I liked what I heard in the ELAC room at the Bristol Sound and Vision show back in February. There they were playing a very accomplished sounding standmount.
At Cranage they were playing their very slim, beautifully constructed floorstander, the AIR-X 407, finished in piano gloss black. This is a fully active (active crossovers, 3 amps per speaker), wired or wireless version of the FS 407. Today they were connected via balanced interconnects. In the simplest of systems, this was being fed by files stored on HDD inside an Electrocompaniet ECM2 media player. Capable of collating all media files found on a network into a single "virtual" library of files, including most audio and video formats, this will take music from an optional internal HDD, via UPnP compatible NAS / PC media library or from USB drives. It contains a stereo DAC and can output multi-channel signals via HDMI for processing by an external multi-channel processor. Nice interface too and apparently can be controlled by smartphone apps, but was on the standard remote control today.
Today, in stereo mode with the internal HDD this single box, connected by balanced cables to the pair of active speakers made for a very simple and domestically very acceptable combination. At approximately Euro 9k it looked like quality and it sounded like quality too.
There's something about active systems when they're done right. You can hear that the amps have real control over the drivers. Drivers drive - they start and stop with conviction. For such narrow cabinets and smallish drivers these things go deep and they do it in a very controlled manner with plenty of slam. Voices are clear, have substance and nuance. Treble is very clear, sparkly yet smooth - no nasty edges here. This system also goes loud without sounding harsh or strained. Very very musical and great to listen to.
Guess what? No problems with playing any type of music in this room. In fact, our host here was very astute with my 13 and 10 year old kids - selecting tracks by Lorde and a band that slips my mind but is very much in the charts at the moment - saying that he'd chosen these for the "future audiophiles" in the room. What a refreshing change - recognising the needs of the attendees and playing to that. This made them feel very welcome, a bit special and encouraged them to select some music, with K again choosing Ane Brun as this was her benchmark we'd listen to at home. This system was giving my home system a run for its money - would be great to get them side by side in the same room!
Going on sound quality and VFM alone this was my top room for the day. Add in the way that the kids were treated as welcome human beings was the icing on the cake. Thanks HiFi Network