AV123 ELT 525M Monitors review

AV123 ELT525M Monitors


  • System: 2-way, 2-driver direct radiating vented enclosure with rear-firing flared ports.
  • Drivers: One (1) custom 5.25″ woofer and one (1) 1″ tweeter
  • Frequency Response: ± 3dB to 20KHz with -3dB at 60Hz
  • Crossover Point: 2200Hz Slope: 2nd order acoustic Impedance: 8 ohms Efficiency: 83dB @ 1w/1m Video Shielding: Yes
  • Wall Mounting: Yes, via two threaded inserts. One on the back and one on the bottom. Size: 1/4-20. Suggest using the Peerless PM732 wall mount. Dimensions: 6.12″ W x 11.25″ H x 9.81″ D / 15.5cm W x 28.7cm H x 25cm D
  • Weight: 26lbs per pair shipped
  • Component Retail: $299 / pair in cherry or rosewood satin

AV123 has a track record for producing affordable loudspeakers that offer great sound at unbelievably low prices. Their popular two-way monitor, the X-LS, won our 2007 Product of the Year award in the affordable loudspeaker category. The over achieving X-LS is just one of many astounding values to leap from the AV123 woodwork in recent years. Even though the X-LS tipped the price/performance scales upside down, one of the few drawbacks to its design was its relatively large size. Recognizing the need for a more life-style oriented loudspeaker, Mark Schifter and Danny Ritchie set out to create a significantly smaller monitor capable of delivering performance worthy enough to rival the accomplished X-LS at nearly the same exact price point.

AV123 ELT525M review

What they came up with is the AV123 ELT525M, a compact two-way rear ported monitor that serves as the entry point into the new and improved ELT (Extremely Luscious Theater) line. Its design follows a simple recipe, combining high quality drivers with a simple high quality crossover. The result is a minimalist 2nd order design that mates together a unique 1” soft dome tweeter and a 5.25” treated paper cone woofer. As an added bonus, both drivers are shielded to allow for placement near sensitive devices such as CRT’s. The 525M is also outfitted for wall-mounting. Top off this slim and sexy versatile profile with rich real wood veneer and you’ve got a package that can integrate into nearly any room and décor.

First Impressions

I couldn’t help but let out a few chuckles as I removed the little speaklets from their puny shipping carton. Sure, I’ve played with numerous ultra compact monitors designated for hi-fi use, but none of them were built to stand toe to toe with the X-LS at the same price point. Naturally, I wondered if these tiny tots could measure up to their groundbreaking cousins.

After flipping through a number of tunes, my concerns were quickly dissolved. From Jimi Hendrix to Diana Krall and anything in between, it became clear that these little things mean serious business. In fact, I’m confident that the 525M can hold its mettle against anything I’ve heard south of the $500 line. Here’s why;

Performance: The Yin

For starters, the 525M strikes nearly the perfect balance between musicality and resolution. What this means is that not only will this loudspeaker showcase the performance of good components and recordings, it will also allow you to enjoy less then stellar recordings and low resolution formats, such as 128-192kbps mp3’s. Typically, most products on the market tip the scales to one extreme or the other. You either have speakers designed to extract the most resolution possible from the source, at the expense of making inferior recordings and hardware less enjoyable, or you have the ‘musical’ speakers which are designed to tone down or color the frequency curve in an effort to make imperfect expect in this price range. recordings tolerable, at the expense of linearity and resolution. Rarely do the two extremes coincide, especially at this price class. Yet the ability to harmonize both extremes is the 525M’s front running talent.

AV123 ELT525M Monitor front

This accomplishment can be attributed to two things; the 525M’s simple and expertly designed crossover, and its special soft dome tweeter. The tweeter delivers an extremely smooth, non fatiguing sound that is inherently free of fatigue inducing grain. While the 525M falls just short on reproducing the sharp bite of say, an electric guitar or cymbal clash, it nonetheless manages to capture enough high frequency energy to convey the musical message, all the while avoiding nasty sibilance that often haunts many recordings. Take for example Mariah Cary’s latest, yet not so well recorded album, E=MC2. With the 525M’s in place, I found myself more intent on cranking up and enjoying the music, versus evaluating high end performance parameters.

Further down the frequency spectrum, I found the midrange to be surprisingly smooth, open, and linear. I say surprising, because it’s no secret how many manufacturers employ various techniques to give their small speakers an added perception of fullness. It’s pleasing to report that AV123 did not resort to suck trickery with the 525M, erring instead to use the perfect complimentary woofer and operating it around its designed spec. The result is a midrange presentation that lacks many of the colorations that so often plague most affordable mini monitors in and around this price category. I was shocked at how well the 525M can render the human voice and woodwind instruments. Although I found light scale instrumentals and vocals to be the 525M’s forte, its open and linear sound lends itself well to any genre of music. In fact, the level of accuracy from this loudspeaker is well beyond what I would

Equally as impressive is their ability to throw out a wide and deep soundstage. Of course, you’d expect nothing less from a set of monitors that possess such a sleek and narrow profile. What you may not expect from these inexpensive tots is the ability to provide a good amount of air all the while locking the musicians and instruments distinctly within the soundstage. This feat is something that even the best of affordable mini-monitors, such as the Epos ELS 3 or AV123’s own Onix X-LS struggle to do well. The soundstage precision that the ELT-525M offers up is downright scary. In fact, they darn near approach the very respectable and much more expensive Dali Mentor 5 towers (msrp: $3100) in that regard.

The final ace in the 525M’s deck resides in the surprising ability to maintain composure during high output. Normally, most monitors of similar dimensions fall to pieces when tasked to play complex or dynamic passages at higher volumes. Not the 525M. Even at high volumes, this little loudspeaker manages to retain nearly all of its virtues of coherence, precise sound-staging, air, and tone; without becoming excessive at any frequency extreme. Provided that the output stays below the 100db threshold, I’m confident that most will find the 525M’s SPL prowess to be satisfying.

Overall, the 525M is a refined loudspeaker with a laundry list of unique talents. Yet for all its many strengths, it still cannot fully escape the laws of compromise.

Performance: The Yang

Falling in line with the physical limitations of a speaker its size, the 525M is unable to dish out deep, hard hitting bass. While the bass they do output is surprisingly agile, detailed, and linear (with just a hint of warmth), this loudspeaker cannot be expected to pressurize a room with low end heft or slam. Heavy synthesized electronic beats or drum thwacks can be easily heard, but they will never be felt. What this means is that those that love to rock may be better served in going with the larger X-LS monitors. To get more bottom end love, I would recommend bringing home AV123’s X-Sub and crossing it with the 525M’s in the 60-70hz region.

AV123 ELT525M Monitors

Bass impact aside, when you consider the 525M’s paltry shelf tag, there are few damning compromises left to mention. In fact, if it wasn’t for their rear ported design, the 525M would nearly be the perfect affordable desktop / lifestyle loudspeaker. Although the speakers manage to sound good when placed against or near a wall, it is recommended to give the 525M a bit of breathing room to attain the best performance.

Set-Up Recommendations

On that note, it’s time to mention all the things you need to know in getting the most from the ELT525M. First, despite their low efficiency rating of 83db, the efficient crossover and easy 8ohm nominal load makes it easy for amplifiers to drive. Even the low powered 15wpc Vista Audio i84 tube integrated had zero problems taking the 525M’s to extremely loud volumes in small to medium sized rooms. Provided that you feed the 525M a good 15-20 watts of clean current, you should be good to go for most casual listening sessions. Naturally, the bigger your room and/or the louder you listen, the more power you will need for safe operation.

When it comes to positioning, I found that the AV123 ELT525M works best when the speakers and your listening position are all of equal distance from one another. This is commonly referred to as the listening “triangle”. Once you’ve got them set up, I highly recommend pointing the speakers inward until their drivers are aimed directly at your listening position. You should notice a dramatic increase in soundstage precision.

Lastly, if you are sitting 5-6ft or further away from the 525M’s, I would highly recommend flipping them upside down, with the woofer assuming top position. You should notice an increase in clarity, sound-staging, and coherency. If you are sitting 4ft or closer, then simply leave them upright and enjoy. I found that turning them upside down in ultra nearfield situations can result in unpleasant “beaming”.

Disclaimer: Please note that the above suggestions are meant to help aide in extracting the most from the ELT525M. While my observations and recommendations are consistent with the manufacturer, they are not guaranteed to work in every situation. All I can recommend is to take the above info into consideration when setting up your own pair of 525M’s.

AV123 ELT525M Monitor review

Final Thoughts about ELT525M

Today, it’s easy to make a good loudspeaker. Even a novice can create a competent performer if armed with a handful of good parts and a speaker cookbook. The only limiting factor is expendable cash. Yet, go ask any manufacturer how difficult it is to make a truly exceptional speaker that can satisfy the critical ear at a price that just about anyone can afford while keeping a wide enough margin to make the effort worthwhile. Most won’t even bother taking the challenge. Yet this is exactly what AV123 sets out to do time and time again.

So like the original X-LS before them, the AV123 ELT525M’s now enter the field and take the reigns as the new speakers to beat in their respective type and price class. My hat goes off to AV123 for bringing forth yet another price/performance champion.

Review equipment:

  • Source: Lector 0.9 MK III
  • Integrated Amp: Harman Kardon 3470 ; Vista Audio i84 ; McIntosh MA6300
  • Karan Acoustics Ki-180
  • Pre Amplifier: Lamm LL2 Deluxe
  • Amplifier: H2O Signature 100
  • Cables: Totem Acoustic Sinew interconnect ; Totem Acoustic Tres speaker cable; Room Treatments: GIK Acoustics 242 Panels

 from affordableaudio,  By Sean Fowler