Add a touch of style to your home cinema with this designer 5.1 sub/sat package
Ever since the arrival of the original KEF eggs nearly a decade ago, sub/sat packages have come in some interesting shapes and sizes. Spherical satellite speakers have been released before but few of them have the pedigree behind the baubles you see here. As one of the oldest French electronics brands, Elipson has been making spherical speakers for longer than many of its competitors have existed.
The thinking behind a speaker this shape is more scientific than aesthetics. A sphere offers the most efficient shape possible to enclose a driver. There is also no specific point of resonance, which reduces cabinet colouration to a minimum.
The Planet M is a diminutive version of the existing Planet L. Each satellite is a 6in-diameter sphere packing a 4in paper mid-bass driver with a 0.75in soft dome tweeter placed coaxially. The driver is relatively large for a satellite and this gives the Planet M a useful low-end frequency response down to 90Hz.
The design is sealed and the only objects that protrude from the cabinet are the pair of terminals at the rear. This means that the Planet M is happy parked on shelves or close to the wall. The grill is fixed in place, which technically might create some colouration, but I’ve also used the larger Planet L where you can remove the grill and the effect is negligible.
As you might imagine, Elipson has put some thought into mounting options. Left to its own devices, a ball will do what a ball does best and roll off whatever surface it’s placed on. As such, each Planet M is supplied with a steel mounting ring allowing you to plonk the Elipsons on a flat surface. The other mounting options are impressively comprehensive as well. Floorstand? Check. Wallmount? But of course. Ceiling mount? Naturally. ‘Sound Tree’ installation for mounting multiple Planets in an artistic sculpture? Er, yes, they’ve got one of those, too. The last one probably won’t be of much use in a home cinema context but you never know when you might want to re-function your Planets.
Partnering the satellites is the Planet Sub. This is a more conventional design than the satellites and features a downward firing 8in driver powered by a 200W Class D amp. Controls are limited to volume control, crossover and a phase switch. Any EQing you might desire will need to be applied at the receiver end. The footprint of the subwoofer is reasonably compact, and although there is a large rear port, it seemed happy enough on axis with the fronts about 15 centimetres from my wall. The only curiosity is that there is no on/off switch, only an auto on/off control.
The fit and finish is, for the most part, excellent. Everything feels solid and the satellites in particular are wonderfully substantial objects. The paint, in particular, is flawless and if the red finish of these review samples is a little sudden for you, black and white flavours are also available. Furthermore, as Planet Ms are available both as singles and pairs and can be mixed and matched with the larger Planet L, this is an extremely flexible system, especially with the variety of mounting options. The looks do divide opinion, though. I’m a huge fan but over the time the Planets were installed in my house, I met a fair few people who were less convinced. And, let’s be honest, the cylindrical subwoofer does look a bit like a kitchen bin...
Any doubters are likely to be convinced after actually listening to the Planet M array. The system’s design brings a number of advantages, including the dual-concentric arrangements of the drivers and the seamless crossover afforded by having five identical satellites. Most important is the use of that 4in midbass driver. Each Planet M has sufficient heft in its own right to feel more like a bookshelf speaker than a dinky satellite and this greatly aids the performance.
With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this positive attribute was shown to good effect. The mass of sonic detail in the ape house is captured with exceptional clarity. It is easy to distinguish the voices of individual apes and you get a sense of the scale of the building as well.
Above all it is the tonality of the satellites that is most impressive. Paper midbass drivers and soft dome tweeters are hardly bleeding-edge technology – they are a long way from it in fact – but used well, they have a fabulously natural and even-handed performance. Voices – be they man or monkey – are rich and entirely real. They can also be pushed extremely hard without hardening. Running at suitably boisterous levels, the Planets present a fast, cohesive soundstage that is extremely likeable. Really hardened action fans might want a bit more bite and attack but these make for an excellent all-rounder.
This naturalness is at its best if you are intending to use the Planets for music as well as movies. In both stereo and multichannel mode, they have an impressive sense of timing that combines with their naturalness to give a very entertaining performance. They manage to sound entirely cohesive from top to bottom, which is never a given for sub/sat packages, and evidence that Elipson knows what it’s doing. The spherical cabinets add very little of themselves to the sound – the effect is only really noticeable when you switch back to conventional boxes.
Elipson’s subwoofer does a good job of keeping up with the satellites, producing an agile and relatively clean presentation. Pushed hard, it can get a little boomy, but this is not an issue at the sort of levels that will convincingly fill a lounge. For the asking price of the Planet Sub it is possible to buy alternative models that offer a little more depth and slam, but this is a competitive design for the asking price and a stylistic match. The only curiosity is that the auto on/off switch is a little insensitive. The output as defined by auto setup was not always enough to trigger the switch. By increasing the level at the amp, and backing off the volume on the sub, I was able to bypass this, however.
There is much to like about this system. Elipson has put in a considerable amount of effort and the result is a clever satellite that’s unfussy in terms of placement and, thanks to the various mounting options, easy to accommodate. The dual concentric drivers give a rich and natural performance that is likeable and suited to a wide range of material. In fact, they outshine the subwoofer, which gives some ground to other designs but still does a creditable job. If you’re looking for a system with both a striking appearance and impressive sonics, this should be on your shortlist.
Elipson Planet M 5.1
Price: £1,300 approx
Highs: Clever design and great build; excellent tonality with both film and music material; flexible setup options
Lows: Not the most ballistic performer; looks divide opinion
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