Kralk Audio are a small company headed up by Alan Clark and based in the North of England. The Elite 2s are a standmount speaker with an off board crossover and cost £2500. Ian Ringstead fires them up. 

About 2 years ago I reviewed the original Elite which I had seen at the Whittlebury National Audio Show. I’d seen them in Alan’s, the owner of Kralk, room along with the BC30 and I was fascinated by their design and external crossovers. When I reviewed them, I loved their sound and it has been a successful model in Alan’s repertoire of products. Alan is not a man to rest on his laurels though and he soon decided to embark on an upgrade for the Elite. This entailed improved drive units and superb quality components for the crossovers.

It’s a brave move when your current model is so good, but innovation and the desire for perfection is what drives Alan and motivates him to get up in the mornings. I applaud enthusiasm and many manufacturers have done the same. Marantz is one example where Ken Ishiwata produced Special Edition and KI Signature amps and cd players to huge accolades by the public. I have owned several of his models and currently use the SA11 mk 2 CD player, a fantastic machine which I see no reason to change now.

The new Elites look identical to the older version but Alan has worked hard to better them considerably with the drive unit, internal wiring and crossover upgrades. The DTPLS system used in the Elites stands for Dual Transmission Line Port System. It sends the rear output form the bass driver through a folded internal cabinet and then into a rear pressure chamber where it then exits the cabinet through twin ports at low velocity. This gives the scale of a transmission line with the flexibility of a sealed box design (infinite baffle) without the disadvantages of a ported enclosure. The crossover unit has also been further upgraded by the use of new stainless steel terminal panels and silver plated copper terminals, the whole unit is hard wired internally with The Missing Links Slingshot Evolution cable taking the performance to a whole new level of sound accuracy. The speaker has a brand new tweeter with a smoother flatter response both on and off axis and an extended range right up to 40khz, and the bass driver has also been upgraded to a new polypropylene cone which gives less distortion and cone breakup than the old paper cone unit and offers greater power handling. The cabinet is slightly bigger to take account of the changes in drive unit specification the cabinet is now 15mm deeper than the original Elite.

That’s the design and theory, now what about the sound. In a nutshell sublime. I loved the old Elites, but the mk 2 has really upped the ante. I’d heard them at the Cranage show and at Mark Sears home of Missing Link fame so I knew what to expect. There’s nothing like hearing them though in your own system. I hooked them up to my Jeff Rowland 112 power amp and used both cd and records as my source. Having been used to my Audio Physic Avanti’s for a while now, moving to another speaker was going to be somewhat different. I must say that the only real major difference was in the bass output. My Avanti’s are superb here and with four bass units per speaker excel in low end reproduction. The Elites are probably an octave less, but if you hadn’t heard the Avanti’s you would be none the wiser.

Dynamically the Elites are spot on and very fast and tight. I purposely pushed them hard to see what they were capable of and they loved it. The originals had great bass for their size and that port system really works well, but the mk 2 improves here with even better and tighter bass. I tried David Gilmour’s new album “Live in Pompeii” which is a fabulous recording and I was suitably impressed by the sound stage and clarity of the recording. Detailing was superb and I reckon you would struggle to better the Elites here. The combination of the new drive units and cross over certainly win through here with exquisite inner detailing and I’d liken it to a macro lens on a camera where you suddenly see a whole new world of magnified detail or in this case hear things you didn’t know were there before. It’s the startling reality and rightness of the sound that so impressed me. Good products tend to just get on with it and don’t need to shout here I am at you to get your attention. In fact, it’s better that they don’t. If you are impressed by a sound initially, but then tire of it, then it isn’t natural. I liken Class A amps and valve amps in this category which have a certain “Je ne sais quois “which is hard to put in words always, but when you hear them they just sound nice.

I tried Steven Wilson’s album “The raven that refused to sing” which is conceptual rock music and challenging for any system with its dynamics and detail. His music reminds me of King Crimson with its frantic chords and rapid changes in pace, but interspersed with melodic melodies. It is infectious and on a good system is spectacular. The Elites loved it and the rhythms came through superbly with Wilsons guitar and keyboard playing a key role in the music. I marvel at talented musicians and their abilities not only to play, but also write the music in the first place. Progressive rock is one of my favourite types of music to listen to as it doesn’t conform to the three minute pop concept and demands your attention when listening to it. I also like to listen to whole albums rather than skip from track to track on different albums. Other rock included Yes with “Close to the Edge” and “Drama”.

The Elites aren’t too fussy where you place them, although near to a back wall will re enforce the bass output. I used them on the PAW stands Alan supplied and they worked well. There isn’t much more I can add other than if you are interested in upgrading to a pair of stand mount speakers then I seriously recommend trying the Elites out. Alan will happily let you audition them at his home or Missing Link have them on permanent demonstration. Alan will gladly make specials with specific veneer preferences or change the internal wiring and terminals to any the customer so wishes. In conclusion, all I can say is that although the Elites don’t have the weight and gravitas of my big floor standers they certainly fight well above their weight for a £2500 speaker.

AT A GLANCE                                                                                        

Build Quality: Excellent for the price.

Sound Quality: Excellent, natural, open and detailed with superb dynamics and bass for the size.

Value for Money: Excellent compared to the competition. 

Pros: If you have a good system then the Elites will shine brightly and you will certainly be in elite company. 

Cons: Not cheap, but the quality of sound and finish is superb.

Ian Ringstead

Price £2500 a pair.

Having been nominated for an Outstanding Product the KRALK Audio Elite 2s were packed up and shipped over to France for Stuart to have a play…he was always having these speakers anyway as you will read…

There is, like many things, a bit of a story about how this review came about. Back in the cold and dark of January earlier this year we returned to the UK to pick up a new car to import back here to France. Whilst in Yorkshire we thought it a good opportunity to pay a visit to Alan at Kralk, say hello and have a look at his then recently finished demonstration room. Whilst in their he popped on some tunes through his Elite Mk 2s and then disappeared to make a cuppa. The long and short of it is that when he got back with said cup of tea I ordered a pair there and then I was so smitten with them.

However, I didn’t want to be the first of the Hifi Pig team to review the speakers having bought them and what with Ian having reviewed the original Elites it seemed sensible for him to do the MK 2s. So off they went to Ian with me knowing whatever the outcome they’d be winging their way to me. Now the process of reviewing here at Hifi Pig is I think unique. If a product comes in and a reviewer thinks it is worthy of an Outstanding Product award then said product must go to a second reviewer and they must also deem it worthy…no outstanding second review, no gong.

So the speakers arrived with their matching stands a couple of weeks ago and since then I’ve had them hooked up to various amps including the Merrill Audio Thors and the Graham Slee Proprius’ (also an outstanding Product winner) and without fail they have shone out as a really super loudspeaker. Yes they have their limitations in that they are a relatively small loudspeaker and won’t fill a concert hall, but in our pretty large listening room there were no issues at filling the room and energising it to pretty loud listening levels; folk living in the typically sized home in the UK will have absolutely no problems. At 89dB the Elite 2s aren’t the most sensitive of speaker but the little Proprius amps (26 Watts into 8 Ohms) didn’t encounter any problems what so ever.

So what do they sound like? Well Ian has pretty much summed them up and I echo what he has said in his analysis; the Elite2s are fast, agile and incredibly dynamic with oodles of detail in the mid and top. Daft Punk’s Contact (if a speaker can’t play this well they get short shrift here at Hifi Pig Towers) was handled with aplomb; plenty of low end grunt to the sound effects that build through the song with crispy shimmery highs. Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water’s, from Live in Japan, bass line was growly and as it should be. The truth is these speakers aren’t going to plumb the absolute depths, their quoted lowest frequency is 35 Hz, but unless you are one of these folk that insists on subs that go down to the very lowest frequencies you will be well happy. Tight is a word I often use and these were tight as the proverbial, with no bloat in the bass at all. Mid frequencies are fluid and very detailed, in fact detail is a word I’d sling at the Elites throughout.

These speakers offer you an insight into recordings and recording space, or stereo mix, that really does belie their relatively modest asking price. Being a relatively small standmount they manage to create a very believable and not over exaggerated soundstage and in a lot of ways they do what a really good studio monitor should do.

I’d already bought these speakers months ago, after a very brief listen, with a view to them going in a second system in the dining room once it’s done, and this they will, but they will also be getting dragged out into the main system when relevantly priced components come in for review as our mid-priced reference…yes, they are that good.

So, do I second Ian’s nomination for Outstanding Product? Damned right I do, with sprinkles on top. Alan Clark has created a product that performs well in excess of its asking price, with much of this being down to the fact he is selling direct and I wholeheartedly recommend that if you are looking for a relatively compact standmount in the sub £4K region then you owe it to yourself to audition these at your earliest convenience. Even better is that Alan has reduced the price of the Elite 2s from £2500 to £1850 until February 2018, making them even more of a true audiophile bargain.

Stuart Smith

 

Cabinet Colour American Black Walnut, Black Oak, Luxury Red Walnut, Oak, Satin White
Specifications Description: 2 way external crossover DTLPS system
Enclosure type: DTLPS
HF drive unit: 25mm damped chamber silk dome
MF / LF drive unit: 165mm Polypropylene cone
Sensitivity: 89dB for 1 watt at 1 metre
Crossover point: 1.8 kHz
Frequency response: 35 Hz to 40 kHz
Typical in-room response: -3dB at 35 Hz
Impedance: 8 ohms nominal
Impedance minimum: 6.8 ohms
Power handling: 20 to 150 watts unclipped programme
Terminals: Silver plated copper
Cabinet (HWD): 310 x 187 x 292mm
Finish: Oak
Weight: 7.5 kg each
Stand height: 700mm (not supplied)Crossover unit: 1.8khz Bessel
Slope: 24db per octave
Capacitors: MKP 400 and 630VDC 3%
Inductors: Lead shielded resin cast air core copper
Terminals: Silver plated copper
Cable Crossover and speaker: Missing Link Slingshot Evolution
Size: (HWD): 205x31x85mm
Weight: 5kg

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