The name Andrew Jones is already synonymous with great budget speakers. However, the launch of the Elac UF5 and the other Uni-Fi speakers shows that Jones’s name should instead be synonymous with “designing a product the smartest way for a given price point.” I’ve known Jones for about 20 years, and what has always struck me about his work is that he always seems to find the best engineering solution for a particular application and budget. I remember back around 2004, when Jones demoed his prototype of the $80,000-per-pair TAD Reference One for me, then minutes later explained with equal enthusiasm his driver designs for a Pioneer two-way speaker built to sell for $60 per pair at Circuit City.
The new Uni-Fi speakers embody something Jones told me many years ago: “The best two-way speaker is a three-way speaker.” By that, he means that a two-way speaker with a conventional midrange/woofer and dome tweeter is a compromise between woofer dispersion and tweeter power handling, and that adding a midrange driver eliminates this compromise–if the price of the speaker is high enough that you can afford to add a midrange driver. That wasn’t the case with the Debut line, the first line of speakers that Jones designed for Elac. However, the higher (yet still reasonable) prices of the new Uni-Fi line enabled him to encircle each speaker’s tweeter with a four-inch midrange cone.
“Encircled” is a key word here because the tweeters and midrange drivers in the Uni-Fi speakers are concentric–which means that their acoustic centers are always the same distance from your ears, so you suffer none of the comb-filtering effects that are typical of speakers with a physically separated midrange (or woofer) and tweeter. Concentric drivers have been a hallmark of Jones’s non-budget designs since his days at KEF, the company most famous for concentric tweeters.
According to Jones, the UF5’s bass response is basically the same as that of the UB5 bookshelf speaker, despite the UF5’s two extra woofers, larger size, and twice-as-high price. The lower two woofers are walled off from the upper drivers in their own enclosure, but the volume of this enclosure is twice that of the top woofer’s enclosure, and it has two ports, so the UF5 is basically the UB5 with two extra bass sections added. Why spend more for the UF5? Because it’ll play deep notes much louder without distortion than the UB5 can.
The UF5 lists for $499 each. Also in the line are the $499/pair UB5 bookshelf speaker and the $349 UC5 center. There’s no subwoofer designed specifically to complement the Uni-Fi speakers, but Jones feels the Debut Series subwoofers are up to the task.