Near-Field Nirvana Quick Take — ELAC Carina Loudspeaker
Andrew Jones Strikes Again!
Stand Mount with Sophistication
Featuring the JET folded Ribbon Tweeter
ELAC Carina BS243.4 Two-Way Loudspeaker, $1400.00 Pair
I had been relentlessly bugging speaker designer Andrew Jones, or should we give him a moniker more suited to his expertise, to ship me a pair of his Carina’s to review for the magazine. Well, they finally had arrived, the box was much heavier than anticipated. Every time I open a box of gear, it’s like Christmas. Santa said I was good this year and worthy! Mr. Jones is like a worker Bee in Heat; he also moves faster than an electron. He is totally involved with multitudes of projects, so I was fortunate to snag a pair, whilst he rested to catch some air.
Ok, upon taking them out of the box, I noticed a folded ribbon tweeter, thinking these speakers are going to sizzle with sparkling highs and sound ultra-squeaky clean? The last pair of speakers I reviewed, the NOLA Brio’s, apparently seemed not have a tweeter, but sounded totally clear and alive. So, I should always remember never to prejudge the sonic outcome of a speaker’s driver composition. The speaker name Carina is Spanish or Latin for the keel of a ship. ELAC is based Kiel, Germany. Keeiel is German for the keel of a ship, and Kiel is a famous sailing area.
I noticed the bottom of the Carina was distinctly shaped to match Andrew’s description of a ship’s keel. The bass reflex port is flared out, with a sizeable opening to allow bass frequencies to exit the cabinet firing down to its own speaker plinth. Bass is guided to the rear. ELAC says best results for bass room integration is two feet from the back wall. I proceed to follow the guidelines and set them atop of my heavy 4 pillar speaker stands two feet from the back wall, eight feet apart I was about to pack up the VAC 170i from the NOLA Brio review and decided to see how the Carina’s would take to tubes. At first quick listen, the speakers sounded very bass heavy, like two massive sub-woofers in the room. I thought something was very off about the pairing. I moved the speakers three feet from the back wall with no noticeable change. I packed the VAC amp up, which, by the way sounded fantastic with the Brio’s. I changed over to the newly arrived Rogue Audio Sphinx V3 to burn-in and break-in along with the Carina’s, and immediately heard a more balanced and integrated sound. Too early to tell anything until everything settles in.
A week went by and it was time to start listening with making some observations about the speakers. The Sphinx V3 with its tube front end and Hypex-Class D amp modules seemed to be real good fit with the Carina’s. Rogue review will follow after the Carina report.
I was surprised again to be judging a book by its cover. Remember, I was expecting the tweeter to be squeaky clean and to add sparkle? NOPE! I was hearing a smooth presentation from top to bottom. Nothing jumping out of the bushes calling attention to itself in particular. The music was flowing and asking for permission to be played. I was playing a wide range of material, from the Bluesound Vault, CD’s, LP’s and radio. First impression, very musical speaker, not fussy about placement, can be toed in, out with some subtle sound-staging effects. The speaker really sounded like a floor-stander. Big and robust, yet revealing enough to hear small details and spatial cues. The speaker reminded me of a musical memory of the Vandersteen Model 2Ce Signature speakers. Musical with superb driver integration. I think they sell for $3,000.00 these days. The Carina’s retail for about $1400.00.
Unlike the Vandy’s, The Carina’s can be listened to quite a bit off axis, allowing for a wider sweet spot. Andrew Jones drew from ELAC’s treasure trove of technology utilizing the parent company’s JET (Folded Ribbon Tweeter) to incorporate into his design of the Carina. I’ve seen and heard the Heil folded design ribbons in many loudspeakers the past few years. All having quite different sonic presentations based on crossovers and applications. The JET tweeter is ELAC’s version of the Heil, and the trick for Andrew, was achieving seamless integration of the tweeter with a Mid/Bass driver. The next step was for him to design the Compound Curvature Aluminum Coned, (sounds like a skeletal disease?) Mid/Bass driver to match up with the JET.
I’ve mostly heard Heil ribbons sound too sharp and overly detailed. I recall an ADAM self-powered Pro monitor with the Heil that sounded overly detailed and sterile. It was, however, telling me what could be possible in a properly designed speaker employing the Heil. Getting the compound curved driver to shelve up to the upper and lower midrange was necessary to get the sound that Mr. Jones was trying capture.
I pulled out my ELAC Debut B 5’s to make a comparison. Really, trying to hear the sonic signature and the magic of Andrew’s designs, regardless of price points. It was a definite DNA ancestral match to the Carina. It was all there, the magic and musicality that draws you into the performance. The B 5 did not have the overall sophistication that the Carina possesses, but your ear/brain could make the connection that they were related kin. Vocals really sing naturally with the Carina’s. BTW-Don’t sell your B 5’s!
The Carina likes a bit of power like other Jones’s ELAC offerings. It likes to show muscle when needed in music. It’s a 6 ohm speaker and requires a good amplifier. I try to match components up that feature complimentary value. I used a $4,000 and $10,000 amps with incremental improvements in sound quality. I chose to use the Rogue Audio priced at $1,500 to pair up with the Carina’s, plenty of power with Class D amplification to get wonderful sound. The Carina’s do not prefer or like tube amps. You need an amp with a fairly high damping factor to seize control of the bass. I’ve always heard Class D amps with ELAC’s at audio shows, showing off their best traits. I’m looking forward to reviewing some Audio Alchemy products soon. Note, that the Sphinx V3 has tubes in the front end.
The Carina’s will play loud if you wish them to Rock. Also, nice at lower volume levels for Jazz and Classical music. I put on Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus, CD, first and second tracks, Join the Band & Fat Man in the Bathtub. Live album that shows off dynamics and is magical at loud concert volume levels. I was amazed the B 5’s passed the test and the Carina’s played as loud, but with more detail and finesse. I cranked it up even more got the JET ribbon to become a bit irritated. At that point, one would go directly to ear plugs anyway.
I’m thinking about all the music I played on the Carina’s and the takeaway is nothing stands out with the program material selected during the review process? Analytical Amnesia??
The Carina’s just play music when you want to listen to music! I forgot about annotating the differences and anomalies regarding the speaker’s technical performance. Yes, the tweeter has amazing clarity and poise, but you just listen to the triangle or chimes play naturally and present. There is no subtitle at the bottom of the speaker that notifies you of the frequency that had just been played! There are other reviews around on the Carina that get into the minutia of what they sounded like with various types of music. I prefer to describe the emotive effects that components can elicit from your consciousness.
Well, how to sum it up? The Carina’s are like your most beloved house pets. They will love you unconditionally and will always be by your side, eager to please. You will just want to be around them and feel good about being entertained by them!
Fit and Finish
My review pair of Carina’s were in black gloss finish. Very attractive looking with nicely appointed cabinetry. Connectors for bi-wiring. Quite a big step up from the UB and Debut series cabinetry and build.
Near-Field Nirvana’s Quick Takes Date Card ELAC Carina Speakers
Specifications and Link to Manufacturer https://www.elac.com/series/carina/
Type: 2-way Vented box
Woofer: 1 x Aluminum cone 5-1/4″
Tweeter: JET folded ribbon
Crossover frequency: 2.7kHz
Frequency range (IEC 268-5): 46Hz – 30kHz
Recommended amplifier power:30 to 150 wpc
Peak power handling: 100W
Nominal | Minimum impedance:6 Ohm / 4.8 Ohm
Finishes: Satin Black, Satin White
Net Weight (each): 14.73 lbs
Dimensions (HxWxD): 08.52 x 08.06 x 12.54
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