This tall floorstander takes its place as the top model in Elac’s Line 400 series. All use the JET 5 tweeter,  Elac’s development of a concept patented by Dr Oskar Heil called the Air Motion Transformer (AMT).

In the Heil AMT, the moving element is a very light plastic membrane that carries a fine metal track to conduct the audio signal. Suspended between powerful magnets, this membrane moves when current flows. But what’s special about the AMT is that the membrane is not flat, but folded into concertina-like pleats – it responds to the signal, opening and shutting like bellows, moving a greater volume of air than a flat ribbon with the same frontal area.

But although the JET AMT has long since become Elac’s signature technology, the Line 400 range embodies several other innovations. In the FS 409, the next unit down from the JET 5 is a new 150mm midrange driver, specially developed for this model. This is matched to a pair of 180mm bass units featuring Elac’s latest AS-XR cone design [for details, see our full review, HFN Sep ’14], which Elac claims extends the unit’s bandwidth by almost an octave compared with the previous type.

In this ‘three-and-a-half-way’ design, the midrange drive unit crosses over from the tweeter at 2.7kHz and handles frequencies down to 360Hz. Below this the two bass units share the work, the upper one rolling off at 140Hz.

Bass loading is by a large flared reflex port in the bottom of the cabinet, which stands on short pillars to provide slot-like final venting between cabinet and base. The base is supported by spiked feet attached to strong steel outrigger.

Our speakers came in Black, but the standard alternatives for all the Line 400 models are White, Metallic Tobacco and Walnut Veneer, with others to special order.

A glossy presence

We obtained the best results with the speakers around 2ft from the back wall and toed-in slightly. With Entre Cada Palabra by Marta Gomez [Chesky], there was a nice sense of atmosphere particularly on the singer’s most lyrical offerings, with a pleasant feeling of instruments spread across a stage.

Here, and on many other familiar recordings, we found that the Elac speakers brought a slightly different perspective. On the eternal Jazz At The Pawnshop [Proprius] there was a kind of glossy presence to the clarinet and equally to the vibes, seeming to bring these instruments forward. Yet the fine background detail was there when you listened for it.

The Elac speakers could be impressive on a clean and simple studio recording. With ‘Perfect Fit…’ from Gwyneth Herbert’s Clangers And Mash [NaimEdge], the vocal was upfront and truly striking, although it possibly had a little less subtlety than we’d expected. The handclaps were infectiously rhythmic, while the big bass drum had real oomph.

Listening to the 1959 Heifetz recording of the Mendelssohn Concerto [JVC] there was a sense of height in the soundstage and an admirably airy quality. There was really no sense of hardness or glare, albeit a certain wispiness to the treble. Above all, the speakers brought a fine sense of depth and scale to the image.

Verdict

There is plenty of detail to be heard but it’s never too ‘etched’ or in your face. This carefully balanced design majors on spaciousness, with its wide-open imaging and a smooth, refined treble.

Originally published in the 2014 Yearbook