ELAC ARB51 Navis vs. Polk Signature Elite ES20

ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20 Bookshelf Speakers
$2000 $400
Dimensions (H × W × D)
13.58” × 7.44” × 9.45”
345mm × 189mm × 240mm
14.80” × 8.50” × 13.80”
376mm × 216mm × 351mm
Power Type
Powered Passive
Frequency Response
44-28,000 Hz 44-40,000 Hz

Key Takeaways

TLDR Summary: Navigating the sweet spot between high-fidelity clarity and practical space-saving, the ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Speakers blend audiophile-grade amplification with bespoke driver design, offering a self-contained sonic experience that's as lush as it is detailed. Conversely, the Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20 Bookshelf Speakers, as part of a passive setup, deliver dynamic sound with a focus on value, requiring external amplification to drive their spacious and balanced audio performance. Both cater to distinct preferences: the ARB51 for the discerning listener demanding an all-in-one solution, and the ES20 for those building a system with separate components on a budget.

Speaker Comparison

In the world of high-fidelity audio, the bookshelf speaker segment has always been fiercely competitive, with numerous contenders vying for supremacy. Two notable candidates that stand out in this crowded market are the ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers and the Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20 Bookshelf Speakers. Both offer distinct sonic signatures and features that target different audiences, and comparing them is akin to examining two philosophies in sound reproduction.

Audiophile Grade Versus Consumer Friendly

The ELAC ARB51 is a true audiophile speaker with its roots in precision and purity. Engineered by renowned audio designer Andrew Jones, the ARB51 is part of ELAC's Navis series, which represents a no-compromise approach to sound quality. It's a powered speaker, meaning it has its own built-in amplification, tailored specifically for its drivers. This ensures a level of synergy between components that unpowered speakers like the Polk ES20 cannot match without carefully selected external amplification.

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

On the other hand, the Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20 represents a more consumer-friendly approach. It’s a passive speaker that must be paired with an external amplifier, yet it's designed to be more forgiving with the quality of that amplification, aiming to deliver a high-quality audio experience even with mid-tier receivers. This makes the ES20 a versatile choice for users who might not be ready to invest in high-end electronics but still desire a taste of audiophile sound.

Design and Build Quality

The ELAC ARB51 boasts a sophisticated design with a custom aluminum baffle that houses its concentric driver, where a 1-inch soft dome tweeter sits in the center of a 4-inch aluminum midrange. The build quality is exemplary, exuding a boutique feel that is immediately noticeable. Its enclosure is designed to minimize vibrations and internal resonance, providing a clear and transparent window to the music.

While the Polk ES20 might not match the bespoke nature of the ELAC's construction, it offers a solid build with its own aesthetic charm. The cabinet is sturdy, and the design includes Polk's Power Port technology for enhanced bass response. The ES20 also features a 1-inch Terylene tweeter and a 6.5-inch mica-reinforced polypropylene mid-woofer, which combined, deliver a sound that is spacious and dynamic, if slightly less refined than the ARB51's output.

Sound Characteristics

The sound signature of the ELAC ARB51 is characterized by its remarkable accuracy and detail retrieval. The powered design allows for a level of control and coherence that brings out nuances in recordings that can be lost on less capable systems. Bass is tight and controlled, mids are articulate, and the highs are crisp without ever becoming fatiguing. This is a speaker that invites critical listening and rewards it with an enveloping soundstage and pinpoint imaging.

Comparatively, the Polk ES20 has a more laid-back and warm sound. It's a speaker that prioritizes a smooth, enjoyable listening experience over analytical precision. The bass is ample and slightly boosted, thanks to the Power Port design, which may appeal to listeners who prefer a more robust low-end. Midrange is clear and present, while the highs are smooth and forgiving, making the ES20 a great match for long listening sessions with a wide variety of musical genres.

In conclusion, the ELAC ARB51 and the Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20 offer two different paths to high-quality audio. The ARB51 is a refined, powered speaker designed for the discerning listener who values accuracy and detail above all else. The ES20, meanwhile, is a more accessible passive speaker that delivers an enjoyable and rich sound suitable for the everyday music lover. Ultimately, the choice between these two will depend on personal taste, listening habits, and the importance of the convenience offered by integrated amplification versus the flexibility of pairing with different external amps.

Check Current Prices:

ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers
ELAC ARB51 Navis Powered Bookshelf Speakers
Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20 Bookshelf Speakers
Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20 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.