Even though the Carina has a more upfront presentation, soundstaging and imaging were well above average for this class of compact. During Vaughn-Williams Wasps Overture, there was good if not standard-setting orchestral depth. Layering of string and wind sections was naturalistic, but Carina doesn’t exaggerate spatial details with a recessiveness that can create a false sense of dimension. In soundstaging it has a more straightforward monitor-like signature.
The exoticism of the JET tweeter might get the headlines, but the low-frequency heavy-lifting lands on the shoulders of a modest five-inch mid/bass—a fine driver and a great support player that, in combination with the carefully tuned cabinet, yields a low end that goes admirably deep. For example, during Rutter’s Lux Aeterna from Requiem (Reference Recordings), where the chorale and the pipe organ underscore one another, Carina could claim solid bass extension into the 50–60Hz range. While it courageously hints at the true extension that this recording is capable of, ultimately the low-frequency power of the pipe organ was mostly suggested. Thes presentation was impressive, nonetheless.
Note that Carina possesses substantial midbass output, meaning that placement in your room is important. In my small-room setup I pulled the speakers out at least a couple feet from the backwall; otherwise low-end response was predominant. In spite of these ministrations Carina tended on occasion to impart a thickness to the bass range that in my room I was never able to entirely dispel. For instance, during Ana Caram’s cover of the “The Girl from Ipanema” from Blue Bossa, the acoustic bass was presented as more of a pulse than a group of specific pitches. In this respect, the bass response from the active Elac Navis ARB-51 (Issue 291) was more specific in pitch, timbre, sustain, and decay.
At the end of the day, size does impose some limitations. Symphonic pieces like Beethoven’s Eroica tended to the drier side, in part because Carina could not fully reproduce the massive movement of air that an orchestra generates. The Carina presented the essentials of the symphony, but was not in full possession of all the subtle acoustic and ambient cues.
In exchange for a small footprint and ease of placement, compact two-way monitors like the Carina BS243.4 engage in a complex dance that balances sonics with convenience. Certain performance benchmarks are often just out of their reach. But with the better engineered efforts, almost inexplicably, a kind of sonic alchemy occurs, and they just seem much higher in fidelity than mere specifications would indicate. Elac’s Carina ably demonstrated that it indeed possesses that sonic magic. On a scale of sheer musicality and value, it rates very high in my book.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Two-way, bass-reflex
Drivers: JET folded-ribbon tweeter, 5.25" aluminum cone woofer
Frequency response: 46Hz–30kHz
Nominal impedance: 6 ohms (4.8 ohms minimum)
Dimensions: 8.5" x 12.5" x 8.0"
Weight: 14.7 lbs.
11145 Knott Avenue, Suite E & F
Cypress, CA 90630
Analog front end: SOTA Cosmos Series IV turntable, SME V, Clearaudio Charisma and Sumiko Palo Santos cartridges; Parasound JC 3+ and Pass Labs XP-17 phonostages
Digital front end: dCS Bartok DAC, dCS Puccini (SACD), Lumin S1 Music Player, Synology NAS, MacBook Pro/Pure Music
Electronics: Aesthetix Mimas and MBL Corona C51 integrated amplifiers; Pass Labs XP-12 preamplifier
Cables and power cords: Wireworld Silver Eclipse 8 interconnect and speaker cable, Audience Au24SX cables and power cords, Synergistic Atmosphere Level Four and Shunyata Venom NR power cords
Digital cables: Audience USB, AudioQuest Carbon FireWire; Wireworld Starlight Cat 8 Ethernet
Power conditioners: Audience aR6-T4 and Shunyata Hydra
Accessories: VooDoo Cable Iso-Pod.