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This review first appeared in the February 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Elac AM150 in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. 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 fairaudio or Elac- Ed.

Reviewer: Jochen Reinecke
Sources: Digital - Marantz SA 7001 CD/SACD, Yamaha CD-S 1000; analog - Pro-Ject Xpression III with Ortofon OM 30 Super
Amplification: Funk LAP-2 preamp, Myryad MXA 2150 power amp, Yamaha A-S2000, Harman Kardon hk670, Trends Audio TA-10.2 SE, Yarland FV-34C III, Miniwatt M1
Loudspeakers: Nubert nuBox 681, Nubert nuBox 101 with AW 441 subwoofer, DIY TL with F120A widebander
Cables: AVI Deep Blue line-level, Kimber 4 VS LS speaker level
Review component retail: €518/pr  

To say it right off, Elac’s active AM150 box is a speaker between two worlds. Equally comfy with digital and analog, it’s at home in the recording studio as it is on the desk top or in the living room. What Elac manages in connectivity and employment scenarios for €518/pr is at least in theory very sound.

Cosmetically it’s pragmatic studio wear except for the rounded corners. Haute design it’s not but the stock black version is available in matte white lacquer too which ups the ante. The workmanship of the enclosure is very good meanwhile but with speakers it’s really the innards which count. Here the Elac weighs in with a big fist.

This is an active 2-way bass reflex affair with 130mm glass-fiber reinforced paper cone and 25mm silk dome with elliptical wave guide for matched dispersion at the crossover frequency. The port is on the back and since the electronics have to be somewhere not round but a horizontal slot. Each cabinet contains two class A/B amps. 50 watts go to the mid/woofer, 25 watts to the tweeter. As plain as the front may look, the rear panel offers more than the usual binding posts - none of those in fact.

The analog section offers three paralleled inputs of XLR, 6.3mm socket and RCA. Devotees of bits and bytes will appreciate twinned digital inputs of XLR and RCA. The latter also passes through to the S/PDIF output. A small switch sets each box as left or right channel. Since composite S/DPIF contains both channels, each box processes the channel it’s been assigned to.

The internal DAC recognizes the incoming sample rate and processes it at 32, 44.1 or 48kHz. Another switch determines whether the analog or digital input is active. As you’d expect for a studio monitor, the AM150 is adaptable to room acoustics. Three somewhat wobbly switches address low-pass filtering (0, -2 and –4dB), low-cut filtering for subwoofer integration (flat, 80 and 100Hz) and a high-pass filter (±2dB and 0). Finally there’s a level control.

Upon power up one encounters background noise which in a quiet room is audible from two meters away. In a home environment this should be less critical but in a recording studio near-field setup I’d be less impressed. This noise level was independent of volume setting or whether the analog or digital inputs were activated. To optimize S/N ratio, one ought to set the speakers as high as possible and control volume at the source if feasible. A second less dramatic nit was cross bleed between inputs. With an active signal on the S/PDIF input but speakers set to analog sans signal, the digital feed was audible if only faintly. Practically this cross feed can be eliminated of course and it’s likely due to the lack of internal real estate and/or the chosen price point.