ELAC Debut A4 Dolby Atmos Modules Review
THE VERDICT:
The ELAC Debut A4 Atmos Modules are solid Atmos performers. They do a good job creating atmospheric and overhead sound effects. To use them you’ll need an Atmos or DTS:X enabled AV receiver which means if you have an older amp, you’ll need to upgrade.

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Design8.5
Value9
Sound Quality9.5
The Good
  • The ELAC Debut A4's sound better than you'd expect from a small speaker. They do a good job creating overhead and atmospheric Atmos effects
The Bad
  • Black vinyl exterior doesn't scream high-end. Hanging brackets could give the speaker greater placement flexibility.
9Overall Score

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X have been the talk of the town in home theater circles. I’ve been able to test out several AV receivers that support both Atmos and DTS:X and both fledgling formats appear to be the real deal. The ideal setup for Atmos and DTS:X is to have ceiling speakers installed, but lets be honest. How many of us really want to cut holes in our ceilings to install speakers? Not many. The solution to this vexing problem has presented itself in the form of Dolby Atmos Modules. I managed to get my hands on a pair of ELAC’s Debut A4 Atmos modules and walked away impressed by what I heard.

 

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X – So What’s the Big Deal?

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X may be the next step in home theater audio. Essentially, both are object based formats which allow sound engineers to orient audio in 3-dimensional space creating a bubble of sound around your listening area. This is where speakers like the ELAC Debut A4 Dolby Atmos modules come into play. They work by bouncing sound off your ceiling and down into your listening area which creates the illusion of sounds coming from above.

 

ELAC Debut A4 Design & Appearance

The A4’s have a simple clean design with little visual flare. The speaker enclosures are wrapped in black vinyl. Unlike most speakers, the ELAC Debut A4’s eschew the usual faux wood grain pattern. Instead, they have a brushed metal surface treatment. Size wise the A4s measure 4.8 inches tall x 7.9 inches wide x 8.7 inches deep. Weighing just under 5lbs each they feel heavier than their meager dimensions would indicate. As is the case with most Atmos modules the A4’s have an angled top which helps push sound up to your ceiling. If you already have a set of the Debut Floorstanders or Bookshelves, the A4’s will set perfectly on top. If you don’t, you still can use them with other speaker brands as long as they have a flat top.

 

ELAC A4 Debut Review
At the heart of the ELAC A4 lies a concentric driver which consists of  a 4-inch aramid fiber woofer with a .5-inch polymer dome tweeter nestled in the center. A mesh metal grill shields the A4’s drivers from the outside world. Around the back are dual 5-way binding posts.

ELAC A4 Debut Review

The ELAC Debut A4’s have a sensitivity of 85 dB and frequency response of about 180 to 20,000 Hz. 180 Hz may not seem impressive, but for Atmos and DTS:X it’s perfect. Low frequencies have a tendency to be omni-directional, however the effectiveness of Atmos modules depends on the ability of the speakers to precisely bounce sounds off your ceiling. Omni-directional low frequencies would cause a problem in this scenario, so in the case of Atmos modules its better to send  low frequencies over to the subwoofer.


RELATED: ELAC Debut B6 Review


 

Setup

The amp I used, an Onkyo TX-NR757, supports up to a 5.1.2 Atmos arrangement. With this arrangement you can either place the Atmos modules on top of your front mains or your surrounds. If you upgrade to an amp that supports a 5.1.4 arrangement you could have ELAC’s on both the fronts and surrounds which should provide a more enveloping Atmos/DTS:X experience. Unfortunately, none of the amps I had on hand for the review were equipped with DTS:X. The Onkyo TX-NR757, which I used for the review, hadn’t received the DTS:X update as of the writing of this article.

 

Sound Quality

Dolby Atmos material is becoming more plentiful, but as implementation of the new platform has started to mature the one movie I’ve really begun to appreciate is Transformers: Age of Extinction.

 

Cuing the movie up on my Blu-Ray player, the movie immediately gave the ELAC A4’s something to work with. One thing that you’ll notice right away with these speakers are that they produce room filling sound. Earlier when I stated that Atmos creates a sonic bubble it really does. The opening scene in the movie where the Transformer ships are cruising towards prehistoric Earth, the sound of the ships engines seemingly appeared from every direction, even above.

 

Game of Thrones Season 5 on Blu-Ray was my next test with Atmos and this highlighted one of the key features of the format. The ELAC Debut A4’s did a wonderful job creating a sense of atmosphere which really pulled me in to whatever was transpiring on screen.

 

To directly test the speakers sound quality, I disconnected my other speakers in the system and ran the ELAC Debut A4 Atmos Modules as my front mains. I didn’t expect much since these speakers aren’t designed for this type of use, but they surprised me. They had a fuller sound than I expected and interestingly enough when played as front mains, they still bounced sound off of the ceiling.

 

The Verdict

Overall, the ELAC Debut A4 Atmos modules are solid performers. They do a great job creating a sense of atmosphere. My only real nitpicks would be that optional hanging brackets could give the speakers maximum placement flexibility. Also the brushed vinyl exterior doesn’t exude high-end,  however looks aren’t everything. If sound quality and performance are more important to you, then the A4’s are a good pick.

 


Where to Buy:

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