FRITZ CARBON 7 SPEAKER
List Price: $1,750
I’ve had another pair of Fritz speakers in my house and really liked them. The Carbon 7’s, so named for the 7” woofer, are speakers to die for. There. Review done, anything else I write is mere hyperbole. I know, I know, I’m not going to do that to you, but that is it in a nutshell.
These are beautiful looking and even more beautiful sounding speakers. On top of that, they are, even though their stated sensitivity isn’t that high, quite easy for most amps to drive. I had them on a number of 100-watt (plus) amps, and even with a 24 watt Scott 222C integrated amp that is upgraded by Mapleshade. Niteshade Audio SS-500 (250 into 4 ohms, 125 into 8 ohms) Audio by Van Alstine Insight+ 240 (120 watts per channel into 8 ohms) Monarchy 100SE (both my first edition pair and a pair of Mark IIs I had in for review) Scott 222C tube amp. With all of these amps the Carbon 7’s performed beautifully. Full, vibrant, lively and luscious are words I had in my listening notes. You will need some power to drive them since their sensitivity rating is only 88dB, so probably no miniwatt SET amps need apply, Fritiz recommends at least 30 wpc which might be adequate with a tube amp with a good power supply, but double that for solid state.
One amp, however, is a match made in heaven. The audio specialties of the day; imaging, soundstage, etc. were as good as it gets. But the musical magic was enough to make anyone sit up and take notice. I can’t think of any amp/speaker combination that has ever given me the feelings of that “match made in heaven” and the desire to play CD after CD, LP after LP just to hear the extended highs and absolutely incredible midrange. Tonal colors were superb; each instrument’s flavor presented in a manner I’ve rarely heard from any speaker.
Are these perfect speakers? You know there ain’t no such thing. Set them up well into the room…not too far, I had them about 6’ from the back wall in my big room (28’ long) but only about 40” from the back wall in the smaller of my two rooms down in Muzikmike’s oubliette. Listening to them in the great room upstairs, Dish TV music stations as source and connected to the Mapleshade/Scott amp, I have them about the same distance, 40” out into the room (more on this later). If someone was setting up a surround system they could do far worse than these speakers in terms of looks. The cabinetry is gorgeous, every edge and corner of the speaker’s laminate is absolutely perfect…and it isn’t even marred by cover pegs, the grilles attach with magnets that are under the laminate. A good subwoofer and in a medium sized room and you would never leave.
These speakers will surprise you with the bass information they deliver, but they are small speakers; small speakers do not go down with Orpheus into the Underworld. The bass they do handle is as rich as the midrange. The highs are smooth and well extended; never shrill…in any way I set them up I never was poked in the eye with extreme high notes, although the speaker has no problem reproducing them. I really enjoyed these speakers and had them ready to pack up when Fritz asked if I could keep them until someone bought them on the east coast so he could save a few dollars on shipping (they may be small, folks, but well built enclosures and the powerful magnets in really good drivers are HEAVY, 30 pounds each!) I decided, since they were in my home taking up room, I’d put them where they would do the most good, back into the office system. I had rebuilt the AR 2ax speakers to do the loudspeaker chores, but as nice sounding as they are, they aren’t the speaker that will move my innards, excite my synapses, shiver my timbers. The Carbon 7’s are a speaker that does that and more.
When Fritz does find an East coast buyer (and if my ship ever comes in it might be me) I will definitely miss these speakers. Until then… I got a tutorial in speaker design and building one afternoon when I spoke with Fritz on the phone. I found out some interesting and perhaps alarming things about the art of making a great speaker as opposed to making a speaker. There are some incredible computer programs out there to help someone create a loudspeaker. These programs can tell you what drivers to use, what parts you need to have in the crossover and any other parameter you wish for it to give to you. A builder puts in the dimensions of the cabinet and the program will tell him anything he needs to know. That is the process for some very, very expensive speakers out there; creativity in a computer program. The problem is, however, that computers and the programs used do not have ears. They can design a speaker with chosen response curves, even choose the parts down to the part number needed from an electronic supply house. Listening to their end result, they tweak it until it meets the price level and sound they are striving toward. Listening is a science in that one uses the foundations of knowledge they have accumulated and applies it to the particular situation; room, ancillary equipment, etc. When a less expensive driver must be chosen to meet the price a manufacturer wants the speaker to sell for, then its limitations must be addressed.
If you believe that hi-fi is merely measurements, then the stated specifications of said speaker will impress you. If you believe that only a trained human ear can make the correct decisions in regards to the drivers used, the parts of the crossover, the amount of stuffing in the cabinet, etc., etc., etc. then you need to listen to Fritz’s speakers. Fritz is a musician; he plays a number of instruments and has done so since he was a young kid. He’s not an old fart like me yet, but he’s heading there. Every part of the speaker is analyzed with his ears, not his eyes looking at a computer monitor. As I stated above, if a manufacturer wishes to build a speaker to a certain price point, he may choose less expensive drivers. Those drivers have nodes, distortions at certain frequencies and thus, the crossover must be designed to lessen the harm done by those nodes; that leads to very complex (read that as many parts) crossovers.
KISS: keep it simple, stupid.
If a driver is pushed to cover frequencies it was not really designed for, those anomalies, nodes become a problem. This is what is happening with many speaker designs out there in Audioburg. Add a capacitor and a resistor and you control that node. When a tweeter is asked to produce notes lower for which it was designed, a midrange expected to cover higher notes than its design allows, then the distortion is controlled by more and more parts in the crossover. Most manufacturers, heck ALL (we hope) do final voicings to ensure the sound is as good as they wish it to be. The difference with those speakers and the beauties Fritz makes is the use of a driver he has chosen to do the work it was originally designed to do, thus he can keep his crossovers much more simple. Simple translates as smoother, more real sound. Fewer parts in the crossover, better, smoother, and more musical sound.
I loved Ella’s voice on the Cole Porter Song Book (Verve LP)…the Carbon 7’s showed off what, for me, is Ella’s most awesome gift, her control. She had better control of her instrument and how a microphone captured it, than any singer I’ve ever heard. Miss Otis Regrets reveals poignancy and somehow, the wryness of the lyrics about a woman who has taken her lover’s life and the sorrow of not being able to have lunch with her friends. An odd song, but Ella allows us to see all of the nuances, the sadness and the pain, of the entire situation. As per usual, her control of her voice and the microphone is impeccable and the Carbon 7 allows us to hear all of it. What amazes anyone hearing the speakers is the bass. Not owning a subwoofer, I couldn’t tell you if I would have enjoyed more of the bottom end, but I surely did not miss it.
Listening to Ray Brown’s Bass on Walk On (CD (Telarc CD 2003), I was struck by the rich, full sound. Definitely not the deep, throaty sound I hear with my full range Preludes, but very, very good, satisfying bass. It made me pull out another Ray Brown recording, the gorgeously remastered LP from Pure Audiophile, Soular Energy, an LP you should not play if your cartridge isn’t adjusted perfectly (don’t ask why I tell you this, the story is too ugly to bear). But when your phonography is set up well, the sound is astounding to say the least. Through the Carbon 7s, every bass note had a complexity I rarely hear from any system. The deck I was using was my Kenwood KD500 which has been slightly modified, a Pioneer PA1000 arm rewired with silver and the cartridge from Hell; the Frankencartridge (Win Labs SMC10). That cartridge is capable of pulling info from a record as no cartridge I’ve ever owned can do and the Fritz speakers showed me some things I never imagined. I heard nuances I have never heard with any of the various pieces of equipment I’ve owned or reviewed. Gene Harris’ piano is mic'd to hear the lid…I mean I could watch as the notes traveled up and across the open lid of his piano! I’ve heard this with piano concertos and solo piano recordings, rarely with a Jazz recording and especially this Jazz recording. Granted, the Win Laboratory SMC10 is a cartridge that was designed to pull every nuance from a recording, but to hear the high notes of that piano through those speakers sounding as unbelievably real…well, that is quite an experience. I would have loved to hear the same cut Cry Me a River on my “big rig” but I wasn’t about to try to hook up all that was needed to be able to hear the Fritz speakers in that room once again…I had two other pieces of gear in there for review and I didn’t wish to not hear the magic the Fritz speakers and the Van Alstine amp create together. The highest notes of the piano extended beautifully, faded realistically…I yelled, “Wow” several times. My wife asked if there was anything wrong! “That sounds exceptionally good, doesn’t it, Mike. I can sort of see the outlines of that bass.” I’d never heard her say anything like that!
Imaging was as good as I have ever heard from any combination, too. The group spaced across the room in a very life-like fashion. Space and air around the instruments really added to the suspension of disbelief, making it very easy to feel I was there at the recording venue. Granted, this is one of the finest recordings you will ever hear, but you’d better have a good enough system to enjoy the ride. I tried to choose music I had both a decent CD and the LP. A couple great examples of that was the wonderful Pat Metheny Day Trip/Tokyo Day Trip, Joshua Redman’s Moodswing. The idea of packaging both CD and LP together is, I believe, one of the far more intelligent moves the recording world has taken of late. I, of course, have quite a few older original LPs of which I’d purchased new CDs, but many of them are not the quality that Nonesuch is doing with LP/CD packaging. Sweet Sorrow, the first cut on the recording, has a beautiful bass-filled intro that sounds so smooth, so real through the Carbon 7’s you will want to wrap it around you like a blanket on a cold afternoon. Christian McBride’s bass and Brian Blade’s drums do not Sound as if they issue forth from a mini-monitor. Joshua Redman’s sax soars.(There’s that word again…)
Brad Meldau’s piano has a beautiful reverberant sound rarely heard in any piano recording. The piano’s bass notes, juxtaposed against the highs in Chill become real enough to stir my soul. I found myself with eyes closed, absorbed into the music and the sound. That’s a rarity, folks…too hi-fi is just that, too hi-fi. We find ourselves listening to a chair squeak rather than the music. The sound of this recording is, as said above, warm and enveloping; a blanket, a haven. Time and time again I have written in my notes the word soaring! (With exclamation mark). Redman’s honks and squeaks beautifully controlled rather than the obtrusive sounds heard in many recordings, with many speakers. That’s not to say his meaning; the strength of that sonic attack is less, it more.
One more cut and I’ll quit rhapsodizing over this recording, But Rejoice begins with McBride’s bass followed by Meldau echoing the notes. Redman begins playing in the same low register and the sound is to die for. The Fritz speakers delineate without highlighting any of the instruments…tonal structure is absolutely beautiful. Meldau speeds up and down the keyboard and every note is as clear as the sunniest day you’ve ever experienced.
I noticed, on the incredibly well recorded Neil Young Live at Massey Hall, (ok, I know, here's some more rhapsodizing...) the Fritz speakers can sound a bit shrill off axis if, and only if, you have set the speakers too far from the back wall. These speakers do not demand perfect placement to sound good, but to get optimum performance you will have to spend some time setting them up. If you’re not a stickler for perfection these speakers will still please you. When I had them set up in the big-rig room, about 6’ from the rear wall, they sounded wonderful. It took a bit more effort to get them to sound their best when placed in front of the long wall in the office system. I found that they sounded fine close to the rear wall, but not the smooth response I’d heard in the “better” of the two rooms. I moved them 40” out into the room and that’s where I heard that shrillness. It was far less pronounced when I sat on the couch in front of the speakers, but still not the near perfection I’d heard. While imaging on both CD and LP is astounding, the tonal structure suffered. I moved the speakers closer to each other and slightly backward, toeing them in slightly because the couch is quite close to the speakers (close to an equilateral triangle). Surprisingly that set-up did not cancel out room reflections…at least those I found pleasant. It is that set-up that remains as this review is finalized. The applause when Young sings, “I’m going back to Canada…” reveals how well this speaker separates sounds into individual components. The sound of that applause is a quite real, not a wash of unidentifiable sound.
Young’s guitar is so beautifully mic'd on this recording, it would be a shame to hear it through a lesser transducer. Playing the LP or the CD, the size and directness of the sound of his guitar made for quite a real experience. His piano seems so palpable, the reverberant wood sound was just astounding. If I closed my eyes and listened, I was transported to that day in the 70’s…I would have been in my 20’s and I would have been stoked. This recording really is thrilling.
Time and time again I was amazed at how clean the highs were, how solid everything was while listening to that combination. Listening to female vocals was almost a sexual experience (Sorry, Ma…I’m only human!). Listening to orchestral recordings I hear the same separation of instruments that I hear with applause, I am not given a shower of unidentifiable mixed sound. Rather, instruments are well placed across the small space I listen within. I’m presented, the way I have the speakers set, as if I am in mid-hall. I am able to hear the hall’s reverberant sound; I can tell the symphony my good friend John Richardson recorded to disc for me had been originally beautifully recorded. I hear the Moeran/Dilkes Symphony on a CD-R that sounds more like the LP it was recorded from than the LP itself.
Do you remember when speakers were touted as “ready for digital” as if a CD (for instance) would and should sound differently through a speaker that was not ready for digital sound? Did people really fall for that? Well, this speaker is ready for beautiful sound, however presented. Is this speaker perfect? I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that if you had them in a smaller room (not miniscule) and matched to an equally fine subwoofer, then yes, they may just be the perfect speaker…but only if the amp is an amp that matches these speakers as beautifully as the AVA Insight+ 240. Whether that proves to be easy or not is up to the audio gods, not I, but the 7's were a worthy match to several different types of amps, so they appear to be an easy speaker to drive. You will need some power to drive them since their sensitivity rating is only 88dB, so probably no miniwatt SET amps need apply, Fritz recommends at least 30 wpc which might be adequate with a tube amp with a good power supply, but double that with solid state.
While there are no pictures of the speakers with grills, Fritz tells us that they DO come with grills...if you wanted to use them.
While they go unusually low (39Hz) for a speaker this size, they cannot be called "full range", but we beleive that the addition of a good subwoofer from Hsu or AV123 for a few hundred dollars could be an even more outstanding bargain.
If you are looking for a gorgeously made, great sounding mini-monitor you need look any farther than the Fritz speaker website. There are some beautiful speakers out there in the +/- $1700 price range. Few as well made; fewer still that sound as good. Available in Oak, Cherry, Maple, Walnut, & Mahogany and can be ordered in a wide variety of other woods & finishes to match your decor $2300 list, $1750 special price.
Fritz sells direct, so you won't hear them in a dealer's showroom, but you can audition them at home; Fritz Speakers offers a full money-back guarantee should a purchaser prove to be unhappy with them.
Our rare MAXIMUM MOJO AWARD is bestowed upon products that exibit outstanding quality in craftsmanship and sound quality with the extra merit of have a very high price/performance ratio. The Fritz Carbon 7 speakers meet and exceed that those criteria. At less than $2,000, they compete with stand-mount speakers from companies such as B&W, Usher, Harbeth, Dali, Reference3A, Totem and more. Congratulations to Fritz for this prestigious award.
Frequency Response: 39Hz-20Khz +/- 3 db
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal Sensitivity: 88 db (1 Watt, 2.83 V @ 1 Meter)
Bass/Midrange Driver: 7" Carbon Graphite Fiber/Paper
Pulp composite cone with non-resonant low loss butyl rubber surround & Kapton voice coil former & die cast frame with massive magnet, bass reflex loaded- rear port
Tweeter: 28 mm 1.1 inch hand coated textile soft dome with non-resonant rear chamber & ferro-fluid cool-ing, aluminum face plate,
Crossover: Series crossover without any capacitors in the circuit with the tweeter
Dimensions/Weight: 16”H x 9”W x 12”D, 30 lbs (each)
Recommended Power: 30 - 150 Watts RMS, withoutclipping
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