Elac Debut B4 Compact Bookshelf Speakers Review

Last updated on: 11-5-16
Bottom Line: highly regarded in the audio community, very nice looking for budget speakers, and now quite cheaper than the original MSRP due to now being older generation. A decent choice for nearfield desktop speakers, but might require a better than average receiver and a subwoofer to sound their best. Better alternatives still exist in our opinion – see the end for some such recommendations.
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Shown with and without the removable foam-grill cover

Important Specs Overview

Speaker type: passive, 2 way, back ported
Continuous power handling: 40 W
Peak power handling: 80 W
Impedance: 6 ohms
Sensitivity: 84.5 dB/W/m
Frequency response range: 48 – 20k Hz (+/- 3dB)
Driver Size: 1 in tweeter; 4 in woofer
Unit weight: 9.3 lbs
Cabinet dimensions: 7 x 8.5 x 11.5 in (width x depth x height)
Warranty: 3 years

Review And Discussion

The Elac Debut speakers are designed by renowned audio engineer Andrew Jones, and a supposed improvement on similar value tier speakers he previously designed for Pioneer. The original Elac Debut lineup contains three bookshelf speakers with 4, 5, and 6 inch sized woofers respectively.

The compact 4 inch Debut 4 is the smallest and least expensive unit of the bunch. The Debut 4s are pretty clearly intended for near/mid-field listening, and would probably not get loud enough for a home theater system in a full sized room. At a glance, the power specs are modest, and with a lower 6 ohm impedance and similarly quite low efficiency rating of 84.5, the little Debut 4s will probably require a disproportionately large amount of power driven to them to sound their best, so you might need a better receiver than you’d normally expect to need for budget-tier speakers. The upside is the quoted 40 W nominal power handling is a full 50% of the peak power handling, whereas the norm usually runs at around 30%.

While the response floor is decent for 2-way bookshelf speakers, especially so with smaller 4 inch woofers, these are probably best suited to pair with a subwoofer. Elac doesn’t claim a standard 3 dB variance in the quoted response spec, which is generally a sign that the response curve is less uniform and the bass will probably start to fall off considerably as the sound gets lower. Smaller 2-way bookshelf speakers almost always lack bass anyhow since they’re not generally designed to be standalone speakers.

Both the woofer and tweeter are made of a proprietary paper blend, the latter of which is particularly uncommon, and probably explains the interesting design choice of having the tweeter housed behind a grill, in addition to there being a standard removable front cover. Paper drivers generally perform better, especially if they’re well made, but are prone to wear and tear. Elac does have a 3 year warranty on its passive speakers, but, while that’s not terrible, it does fall short of several competitors who offer 5 years of coverage on even their budget-tier passive speakers.

We will say that the Debut speakers do look slick, a lot cooler than most boilerplate looking budget bookshelf speakers. The grain driver bezels contrast nicely with the similar grain MDF cabinet, though leaving paper woofers exposed is a risk. They still manage to be quite large and heavy for mere 4 inch woofer speakers.

Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition

The Elac Debut speakers are generally well praised in the audio community, but are comparatively overpriced in our opinion. That said, the original debut series has made way for a newer generation Debut 2.0 series, and the older speakers have thus, predictably, become significantly discounted. The Debut 4s are in fact a lot cheaper than their original MSRP.

The dual paper drivers and relatively large power capacity are intriguing. They also look really nice for budget speakers. So, if you have a nicer receiver, and these pass your own listening test, then by all means they’re a decent choice.

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Yet still, there are several competitors that are objectively better: larger, cheaper, more powerful, or a superior design. So, it’s hard for us to recommend the Debut 4s currently. There’s a good chance they’ll become even cheaper though, so it might still be worth keeping an eye on them.

Relevant Links and Resources

The best overall budget bookshelf speakers