Best of CES 2018: ELAC Argo B51 Wireless Powered Speakers - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 16 Old 01-18-2018, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Best of CES 2018: ELAC Argo B51 Wireless Powered Speakers

Andrew Jones has yet to disappoint. In the final demo of CES 2018, his new Argo B51 wireless, powered bookshelf speakers ($2000/pair) impressed me with their great sound (and good looks).

Better yet, floorstanders are on the way.

Click here to read more: Best of CES 2018: ELAC Argo B51 Wireless Powered Speakers
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post #2 of 16 Old 01-18-2018, 12:07 PM
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Thanks for all the great CES coverage! I've always liked the inherent advantages of powered speakers, but the internal DACs were always a concern for me because DAC technology and standards change so quickly. I think Andrew and ELAC have struck the right balance.


Would these Argo speakers work in a surround system (e.g. pre-pro outputs into each speaker or is there a wireless surround option). If so, is there a center channel on the horizon to combine with the stand and floor standers?
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post #3 of 16 Old 01-18-2018, 02:56 PM
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Interesting philosophy as I just recently came to a similar conclusion since I have been evaluating active speakers the past few years. I have used DSP based and analog based active speakers and my current active speakers are analog with passive crossovers like the Argo. At first I was all in on DSP based actives because of all of the benefits. Just recently through some haphazard testing and evaluation (isn't this how it always is?), I came to the realization that DSP actives are ultimately limited by their DAC. Seems AJ agrees with that same sentiment. Looking forward to hearing these in action.
@imagic - Mark, did you get the impression they might make larger bookshelves if these are successful?
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post #4 of 16 Old 01-18-2018, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pamplona62 View Post
Thanks for all the great CES coverage! I've always liked the inherent advantages of powered speakers, but the internal DACs were always a concern for me because DAC technology and standards change so quickly. I think Andrew and ELAC have struck the right balance.


Would these Argo speakers work in a surround system (e.g. pre-pro outputs into each speaker or is there a wireless surround option). If so, is there a center channel on the horizon to combine with the stand and floor standers?
They certainly will work with a pre-pro using either RCA or XLR connections, yes. No sign of a center but one can hope, I'll ask Andrew.

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post #5 of 16 Old 01-18-2018, 05:16 PM
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Paul McGowan of PS Audio seems to have a soft spot for active speakers...he just doesn't feel the demand is there.
but with Kef's LS50W, the Dynaudio Focus HD series getting good reviews and sales
for their active speakers, and now with Elac joining this trend, then who knows what the future holds.

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post #6 of 16 Old 01-18-2018, 08:06 PM
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I like the idea of active speakers, I have used them in the past but not with the amps built in.

On the pro sound side, you can load the programming into the DSP of the amplifiers and press on. My XTi amplifier has that ability and I can do 14 bands of parametric EQ, crossover points, different crossover filters, adjustable delay and adjustable limiters. If my amplifier gets damaged from being stupid, lightning strikes or just age--get another amp with rinse and repeat.

My issue with built-in amps with mystery processing is the speakers only last as long as the amplifier does and the company decides to support it. A year past support cuts off, the speakers should be prepared to be replaced completely.

Basically, you have to believe the amplifiers were designed correctly, all the parts inside are proper spec'd and actual real parts and the company will support service to your amplifier long after that model has been replaced, upgraded or whatever. We are talking audio companies here though, in reality long term support has never been in their game plans.

The juice is not worth the squeeze, consumer speakers are not professional ones but I'm sure the more expensive speakers could be produced with DSP files which allows amplifier flexibility to change as needs change. It won't happen, audio companies have enough problems trying to agree on anything, won't publish standard specifications and fight creating standards yet attempting to creating something to allow cross pollination across different brands.

Look inside that Elac speaker, look at the parts used for the amplifiers--I'm sure they are all premium parts designed to operate at least 20 years! The Andy Jones stuff is all made in China so generic parts seem to be the standard...I would not put much trust past 10 years on that stuff. Not a big deal if you consider speakers disposable, works for computer desk speakers, blutooth and boomboxes--but when you start blowing serious cash on speakers or, use 7 to 11 of them for HT...maintenance must be looked at. The other thing is when running HT, now you have to provide power strung all over your room. I prefer to have my amps in one location so no worries about ground loops and hum from running long cable runs.

The only speakers I'd get that were fully active would actually offer something I can't get with DSP amplifiers. Samsung with their predictive distortion technology would be one, just having wireless or EQ/crossover points is not worth it to me. Way, way too many downsides with very short attention spans from audio manufactuers when it comes down to "old models".

For now, I'm building my HT with passive speakers (including passive subs) my DSP amps can be programmed for the subs to maximize performance and located where I want the power lines. No way in hell will I use 11 active speakers, I refuse to run power outlets in the ceiling, proper locations for the surrounds and all that mess. In the real world, I use a living room and my wife usually reconfigures it every 5 years. No worries...run extension cords when I reconfigure the HT system...uuuuhhhh...no.

So I view the Elac, KEFs and that sort of thing as medium term speakers at most. It is a niche' that has customers and they do have uses. Since I use speakers for many years, they go from the living room to bedrooms, the garage and so on. Active speakers would be great as long as the amp/processing can be outboard of the speakers themselves. Not hard to do, pro sound has been doing it for many years but it goes against the consumption model of consumer audio. They are fine for two channel systems, desktop systems and that sort of thing but for multi-channel, I'll pass. The juice is not worth the squeeze.

Technically, in 8 years you could fix your lightning damaged powered speaker by converting it to a box with outboard amps with DSP, always an option if you really LOVE the sound of the speaker. All it takes is for the original manufactuer to still be around, open to giving you the proper settings and off you go. Looking at the track record of many companies, I would not count on that.

Just a pondering of mine--as always YMMV.
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post #7 of 16 Old 01-19-2018, 10:19 AM
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I would suggest that 18hurts not buy them. As an industry professional for over 50 years, one thing I've learned is to divorce myself from the product. Let me explain: I've always handled high-performance product that I'd be proud to own. When I started Onkyo here in the United States, I made certain that the product was rock-solid. Ditto for when I started Integra here. Later, they offered me what used to be called rack systems-- low-quality audio products, with dreadful matching speakers, and crappy cabinets that also matched. I railed against it. I was wrong. There were thousands of people out there for whom the system offered nice performance and utility. I would never own one of those systems, but they surely generated plenty of income.

Furthermore, 18 makes too many sweeping generalizations. For example, I own a company that handles all Bob Carver designed products that need repair. The subwoofers are failing worldwide due to cheap Chinese capacitors but there are Chinese capacitors available that are good quality. Tell me 18, specifically, which capacitors Andrew is specifying. You should be able to do this as easily as you brushed aside the quality and longevity of ELAC's new product.

A properly designed active loudspeaker will punch above its weight. It will sound better than the same basic design driven by an outboard amplifier. Remember, I said "properly designed". The amplifier will be designed to work with the loudspeaker and vice versa. The result will be better clarity, sharper impact, and deeper bass. Does every active loudspeaker offer these advantages? Does every conventional loudspeaker offer excellent performance? Well, some guys play basketball better than others. I have full confidence in Andrew Jones.

Finally, there are people indeed, who are looking for this specific type of answer. While I admit I would be reluctant to commit to large numbers, were I doing their projections, which I accurately did for Yamaha for 17 years every single month for my territory. Yet, since I'm still alive and kicking and do not live under a rock, I've noticed the significant growth in this category. It's a hot topic in the industry. Yes, ELAC is joining a small group of manufacturers that are ahead of the curve-- just like when they developed the first ceramic cartridge to track at 10 g-- a miraculous breakthrough at the time, like when they introduced the first moving magnet cartridge to track at 1 g-- it became the most famous phono cartridge of all time under a different brand name, and the company who successfully reengineered the air motion transformer into a state-of-the-art transducer and yet, had the imagination and humility to partner with the brilliant Andrew Jones. I can hardly wait to hear these new models. Congratulations ELAC.
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post #8 of 16 Old 01-20-2018, 12:47 AM
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I've owned two Carver amps, the first one had to be sent back due to popping of the speaker if there was motors turning on and off on the line. Carver sent it back with upgraded filter capacitors--because sometimes designs need to be redone. My second Carver died one day, I looked at your site then with a flourish--out with the old junk and in with the new junk! Shame to see Carver fall, then Sunfire fall... oh well, ol Bob had some good designs but cheap parts will bite you in the butt every time.

My gig was medical electronics, it was fun and always leading edge stuff. The downer was if you screwed up, lawsuits, getting fired and prison time could result. Most of the equipment used the best parts, way overkill in all aspects and it was designed to be constantly calibrated, certified and not too hard to repair. The radiology stuff had card extenders inside the panels to speed things along. This does not mean some bad designs didn't squeek out, they did and some of them killed people. My area was generally lab, surgical, critical care and radiology equipment--no expense spared there but dookie happens.

I don't live under a rock either, but I do know quality electronics when I see it. For this reason, I tend to wait until a real bench test is done on audio equipment complete with an analysis of parts quality. Yes, sites like that exist. The one I look at for tear downs and parts ID on pro gear has to be translated from German.

Looking at the Elac powered monitor, for that price it faces stiff competition from all the pro companies that make powered studio monitors. It might impress you that Elac made it but many companies for decades have been doing the same thing. Bring on the measurements, the tear downs for parts ID and look at the guts of the thing. Maybe compare parts quality, build quality and measurements against an old dog in the powered monitor field--Genelec comes to mind.

My comment on not using it for HT still applies. If you build a serious home theater and mount electrical outlets in all the correct spots for powered speakers--I would assume you would use cinema type speakers, not monitors. After all, the CES stuff is just a first look... I would not expect anyone to pay real money without it being tested first.

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post #9 of 16 Old 01-20-2018, 05:09 AM
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As a major active speaker fan, I applaud this new product line. I think Andrew's choice of analog (vs DSP) implementation is correct for this class of product. It will make a killer, yet very simple system when paired with a good DAC/streamer.

For MQA fans, this is a much better choice than say a KEF LS50W, as the Argo allows the full MQA DAC compensation to remain unmolested by yet another A/D D/A conversion that might mess up timing.

I wish them great success.

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post #10 of 16 Old 01-21-2018, 10:04 AM
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At this price point they'd better sound 3x better than the also wireless powered Klipsch R-15PM ($450) and Audioengine HD6 ($750).

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this or goldenear digitalacktiv 3?
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post #12 of 16 Old 01-21-2018, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
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this or goldenear digitalacktiv 3?
Lol one is all digital and the other all analog.

I do like GoldenEar speakers a lot, even if the bass extension specifications sometimes dip into the realm of fantasy. Sounds like that would be an interesting comparison.

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post #13 of 16 Old 01-21-2018, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Lol one is all digital and the other all analog.

I do like GoldenEar speakers a lot, even if the bass extension specifications sometimes dip into the realm of fantasy. Sounds like that would be an interesting comparison.
I agree that that would be a fun comparo, and the Kef LS50 Wireless would be a natural to throw in as well.

The Elacs have mono-RCA and mono-XLR ins, the Goldenear photo just shows the back with a stereo input, not sure if it's a master/slave type of deal like the LS50W or if you could use multiple units in a surround-sound setup with each getting a mono signal.

Beyond the analog vs DSP'd signal path the Elacs seem like they're going to function more like a traditional powered monitor where you bring your own streaming source using the dongle (or wired if you like) whereas the Goldenears will have Chromecast audio built in, and the Kefs have their own built-in streaming receiver as well. For a basic 2-channel setup it seems like either path would work well, with the built-in solutions offering a bit more simplicity, and the Elac approach giving you greater flexibility.

With the XLR inputs the Elacs also seem like they'd be a better choice for a multichannel HT setup, allowing for longer cable runs without the risk of interference or hum.

The real competition in that kind of space for a fully-powered HT might be between something like the Elac Argo, the JBL LSR 705p (or even the LSR 305/6/8), and the Emotiva Airmotiv 6S and/or Stealth 8. Get a processor with XLR-outputs and you could do your entire HT without any traditional amps (though you'd need to figure out places to plug all of the speakers in, shame there's no all-in-one signal+high-current-AC-power cable standard).

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post #14 of 16 Old 01-21-2018, 06:37 PM
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I'm surprised it's taken the consumer/hifi market this long to embrace active full range solutions, as the advantages are numerous and far outweigh any disadvantages. It's been done with consumer subwoofers for at least 20 years after all.

As @18Hurts points out, there is a disadvantage to frying an onboard plate amp vs having a rack unit you can replace on the fly, but active speakers with onboard amps make a lot of sense in the pro world as you can make your longest run a balanced line level instead of an enormous gauge speaker wire. Besides, lets say that you, a consumer, pop an internal amp in a speaker in your home cinema. So what? It's not like there's a paying crowd waiting for the sound guy to get the rig back up. You can have it repaired or replaced at your leisure. As such, to me that's a non issue, and if its the only (potential) price to pay for otherwise having a self contained, powered, DSP'd speaker, so be it.


Just my $.02

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post #15 of 16 Old 01-22-2018, 08:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wolfy701 View Post
At this price point they'd better sound 3x better than the also wireless powered Klipsch R-15PM ($450) and Audioengine HD6 ($750).
That Klipsch is interesting when they say it has a custom tuned amplifier... How can it be custom tuned for the tweeter and woofer in the left channel if it's not passing two separate signals from the right speaker?

Looking at both. the Klipsch isn't doing anything to prevent baffle diffraction like the Navis (Argo) or LS50, the box is square rather than a trapezoid, and I'm betting it has passive crossovers.

Lastly, the primary annoyance I have with bookshelf speakers is beaming or changing the balance of treble to bass if I sit up straight or slouch, etc. The Navis doesn't do that. Unless the Klipsch or other 2-way speakers are crossed over really low with the tweeter, I'd be surprised if they have similarly good off-axis response.

Having heard the Navis, LS50W, some Vanatoo monitors, and the Focal Twin6 Be, I think the last comparison I'd be curious about would be the Pioneer RM-07, as it checks all the boxes: Baffle diffraction, concentric coaxial driver, and active crossovers, but it has a larger woofer and some crazy treble extension with the tweeter which might mean it can remain very flat in the audible range.

Just need to decide if I want to get the Pioneer or KEF LS50W and compare them in my home and deal with returns and shipping.

(Note: I'd run everything off of a MiniDSP for frequency response calibration, so power handling, off axis response, lack of ringing or port chuffing, and bass extension without distortion will be a bit more important to me than purely frequency response.)
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