is folded so often you end up with something with modest dimensions. The big advantage of a JET tweeter is that, thanks to its large surface, it can move a lot of air without much effort. It is therefore efficient and can handle dynamic jumps well. Interesting for classical music, we think. But also for movie soundtracks.
A JET tweeter also works as a di-pole speaker. This means that it does not only send sound to the front, but also to the rear. Many speaker manufacturers try to dampen these sound waves, but ELAC decided to do something with it. That is why you will find an opening on the back at the height of the JET tweeter.
The efficiency of the JET tweeter is high, but if you look at the general specifications of the FS287, you have to take into account somewhat higher requirements. This floor stand has a sensitivity of 87.5 dB and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. That’s not overly challenging, but an amp at a certain level certainly doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
Very easy to install
For our test, we place the Solanos in the living room, to the left and right of the 55-inch LG C9 dangling from the wall. If you have a television on the wall, you don’t want speakers that have to be far from the wall behind it. That works fine with the FS287. In fact, it’s an excellent idea to place them a little closer to the wall, because of the opening behind the tweeter. A piece of the high detail is sent out along this line and bounces off the wall back to the seat. This gives a more spacious experience so that you are more enveloped by sound. We found this effect to be very effective when watching ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’. Dialogues were delivered fresh and clear, but we mainly looked up in scenes with a lot of movements. Then think of the wild fight between the water monster and Mysterio in Venice, while Peter Parker tries his best to save the historic buildings of the Dogestad. We had the two ELACs relatively far apart – about 2.5 meters – and provided a wide soundstage where Mysterio really flew through the room and also a lot of micro detail well placed. That is something different from the not without merit Bowers & Wilkins 606s that are normally here. In spectacular scenes we thought the film violence sounded powerful and bombastic, which we found equally surprising. It was certainly more than we expected from these slim speakers – thanks to an ingenious bass port that is incorporated in the front of the foot. We hadn’t noticed it at first, it’s that small and inconspicuous. But it works well (and again helps to allow placement close to a wall).
We had a Hegel Röst amplifier ready for this test, because we thought the Sonos Amp in the living room would not be up to the job. But that turns out to be not too bad when watching TV. At Far From Home (and many hours of watching series) we were satisfied with the combination with the Sonos amplifier.
And what about music? Via the Apple TV + app on our LG we look up ‘Letters to You’, a subdued feel-good documentary about the recording of Bruce Springsteen’s new album. It doesn’t sound bad: the voice of the Boss comes out nicely and the band is put on a great soundstage. We think the guitar playing really stands out. A recent re-release reminded us of Joe Strummer, the late front man of The Clash, so we check out the Joe Strummer radio station via Apple Music and Sonos. It all remains very ear-friendly and rhythmically tight, fine properties for rock music. Now and then we notice a slightly sharper than expected tone, which encourages us to connect that Hegel anyway. That does indeed yield something: the basses become a bit tighter and the high notes that Miles Davis gets with ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ on ‘Porgy and Bess’ are a bit purer. This is really beautiful, and we think so when we listen to the handsome Beethoven interpretations of Boxwood & Brass for the umpteenth time. Also with ‘You’re with Stupid Now’ by Aimee Mann and ‘Joy’ by Dominique Fils-Aimé we note that the voices of these very different singers are always filled with a lot of warmth. All music where the Solano’s can show the strengths of ELAC nicely: a lot of music and detail from what are all in all slim speakers. Many music fans will be happy with this. Only if you really like those deep, detailed bass tones found in some electronic tracks or world music, the FS287 will run into its limitations of the slim form. While watching the film, this was not noticed because the ELACs are sufficiently bombastic for film effects and you don’t really notice it with pop music either. ‘Contact’ by Daft Punk ‘grabbed’ us, but because we know from other listening sessions that this track really dives deep in terms of basses, we noticed that now. But apart from that, these slender Solano’s deliver a strong, insightful sound.
ELAC Solano FS287 Conclusion
The Solano FS287 is a good option if you are looking for better sound performance but don’t want to immediately clutter your room with colossal speakers. These elegant ELACs with a luxurious finish are easy to install, even close to a wall. They offer clear detail and a good spread. Together with the surprising burly bass performance, this makes the ELAC Solano a great choice for music and TV sound, benefiting from a fast, clear key. Marry them with a better all-in-one amplifier with HDMI-ARC, and get good sound quality with a solution that doesn’t take up much space.
Pros of ELAC Solano FS287
- Slim and living room friendly
- Luxurious appearance due to glossy lacquer
- Fresh, clear and fast detail display
- Great for TV sound
Negatives of ELAC Solano FS287
- Critical music listening requires some power