Bluesound Pulse 2 vs. Elac Discovery Z3

This review is a comparison between the Bluesound Pulse 2 and the Elac Discovery Z3. Both of these speakers serve as Roon endpoints so a comparison is in order. The Pulse 2 is $699 and the Z3 is $499. Because the Pulse 2 is bigger and more expensive than the Z3 this review is a bit of an unfair comparison. A more accurate comparison would be between the Z3 and Pulse Mini since they have similar specs and are both priced at $499.

The short version of this review is that the Pulse 2 is a better sounding speaker than the Z3 though the Z3 has amazing sound quality for its diminutive size. The Z3 has excellent bass and midrange but the bass and midrange of the Pulse 2 is quite a bit better. The Z3 has better extended highs than the Pulse 2 due to the Z3’s excellent tweeter array. The Pulse 2 has better stereo separation due to its larger cabinet size, speaker placement, and its ability to play in stereo. The Z3 is a mono speaker. Read on for a more detailed review.

The folks at Bluesound have really concentrated on the software side of things. The Bluesound app is excellent and works seamlessly with Roon. It’s leagues ahead of Elac. Though the Z3 is a Roon endpoint Elac’s app is clunky at best. In fact, I can not get the the Elac app to recognize the Z3 in the chain. I have a permanent “No Devices Found” message on my Elac homescreen. Thankfully, Roon does recognize the Z3 and I have not had any issues playing the Z3 through Roon. Perhaps this is all that matters. It’s just that I don’t see Elac improving its app or its Roon integration any time in the near future. If mature integration is a priority I would go with Bluesound.

The Elac specs the Z3 at 140 watts. In the Z3, the two 4 inch drivers and two 1 inch tweeters can not keep up with the power and though Elac did an excellent job of trying to reduce cabinet resonances the Z3 still rattles and starts to sound a bit shrill at higher volumes. The Pulse 2 specs at 80 watts with one 5.25 inch woofer and two 2.75 inch midrange drivers and yet the Pulse 2 plays cleaner and louder than the Z3. Also, the Pulse 2 clearly has better, tighter bass and better mid-range than the Z3. In addition, the Pulse 2 is a larger speaker than the Z3 and the two midrange drivers are placed in the upper left and right corners of the cabinet. The Pulse 2 midrange drivers can also be used as left/right channels in the Bluesound app and therefore has a much wider, expansive soundstage than the Z3.

The one area which the Z3 sweeps the floor with the Pulse 2 is that Elac has two excellent tweeters where the Pulse 2 doesn’t have any. The tweeter gives the Z3 extended highs which is lacking in the Pulse 2. The Pulse 2 and Z3 were designed with different intentions and because of this both speakers have very different sound signatures. Overall, I prefer the sound quality of the Pulse 2 but the Z3 is impressive. If I can suggest just one change for Bluesound is that if they come out with a Pulse 3 in the future, they can easily integrate tweeters in the existing cabinet. There is quite a bit of wasted space on the front of the Pulse 2 which would allow room for tweeters in a future upgrade. The inclusion of tweeters in the Pulse 2 would improve the sound significantly in an already excellent sounding speaker.

The Pulse 2 has stereo separation set up in their software. The Z3 is a mono speaker and doesn’t have a stereo mode. Also, you can not pair two Z3’s in stereo mode with separate left/right channels. Being able to pair two Pulse 2’s into stereo left/right channels is crucial and this feature alone makes the Z3 not an option for me.

I’m amazed how tightly integrated the design of the Z3 is. How Elac fit all of this technology in such a small form factor is incredible. If I were looking for just one speaker for both TV and music I might choose the Z3. The Z3 is unobtrusive and gets the job done. Because the speaker array is so close together, however, you do not get an expansive sound like you do with the Pulse 2.

In both speakers there are equalizer controls that work from the Bluesound and Elac app. If you want a bit perfect lossless signal path coming out of your speakers I would recommend keeping the equalizer controls turned off. With the equalizer turned on the sound quality form both speakers are muffled and veiled. The degraded signal is worse with the Z3 than it is with the Pulse 2 as shown in the signal path in Roon.

If you are looking for an unobtrusive speaker for your kitchen or bedside table I would recommend the Z3. As of now, I have a Pulse 2 and a Z3 atop my refrigerator in my kitchen. The fact that the Z3 has its volume control on the front panel means I can control the volume from the Z3 without having to go to Roon to do so. The volume control on the Pulse 2 is on the top of the speaker so it’s unreachable when the speaker is on top of my refrigerator. Also, perhaps, the Pulse 2 might be too much speaker for my small NYC kitchen. We will see if the Pulse Mini is a better fit.

For those of you who think looks is important I am going to have to declare this battle a draw. I am an avid minimalist and the black slab of the Pulse 2 is stealthy. A friend of mine came over to listen to a pair of my Pulse 2’s which I had set up in adjoining rooms. He had no idea where the music was coming from, even though he stared right at them. He was so confused he remarked that the music was coming from the light bulbs. Conversely the Z3 is equally beautiful. Though its richness is difficult to discern in photos the real chrome accents and wrapped metal make the Z3 an exercise in form follows function. I also love the flat top of the Z3. Hopefully it will be easy to clean but its dimpled, rubberized surface could become a sticky dust collector.

In the end, because the Pulse 2 has superior sound quality, can be paired to form proper left/right channels in stereo mode, and has better software integration with Roon, I will be returning the Z3. I will get the Pulse Mini to compliment my Pulse 2’s. I am not sure how the Pulse Mini would stand in comparison to the Z3 but at least I know that I will be able to integrate all my speakers with Roon and the Bluesound app seamlessly without issues.

Also, someone else on another thread suggested I buy my speakers from World Wide Stereo because they have a liberal 60 day return policy. Their customer support is excellent and so is their knowledge. I ordered speakers one afternoon and the very next day they arrived at my front door with free shipping. Outstanding. Amazon Prime doesn’t offer this level of service. It took me awhile to familiarize myself with the Roon and Bluesound app and I wanted to take my time with the Pulse 2 speakers. Only then did I order the Elac Z3 to compare. If I ended up liking the Z3 more than the Pulse 2’s I was within the 60 day window if I wanted to return the Pulse 2’s. I am keeping my pair of Pulse 2’s and I’m exchanging the Z3 for a Pulse Mini. I can not thank World Wide Stereo enough for being so supportive. Thank you.

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I’m looking for wireless roon-ready speaker, and interested in a similar comparison.

I could get a Pulse 1 on their closeout sale for $399.

Or, a current Pulse Flex for $299, with an $80 “battery pack” option (a nice flexibility for the deck).

Or, i could go for the Elac Discovery Z3 for $499.

Would the Elac sound best (& integrate best w Roon), vs these Bluesound speakers?

This is a bit of a tangent, but I’ve just emailed Ruark to ask whether they are considering making their devices Roon Ready - the MRX would also be in this price bracket and IMO we could do with a bit more competition for ‘budget’, Roon Ready, all-in-one speaker solutions.

More directly related to the topic, just bear in mind that if you want to sync between BS and non-BS devices via Roon there remains a bug, acknowledged by BS, which they state they are continuing to try to address. I assume this isn’t the case with the Elac Z3 but perhaps others will confirm.

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Thanks for mentioning that. Sync is a requirement for me…

The answer to this is no. The folks at Bluesound have really concentrated on the software side of things. The Bluesound app is excellent and works seamlessly with Roon. It’s leagues ahead of Elac. Though the Z3 is a Roon endpoint Elac’s app is clunky at best. In fact, I can not get the the Elac app to recognize the Z3 in the chain though the Z3 shows up in Roon. I have not had any issues playing the Z3 through Roon but the Elac app is faulty. If mature integration is a priority I would go with Bluesound.

The important integration for me is simply Roon- RAAT endpoint functionality, including MQA, sync, etc. Full sync across all my various Roon endpoints is critical. (Otherwise I might consider isolated Sonos devices instead.)

I’ve caught up on this thread:

It doesn’t seem like Bluesound is really there yet.

For the Elac, is the Roon integration fully functional? Do I need the Elac app to work well? David’s listening review in the OP, above, suggests that the less-expensive Elac sounds very competive, and superior in the high-end.

So I’m still a bit confused.

After looking at a number of potential solutions, I’m starting to wonder if the ‘all in one’ wireless Roon speaker/endpoint solutions are not quite there yet.

I think the Bluesound speakers are very nearly there - everything else works well. I haven’t tried the Elacs. Unfortunately when this bug was first reported Bluesound seemed to exert a lot of energy blaming users’ network setups and not much actually investigating the issue. Hopefully now that it has been reliably replicated we will see a fix…but it has taken a long time.

I too would like to see more competition in this market segment - having contacted Ruark they told me they have no current plans to make their products Roon Ready, which is a shame.

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I’m using a Sonic Transporter as my Roon core with my home network WiFi to my Bluesound speakers. The only issue I have is that when I’m using my wireless photo printer from my laptop my speakers drop in and out. That’s not an issue. No dropped signals otherwise. Also, I only had the Elac Z3 for a short time but I did not get dropped signals either. So does the problem also lay with what hardware is being used as a Roon core? Yes, I too wish other audio companies would make speakers that are RAAT endpoints but I see the challenges. Developing the software to work realiably across all platforms and devices is daunting. It seems these days audio companies must employ electrical engineers and software developers in equal measure if they’re going to survive the wireless route.

P.S. I am amending the above statement. As of late, I do get dropped signals from time to time. It’s normally rectified by going into the Bluesound app and reconnecting. Like others here, I am waiting for a Bluesound software update. It’s a bit concerning for me as I’ve committed to purchasing 5 Bluesound speakers for my wireless set-up.

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I just got the ELAC Z3 yesterday. It is true the app sucks, very basic and crashes a lot, and the wireless connectivity has much to be desired. I’m still not sure I’ve solved all my issues but it appears the speaker can’t connect to a wifi network where the SSID is hidden. The app sees that the network is there(so much for hiding it) but after entering the password multiple times it fails to connect. Un-hide the SSID and it connects. The user manual is garbage too. As for the sound when I connected with a Cat5 cable is pretty darn good. Need to test some more and will post more feedback when I’ve gotten everything straightened out.

All this begs the question about what roon means by roon ready? roon states that the equipment gets thoroughly tested. I wounder how much testing really happens.

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Since I’ve written this review, Bluesound has recently announced the next generation of speakers, of note will be the new Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i. All anyone can do at this moment is speculate about the sound quality of the 2i generation of products.

In my above review I made the observation that for the next generation of of products Bluesound needed to incorporate proper tweeters into their speakers. With the Pulse 2i, Bluesound did this and I’m sure the extended highs will be an improvement over the Pulse 2. My concern now is with the Pulse 2i’s two 5 inch woofers. Having two woofers will increase bass significantly but will the increased bass overpower the midrange? We have just one listening review, so far, from WhatHiFi and their review reflects my concern.

Just based on specs alone, I was hoping that Bluesound would have carried over the two 2.75 inch midrange drivers from the Pulse 2 into the Pulse 2i. Together, having two midrange drivers and two tweeters in the Pulse 2i would most likely have alleviated the concerns in the WhatHiFi review and truly make the Pulse 2i world class wireless speakers. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m sure that the engineers at Bluesound addressed these concerns when they designed the 2i and maybe they designed the woofers to both deepen the bass and clarify the midrange as well. We shall see.

I’m quite excited to get a Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i and do a comparison test with my Pulse 2. I love my Pulse 2 and I’m hoping I will love the 2i generation of speakers even more.

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I keep hoping that Elac will get their act together with their crummy app. I have three of these and want to buy more, but as long as they fail to update the app, I am not going to. The sound is good enough for me and the size is right, but they have had well over a year to make improvements to the app and haven’t cared. I cannot by these speakers for other family member and expect them to be able to reconnect to WiFi if they lose signal.

I have a SonicTransporter with music on USB external SSD. I have Roon Lifetime license for Core server software. With the SonicTransporter plugged into the router with Ethernet cable, I stream music to the Z3’s using the Roon client software on Android phone or Windows laptop, but often just am close enough to Z3 speaker to hit the middle button to pause music or adjust the volume with the up and down buttons. I love this feature. When the Z3’s work, it is great and I am pleased with the sound.

When I have complained more than once about the app, WiFi dropouts and whether this is a product on the decline due to less-than-stellar reviews and little product exposure online, Elac said “Regarding WiFi connectivity, yes, Z3 needs a strong signal. ROON uses quite a lot of bandwidth and needs the router close by or to be very strong. We have heard good reports from folks placing a repeater near a Z3 to improve connection quality. As for the hidden SSID, that’s news to us, we didn’t think we connected to them at all! As far as we know there is no updated Z3 coming in the near future. It really isn’t that old and there is still inventory”

If the Z3 Control app enabled a fast connectivity with good feedback on the pairing process for either WiFi or bluetooth, it would be almost a moot point because it doesn’t need reconnecting too often. However, it is a horrible trial and error process. As far as other issues, I’d be playing some music and Roon would report back on problems loading, without indicating where that loading was. I didn’t know if it was the sonicTransporter music server having problems loading a flac or mp3, or Roon having issues updating metadate to the Roon client interface on the Windows laptop, or Roon in updating info to the Roon Android app? Andrew suggested it was an Elac problem needing a strong solid WiFi signal, and I’m inclined to believe it now. Although, after metatagging all my songs with SongKong and deleting all it had issues with when re-running in problem directories, I don’t think I have had the loading issues again.

I no longer have component equipment or a stereo or even an AVR to hook up all sorts of other devices to get speakers I no longer have to play. Just want a solid alternative to Elac Z3, lol

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How far is your Z3 away from the router? I have no problem with connectivity and have only used the Elac app once. It is not a nice app, for sure. My Z3 is maybe 6-7 meters away, and the signal crosses about three walls. I have a power switch on the power cable so I can switch the speaker off if not used. After switching on it takes about 15 seconds and the Z3 appears on the Roon app and is ready to go. So my experience is ok, sound is good for the kitchen. Hope you can sort it out with stronger WiFi signal. Or can you use Ethernet?

For excellent wireless performance I can recommend some of the latest B&W and Naim devices (Formation and Mu-So Gen 2). I can only compare with a KEF LS50 wireless but it’s a night/day type of difference. These forums make it appear like a lot of these first gen all-in-one connected devices are hit or miss on wireless performance so I guess not too surprising that you’ve struggled slightly with the Z3.

I would imagine most other manufacturers are also improving over time so maybe just look for other speakers that are already on gen 2 or 3

In another post today on the “…loading slowly” problem, I stated that since adding a Zen Wifi mesh, I think my loading slowly issues have gone away. I’ll look for it in case it does show again, but I’m hopeful that it’s all about high wifi needs for the Z3, and it’s not the Roon server (connected to new Fios wifi6 router) or software, it’s whether the Z3 is getting what it needs fast enough.
Of course, if that is true, then I’d like to see a “Your Roon wifi speaker can’t handle our awesomeness in music service so upgrade your cr@ppy wifi” error instead of “loading slowly” because then I think it’s the Roon front-end client on the laptop not getting the info fast enough from the Roon Core server, lol

I’ve just ordered an EX Demo Z3 for £280 and hope I’ll be pleased with it! I have a Pulse Flex 2i that I like but it seems to suffer a lot of annoying drop outs.

I’ve also tried the B&W formation flex which works well but i didn’t like the sound at all, it was very dull to listen to and over bright in presentation compared to the bluesound which sounds pretty good!

Really I wanted to buy a Naim Muso QB V2 but that’s quite a lot of money and this ELAC seems worth a punt!

@Angus_Doe If you have a minute, I’d love to hear how the Elac has worked out.

I’m super pleased with it when used via Roon. Also works well as a bluetooth speaker or via Apple Airplay.

The size and form factor are quite good, not too big not too small etc.

As standard the Bass is a bit Over Boosted but you can adjust that. The sound is very good and we use it loads. No drop outs.

I’d say I’m very happy and would consider another one. It’s pleasing after trying the B&W flex and sending it back because I didn’t like the sound, and I’ve moved my Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i to another room where it actually gets signal.

Main System is Nad M12/M22v2 and Totem Signature one.

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adding my experience with Elac Discovery Z3 for those searching real Roon Ready (RAAT connected) speakers where I also had a hard time to find something:

-it’s actual a Stereo device (not mono as mentioned somewhere in this thread)
-needed some trials to get connected and updated. two firmware updates in my case made it Roon Ready and to be recognized by Roon Core as such. Airplay worked from start up
-it was helpful to bring the Z3 close to the WIFI router for pure WIFI set up and later move it to where it should be located
-very basic app for settings and firmware update. Can be accessed and configured via IP address in web browser and also directly via Roon once connected
-now running connected via RAAT and Airplay to Roon core. I can select which to use depending on required bandwith of source material. RAAT makes a huge difference in sound quality, allowing to stream full 192/24 to the Z3
-finally chose to go for Powerline (LAN over power lines) connection in order to increase bandwith and stability which wasn’t good via WIFI over here (two concrete walls separating router from speaker). Runs perfectly without drop outs or glitches
-bass may sound pronounced, if placed close to a wall or in a corner since the box does host two passive radiators in the back. You may want to change via app or via roon roon (Audio/Device/Device Info/Configure Device)
-you can change the volume and pause / play with button on the front of the device
-sound is very good across the range, it does come with coaxial tweeters.

Can’t compare with Bluesound or B&W, haven’t tried them since only design would potentially push me to change. the Z3 looks very decent/has a small footprint and the current price is low.

This thread’s been around for awhile, but seems still relevant given the dearth of network-attached / Roon-ready powered speakers. I have an Elac Discovery and a Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i for over a year now and can give some test results:

SOUND QUALITY

  • When up and running, they both sound very good. I’m picky about sound, and they’re both over-achievers for their size IMO – especially the Flex 2i. I would say the Elac is more neutral, and more sensitive to room placement, and more sensitive to quality of source material.

INITIAL SET UP:
-(note: my SOP is to set these sorts of devices up while near the router, then move them to the desired locations later.)

  • The Elac connected and updated itself instantly and then did a firmware upgrade. Completely hassle-free. No eyebrows raised.
  • The Flex 2i took to long to get on the network. The instructions are terrible, and there’s a sequence of lights that are meant to indicate status in progress. Not only did the Bluesound fail to quickly connect, it failed to let me know what was going on. Finally, gave up with WiFi, plugged in an ethernet cable and introduced it to my network.

CONTINUOUS CONNECTIVITY

  • The Elac has never let go of my network, despite having moved around the house to several locations. Depending on distance, I’ve noticed it grabbed the 2.4 band or the 5 ghz band – transparently.
  • The Bluesound Flex 2i regularly loses contact with the network, especially between on/off/sleep cycles. Sometimes, I just have to wait a minute or two, but occasionally I’ve had to revert to the ethernet cable and initial setup process. This is a really drag. (Note: I’ve had these same connectivity issues with multiple Flex 2i’s, but never with the Node 2i’s which are always connected via ethernet cable.)

APP / UI / ECOSYSTEM.

  • On this front, these two products are 2 completely different beasts and almost don’t deserved to be compared head-to-head. The Bluesound speaker is designed to fit in to the Bluesound ecosystem. This is a positive only if that ecosystem is feature-laden and easy-to-use – thankfully, it is both. On the other hand, the Elac is designed to fit in anywhere: in addition to being Roon-ready (which allows it to sync play with other Roon endpoints – an interesting, but rarely-used feature in my house), it is also accessible via Airplay and bluetooth (as is the Bluesound speaker). As the purveyor of all things AV & IT in my house, I’ve noticed that, despite my coaching, each user ultimately wants to use these devices from their own preferred sources. For me, that’s Roon usually, but sometimes Airplay (for podcasts, audiobooks, etc.). Others in my house like Spotify (due to integration with Shazam), or Amazon Music, Youtube, etc; and thus Roon makes no sense to them – and also, the very nice Bluesound app, also makes no sense to them. They want to go from their apps directly to the speaker, and would prefer to use bluetooth or Airplay because that’s what they’re used to. The point of all this discussion I think is to defend the Elac from the critics who say the Elac’s software UI is “primitive” or “unacceptable” or whatever. From my observations, that entirely depends on the use case. The uncomfortable fact is, in my house, the majority of users see the network-attached speakers just as they see bluetooth speakers; that is to say, they have no need for another UI layer, or an entire “ecosystem” for that matter.
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Thought I would chime in on the Elac Z3 since I have 2 currently for non-critical listening.

One in the Master Bedroom, replaced my PC/AQ Cobalt Dac/speaker setup so the PC is no longer required for music. The Z3 sounds as good or better than the Cobalt DAC and I really like the simple one box hassle free solution.

The second one is in the Kitchen and does make for good company at the other end of the house. It is also convenient, with the Aux port, as a speaker system for the 20 inch flat screen TV. Sounds much better than the Yamaha sound bar.

Only used the Elac App for the initial firmware upgrade, then the units are Roon Ready and everything, including subsequent firmware upgrades, is handled from the Roon UI.

Both are wired and work perfectly, no drops or interruptions of any kind. Sync up with the Living Room NUC to Receiver HDMI is spot on when grouped for whole house music.

Have not had any experience with Bluesound. If one magically appeared on my doorstep I’d be happy to offer a comparison but that is not going to happen. I have no reason to look for another solution as these fit my needs perfectly.

I will add a 3rd one in the 25 by 35 shop after it gets added to the wired Network. I have a 100 foot Cat 6 cable that I can run across the drive now. Just carry one of the Z3’s out there, plug in the power/ethernet and use my android phone remote to control it.