ELAC ARB51 Navis vs. Klipsch Reference R-51M

Note: the 3D models above approximate the external volume of the speakers, and may not accurately reflect their shape.

ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers Klipsch Reference R-51M Bookshelf Speakers
$2000 $350
Dimensions (H × W × D)
13.58” × 7.44” × 9.45”
345mm × 189mm × 240mm
13.00” × 7.00” × 8.56”
330mm × 178mm × 217mm
Power Type
Powered Passive
Frequency Response
44-28,000 Hz 62-21,000 Hz

Key Takeaways

TLDR Summary: In the world of high-fidelity audio, the ELAC ARB51 Navis and Klipsch Reference R-51M bookshelf speakers represent two schools of thought. The Navis, with its active design and tri-amped drivers, offers a precise, controlled soundstage tailored for the discerning audiophile seeking plug-and-play convenience. In contrast, the R-51M, a part of Klipsch's Reference line, adheres to a passive design demanding a separate amplifier but delivers dynamic, room-filling sound with a palpable presence, at a more accessible price point. Both excel in their domains, the ELAC in nuanced audio reproduction, the Klipsch in sheer energetic performance.

Speaker Comparison

When considering the upper echelon of audio fidelity in bookshelf speakers, the ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers often come to mind. These speakers represent a formidable entry in the market, showcasing ELAC's dedication to superb sound quality and craftsmanship. In contrast, the Klipsch Reference R-51M Bookshelf Speakers are a more budget-conscious offering that brings Klipsch’s signature sound and efficiency to the table. Both sets of speakers carry the legacy of their respective brands, but their differences are as pronounced as their individual strengths.

Design and Build Quality

The ELAC ARB51 Navis speakers boast a sophisticated design, with an elegant cabinet that not only looks good but contributes to their acoustic performance. The build quality is exceptional, with no expense spared on the materials and finish. This gives the ARB51 a premium feel that is immediately apparent upon unboxing. The Klipsch R-51M, on the other hand, sports the classic Klipsch look with its iconic copper spun woofers and textured wood grain vinyl wrap. While they may not match the luxurious appeal of the ELACs, the R-51M's build is robust and reliable, offering great durability at a more approachable price point.

ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers
ELAC ARB51 Navis arrow (at Amazon.com)

Sound Quality

When it comes to sound, the ELAC ARB51 Navis are a masterpiece of audio engineering. They feature a true three-way design, with a dedicated midrange driver that ensures vocals and instruments are reproduced with stunning clarity and detail. The bass is tight and controlled, while the highs are crisp without being overly bright. The ARB51s excel in creating a soundstage that is both wide and precise, pulling the listener into the heart of the musical performance. Contrastingly, the Klipsch R-51M delivers the brand's renowned dynamic sound. The emphasis on the high-frequency range, courtesy of their proprietary Tractrix horn-loaded tweeter, can make for an exciting listening experience. The bass response is punchy, though not as refined as the ELACs, and the overall sound is more forward and assertive, which can be thrilling with the right recordings.

Power and Versatility

The ELAC ARB51 Navis are powered speakers, meaning they come with built-in amplification tailored to complement their drivers perfectly. This integration removes the need for an external amplifier and simplifies the setup process, while also ensuring that the speakers perform optimally. This makes the ARB51s not just speakers, but a complete audio system that can easily adapt to various audio sources. The Klipsch R-51M, in contrast, are passive speakers requiring an external amplifier. This allows for greater flexibility in system customization, letting the user pair the speakers with an amp that suits their personal taste, but it also adds to the complexity and potential cost of the audio system.

Klipsch Reference R-51M Bookshelf Speakers
Klipsch Reference R-51M arrow (at Amazon.com)

While the powered nature of the ELAC ARB51 Navis might seem like a significant advantage, it's important to consider that the integrated amplification means users are committed to the sound signature that ELAC has engineered. With the passive Klipsch R-51M, users can tweak and refine their sound by experimenting with different amplifiers, which is a feature that many audiophiles cherish. The choice between powered and passive may come down to personal preference and the desired level of customization.

Value Proposition

The ELAC ARB51 Navis come at a premium price, but for that cost, you're getting a sophisticated, all-inclusive system with sound quality that might justify the investment for serious audiophiles. It's a set-it-and-forget-it solution that offers convenience and top-notch performance. The Klipsch R-51M are much more affordable, making them an attractive option for those on a tighter budget or for those who are just starting to build their high-fidelity audio system. They offer great value for the money, especially considering the engaging listening experience they provide.

Ultimately, the choice between the ELAC ARB51 Navis and the Klipsch Reference R-51M bookshelf speakers will depend on the listener's priorities. If one is seeking the pinnacle of audio refinement and is willing to pay for premium built-in amplification and exquisite sound, the ARB51s are a compelling choice. For those who prioritize dynamic sound, system flexibility, and affordability, the Klipsch R-51M will not disappoint. Both sets of speakers have their own character and strengths, and either would be a worthy addition to a home audio setup.

Check Current Prices:

ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers
ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers
Klipsch Reference R-51M Bookshelf Speakers
Klipsch Reference R-51M Bookshelf Speakers

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Disclaimer: the speaker data listed on this website are correct to the best of our knowledge, but we do not guarantee the accuracy of the data. Please double-check any measurements with the manufacturer before making a final purchasing decision.