Last year at CES 2018, and then even more so in our review, we were floored by KEF’s powered upgrade of its popular passive LS50 speakers, the LS50 Wireless. Packed with digital technology and incredibly powerful amplification, the LS50 Wireless are a rare example of a product that improves on the already fantastic original. Not to be outdone, ELAC — the new playground for one-time KEF employee and master speaker designer Andrew Jones — brought its own wireless bookshelf speakers to the party this year, the Argo Series B51 powered bookshelf speakers.
While the Argo B51 will undoubtedly be compared to the LS50 Wireless, these speakers are a very different animal than the futuristic LS50. The B51 a three-way speaker as opposed to the two-way LS50, and while the LS50 keeps things in the digital domain, including digital crossover correction in real time, the Argo B51 keep things old-school, preserving the sound in analog format.
Inside each speaker are three AB amplifiers, including a 150-watt BASH AB amplifier for the 5 1/4-inch aluminum cone woofer, a 70-watt BASH AB amplifier for the midrange driver, and a 30-watt Class AB amplifier for the concentrically mounted tweeter, tallying up 250 watts per side.
The Argo B51 speakers also offer a nice collection of both analog and wireless connection, including balanced XLR, TSR, RCA, and wireless connection — though the latter depends on a $99 dollar wireless hub called the Discovery Connect transmitter. The transmitter offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection, including Discovery, Spotify Connect, and AirPlay compatibility.
The Argo B51 cabinets are gorgeous to behold, offered in glossy shades of black, white, and a striped woodgrain which ELAC told us they’re still not sure what to call. We’ll go with Zebra wood for now.
As for the sound, these things fly high above the uber-affordable (and quite fantastic) UB5 speakers we’ve raved about, which cost a pittance of just $500. Sound is sweet, elegant, creamy where it needs to be, and supremely detailed in our short demonstration at ELAC’s quiet Venetian suite. As you might imagine, all that tech, self-amplification, and even better sound pushes the price point up a fair bit.
The Argo 51 are expected to cost $2,000 when they hit the market this year, and if you want to go wireless, you’ll have to add another $100 on top of that, of course. Still, add the cost of an amplifier or receiver into that equation — which these powered beauties leave behind — and you’re still looking at a pretty fair price for stellar sound, again hitting quite close to KEF’s LS50 Wireless.
We don’t yet have a release date for the Argo B51 wireless, but we’ll update this post as soon as we know more.