Elipson Heritage XLS 7 Review: Better than JBL ?

Elipson reckons its new Heritage line bookshelf speaker, Elipson Heritage XLS 7, sounds as young as it looks old; David Vivian is impressed.

Full marks to French hi-fi F branch Elipson for being so straightforward when presenting its final Heritage line speaker for inspection. No referencing past glories here, no (intended) magic melding of old and new to fuse elements of both sonic styles. Instead, the Elipson Heritage XLS 7, we’re asked to believe, is everything you’d expect, technically and sonically, of a 2024 standmount speaker only made to look like a US-inspired old timer to satisfy a still buoyant market trend for retro nostalgia.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 on both speakers standing before a tree
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Clean, modern sound meets the woody retro aesthetic. Right now, for some, this is the best of both worlds. But I’m not sure the two objectives aren’t mutually exclusive. Modern design conventions dictate the contemporary look – essentially all narrow baffles, flush surfaces, and rounded comers to mitigate diffraction effects and serve truer imaging. The old-school Stateside style is just as easily identified by its generous breadth of baffle and delightfully carefree disregard of flush surfaces and the less-than-ideal contributions to the final sound from jutting cabinet edges.

The Elipson Heritage XLS 7, like its larger XLS 11 and still larger XLS 15 siblings, perpetrates a further crime against best practice by having a tweeter offset to the right in both cabinets. This would be unthinkable for a modern design, which would be ‘handed’ -one cabinet’s driver layout being a mirror image of the other’s.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 SPECS

ProductElipson Heritage XLS 7
OriginFrance
Type2-way standmount loudspeaker
Weight9.7 kg each
Dimensions (WxHxD)225 x 380 x 250 mm
Features22mm silk dome tweeter, 165mm cellulose pulp mid-bass driver, Quoted sensitivity: 88dB/1W/1M (6 ohm)
DistributorAvoke
Websiteelipson.com, avoke.co.uk

My take, which applies to most so-called vintage or heritage efforts, is that while a manufacturer may choose to fit the most up-to-date drivers and crossovers in its armory, old-fashioned cabinet topology will inevitably have its say in the result, however marginal. But the more so, of course, if the expansive baffle has room for a knob to +/- the mid/treble amplitude by a few decibels. In the next section, this tonal balance versatility will prove key as another tool to scratch that nostalgia itch.

All said and done, and admittedly, it’s not entirely on side with Elipson’s somewhat binary contemporary sound/artfully dated look statement, the Elipson Heritage XLS 7 should have a decent stab at landing between a goes-down-smooth-with-a tobacco-filtered-sky Golden Past and, as the company would have it, the ‘outstanding clarity and fidelity’ expected of today’s quality compact speakers.

Unlike most speakers, the tweeter of Elipson Heritage XLS 7 is offset to the right in both cabinets.
Unlike most speakers, the tweeter is offset to the right in both cabinets.

It sounds inviting, wholesome, and big-boned, with plenty of muscle for its size.

There’s the large, three-way XLS 11 or XLS 15 for the most authentic vintage hit, which more faithfully follows the trend for a thumping physical presence 40 years ago. The Elipson Heritage XLS 7 is hardly insubstantial for a bookshelf design. It weighs 9.7kg and is certainly large enough to embrace all the retro cues from its more generously dimensioned stablemates. Best, call it junior.

Unlike those larger three-way members of the Heritage family, the Elipson Heritage XLS 7 is a two-way bass reflex design with a flared front-firing port tuned to 52Hz. It sports a 165mm cellulose pulp mid/bass driver (in white, natch) that hands over to a 22mm silk dome tweeter with a double magnet motor system at 2,400Hz. Claimed frequency response (+/- 3dB) is a respectable 49Hz – 25kHz, sensitivity a middling 88dB for a nominal 6ohm impedance, and the mid/high fine-tuning knob on the upper left part of the baffle permits a 2dB wiggle on either side of neutral.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7

Considering its very approachable asking price, the Elipson Heritage XLS 7’s sturdy, nicely detailed build combines confidence with feel-good touches – including chunky, wood-framed, magnetically attached grilles, a real walnut veneer finish, and good-quality single binding posts. Building on this, Elipson offers natty wood-faced dedicated stands. As prices for these are yet to be confirmed, my regular heavyweight 24in Slate Audio stands to take on the job. Joining the team is a Marantz SA-12SE CD/SACD player, Primare NP5 Prisma Mk 2 streamer, and Electrocompaniet ECI 80D integrated amplifier (HFC 499, 494, and 473, respectively).

Sound quality

What Elipson might be persuaded to consider an inherent advantage is that its current lineup of box speakers – as opposed to the various spherical designs for which it’s more noted -tend to sound rich and full-bodied with an easy, unforced largesse -characteristics true retro fanciers are naturally into. As such, considering the idea of fusing frosty-fresh school-of-2024 sound with cherry-picked, glow-up vintage tropes, it might already be halfway there.

This isn’t to say the Elipson Heritage XLS 7 sounds in any way soft, slow, soppy, warm, or woolly. Far from it. But pleasingly, for those in a West Coast state of mind, its sonic profile is a sizeable distance from the lean, clean, bass-rationed, detail-obsessed version of ‘clarity’ that seems to be the template for a lot of modem standmounts.

The Elipson Heritage XLS 7, it turns out, doesn’t have much time for forensic studies or dubiously musical hi-fi minutiae. It’s way more fun than that. Better still, it can alter its personality with a click.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7

Let’s start with the default ‘neutral’ 0 position. With this setting, Heritage junior sounds inviting, wholesome, big-boned for a small speaker and with plenty of muscle on those bones: punchy, dynamic and, when leaning on the Electrocompaniet’s volume, deeply keyed into pulsing bass figures that drive Dua Lipa’s Training Season.

It’s nothing like the Audiovector QR1, with its fantastically smooth, open, and airy ribbon tweeter, which I’ve been listening to previously. That kind of transparency simply isn’t on the cards. Does it matter? Seems not in this case. A coherent, self-consistent presentation can be just as compelling and, in this respect, the Elipson Heritage XLS 7 has it all its way on its terms and sounds, if not especially ‘neutral,’ ‘layered’ or brimming with treble energy, then just plain entertaining and enjoyable.

Integration and weightings are so well judged that something like the Tidal Master of Jacob Collier’s exquisite Witness Me might not have the last degree of separation, but the dynamic swell and waves of honeyed-vocal close harmonies are free to breathe and communicate without being snagged by the mechanics of their reproduction. Soundstage breadth and image specificity are surprisingly decent, too, especially considering those offset tweeters.

You can buy matching stands XLS 7 in walnut wood.
You can buy matching stands in walnut wood. 

In my smaller listening room, at least, the 2dB boost works brilliantly, adding just the right amount of leading-edge snap and upper register energy to make the Elipson Heritage XLS 7 seem like the more youthful speaker it is. Predictably, -2dB just as effectively massages a feeling of enveloping warmth more redolent of listening sessions from a bygone era.

COMPETITORS?

As far as the Elipson Heritage XLS 7 is concerned, the elephant in the room is JBL’s only slightly pricier L52 Classic. A couple of things: it’s the junior member of JBL’s Classic lineup, which has as its senior sibling the iconic L100, a revival of a real hero from history, establishing a bloodline the Elipson can’t match. In other respects, the two are pretty evenly matched in size, bass power and dynamics, and the fun-biased tilt of their presentations. Side-by-side auditions are a must if this is the kind of speaker you want, but either way, fun is guaranteed.

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 Verdict

Elipson Heritage XLS 7 in front on both speakers with Hi-Fi Choice recommended award

Elipson is underselling the Heritage XLS 7 with its new tech/old wrapping description. It’s more subtle than that, able to reflect some history in its sound and appearance and adjust it to taste. Few ‘compact monitor’ assets, maybe, but it puts a smile on my face.

9 Total Score
Recommended Verdict

Heritage pastiche executed with some flair and great value

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PROS
  • Retro looks reflected in the spirit of the sound
  • Sturdy build
  • Price
CONS
  • Double offset tweeters
Add your review  |  Read reviews and comments

SCORE:

  • SOUND QUALITY 4.5/5
  • VALUE FOR MONEY 4.5/5
  • BUILD QUALITY 4.5/5
  • EASE OF DRIVE 4.5/5

Author

  • 7Review

    Founded in July 2014, 7Review is a free audio resource for beginners, and we're dedicated to helping you create the ultimate movie-watching experience right at home. We pull insights from top audio magazines and trusted industry sources to bring you well-researched, reliable reviews and tips. Whether you're a home cinema pro or just starting out, we aim to give you the info you need to make the best choices for your setup.

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