|Radiient Technologies Elara Compact 5 Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Friday, 01 September 2006|
Page 2 of 3
Music and Movies
I kicked things off with an old pop favorite, Savage Garden’s self-titled debut (Columbia). On the opening track, “Moon and Back,” the beginning rumble was a bit light in the lower regions before I turned on the sub, which rounded things out nicely. Without the sub, the main speaker’s drivers began to crackle and break up, even at moderate volumes. This didn’t shock me. With my experiment over, I left the sub on for the duration of the review and continued listening. From Darren’s first breath and subsequent vocals, the Elara mains dished out one heck of a center image. It was rock solid and floated effortlessly in the space between the speakers. Several guests in my house thought for sure the center channel was playing. It wasn’t. Beyond their placement, Darren’s vocals were forward and stood out from the rest of the musical elements, which made the entire track a bit more energetic in feeling. Next, I focused my attention to the Elara’s top end. The cymbals were clear and had a fair amount of decay and air. However, they always sounded a bit reproduced, as opposed to tricking me into thinking they were the real thing. This wasn’t a huge surprise, given the Elara’s price bracket. When the track really gets going I found the Elara mains had a bit of a problem keeping pace. The guitars began to overtake the space, which caused the vocals to lose a bit of their clarity. Overall, the image became a bit cloudy and lost a little bit of the magic that I experienced earlier in the track. The treble too became a bit recessed and soft, which seemed to take a bit of detail out of the overall presentation. In terms of the soundstage, I found the Elara’s presentation to be very wide but not very deep, which caused the sound to abruptly stop at my room’s front wall.
Moving on to my favorite track, “I Want You,” I decided to go for the gusto and really crank the volume. At above-average yet not earth-shattering levels, Darren’s vocals again were front and center. However, at the slightly higher volume, the vocals were noticeably colored by the Elaras’ cabinet, which gave the overall presentation a bit of a hollow, wooden sound. Also, at higher volumes, bits of the sonic landscape, mainly the lower registers, seemed to bunch around the speakers themselves, breaking away from the rest of the musical elements ever so slightly. I did like the Elaras’ presentation of the drum solo. While my JBL sub picked up a lot of the slack, the Elara mains proved to be up to the task when it came to adding snap and punch to the depth of drum kit.
Next, I swapped out Savage Garden for Sarah McLachlan’s album entitled Remixed (Nettwerk). During the song “Fear,” the Elaras dished up an amazing performance, both sonically and spatially, of the track’s opening synthesizer. The Elaras didn’t rob the song of its rather driving rhythm and added a bit of extra zing and bounce, which made for an engaging performance, if not the most accurate one. I felt rather surrounded, given that I was only listening to two speakers – two bookshelf speakers, at that. Moving on to the track “Sweet Surrender,” the Elaras’ treble was near spot-on, so long as I kept the volume within reason. Beyond moderate volumes, the treble showed signs of strain and was prone to fizzle. However, this may have had more to do with the speaker’s build than the tweeter’s lack of ability, but more on that later. The cymbals maintained an appropriate balance of air and sparkle without sounding overly metallic or fake. McLachlan’s vocals stood out from the rest of the musical elements which, coupled with the Elaras’ dynamic capabilities, made for a much more in-your-face presentation; given the style of music, I found it to be a welcome interpretation. Lastly, I cued up the track “I Love You” and was greeted with probably the best performance the Elaras had dished out yet. Immediately, the size of the soundstage, width-wise, was downright shocking. However, there was a clear sonic gap between the phantom center and the left and right speakers. I played with the Elaras’ toe-in but wasn’t able to create a truly seamless arc of sound between the left and right channels and the center image. The bass was very tight, very controlled and punchy. The Elaras’ dynamic capabilities were very good and their ability to resolve all but the minutest details made for a truly engrossing musical experience.
Happy with my findings in stereo, I branched out to the DualDisc recording of Snow Patrol’s debut album, Final Straw (A&M Records). I skipped to the track “Chocolate” and found the Elaras much more suited for multi-channel fare, given their almost identical design across all five speakers. The vocals gained a bit more weight and warmth when compared to traditional two-channel music. Also, the treble took on a much more three-dimensional quality, gaining a bit more air and palpability with less overall grain and glare at higher volumes. However, due to the lack of an outboard tweeter, the center channel didn’t quite have the same refinement in the top end as the mains did. Switching to the track “Run,” the vocals were rich, dark and appropriately moody. The subtle xylophone track was extremely delicate and nimble. Guitars were beautifully reproduced though all five speakers, although at extreme volumes, they tended to retreat within the speakers themselves, breaking away from the rest of the musical spectrum. At the same volumes, the lower midrange did get the drivers to rattle a bit within the cabinet. I ended with the track “Somewhere the Clock is Ticking” and noticed that the bass guitars had tremendous detail and snap. However, there was a bit of a gap between my subwoofer’s bass and the Elaras’ lower extension that made them just a little light in their footing. Dynamically, all five speakers proved up to the task and there was less flattening spatially with the DualDisc’s increased resolution. As always, the Elaras’ vocal reproduction was superb, as was their ability to recreate the track’s more atmospheric elements.
I quickly shifted my focus to movies and cued up the Spielberg sci-fi hit “Minority Report” (DreamWorks), starring Tom Cruise. I was anxious to see if the smallish Elara system would prove up to the task when presented with my Panasonic AE-900U’s (review forthcoming) larger-than-life projected image. During the film’s opening action sequence, where Cruise and his men are racing against the clock to prevent a murder from actually taking place, the Elara system didn’t rob me of any enjoyment. Starting with the symphonic score that plays throughout the initial investigation, the Elaras maintained the proper balance between the orchestral elements and the film’s dialogue. The resolving power of the various elements, both natural and technological, made for a truly three-dimensional sonic landscape to go along with the projector’s rich image. When Cruise’s team finally arrived at the home of the would-be killer, their grand entrance through the house’s skylights was awe-inspiring. The Elaras’ treble was extremely detailed and capable of tracking the countless shards of raining glass and debris as they fell around the actors. Likewise, the lower midrange and bass were very taut and held their own when presented with the film’s many flying crafts and futuristic cars. During the scene involving Cruise’s character and the Pre-Crime detectives on jet packs, the Elara system was poised with a daunting task. Amidst the chaos and action, the dialogue remained focused and intelligible. Likewise, the sequence’s higher frequencies were free of harshness and glare. The lower midrange and subsequent bass tracks (minus the subwoofer) were a little light in the pants and just a touch flat dynamically. The surround sound performance was rather good and encircled me realistically with true three dimensional quality. Overall, the Elara system was engaging and enjoyable in its own right. Sure, I’ve heard better and more refined, but at the sub-five hundred dollar level, I was happy and a little surprised with what the Elaras were capable of.
I watched a barrage of films and listened to countless music CDs and found that the Elaras were nothing if not consistent. They won’t go low, and their top end isn’t the best, but what they do attempt to do, they do very well. They’re not jacks of all trades and if you throw them something they don’t like, for example, complex passages at above average or extreme volumes, they will simply back down. However, at reasonable volumes with all but the most demanding movies and music, these babies are capable of much more than I think their price tag would lead you to believe. Place them in a smaller room, like a second living room or bedroom, and you might very well achieve the sonic bliss you’ve been searching without breaking the bank.