Evett and Shaw Elan Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Wednesday, 01 March 2000

The Evett and Shaw Elan ($2,200) with the matching Flatte 50 amplifier ($2,000) is the first system on the market dedicate to high performance sound for your desktop environment. Most audio/video enthusiasts spend far more time at work then they do in the sweet spot of their high performance audio/video systems at home. With the tremendous success of MP3 audio and the proliferation of CD-ROM and DVD drives in personal computers, we are automatically outfitted with a front end for music to empower us in our personal workspaces.

The Evett and Shaw Elan
The Evett and Shaw Elan is the best-sounding, truly small, nearfield loudspeaker I have heard to date. When I say truly small, I mean these suckers are tiny at 10 inches tall by five inches wide and 11 inches deep. The Evett and Shaw Elans create sound through a 3.25-inch-wide, full- range speaker driver. A second driver that is slightly larger is installed in the bottom of the speaker and is crossed over differently, which creates the Elan’s low frequency response. The enclosures are not made of typical MDF plywood; instead, they are composed of 6.5-millimeter-thick aluminum and stuffed with North American black wool for deadening and a superior lack of cabinet resonance.

The Elans and Flatte 50 arrive at your doorstep packed in their own silver Zero Centurion Elite suitcases, custom outfitted with velvet lining to protect and pamper your new toys. What do you do with the case? Personally, I go to chic Hollywood bars and tell people I am John DeLorean. You may choose to take it on your next vacation or use it for storage. The case is a great added value. The minute you open the box you understand the level of perfection that goes into each Elan and Flatte 50.

The Evett and Shaw Elans come finished in some of the world’s most exotic woods and colors. I had my Elans finished in jade with clear acrylic tops, to match my new Apple Macintosh G3 400 MHz desktop machine. I have seen other finishes like Sauterne and Cherry; they look great, too.

My desktop system is run from my main design computer, which is located on the far side of my desk, out of my sight. My Elans are positioned on the other side of my desk, away from my monitors, with a view of Beverly Hills and the skyscrapers of Century City. I position my Elans this way because I want to use the size of my semi-circle birch desk to create a musical escape away from my phone and my computer monitors. Below that section of my desk, I position a Sunfire True Subwoofer Mark II to provide my desktop system low-frequency support to increase low-level detail for my predominantly quiet listening, as well as to add some thunder on those occasions when I get to blast my system.

On top of my desk, between the Elans, the matching Flatte 50 power amplifier, priced at $2000, is hooked in, radiating warm sound and a futuristic blue light from its three circular, internal heat syncs. The effect of the blue light is striking when the sun has set and the skyscrapers are haphazardly lit up in the distance.

I have had custom cables made for my system by Evett and Shaw. They really went overboard to make the cables look, connect and sound great. In my case, Evett and Shaw have employed Transparent Cable, custom terminated with WBT spades and sexy banana, as well as locking Neutrec Speakon connectors to hook in to the Flatte 50 amp. The cables are custom colored to match the jade side panels of the Elans.

Setting Up Your Elans
Hooking up the Elans is not hard. However, you may need some adapters to get a feed from your computer to your amp and speakers. You do not need to use the Flatte 50 amplifier -- you may choose to use an integrated amp or a simple power amplifier instead. I use the Apple CD Control panel as my preamp, with a standard sound card as my output. If you use a traditional power amplifier, you’ll likely need to use your computer to regulate the volume of your system. You could avoid using your computer as your front end entirely and use anything from a portable CD player to a changer like Adcom’s six CD unit with a variable output. Using your Elan system with a CD changer allows you to create moods for your day’s work while enjoying a more resolute sound than you’ll get from most sound cards built into computer CD-ROM drives.

The Music
I found most of my listening to the Evett and Shaw Elans is done at very low volume levels. During the day, while on the phone or in the office with my door open, I rarely have the chance to crank things up. The effect of soothing music during the day makes a marked improvement to the mood and flow of my day. I use the tempo and intensity of the music to motivate or calm me, depending on the situation. Coltrane and Mozart work well while writing and editing articles or speaking on the telephone, while Stevie Wonder and Van Halen serve well to get over those late afternoon doldrums.

The first time I had the chance to crank up my desktop system, I was working late and had Stevie Wonder’s Musiquarium Disc Two (Motown) in my Mac. I took an extra second to up the system level in the control panel of my computer and then pushed the volume to the max. On "Sir Duke," the ascending horn rift simply leaves the two-dimensional world of loudspeakers and moves into the three-dimensional realm of music. The decay time on the cymbals is right on, while the splashes are crisp and far beyond the physical limits of the loudspeakers.

In an ongoing search for a desktop adrenaline rush, I dropped in Van Halen’s 1984 CD (Warner Brothers) and left the volume pegged. On the intro to "Panama," you can hear Eddie’s legendary "brown sound" firmly planted on the left side of the soundstage, while the reverb and delay effects are clearly hard panned right. By the time Diamond David Lee Roth was done the first verse I was singing along. Did I mention that this system sits on my desk?

The Downside
The Evett and Shaw Elans and Flatte 50 make a very resolute playback system that can reveal a less than perfect eight-bit CD-ROM drive’s audio capabilities. Most built-in sound cards start off by creating a less than wonderful sound before you even get to a system capable only of reproducing what you feed it in a very accurate way. If you even take the plunge for the speakers, you will also want to consider an after-market soundcard. You may also contemplate skipping running the system through your computer altogether and opting for a CD changer or a high performance CD player. The addition of a subwoofer isn’t needed, as the Elans extend audible bass down to 55 Hz, but the sub does make a noticeable improvement in low-level detail, which is the system’s main reason for existing.

You will need to be careful how you assemble your desktop system to avoid AC power problems and hums. I had a hum until I rearranged my wiring to move an interconnect to avoid an AC power strip. I also found that using an outboard CD player helped avoid entangling cables in messy nests of desktop wires, which in turn helped avoid ground loops and hum.

I sit in a Relax The Back orthopedic chair and at a little shy of 6’3" tall, I found the initial height of the Elans on my desk to be far too low to get optimal imaging. I frequently stack two CD jewel cases under the front spikes of my Elans, greatly improving the imaging. Evett and Shaw should provide larger spikes as an option for taller users. Additionally, the lack of spike holders has caused me to scratch my new desk’s finish. At $2,200, Elans should also come with simple silver receptacles for their spikes. This would prevent you from attaching the Elans to your desk until you had your imaging down. Then, when you’re ready, you’d be able to save your best speaker location without ever damaging your desk.

Evett and Shaw Elans are not for everybody. If you love music and have a penchant for exotic toys, Elans will be hard to resist. They simply blow away any plastic injection-mold loudspeakers you can buy for your PC. The Elan is a statement of your dedication to and love of music. They bring joy to your personal work environment. The Elans are built to extreme levels of perfection and have the sonic performance to warrant their heavy price tag. If you love music and have sufficient discretionary income, you should consider purchasing of Evett and Shaw Elans as a dramatic lifestyle improvement.
Manufacturer Evett and Shaw
Model Elan Loudspeakers

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