ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 Review: The Best Bookshelf Speaker of Its Price Range
While we enjoyed the supplementary sound of ELAC's Debut B5 in our small home theater, we were thrilled to hear about the ELAC Uni-fi UB5 speakers. We liked that the UB5 was developed as an upgrade for everything that the Debut B5 was. And that a pair costs around only a half of one thousand dollars (almost double the Debut's price, but still cheaper than others') was very inviting.
So, when our B5 was more than a year old, we wasted no more time and bought the UB5. When we had it, we're happy to say that it was everything we expected and much more.
The following speaker review will highlight how the UB5 was able to stand in our opinion as to the best bookshelf speaker you could ever buy.
The ELAC Uni-fi UB5 is a compact, three-way speaker. It was designed by Andrew Jones for ELAC's Uni-fi series as an upgrade to the ELAC Debut B5. Jones was also the name behind Pioneer's powerful speaker designs.
ELAC's Uni-fi series features two other speaker models—UC5 (center channel model) and UF5 (floor-standing model). The UB5 is the compact bookshelf or stand-mounted model. Despite being the smallest model, it is highly capable of delivering the same punch as the bigger (and more expensive) Uni-fi speaker models.
The UB5 has the same three-way concentric driver design that characterizes the main features of Uni-fi. The rear-firing bass reflex port is conveniently placed above the terminals at the back of the cabinet. And the manner wherein the tweeter and midrange are placed above the woofer makes it possible to save space and create a more compact speaker of less than 13 inches tall.
The one-inch tweeter is made of a soft cone covered by a grille. It is neatly placed at the center of the 4-inch midrange made of an aluminum cone. The 5.25-inch woofer is likewise made of the aluminum cone. Both aluminum cones are more semi-flat than conic. The bass reflex port at the back is dual-flared and has a matte finish.
The concentric drivers are laid in a pair of MDF cabinets wrapped in the black brushed vinyl finish. It also has magnetic grilles that you easily attach and detach.
The rest of UB5's technical specifications are as follows:
- Amplification type - Passive
- Crossover channel - 3-way
- Max. Power output - 140 watts
- Frequency response - 46 to 25000 Hz
- Nominal impedance - 4 ohms
- Rec. Amplifier power - 40 watts
- Sensitivity - 85 decibels
- Crossover frequency - 2700, 270 Hz
Each of the pair of speakers also has the following dimensions:
- Height - 12.8 inches
- Width - 7.9 inches
- Depth - 10.7 inches
- Weight - 16.49 pounds
As of design, the UB5 is one of the best-looking compact loudspeakers. It doesn't look as luxurious as some expensive speakers, but it looks cool enough in any modern room.
Without the detachable grilles, the concentric drivers look silvery against the black brushed vinyl. For many of us, black/silver is considered one of the coolest-looking combinations for any home appliance or furniture. But if you would instead not expose the drivers, the black grilles give the speakers a more robust and discreet look.
Another thing we like about UB5's design is the size. It's small and compact enough to be mounted on any bookshelf, tabletop or even desktop.
In the living room, the UB5 looks nice on top of our bigger speakers, which are situated just beside the black TV stand. Since the other speakers are of the same black/silver theme, the UB5 speakers fit perfectly among them. Plus, without the grilles, they look just as cool and mean as the bigger ones.
On the shelf just above the TV stand, the UB5 looks like any cool ornament. Though it might not catch the attention of everyone in the room, the shelf (which is also black) looks fuller but neater and more functional with the speakers on it.
Speaker Sound Quality
The first time we tested the UB5, we hooked it with the TV without the bigger speakers to see how it performs by itself. When we played from Netflix, the sound seemed crunchy, while on high volume. But when we turned it down a bit, the sound was distinctly better. The audio sounded clear and crisp as long as the volume isn't turned up too loudly. It was a better sound quality compared to the Debut B5's.
Also, we noticed that sometimes the crunch in sound comes whenever there's an abrupt change in the pitch of a show's background music. During the dialogues, the sound is pleasant, and the voices sound like real voices. But when there's a sudden drumming or scratching sound in the background, you can catch hearing some crunch tough negligible.
With music streaming, the UB5 is a better performer. Soft, low-beat music comes out great without any crunch. Jazzy sounds and ballads sound just as sweet too. However, we have to note that when playing hard-rock or punk music, the volume should be turned low or else the sound will begin to crunch again.
Another thing to note is the rear-firing bass reflexive port. To contain the boom of the speakers, it gives better results if the speakers aren't placed too close to the wall. For us, the sound and boom were better when the speakers were placed on top of the bigger speakers than on the shelf right above them. Nonetheless, the sound was still great in either position.
Considerations When Buying
For its price range, the ELAC Uni-
For a home theater with a big audience, the UB5 is excellent as a supplemental speaker. For personal movie and TV leisure, the UB5 can be enough without the help of other speakers.
It's also lovely for music-playing if you like listening to softer, more relaxed music and songs. However, if you like harder music, you might want a higher-end speaker for optimum audio pleasure.
Also, if you have the opportunity to test the speakers out before buying, we recommend that you do. You may as well try it with a sound system similar to yours to see if they work perfectly with it.
Another thing to consider is the speaker's hardware. Though we have no qualms with the quality of the inset parts, the vinyl wrapping seems easy to peel off. The black brushed vinyl looks excellent when new, but it may soon peel off when handled frequently or exposed to moisture.
As a solution to this, you can opt for the slim, finished versions, which come in black or white. However, the price would be different and more expensive.
The ELAC Uni-fi UB5 is a great pick for anyone who loves to enjoy music and or watch movies at home. If you are the type who appreciates great audio, but are on a budget, the UB5 is the best choice for $500. But if you demand more performance, especially for professional use, you may want to spend more on higher-end speakers.
Overall, the UB5 has proven to be one of the best speakers. And if we were to choose between UB5 and another 500-dollar bookshelf speaker, we would go with the UB5.