This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

This review first appeared in the May 2009 issue of hifi & stereo magazine You can also read this review of the Advance Acoustic EL-170 in its original German version. We translated it through a syndication arrangement with our German colleagues. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or Advance Acoustic. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog - deck - Acoustic Solid MPX; tone arms - Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12 Zoll; pickups - Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 201, Zu Audio DL-103; digital - CDP - audiolab 8000CD, HIFIAkademie cdPlayer; Computer & Co - Logitech Squeezebox, Readynas Duo NAS-Server, HP Notebook; DA-converters - Aqvox USB2DA-MKII, Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: Phono - Aqvox 2 CI MKII; preamp - Octave HP 300 MK2; power amp - SAC il piccolo monos; integrated - Lua 4040 C, Myryad MXI 2080, Naim Nait XS
Loudspeakers: Audium Comp 5, Quadral Rondo, Zu Audio Druid mk4
Racks & Stands: Creactiv, Taoc, Liedtke Metalldesign Stand, Shale audio base
... plus diverse cables
Review Component Retail: €898/pr

Egg not on your face but with spin
High fighting weight for the money. That should be your reflexive take whenever talk of Advance Acoustic springs up. That this should relate to their electronics and particularly their amps is nearly unavoidable. While the roots of this French firm are in speaker manufacture, their boxes never caused much of a stir here in Germany, perhaps because as Herr Bremm, technical director of our domestic Advance Acoustic importer puts it, "they hadn't been tweaked for German ears". Needless to say, he believes that's no longer the case and a new speaker series dubbed EL has been added to the portfolio, with its entry-level 2-way compact EL-170 on review today.

The new series is an atomic family of just two other stand-mounts, the €2.190/pr EL-210 and €2.790 EL-250. The numbers in the model names correlate to their mid/woofer diameters, making today's tester's 170mm. This layered paper cone reaches to 2.990Hz before the aluminum cone with dispersion lens takes over. The filter network is a 2
nd order 12dB/octave affair, both drivers are in-house designs of the French headquarters but fabricated in Asia to reflect the firm's general job division. For just shy of €900, the EL-170 looks squarely upscale not least because of its veneer which, while 'ordinary' Cherry, isn't lacquered as usual but hand polished, then oiled to boost appearance and how it feels to the touch. If you disagree with my wood biases and don't want veneer, the alternate option is high-gloss black. Matching stands are in the works, their price TBA.

As the front baffle shows, this is a bass-reflex design with an unconventionally narrow (31mm) port, likely to keep midrange frequencies inside the box. The back shows a plastic plate with bi-wire terminals of fine quality which are compatible with bananas, spades and bare ends. The MDF enclosure's cheeks recede to the rear to look good and undermine the severity of internal standing waves over fully paralleled panels. The enclosure is further stiffened with a cross brace in the back. While this covers the basics, the technical highlight of the speaker hangs inside by way of a black sheep - no, egg.

About 8cm in circumference, this egg is made of natural rubber and elastically suspended exactly at the peak of a standing wave whose wavelength is determined by the enclosure's dimensions. The egg material is supposed to convert that acoustical energy to heat and diminish internal resonance. Advance Acoustic also claims that it allowed a lower box tuning without sounding "damped to death". Interesting. My slide ruler indicates that an enclosure of ca. 40 x 30cm HxD clocks its first low resonance mode at about 450Hz, i.e. just above concert A. How this relates to bass performance escapes me but then I'm not the designer...

Don't plan on big fun at least over the first 50 hours. Even after 100, certain wishes still wait to be fulfilled at least in my experience. Naturally, any box takes 3 to 4 days before serious listening is warranted but more was clearly needed here. The treble was nervous and somewhat scratchy, a strange suck-out in the upper midrange haunted female vocals and images stuck to the boxes to undermine a free projection of the actors onto the virtual stage. Break-in can be nerve wrecking without a sound-proof empty room where review kit can squeal away 24/7. Enter a quickie vacation to Rügen island. With my Logitech Squeezebox on endless repeat, it was time to get out of Dodge and into sun and sand. Chill out nerves and Advance drivers. Admittedly, I wasn't too sure about the latter...

... but the Frenchie did in fact want to be rocked down hard. Once returned from the mini holiday, the small Advances played surprisingly nuanced. I didn't clock the exact time but they did see at least 250 hours of constant action aka environmental noise pollution - water under the bridge as it paid off. Two things spontaneously surprised with this rather affordable speaker. First, tonal balance was far more even than I expected since my bias wonders what a designer really has to work with in this range. If the box has a midrange emphasis, his marketeers call it liveliness. An upper-bass boost turns into warmth, a fresh treble gets spun into airiness. The real question is not whether an affordable speaker is voiced but to what extent and whether the chosen tendency meshes with your requirements.

The Advance 170 stays clear of excess. She's not hyper present, pudgy of girth or sizzly in aspect but coherent, seamless and without readily identifiable tendencies in the frequency domain. While that reads non-spectacular, it's not only vital for long-term listening satisfaction, it's far from the norm particularly in this price class. A big brownie point to Advance Acoustic. That doesn't mean there aren't limitation above and below. But that's fundamental. The EL-170 is a compact box. The lowest one or two octaves have to be mostly missing. That's life. Clever here was to not restrict the treble per se but softening it somewhat to where the Advance isn't exceptionally airy.