Elac BS 142 Jet Loudspeaker - Standard Deviation (Part 1)

7/26/2013 2:09:33 PM

Just another mid-price stand mounting speaker? Not likely! We find Elac’s BS 142 JET to be something out of the ordinary...

Defining new boundaries, Elac’s BS 142 compact stand mount speaker is a two-way design that unusually offers a ribbon tweeter, instead of the standard-issue fabric dome normally found at this price. This type of tweeter should give smoother, cleaner treble than is available from some of the other methods of construction, as well as extended frequency response which carries on well beyond the bounds of what is normally considered to be audible. This is because the ribbon diaphragm is much thinner (hence lighter) than stock cloth or metal domes, meaning faster transient response, greater linearity and less distortion.

Elac BS 142 Jet Loudspeaker

Ribbon tweeter aside, the BS 142 appears essentially conventional, being housed in a simple rectangular box with a large bass port at the rear. A pair of simple screw-type terminals permit cables with both forked terminals and standard 4mm plugs to be used, but there are no facilities for bi-wiring or bi-amping.

The woofer is interesting inasmuch as it uses a sandwich-type cone where the outer layer obscures the end of the voice coil, so that the familiar center dust cap isn’t visible. Even though you can’t see them both the voice coil and its surrounding magnet are large, the former has a diameter of 31mm, which allows for good heat dissipation when the loudspeakers are being worked hard.

The main cabinet finish is a black ash effect vinyl wrap, which is not particularly luxurious, but reasonably discrete in the right surroundings and easy to keep looking presentable. The baffles are made from high-gloss molded plastic and again have a clean, non-nonsense look about them. Grilles are included and these fit into place on invisible magnetic catches so there are no ugly holes in the baffles when they are not fitted.

A common misconception on the subject of loudspeakers is that larger ones require more amplifier power than smaller ones do. Often the precise opposite is true; attempts by manufacturers to obtain a broad frequency spread from small cabinets result in poor sensitivity, meaning that it takes a lot of watts to make a decent amount of noise. There are rare exceptions and the Elac BS 142 is one since it has a claimed sensitivity of 88 dB/1W/1m. When I see figures like this, partnering with a 30W (or thereabouts) amplifier springs to mind, given the scale of sound that one would expect and the size of listening room in which loudspeakers like this are likely to be installed in. This is excellent ‘starter system’ territory and I can see the BS 142 working well with high quality ‘style systems’, for example.

Sensitive loudspeakers are also often chosen for use with valve amplifiers, where the pounds-per-watt ratio is often considerably worse than it is with transistor models. While the basic figures certainly stack up, I would advise some caution here since the BS 142 is very generously ported and there appears to be little in the way of internal damping, evidenced by the fact that you can see the back of the tweeter if you look down the reflex port.

There are rare exceptions and the Elac BS 142 is one – since it has a claimed sensitivity of 88 dB/1W/1m

This type of construction tends to give strong base for a given cabinet size, but does require an amplification setup that offers a good damping factor to compensate for the mechanical freedoms which the cabinet offers. High damping factors are typically achieved by using powerful directly coupled transistor amplifiers and high quality loud-speaker cables, by these means the signal is better able to place the woofer cone and so it is less likely to flap about.

This box is all about giving a big, punchy sound, something in which it excels

Small valve amplifiers tend to do poorly in terms of damping factor, so I would hesitate to recommend a ported design for use with them, unless you like a lot of bass and are not too troubled about retrieving the rhythmic information that exists in the lower frequency ranges. Elac do supply a foam bung which you can use to tune the bass ports to work best in your surroundings, and comes in two sections. The middle part is removable so that you can use the bung to just cause a restriction, rather than blocking the entire port with it completely.

This box is all about giving a big, punchy sound, something in which it excels

This box is all about giving a big, punchy sound, something in which it excels

When auditioning loudspeakers like this I prefer to place them well out into the room (about 1m from the back wall) and with the ports open, this being one way to reduce coloration effects which have more to do with the building than the loudspeakers. The source for the tests was a Cyrus CD 8 SE CD player and an Arcam FMJ A38 amplifier, which is, perhaps, a little large for the task at hand, but has more than enough power to keep almost any loudspeaker under tight control. The cables used were from the Chord Company, Odyssey II for the loudspeakers and Calypso for interconnects between the Cyrus CD player and Arcam amplifier.

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