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Elac Debut ConneX DCB41 Review: One of the best audio systems under $600

Elac Debut ConneX DCB41 are one of the most affordable wireless shelves on the market that claim to be in the Hi-Fi category

ELAC is the oldest German audio company, which will soon be 100 years old. There was nothing particularly noteworthy, except for a few but important patents. In 2015, an important event took place for the company, the distinguished engineer Andrew Jones transferred from Pioneer to ELAC. This event became a jackpot for ELAC. By the way, it was Jones who left a significant mark on the KEF company in the 80s. Jones’ arrival at ELAC, a change in personnel, course and strategy led the company to success. Working diligently not only with their elbows, but also with their heads, trying to avoid overpricing, ELAC have gained a solid place in the budget hi-fi market with their Debut line. If you look at tons of different audio magazines and articles over the past 7 years, you’ll notice that every second or third one features ELAC, mostly the Debut line. What made this series so popular? It’s simple – the price for sound quality.

Like all companies today, ELAC adds electronics, wireless technology to existing models, making them wireless and multi-functional. All In One – such devices are most in demand today. Speakers that do not need massive amplifiers, receivers, DACs and other junk. The review will be about such a system – Debut ConneX DCB41 . The speakers are small shelves weighing only 7 kg per pair and with a total power of 100 W. This model is one of the most affordable wireless shelves on the market that claim to be in the Hi-Fi category.

Functional

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There is an HDMI input, which has recently been a rarity in such systems, it accepts a digital signal (PCM only) as well as any other digital input, such as optical. My TV does not have the ability to transmit audio via HDMI for some reason, despite the presence of HDMI ARC. My TV can only output sound via optical, so I couldn’t test the HDMI speakers. Almost any modern TV should have this capability. Also, some DACs have an HDMI (ARC) output.

Speakers can work without problems with any device via USB Type B, I tried phone, tablet and computer – works great. I’m lucky to have a lot of the most exotic cables in my collection, even USB Type B to Type C. It’s very difficult to find it on sale for some reason, but you can try using an adapter.

The speakers have bluetooth and it works great. Basic control takes place from the remote control: pause, next track, previous track. Bluetooth operation will be described in more detail below.

As for the remote control, it has everything you need: turning on/off speakers, turning on Bluetooth mode, switching between digital inputs, volume and XBass mode.

What is XBass and how does it work? There is an XBass button on the remote, when it is active, the bass is amplified. This is the only sound adjustment other than volume in this model. It works like this, the XBass button is pressed for 2 seconds, after that the light on the speaker will flash once, it means XBass mode is on. It has two modes, immediately upon activation there is an increase of plus 3.5dB at a frequency of 55Hz, if you press the XBass button one more time there is an increase of plus 7dB at the same frequency of 55Hz. To turn off this mode, you need to press the XBass button again for 2 seconds, after which the light will flash twice – XBass mode is turned off. For myself, I preferred the second amplification mode – by 7dB.

Yes, the speakers have a built-in phono equalizer. Today, this is the trend, many similar systems have such a thing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t check, I don’t have a “turntable”.

Now about what I personally consider a minus. The speakers do not have the classic bass and treble control, all that is XBass, which is not enough for me, I’m sure it won’t be a problem for many. There is no coaxial input here! The use of any source that only has a coaxial output is not possible. Bluetooth does not support anything but SBC and AptX. No Wi-Fi and no Chromecast. USB is the most primitive, does not support exclusive mode, there is no ASIO and similar things here. In my opinion, yusb is here “for a tick”. The remote control uses infrared connection technology, the remote control must always be pointed at the receiver (speaker).

Design and ergonomics

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I am very interested in design, for me the design of any acoustics is a very important parameter. As for the Debut ConneX DCB41, I liked them right out of the box, they look cool. Speakers come in four colors: orange, blue, black and walnut. I really like the “walnut” option.

Speakers look especially impressive without a grill. The shelves are very small and light. The build quality is good, I would rate it 8 out of 10 considering the cost. There are some small bumps and traces of glue, but considering the price, this is completely normal.

All inputs and outputs, volume control and phase inverter are located at the back. One column is active, the other is passive. They are connected to each other through an ordinary acoustic cable (included).

Sound

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I’ll start by saying that the speakers use a class D amplifier, as do all such systems, but the question that bothers me is what makes manufacturers use amplifiers that still have background noise in 2023? Any stationary Chinese Class D amplifier slightly more expensive than $150 has no noise at all. ConneX DCB41, like all active speakers I’ve heard, even three times more expensive, have noticeable (for me) background noise. We have what we have. Personally, it affects me a little, probably not many.

I haven’t compared the built-in electronics with the analog input, but I can say for sure that the speakers play very decently through the internal DAC. The main listening took place using the Analog RCA input. The source was the Marantz CD6007 player , by the way, in my opinion, one of the best “seat players” under 700 dollars, although the model is not new. The speakers have a balanced, almost neutral sound, which is about the same sound character as the classic Debut passive line. In my opinion, the speakers have a real 100W and play relatively cleanly up to almost 100 percent volume. The efficiency of the speakers is very high. To my ears, the speakers play absolutely without problems up to 90% of their maximum power (volume). Very small but very powerful. Now in more detail.

The ratings below are based on size and price!

Bass

With a high probability, you will be surprised by how much bass there is, as well as its quality. Bass starts from 50 Hz. Despite the miniature size of the speakers, the bass is present and feels very good. Personally, these speakers impressed me with the amount, speed and quality of the bass. Not bad resolution, but very complex tracks lose some details, not critical. When Xbass is turned off, the speakers play a little livelier and cleaner, when turned on, the bass slightly reduces its speed characteristics and gets a little greasy, but this difference is barely noticeable. However, when the Xbass is turned off, the speakers play frankly boring and frivolous in my opinion. When listening to music with Xbass +7dB – 6 out of 10 records did not require connecting a subwoofer at all, 3 out of 10 unobtrusively asked for help from a subwoofer, and only the last one I didn’t even listen to until I connected the subwoofer. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to connect any subwoofer to the shelves so that they “stick together”. The presence of a crossover in the subwoofer is mandatory. If bass is extremely important to you, get ready to buy a subwoofer. My bass rating is 9 out of 10.

Medium range

Midrange on ConneX DCB41 has a moderately open presentation with a pleasant, quite natural timbre. Relatively even sounding with almost no coloring. If I watch a movie, I like almost everything, but the voice lacks a little weight, and, how to say, presence. The width and depth of the scene is at the average level or even slightly above, in this category and price. Some tracks sound with good three-dimensionality. The midrange has an average level of detail, small nuances and details are quite readable. The overall rating of SC is 9 out of 10.

Upper range

The tweeter, as well as the digital HF tuning, are well made. Almost complete lack of brightness. But on some recordings, the HF has a little emphasis. There is a small, hardly noticeable peak somewhere above 10kHz, sometimes it “whistles”. Otherwise, the highs are relatively flat with good, but not exemplary, detail. There is a slight “seam” feeling between the tweeter and the woofer. In general, the tweeter reproduces the high frequency quite well, but sometimes it feels metallic. I don’t think this is a problem, sometimes on the contrary it makes the sound a little brighter and more interesting. Personally, I miss the HF control here. My HF rating is 7 out of 10.

We can draw a conclusion. In my opinion, the woofer in the ConneX DCB41 is a little better than the tweeter. In general, the DCB41 sounds almost universal. The system is suitable for both movies and music. Speakers easily sound a room up to 35 square meters. There is a high probability that you will not need a subwoofer, the system has powerful bass. After watching a few movies, I was completely satisfied with the sound, personally, I had enough volume, bass and attack speed in dynamic scenes.

Bluetooth

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To be honest, I wasn’t even going to check the functionality of the bluetooth. I turned it on for the “tick” and didn’t think to write anything about it. On any more or less decent speaker that has bluetooth, starting at $400, the difference between bluetooth and wired sound is more than noticeable. As a rule, bluetooth on such equipment does not sound interesting. Due to its frankly non-audiophile implementation, Bluetooth is best suited for such devices as JBL Charge , where it feels great. But with ConneX DCB41, everything turned out to be not so clear. Yes, it’s going to sound like cheap advertising, but I’m impressed with the sound of the Debut ConneX DCB41 over Bluetooth. I don’t know what kind of electronics is inside, probably there is some new, not simple Bluetooth chip. I remember on the KEF LSX of the first model, the bluetooth didn’t sound fabulous, for example, on the iLoud Micro Monitor, the bluetooth was literally for the tick. Between the Marantz CD6007 and the bluetooth on the ConneX DCB41, I don’t hear the huge difference that I was prepared for! From what I’ve heard so far, these are the best bluetooth speakers under $600. I officially congratulate ELAC for achieving such a decent result. They decided that if there is no Chromecast, then let there be good Bluetooth, a reasonable approach.

Comparison

I’ve had very few similar systems in the $500-$700 range, so the comparisons will mostly be of very different models, so it’s not fair.

TRIANGLE AIO TWIN

The French Triangle system has more functionality and is larger, but in general both systems are similar in purpose. In terms of sound, the AIO TWIN has a much richer and nicer middle, but at the same time it is inferior in detail to the Elak. The German system has a more conventional, versatile sound, while the French system has a more unusual signature with priority on the midrange and upper bass. AIO TWIN is intended for “aesthetes” of instrumental minimalist music, while ConneX DCB41 is more universal. Personally, my choice is ELAC. (and almost twice as expensive)

KEF LSX

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard the second version of LSX, but I really liked the first version. No doubt the KEF sounds better, I have a guess that the second version of the LSX is noticeably better than the first. Both systems do not have their own special signature, but the ConneX DCB41 definitely loses both in detail and in three-dimensionality. Kefas play noticeably more interesting. Yes, the price difference is big. To be honest, I’ve been thinking about buying the KEF LSX II for a year now, but I need to hear them first and make sure they’re worth the price.

iLoud Micro Monitor

Not quite a correct comparison, iLoud are positioned as monitors, ELAC is home acoustics, but both systems have a similar price and the presence of bluetooth. Sound-wise, iLoud is probably my choice, but I’m not sure. If we talk about bluetooth, it is implemented incomparably better in ConneX DCB41, after all, there is a difference of more than 7 years between the systems. Both systems are very cool and have almost the best bang for your buck.

Edifier S1000W

Both systems have almost the same price. In my subjective opinion, the Edifier slightly wins over the ELAC system in terms of quality, despite the fact that I like the sound of the ELAC better. Edifier has a big trump card – Wi-Fi and wider functionality. The sound is better in ELAC, but Edifier has slightly deeper bass. What to choose? Personally, I would choose ELAC for better sound quality and a more concise design. I want to say that the Edifier company has an excellent return for the price, this is expressed both in sound and in functionality. My strict recommendation is to pay attention to the new models of shelves from Edifier.

Now, for comparison, let’s take the classic passive system Dali Oberon 1 + Yamaha A-S501 . ELAC and Dali are almost the same size, Dali is slightly larger. Here I will say right away that ConneX DCB41 loses in all characteristics, personally in the mid-range. I can’t say that the difference is very big. ELAC sounds “simpler” in this comparison. Yes, we must admit that there is a big difference in price between ELAC and this system, primarily because of the expensive amplifier. I can say 100 percent that ELAC offers more, if not much more, for every dollar.

I would like to add my opinion regarding the comparison of component systems (passive acoustics plus an amplifier) ​​with All-in-One systems. The more I listen and compare such systems, the more I am convinced that the return for every cent paid in such audio systems as the ConneX DCB41 is higher, often much higher. Size! Just look at how much space a classic stationary amplifier takes up alone…

Conclusion

Considering the functionality, build quality and sound, I would rate these shelves 6 out of 6. Still I would like to have full Wi-Fi and Chromecast in this system, unfortunately, they are not here. In my memory  , this is one of the best audio systems under $600  (in its category). I do not see alternatives or competitors of this model. To date, this is the best All-in-One system of its kind that I have held in my hands. Maybe there is something better, but I don’t know it. I consider ConneX DCB41 a very successful model.

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