Audio shows are not just playgrounds for the rich, if you find the right rooms you’ll almost certainly hear affordable gear that can put a smile on your face. If Andrew Jones happens to be in the room with you, there’s a good chance you’ll actually be amazed by the price/performance ratio of the speakers you hear. That was the case at AXPONA 2016, where he showed the ELAC Debut B4 bookshelf speaker ($180/pair) for the first time.

The B4 is a 6-ohm, 2-way design with a 1" waveguide-mounted dome and a 4" aramid-fiber woofer. The crossover is set at 2500 Hz while frequency response is listed as 48 Hz to 20 kHz, sensitivity is 84.5 dB/W/m and recommended amplification is 20 to 80 watts.

The demo was simple enough. Andrew switched between his impressively competent Uni-Fi B5 ($500) and Debut B4 speakers, playing two minutes of “Seeya” by Deadmau5 for each segment. Naturally, the 2-way Uni-Fi model beat the B4s in overall quality, but not by the country mile you’d expect. The B4's 4" woofers were heroic, pumping out more bass than such a small and affordable speaker has any right to.

The music source was an ELAC Discovery music server ($1100) feeding PCM data to an Audio Alchemy DDP-1 DAC/Pre. An Audio Alchemy DPA-1 stereo amplifier powered the pair.
Home Theater Shack’s Dennis Young noted that "There was a bit more clarity with the first pair (the Uni-Fi B5s); just more polished sound. Bass was uncompressed even though the driver was stoking its heart out."
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A pair of ELAC Debut B4 speakers doing their thing.
Once the comparison was complete, we listened to some additional music through the B4s, including “88 Basie Street” by Count Basie. Dennis mentioned that the track “had a truly surprisingly wide soundstage with appropriate-sized instruments. Horns had almost the right amount of bite.” Since we’re talking $180/pair bookshelf speakers, that’s not faint praise.

Wayne Myers (also from HTS) commented that “The tiny ELAC speakers defy logic. They sound so much nicer than they deserve to... their modest appearance can easily fool you.” That tends to sum up many people’s reactions to Mr. Jones’ ingenuous and affordable audio offerings.

I was impressed with the little B4s, but that’s hardly surprising given the positive experience I had reviewing their big brothers , the Debut B6s. Andrew’s reputation for delivering exceptional value in a low-budget speaker is safe and sound.