It’s an amplifier. It’s a USB DAC. It’s a room/subwoofer equalizer. It’s a headphone amp. It’s an app-enabled Bluetooth receiver. It’s all of these, and it’s only $699—and it’s from the revived German brand Elac, whose latest Andrew Jones–designed loudspeakers have won acclaim in these pages and elsewhere. Ultimately, Elac’s Element EA101EQ-G may be best characterized as what the stereo receiver is morphing into for the 21st century. There’s no FM or AM on board (why would there be?), and the form factor is entirely different, but the market niche is equivalent: the backbone of a music-playback system for those to whom sound quality is paramount. Most folks today can live happily enough with earbuds, a smartphone, and a Bluetooth speaker or two (previously, they would’ve been happy with a Walkman and a boombox), but serious music lovers still demand something more. With this integrated amp/DAC combo, Elac is positioned to deliver it.
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