While we love being treated to a big, booming and bank-busting pair of high-end speakers here at What Hi-Fi?, we’re often equally enamoured with those models that can provide as much entertainment as possible on a budget. Hi-fi should be for the many, not just the few, as the likes of the Elac Debut B5.2 and Dali Oberon 1 both amply demonstrate.
The Elipson Horus 6B are the latest standmounts looking to add their names to the pantheon of budget bargains that can punch well above their weight. The French speakers retail in the UK for £349, though given that you could pick up a pair of the five-star Q Acoustics 3020i for £100 less, the Elipsons are going to have to offer something special to truly earn our full recommendation. The Horus 6B certainly have a name fit for the Egyptian gods, but is their sound utterly divine or just a desert mirage?
Build & design
There’s nothing wrong with a pair of speakers looking unobtrusive and restrained, but there’s a point at which understated tips over into plain and bland. While we’ve seen and liked the look of the Horus 6B when daubed in a rather attractive light wood and beige colourway (one of the three finishes in which the speakers are available), the black carbon review models with which we are provided just seem dull and lifeless. Even with that textured front panel, they could be unfavourably compared with a pair of functional black gaming speakers.
It’s not that the Horus 6B look particularly offensive, but rather that there seems to have been little effort, especially when fitted out in black, to really make them stand out from the crowd. That may of course be the entire point, but we’re more drawn to the little flourishes and aesthetic touches displayed by the rival Dali Oberon 1 than the slightly bog-standard look of the Horus 6Bs.
Internally, the two-way bookshelf 6Bs host a 25mm soft dome tweeter accompanied by a 13cm cellulose pulp mid-woofer that aims to give, according to Elipson, a “magnificent, airy sound image and an articulate extension of the bass register”. We’ll get to that later.
We use our high-end reference system of the Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer alongside a Burmester 088/911 MKIII power amplifier to start off our tests, before moving to the more affordable Arcam A5 amplifier (tested at £749) to offer a more real-world context.
As expected, the Elipson sound much more at home with the Arcam amp, sounding sharper, more immediate and better realised than with the Burmester. The speakers just don’t have the sonic stretch or transparency to do justice to higher-priced equipment, but that’s fine considering their price.
Before we really launch into our listening, we make sure the Elipsons are in a position best suited to their sonic needs, pointing them slightly inwards so that their axis crosses behind our heads. We find that when we place them next to the wall itself they feel excessively soft and flabby in the lower-end reaches, and soon discover that moving them to their optimal position of around 40cm away from the wall provides the best results.
If we had to summarise the Elipson Horus 6B’s sonic profile in a single word, it would be “reserved”, although synonyms such as “non-committal” or “safe” would be equally appropriate. The latter is probably the most apt of all, in fact, and it’s a term that we come back to time and again while performing our extensive tests. The Horus are a pair of standmounters that play it safe.
In some ways, that works in their favour. Radiohead’s Reckoner, for instance, starts with well-placed clanking cymbal sounds, and while lesser speakers might make those tones feel excessively sharp, the Horus 6B do well to smooth over any harsh edges. Once Thom Yorke’s falsetto vocals kick in, the organisational abilities of Elipson’s budget boxes come into play, with the overall arrangement feeling cohesive, organised and satisfyingly well-managed. Nothing bleeds where it shouldn’t or comes across as overly harsh or forward, but nothing about the performance truly grabs you or provides you with a sense of emotional or musical connection, either.
Drive units 25.4mm tweeter, 12.7cm mid-woofer
Ported? Yes (front)
Impedance 8 ohms
Dimensions (hwd) 34 x 17.5 x 25cm
Weight 12 kg (pair)
Finishes x 3 (light wood/beige, walnut/dark grey, black carbon)
We find that same limitation to be even more striking when firing up Hans Zimmer’s Why Do We Fall? from The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack; a hard-edged, adrenaline-fulled recording that needs a system that can bring out its full dramatic impact. Again, the Horus 6B speakers fail to elicit the desired effort to truly make you feel like Batman thanks to their noticeably soft, tubby bass and reserved, somewhat muted presentation.
Flitting between various test tracks we find that the Horus 6B fail truly to grab us with an adequate sense of musical insight and understanding. What’s striking is how little of each track’s individual flavour and personality the Elipsons tease out, opting instead to soften each recording with their own reserved, slightly limp nature. A rather thin, lean recording of Elvis Costello’s Veronica loses its unique sonic character through the Horus 6B, while what should be a full, meaty rendition of Glass Animals’ Heat Waves feels dampened and nullified rather than solid and assertive.
Play those same tracks through the five-star Dali Oberon 1, conversely, and you’ll be struck by just how different and distinct from one another they now seem. The Oberon 1 speakers understand music and the intention of a given recording, whereas, as we noted earlier, the Horus 6B play it safe – and in doing so never scratch much beneath the surface. Everything becomes uniform, obeying the restrictions imposed by the speakers’ rather limited sonic palette and general lack of true insight.
The Elipson Horus 6B are a game effort that ultimately can be bettered across the board by the class leaders at this level. We’re all for unfussy and easygoing products, but if Elipson are to succeed, these speakers need to offer far more in the way of transparency and entertainment to really compete with the best.
- Sound 3
- Build 3
- Compatibility 4
Read our Dali Oberon 1 review
And our Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 review
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