The Alesis Elevate 5 active monitors address one of my main concerns with 5-inch woofer ported speaker design. The ports — there are two small ones — face the front. My preference is for forward delivery of ported sound. However, that’s about where the celebration ends when regarding the Elevate 5 as a studio monitor. To be fair, Alesis calls these “powered desktop studio speakers,” not “reference monitors” or anything equally high-falutin’. As a $150 pair of high-quality computer speakers, they succeed. As a serious monitor for recording purposes, they do not.
There are a number of factors that place these in the consumer market rather than for studio use. The biggest two are the lack of bi-amping and omission of speaker placement frequency control. Additionally, while frequency response down to 55 Hz is spec’d, I’m not hearing it without the bass boost switch engaged. These guys just don’t have the guts to make it as studio monitors.
If, however, you’re using the family computer to do your recording on a time-share basis, these might be a possibility. At the price point, though, the Behringer 50USB is a much better facsimile of a reference monitor.
As with many affordable active monitors, the Elevate 5 come in pairs with connections and controls on one speaker and only a single cable to the remote speaker. In this case, the main speaker is the right and the remote is on the left, but that really doesn’t mean much. If, for example, your power bar or outlet works better with the main speaker on the left, go for it and reverse the left and right input connections. Problem solved.
About those inputs. They are adequate, but uninspired. RCA and ¼-inch phone plugs do the duty. The ¼-inch plugs aren’t balanced, yet another feature rendering the Elevate 5 inadequate for serious monitor use. Likewise the two-conductor power cable. At least it’s a polarized connection, but I like to see that third prong on proper reference monitors, regardless of price.
There are no other inputs. No USB, no ⅛-inch, no Bluetooth. Even discounting the use of the Elevate 5 as a piece of studio gear, lack of alternative inputs dates the design.
The inclusion of a bass boost switch as the only sound modifier seems designed to attract the consumer crowd who cares not a whit for flat response and faithful reproduction, but instead wants to shake some booty without forking over for a subwoofer. If that was the intent, Alesis came up short there as well.
The sound of the Elevate 5 is, in a word, unspectacular. For a 5-inch woofer system, there’s not even a lot of output. The continuous rating of 40 watts should simply deliver more gain than the Elevate 5 does. It’s gentle enough that I wondered at first whether the test pair were deficient. When a scan of user reviews brought up similar complaints about level, that was, as it’s said, that.
The sound isn’t horrible by any means. It’s just not very useful in a musical sense. Another complaint grows out of the remote speaker connection. The Elevate 5 uses a two-conductor ⅛-inch plug. Nothing essentially wrong with that, except that it means there’s no bi-amping going on. That means crossovers between woofer and tweeters, and at this price, the crossovers aren’t going to be high performance. That transfers to the sound.
Stereo imaging isn’t pronounced, neither is clarity in the upper midrange. I don’t mind the high frequency reproduction. There is a crisp character to sounds that live up there, but down lower, things are less distinct. Not only is the bottom end not all that deep, it’s not very clear either. Tracks on which the bass and kick drum are distinct with other monitors mush together on the Elevate 5.
Alesis claims that the Elevate 5 benefits from technology borrowed from its Monitor One and M1 Active pro monitors. I’ll have to guess they mean the recessed waveguides on both woofer and tweeter. It doesn’t result in a pro sound from the Elevate 5, however. Comparing tracks in an A/B setting with a professional monitor — albeit one that’s over twice the price — it’s easy to hear how muddy, indistinct and dull the Elevate 5 system is. Again, when I consider the performance of the Behringer 50USB at the same price, there’s nothing compelling about the Elevate 5 to recommend them on sound.
Disregarding the design choices, the speaker is solid. It’s a bit larger than the 8-by-10-by-7-inch dimensions of the 50USB and two lbs. lighter. The level control knob is on the front of the right cabinet, as is the ⅛-inch TRS headphone jack. The look is contemporary — a mix of high-gloss plastic and low sheen vinyl over MDF construction. There’s nothing wrong with the build and in fact, the Elevate 5 looks more expensive than it is, though unfortunately it sounds cheaper.
Looking at reviews from music store users reveals a surprisingly high 4 out of 5 stars. Comments include some praising the heavy bass output. Um… I don’t know what speakers these users were moving from, but certainly this describes an experience with the Elevate 5 that I didn’t share.
On consumer retail user reviews, response was nearly as positive, though I didn’t see many comments on the outpouring of bass. Again, there are many happy comments. I suspect that more than a few of these are hearing the Elevate 5 as the first step up from monitoring with inexpensive computer speakers or home stereo systems.
Frequently mentioned are the short, short cables included with the Elevate 5. The remote speaker cable is 3 feet long, suitable only for the smallest nearfield monitor setup. A 6-foot cable is a far more reasonable alternative. Buyers should prepare to shell out for this, and a cable longer than one foot to connect anything via RCA jacks.
I’m not excited by the Alesis Elevate 5 active monitors, yet users offer an almost 80 percent approval level. It’s possible that these monitors simply appeal to those new to more serious audio than $20 computer store specials. It might be that the test set was flawed in some not so obvious way. It’s even possible that New Year’s’ revelry shorted out my ability to perceive reality. I’m generally pro-Alesis, so I have no feeling that I brought any brand bias into the review. So while I don’t recommend the Elevate 5, you should not discount that other users — about 100 of them — scored this product just a whisker under 4 stars out of 5. If these are at your price point, check them out, but be sure to check out others. I don’t believe the Elevate 5 will remain a satisfying solution over time.