Hello again everyone, I have been away awhile both enjoying and surviving the birth of my two daughters but things have settled down to a point where I can have some time in the evenings to pour myself a glass of my beverage of choice and not only put time in with my system, but write about it even. I have missed this so much, but I needed the right thing to come back to from my retirement... semi-retirement... or we'll call it a sabbatical? The Elly speaker was just such a project, not only will I be able to get to know a lovely speaker with high end design, but a speaker that is trying a unique approach in high-end audio launching the product through Kickstarter. Not only did I get to listen to it before production, I am the first reviewer in the world to hear what is the only pair of Elly's in the world!
It is not often you get to see something that is not yet polished and I will give the team at Elly full benefit of the doubt on this one. But what I have here today, is an entirely new product, the Elly Project as it was referred when it was sent to me for a preliminary review is a small format, high design, bookshelf speaker made in conjunction with Aurs Aures audio and being launched soon after this review is published on Kickstarter. So not only can you be part of what makes these speakers possible, but you can likely pick them up for a song compared to what a speaker of this caliber will retail for (likely with the typical challenges of crowdfunded projects.)
The footprint is minimal and the speaker sits on four feet, which would make it perfect for use on a shelf at the right height (more on that later.) The cabinet has 0 degrees of pitch and makes no attempt at theoretical "time alignment" not a problem for me where three degrees of rake can be easily lost through the acoustics of a room. The cabinet has a sturdy rap when knocked and has no perceptible vibrations under heavy load. Taking the drivers out reveals a 1.5" baffle and solid 0.75" side walls. Overall I am fairly confident with the build quality of the cabinet. The baffle has heavy roundover to avoid edge diffraction and the edge of the cabinet gives it effectively almost an infinite roundover with such a narrow front baffle. Overall even as a prototype, this speaker looks ready for the big leagues. But how do they sound?!?!
The room I listen in is a finished space in the basement with drywall, over foam, over a rubble foundation treated to a slightly live acoustical sound with several strategically placed panels from GIK Acoustics. I am seated at approximately 10 feet from the speakers with open areas to both sides and about six feet off the back wall.
The Elly was really lost in the room when I put i in my typical listening position. Not particularly surprising, but they seemed to be optimally placed just 14" to 18" off the wall, this would give them a lot of versatility in a room that would have foot traffic, or where you maybe don't have quite as much depth to work with. I would imagine these would also work fairly well in the nearfield as the Titanium Inverted Dome Tweeters didn't have much of a hot spot.
Listening Materials And Impressions
I have never read anyone listening to anything CLOSE to rap in any review I have ever read, and with the multi-talented Donald Glover and his nome de plume Childish Gambino (a name generated from the Wu Tang name generator, I am apparently the Violent Demon) I am breaking that trend. This album is 11 songs of solid gold. Donald Glover is a comedian who started his career with "bro rape" (an early viral video on YouTube, not for the faint of heart) moved on to Community and is now a Golden Globe winning Actor/Producer (Atlanta) and after the Album Because the Internet was nominated for two Grammy's, he had to follow up strong. Awaken my Love is one of those subtle self-aware albums that breaks from Gambino's pop culture references and semi comedic flows and digs deeper into modern issues of racial tension, commercialism, and materialism in almost poetic lyrics, almost...
The track to break you in on this album that covers Gambino's range from Kanye to George Clinton, is Redbone. This slow R&B song touches on a Bootsy Collins-eque funk track with a JacoPastorius inspired hook (surprisingly not the first time this hook has been used in the genre.) but entirely live recorded and unsampled track with vocals performed by Gambino himself and not pitch shifted like some other artists attempting to sing.
The Elly is entirely composed throughout the challenging subject matter, maintaining reasonable clean bass extension without sounding like it is trying too hard to be something that is not and becoming uncomposed with distortion. It maintains the space of the recording even with the at times overly busy track giving it the sense of ethereal dimensionality clearly built into the track, with a grounded bass line and vocals roaming all throughout the soundstage. The speakers manage to throw a stage wider than the spacing of the speakers even at 7 to 8 feet apart. You are transported from listening to the track to really just being there in the emotional moment. After a lot of finicky set up, the Elly's are really presenting themselves as a very capable loudspeaker. The one piece that let them down is the physical limitation of any small speaker in simply moving air. What is there very well composed, but it does not have the dynamic punch in the mid-bass that I prefer.
Portugal the Man - Feel it Still - Album to be announced.
This latest single from the ever talented rock band from the great white north is shaking stuff up (including our bodies.) This is what it sounds like when talented musicians make a pop song (either intentionally or unintentionally) I dare you not to dance to this track. It is impeccably recorded with less of the traditional loudness crushing and fear of purposeful dead space that plagues modern pop music. This dance hit engages you with a driving bass riff and a complement of horns and an addictive dance beat. Portugal the Man is an incredible band from Alaska that has flirted with the limelight their entire career. This seems to be the one that will break them from their role of granting pop rock stations around America some inkling of street cred to really blowing up with their upcoming national tour.
This track really shows the strength of the beefy and simplistic crossover in this design, allowing the falsetto vocals on this track to come through with crisp delivery and a clear position within the stage. My wife even noticed (this is one of her favorite bands) this was the best she had ever heard them of a system I have had through. This track does expose some of the shortcomings of a 5" driver as it is incapable of delivering that visceral impact you would hope a track like this could deliver. Again, they are capable at what they do, but with the size of the cabinet I would love hear a well-tuned 6.5" driver to deliver a little more punch from the larger air mass moved, but this smaller driver does blend seamlessly with the tweeter.
The 1" titanium inverted dome tweeter shows it extension in handily conveying the clap and high hat with maybe lacking some of the speed compared to the RAAL tweeters in my reference system to resolve the finer details of the splash of a high hat or rattle of a snare drum. Overall an enjoyable experience, I think they could have done better paired with a subwoofer, but what the Elly did, it did well. Sometimes when compensating for a smaller midrange/woofer driver, manufacturers will pad the network to make the driver try to do things it is physically incapable of, typically to poor results.
Ok now for some Diana Krall (is this what audiophiles want from me?!?!) Just kidding, let's pop in some Deano, this one of my favorite albums of all time. I have it on CD, Vinyl, and still stream it high bit rate all the time.
Dean Martin Dream with Dean (1964 Reprise Records)
This to me, is Dean at his finest, it is a fantastically intimate recording and the stage is perfect, it is like he is singing in your living room. His voice floats through your space as he nonchalantly engages the microphone as you imagine the king of cool did in his prime. The track I always go to is I'm Confessing That I Love You, I've heard this track thousands of times on my own system and on a couple of different million dollar systems and it never ceases to amaze.
The Elly presents The Deano's voice as good as I have heard it, they are very strong in the vocal range and have a very strong envelope of strengths around these frequencies. Perfect for the era of the lounge lizard. They can deliver the full Jazz kit leaving you asking for little more than a little more umph from the standup bass and some missing elements to a full grand piano. I probably listened to this track more than any of the other tracks discussed in this article. On this track, the speakers did their best to get out of their own way and simply let the music do the talking. There's a naturalness of the balance within the vocal range, which really helps these speakers to convey intimate vocals as with the best of speakers.
If this is what these guys can deliver, I am going to get in on the ground floor. We will see what comes out the other end of the crowdfunding process, hopefully this is not some shiny concept car, and this concept will scale out to the full production run. They are not one of those speakers that make you tingle in that way that one of those life changing speakers will, but they come darn close, and for the price, that is a great value.
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