Elipson Legacy 3230

Hardware Review

Elipson Legacy 3230
Thursday, February 13, 2020
floor standing loudspeaker
Jason Kennedy

Elipson has a significant legacy as France’s oldest surviving loudspeaker brand, it was founded in 1938 and remained in private ownership right up until 2008 but never pursued international markets. Whether this was because the distinctly Gallic styling of its products made them hard to sell or that the domestic market was sufficient for the company’s ambitions is hard to say but staying in business for so long would suggest that it wasn’t such a bad policy.

That was the case up until AV Industry acquired the brand and created the logo that now graces its products. This is a much more outgoing organisation that owns France’s biggest AV electronics retailer Son-Video as well as several other brands. Founder Phillipe Carré clearly had plans for Elipson and these have resulted in several turntables, music centres and a range of serious loudspeakers that start at just under £500, such as the Facet 8B, there are also more mainstream offerings for the wider world. Elipson have built a rather attractive tribute to the brand’s early days in the BS 50 Tribute loudspeaker, this is a white 50cm sphere with an upward firing driver and a large reflector above that, it’s very funky. The Legacy 3230 on the other hand is an all new flagship model that takes its design cues from Elipson’s models of the 60s such as the original 3230 where a spherical mid and treble cabinet sat atop a column with an internal bass driver and large front firing port. In those days the enclosures were plaster of Paris, today they use resin which gives a much better finish and more precise moulding. 

 

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The 3230 is the largest in Elipson’s Legacy range and a large loudspeaker even by the standards of ambitious designs around its price point, on its cone feet it stands 134cm tall (4’ 5”), which is a foot higher than most and makes it fairly dominant in less than capacious rooms. But if you want to move air a large cabinet is the easiest way to do it, large drive units helps too of course and this is equipped with two eight inch bass drivers that look very much like the ceramic midrange by of virtue of an aluminium skin, however underneath they are good old paper pulp cones. Which is a very hard material to beat for delivering low distortion bass. The midrange is a bit more fancy with a 160mm ceramic dished cone, both units are made by Elipson. The tweeter is an AMT ribbon, a design that’s popular for its smooth response and described as having wide dispersion, which is true but the dispersion is different in the horizontal and vertical planes because of the rectangular shape of the driver. It’s widest in the horizontal plane which means fewer reflections from the ceiling but as I found not without its issues in such as tall speaker.

The cabinet is ported with the opening underneath, spacers keep the base plinth a specific distance away which should mean that the speaker is less fussy about placement. Rear ported speakers tend to get overblown in the bass if too close to a wall but a port in the base is still going to be effected by nearby barriers. The plinth is held on by four large machined aluminium cones that take the place of feet, the fact that they hold the base on means that unlike spikes they shouldn’t be used to offset unevenness in the floor. The cabinet is said to be between 2.5 and 3cm thick, which is quite thick but not excessive, and veneered in walnut with a matte lacquer finish. I like the way that he logo is picked out in chrome on the front and the model name on the top in the same fashion. The cable terminals are good quality bi-wire types that are supplied with links in place, here Elipson uses cables rather than plates which is generally makes for better sound quality. In an age when speakers are commonly made in the far East it was encouraging to hear that Elipson builds the Legacy range at its facility in Burgundy, France – in the same factory where it builds turntables. 

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Sound quality
The Legacy 3230 is a beautifully relaxed loudspeaker that much is obvious from the start, but I did begin to wonder why the high frequencies were so subdued until the height and tweeter type factors were considered. I sit just over three metres (10ft) from the middle of the speakers with my head below the height of the tweeter on this Elipson and this must have a bearing on the balance. In an attempt to get a better result I moved the room around so that I could sit further away, 5–6m, which did help to create a bigger image and greater openness but the nature of the rear wall (which is less substantial) meant that the bass was greatly diminished. Eventually I figured out that by removing the front cones the cabinet could be tilted forward enough to have the tweeters firing at rather than above my ears. This improved definition to a useful degree but given that the cones hold the base plinth on is a bit of an extreme move.

There are many benefits to a relaxed or ‘polite’ balance in a loudspeaker and these have been apparent in a number of popular designs over the ages. For a start it makes acoustic music sound more natural and open, Keith Jarrett’s piano on the recent Munich 2016 album delivers his message with the full emotional charge thanks to Elipson’s remarkable ability to deliver nuance. It’s worth putting up with some of this pianist’s vocalisations just for the passion that they embody, and body is the word for the piano itself which has a clear three dimensional presence in the room. The voice and piano on Lana Del Rey’s NFR sound a little more stately and deliberate than usual which means that the speaker has minimal overhang, the notes and chords don’t ring any longer than they should which leaves a clearer space between them, and the low end on this is delicious.

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I seem to have got stuck on pianos because the next track was EST’s live version of ‘Tuesday Wonderland’ (Live in Hamburg) where the Legacy 3230 rendered the acoustic around the drums extremely well, the soundstage reaching back behind the speakers in very realistic fashion. The timing is measured and precise, unhurried perhaps, which leaves plenty of time to differentiate the slightly fuzzy notes of the double bass on this recording. Floating Points’ ‘Les Alpx’ prompted some serious low end excursion and a strong groove, the two big drivers and a big box make for bass that’s fully extended and unforced. Electronica like this doesn’t exactly sound sweet but that’s in the nature of the recording, the speaker tells it like it is.

With the room turned round and the speakers further away the nuanced nature of the Elipsons remains a strongpoint, there is lots of fine detail in the voice and guitar of Olivia Trummer’s beautiful ‘Sharing my Heart’ and it’s easy to understand the lyrics, which isn’t always the case. I also played another live track in ‘Magnolia Mountain’ by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, and it sounded fabulous thanks to the ease and expansiveness of the image and the quality of bass when there’s a low bass guitar note. The perspective of the soundstage worked a treat with the Elipsons a further away from the listening seat, you get a real ‘being there’ at the concert effect that is hard not to enjoy with music that’s this good. You can also play at high levels without the speaker compressing which further increases the fun factor, it’s a fluent rather than an analytical sound that is very hard to put down. Voices are always well defined and when that voice belongs to a young Van Morrison as on ‘Fair Play’ (Veedon Fleece) it sounds spectacular, the bass on this isn’t as solid as it might be but the emotional power of the performance is delivered in full effect. Then ‘Streets of Arklow’ comes on and it’s hard to keep ones upper lip stiff.

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Back at short range and tilted forward I tried to tease a bit more leading edge definition out of the Elipsons by using Chord Co Sarum T speaker cable rather than my usual Townshend Fractal F1, this tightened things up and increased the sense of propulsion in a Kamasi Washington track, leading to a sense of high energy with a big band expansiveness that was not unappealing. The Legacy 3230 responds precisely to the soft- and hardware you partner it with, play something relaxed and it becomes the big easy, put a high power track on and you have intensity. But ultimately they are pretty laid back by modern standards and that’s no bad thing when it comes to engaging with the music. You do need a reasonable distance between seat and speaker for best results, 5m (15ft) is probably the minimum, but the nice thing is that they can fill a room with ease. 

Specifications: 

Type: 3-way reflex loaded floorstanding loudspeaker
Tweeter: AMT ribbon
Midrange driver: 160mm ceramic
Low frequency drivers: 210mm aluminium surfaced cellulose pulp
Recommended amplifier power: not specified
Sensitivity: 91dB 
Nominal impedance: 4 Ohm
Crossover frequencies: 400Hz, 3200Hz
Frequency response (-6dB): 25Hz-30kHz
Max SPL: 112dB
Connectors: binding posts/4mm plugs, bi-wire
Dimensions (HxWxD): 1340 x 347 x 450mm
Weight: 50kg

Price: 
£7,500
Manufacturer Details: 

Elipson
T + 33 1 55 09 18 30
www.elipson.com