The review pair of Elac Adante AF-61VR loudspeakers arrived on a pallet that weighed-in at slightly over 250 pounds. My current home has ten concrete steps between the sidewalk and my front door. My first thought upon seeing the delivery in progress was, “Oh boy….” That last phrase contained equal amounts of anticipation and dread. While I had been looking forward to hosting the AF-61s for several months, the reality of adding two more 101-pound boxes to my abode was, in itself, daunting. The countervailing emotion was the expectation that the final sonic results would sound as wonderful as they had during audio-show demos.
Because of their size and weight, I did not install the AF-61s in my downstairs system. Instead the two loudspeakers spent their time at Casa Stone in the main-floor open-concept living room. And while the ten-foot-high ceilings and installed sound treatments make the room more loudspeaker-friendly than most multipurpose rooms, it is not a dedicated listening space. Instead it is a real-world room with other people, plants, and cats. While this may not have afforded me the level of environmental control I have in my dedicated listening room, it did let me see how well the AF-61s could perform in a real-world multi-use space.
The previous inhabitants of this room, a pair of Skiing Ninja-modified AV123 X-Statiks had been augmented by a pair of small subwoofers. With the AF-61s, in this room I found that on most musical material the subwoofers were unnecessary. I crossed the subs over at 40Hz, so except during cinematic explosions and synth-bass rumbles they were not really being used, and even when active they didn’t add much to the AF-61’s presentation. The AF-61s are capable of producing a lot of bass, which is great as long as your room can support it. My main-floor room apparently can.
Because the AF-61s are point sources with the midrange surrounding the tweeter, setup, specifically accurate triangulation, is critical to obtaining optimum imaging and soundstaging. But unlike some point-source designs that limit your lateral movement, once these speakers were set up, the listening sweet-spot was large enough that no amount of physical movement or head-bobbing could propel me out of the listening happy place.
This is as good a place as any to ’fess up to the fact that I did not employ the AF-61’s outrigger base and spikes. My main reason for leaving them off was that the outriggers made placement more difficult within the area where the loudspeakers needed to reside. And while the AF-61s would be more stable with the outriggers employed, I don’t own a large dog or have small children. Even without the outrigger the AF-61s were extremely stable on the nice, level, laminate flooring in my three-year-old home. Also, after several days of listening I concluded that my lower-than-average-height couch, combined with a mid-field listening distance of 7.5 feet from ears to concentric drivers, meant that the tweeter was closer to parallel with ear height without employing the outriggers. With them installed the tweeter would have been high enough so that if a listener slouched, he could begin to notice some upper-frequency differences.
Usually my listening sessions are solo affairs in my downstairs listening room, but since the Elac AF-61s were ensconced in the living room, my wife had ample opportunity to kibbutz. She was the first person to notice the Elac’s ability to fill a space with sound. Even in my wife’s office, which is slightly more than fifteen feet away from the back of the AF-61s, the sound was surprisingly full-range and not lacking in detail. My wife was the first member of my household to conduct a LIAR (listening in another room) test of the AF-61s, and they passed with flying colors. In fact, the AF-61s were better in this respect than any other loudspeaker I’ve had in my living room. When I did my own LIAR tests using tracks that featured solo piano, I was amazed how well the AF-61s preserved the dynamic power and transient speed of that 88-keyed even-tempered monstrosity. Human voice, specifically Emma Kirkby’s voice accompanied by her husband Anthony Rooley on lute, had an eerie verisimilitude as I listened from my wife’s keyboard chair. Who let the baroque ensemble into my living room? What will I feed them?
More conventional audiophile listening through the AF-61s, where the listener completes the audiophile trinity of two loudspeakers and one human, proved that the AF-61s are more than ready to put you into that spot where instruments have their own three-dimensional locations within the soundstage. Lateral imaging was so precise that on well-recorded tracks with multiple vocalists, such as the Wailin’ Jenny’s album 40 Days, each voice was distinct, with its own unique spot in three-dimensional space.
I mentioned earlier the lack of need for subwoofers. When I set up the AF-61s in my main-floor listening room, the quality of the bass was powerful without being overblown. Not only was the pitch clear, even on the lowest notes, but low-level textures remained intact. I would call my main-floor listening room “leaky” in terms of bass, meaning it does little to augment bass frequencies through sympathetic resonance. If your room is tight, like my downstairs listening room is, with no place for bass frequencies to “escape,” you may find that the bass actually needs some attenuation to prevent overloading the room. The AF-61s are capable of putting out a lot of low-frequency energy. Ideally, your room should be configured to deal with it.
While the AF-61s can produce a lot of energy, they are not hi-fi-ish. Brass instruments sound like brass without blaring or edgy hardness, even at substantial volumes. The midrange has a relaxed presentation that provides a full-scale image without shoving it in your face. The front of the soundstage begins slightly behind the front of the loudspeaker in my room. Especially around the critical (for me) range of 3kHz, where the human ear is most sensitive, the AF-61s sound right, with excellent energy control and no additive bloom.