Hardware Reviews

Elipson XLS 7 speaker is a retro bargain

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeakers

I have enjoyed several Elipson models over the years albeit not all of the company’s creations are to my taste, either aesthetically or sonically. Having been brought up on BBC monitors, and still admiring their tonal balance, the Editor thought I might like Elipson’s latest and smallest addition to its Heritage range: the XLS 7 compact, two-way stand-mount. The name certainly sounds promising.

Elipson

The company’s general manager, Joseph Léon, trained at the Arts et Métiers, and joined what was then Multimoteur in 1946. A small company, it was formed in 1938 and specialised in electric motors for toys as well as producing miniature electrical equipment used in the construction of transformers, generators and alternators.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

The first audio research (carried out by Messrs Bazin and Latour) was in 1940 and gave rise to the well-known BS50 Chambord model: a sphere with an elliptical reflector, a design that has been recreated as the BS50 Tribute. The arrival of Joseph Léon at the head of the company in 1948 began a new era of extensive work on reflectors and resonators. Finally, in 1951, Multimoteur became Elipson.

Elipson’s new Burgundy facility houses the engineers and Philippe Penna, the Technical Director, who voices everything from either the Paris or Burgundy bases. The Heritage range is designed and engineered in France but manufactured in the Far East which explains the highly-competitive price.

Heritage range

Alongside more avant-garde models, Elipson’s Heritage Range distinguishes itself with a vintage aesthetic imbued with the typical charm of the ‘70s and ‘80s, the era when I began to discover audio products. With retro styling in conventional square wooden cabinets, the opportunity has been taken to maximise the use of the latest design techniques and modern technology. Two three-way models, XLS 15 and XLS 11 are joined by this two-way reflex design with silk dome tweeter, cellulose-fibre coned mid/bass unit and adjustable HF output via a +/-2dB front baffle control.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

Design

In a compact cabinet, finished in real walnut veneer on the review sample, are a 165mm cellulose pulp woofer-midrange and a 22mm silk dome tweeter, with double magnet in a two-way reflex design using a front-firing port which allows closer positioning to the rear wall when required. The tweeters are offset right-of-centre on both speakers which is unusual. Crossover is a highish 2.4kHz and in-room measurement shows integration to be slightly uneven, however the off-axis response is splendid and gives rise to a wide soundstage, filling the room with no narrow ‘hot spot’ listening position.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net
XLS 7 in-room response for the three filter settings
Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net
XLS 7 off axis response

The rear houses a single pair of binding posts of a standard commensurate with the price point. While the larger, three-ways offer separate midrange and treble output adjustment, in the XLS 7 we have a single control which some rough in-room measurements show does, indeed, alter the treble output with either a boost of cut as room acoustics require. Some rather smart and well-made cloth-on-frame grilles are provided and I left then in situ for both sonic and aesthetic reasons, convinced that the design was voiced for their use.

Setup

A dedicated stand is available as an optional extra but I pressed into service my trusty Custom Design Signature metal stands with centre column partly-filled. Assuming the on-axis point to be between the drive units, the FX 104XL stands at 20-inches tall proved the ideal hight for my listening position.

Initially I connected the XLS 7s to my long-serving Hegel H190 streaming amplifier but, noting the speaker’s lowish nominal 6 Ohm impedance (and suspecting that it dipped lower at some frequencies), switched to the H600 which can better tolerate such loads. Digital connections included a satellite receiver, Blu-ray DVD player and internet tuner while, to stream from Qobuz, I made use of an Auralic Aries G1 with coaxial connection.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

With the speakers sitting about a foot away from the rear wall and with minimal toe-in, after an initial trial to make sure all was well, I left the Elipsons in situ to run in for a few days before settling down for some serious listening before the panel came to give their assessment.

Sound quality

As is my wont, I began by listening to a range of speech-based material from radio and TV, a mix of drama, news and current affairs. This showed just what a great midrange balance the XLS 7s have: so natural sounding and in just the right proportion to the bass and treble. Voices sounded natural and managed to avoid unpleasant artefacts of sibilance, boxiness, nasality and chestiness. The designers have done a great job, better than might be expected in what is a modestly priced loudspeaker. Reproduction was clean, clear and crisp while being totally believable.

Encouraged by the early sounds I tried some small-scale classical works and noted how the soundstage extended way beyond the cabinet edges. Thus, the performance by America’s Beaux Arts Trio of Schubert’s Piano Trio No.1 (Phillips) was reproduced with finesse, subtlety and clarity. The ensemble appearing before me in a most lifelike way, producing levels of realism way beyond what I was expecting from a loudspeaker at this price.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

We have here some French designs which do not sound traditionally French. I think of speakers from that country as being rather lively, brash and up-front. Not so the refined and beautifully mannered Elipson XLS 7s.

Moving to larger-scale material and the XLS 7s showed their dynamic ability with Mahler’s Eighth(CBSO/Rattle) although it would be perhaps expecting too much of a loudspeaker of this size and at this level to not sound slightly strained by the mighty forces involved in this work. Nevertheless, the Elipsons did themselves proud and managed to avoid unpleasant distortion, just a mild blurring of the overall image which still spread high and wide from these modest cabinets.

Listening panel

Enough of my endeavours, the listening panel assembled and the tempo changed. They began with what’s apparently a “bangin’ choon” in the shape of Make Me, a nostalgia-infused rave anthem from Borai & Denham Audio. It reinforced the dynamic credentials I had found with classical repertoire but also endorsed the XLS 7’s timing credentials and feet began to tap involuntarily.

I was told that the Elipsons had excelled in terms of bass which, while not particularly sonorous (not exciting my known 50Hz room mode, for example) did have plenty of power and, goodness, these boxes can play loudly without distortion. I am sure the neighbours enjoyed (?) the track as well… The XLS 7s reminded me of some upmarket JBLs in their voicing and dynamic handling and sounded better than some designs I can think of at more than twice the price.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

On to more mainstream material and The Monkeys’ I Wanna Be Free where those stunning vocals, courtesy of Davy Jones, came out of the rich backing in a really engaging manner. Everything seemed to be not only in the right proportion but also in the right place. Imaging was spot-on and the balance encouraged enjoyment through immersion. This wistful teenage coming of age anthem stirred the emotions via the XLS 7s.

We rounded off the session with Peggy Lee’s cover of Fever, that stunningly alluring arrangement from 1958 which was handled with aplomb by the Elipsons. We’ve heard this contagious jazz-pop tune handled less well by far more exotic loudspeakers than these which really showed some class-leading abilities in conveying the sensual sophistication of this female jazz master at the top of her craft. We were half expecting to feel her breath on our faces such was the level of realism.

After the session proper we settled down to enjoy a DVD of The Booze Cruise with the XLS 7s the ideal size to place either side of a large screen for an immersive A/V experience. These are truly versatile monitors with a slightly warm tinge to the sound rather than any overly-aggressive balance as is found in so many designs today. They truly are heritage in their looks, feel and sonics.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

Conclusion

The listening panel departed, I left the XLS 7s in my system and continued to enjoy all they did. The midrange borders on the exemplary while both treble and bass are in the right proportions to create a natural and lifelike sound across a range of material.

To call these Elipsons a bargain is almost an understatement; they offer incredible value and hardly put a foot wrong through the review period. They might be slightly reticent in the bass department but nothing that a subwoofer would not address for those who appreciate vibrating floorboards.

The key highlights, alongside that glorious midband, is the sheer dynamic ability of a speaker at this price and from a cabinet of these dimensions. It is hard to think of anything comparable which does it better. Ideally suited to small and medium-sized rooms or for nearfield listening in larger environments. All round, a thorough endorsement of a product well worthy of Best Buy status.

Specifications:

Type: 2-way standmount bass reflex loudspeaker
Crossover frequency: 2.4kHz
Drive units:
Mid/bass: 165mm cellulose pulp cone woofer
Tweeter: 22mm silk dome
Nominal frequency response: +/ -3dB 49 – 25,000 Hz
Nominal impedance: 6 Ohms
Connectors: single-wire binding posts
Sensitivity: 88dB @ 1W/1M
Dimensions HxWxD: 380 x 225 x 250mm
Weight: 9.7kg each
Finish: walnut
Warranty: 2 years

Price when tested:
£799
Manufacturer Details:

Elipson
T +33 (0)1 55 09 18 30
en.elipson.com

Type:

stand mount speaker

Author:

Trevor Butler

Distributor Details:

Avoke Limited
T 01628 857958
avoke.co.uk

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