ELAC Vela FS 407 Loudspeaker Page 2

The Vela FS 407 made a lovely job of it, giving an open and spacious sound. Hi-hat cymbals had a crispness and sheen I've rarely heard from any £4k speaker, while the rich harmonics from the electric organ and massed string backing shimmered all around. Fascinatingly, the tape hiss from this old analogue recording was clear to hear, yet it was very softly and smoothly carried rather than grating on my ears.

The smoothness of the tweeter isn't just its only party trick – another is how evenly it integrates with the midrange driver. There's no sense of the speaker's midband being lumpy or hard for example, instead there's a seamless transition from one drive unit to the other. The Wings track clearly showed this, but so did rougher and less 'hi-fi sounding' recordings such as ELO's 'Thunder And Lightning' [Out Of The Blue; Epic 88697053232] from the same period.

This is heavily compressed and has some strange EQ applied that favours a mid-forward sound possibly geared towards AM radio. The Vela FS 407 seemed utterly unfazed by this, sashaying its way through the song without any sign of harshness, even at high listening levels.

The third highlight of this loudspeaker is its excellent detail retrieval. Even with modest-sounding source material such as 'King' by UB40 [Signing Off; DEP International CDOVD439] – which was actually, legend has it, recorded in the producer's kitchen – the Vela FS 407 had an uncanny ability to scythe through the mush to reproduce the music in a vibrant, living and breathing form.

Of course the other drive units come into play here too, but it's the transient speed of the tweeter that really makes things so special. It was a joy to behold all the respective elements of the mix. from the heavily effects-processed electric organ to the saxophones and clarinet. This loudspeaker is a class act.

Clear To Hear
Instrumental timbres are also realistically exposed, almost like the speaker is wiping the detritus off the lens to bring the listener a crisp and accurate view of what is going on at the mixing desk, from bottom to top. It's certainly far more translucent sounding than many rivals, and this is greatly aided by a thoughtfully-engineered cabinet that doesn't sully the sound in any obvious manner. Indeed, that handsome, sturdy box surely goes a long way to explain why the Vela FS 407's bass sounds so neutral and even. Of course, physics dictates that it's not able to mix it with seriously large floorstanders, yet still it has a great go at reproducing bass accurately.


'King' has a deep, sumptuous bassline and this speaker carried it with surprising dexterity, sounding neither overblown nor bloated. Rather, the playing retained a fair deal of heft without slurring or slowing the song down. As the bass player goes up and down the scale, so does the speaker – and the result is a tuneful, engaging sound. This really came into its own with jazz music like Lou Donaldson's 'One Cylinder' [Alligator Bogaloo; BlueNote TOCJ-9103], where the propulsive double bass work absolutely dominates what is otherwise a pretty sparse recording.

So far, so good – but it's not all plain sailing for the Vela FS 407. While certainly a highly capable all-rounder – one that is able to give its price rivals a seriously hard time – this floorstander will still only move a finite amount of air from its mid-sized cabinet. You only notice this at higher volumes, when you can hear some dynamic compression to programme material.

I detected an example of this when listening to the excellent recording of Mahler's Symphony No 4, with Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra [Channel Classics CCS SA 26109], which in the opening movement demonstrates plenty of dynamic light and shade. On the powerful crescendos, especially where low range instruments like massed cellos are involved, it sounded slightly breathless and lacking in punch.

Deep Space
Nevertheless the Vela FS 407 is still very adept at conveying subtle dynamic contrasts within a piece of music while also reproducing a better sense of 'space' than might be anticipated from its relatively compact frame. So, with the Mahler, it served up a panoramic sense of the concert hall, with plenty of space about the orchestra along with a keen sense of the location of the individual instrumentalists.

What's more, there was a very realistic feeling of atmosphere to the recording, and surprisingly good stage depth too. This, plus the speaker's subtle accenting of the playing, brought out the life and soul of the sound to impressive effect.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The new Vela FS 407 is a very capable floorstanding speaker, and one that shows ELAC is now able to deliver a broad spectrum of models that are right up with the best of their contemporaries. It performs the unusual trick of both being very appealing to look at, and to hear. Fast, lithe, agile, smooth, open and engaging, it works skilfully across a wide range of music, and so will surely have far reaching appeal.

ELAC Electroacustic GmbH
Kiel, Germany
Supplied by: Invision UK Ltd, Diss, Norfolk
01359 270280