Based in the costal town of Kiel in northern Germany, ELAC began life in 1926. With ELAC’s commanding reputation as a loudspeaker maker, it might seem odd to think that from the late 1940s right up until the 1980s, the brand was known as a turntable maker, and only made its first loudspeakers in 1984.
Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength. It is still run by Wolfgang John (who purchased the company in 1981) who, together with his son Oliver, have built upon ELAC’s deep-seated drive for technical innovation and outstanding engineering, but added an entrepreneurial zeal that makes the company stand out as an audio brand of note. Few others would make their company management ethos so public that the core of it is a 28 page A5 manual handed visitors. A big part of that ethos is customer focus (ELAC shows an image of a trophy, similar to the FIFA World Cup – which has been won once by England but only three times by Germany – with the customer in the position of the globe in the official Trophy), but this only comes by controlling as much of the production in house as possible.
Some of the construction of the JET tweeter is kept closely under wraps, because it’s a proprietary build process that involves robots and people with black belts in Origami.
ELAC has its own magnetiser to energise blocks of neodymium. The large cabinet is basically a capacitor, dumping massive charge into the rare earth components.
This shows just how powerful these magnets can be. If two small plates of neodymium can attract through a man’s hand, think what they can do to a loudspeaker cone!
Each workstation constructs a drive unit according to a precision-drafted ‘recipe book’ for absolute consistency. Here are some of the ingredients.
Winding a voice coil is difficult, even if you have the right people and the right tools.
Although the production is automated where possible, nothing beats the work of a specialist engineer when it comes to constructing a bass cone…
…Especially when they can build those bass drivers so well, so constantly and so frequently!
It’s not just the parts you can see that are solidly built. Even the crossover (from the FS 509VX, tested recently) uses the highest quality components and is built to last a lifetime.
The result of all this hard-core construction is a drive unit that can withstand loads that would burn out most loudspeakers. This one is taking a real battering!
ELAC doesn’t skimp on the damping, either. These seven layers of damping go to form the inside of just one FS 247 loudspeaker.
The loudspeakers are all built by hand and test against Golden Reference products stored on site. Assembly time varies with the speaker design, but they all get treated with exquisite care and attention.
Finishing frequently involves getting the best piano gloss possible on the production line. White glove assembly work is mandatory with this kind of glossy end result.
Do you remember the giant warehouse at the end of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark?’ ELAC’s storerooms are like that. This is just one small section of one of them. Top men work here. Top. Men. You just can’t see any of them because they move so fast. Or they were at lunch. Something like that.
ELAC keeps its Research and Development department tightly locked away, so we didn’t get a chance to see the boffins at work, but everything developed in the lab comes here to the company listening room for thorough evaluation.
ELAC’s idea of bringing as much as possible in-house even extends to a well-stocked photographic studio. I’m not jealous of this. Really. Not jealous at all.
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