A walnut-veneered case that is more reminiscent of a cabinet than a loudspeaker and only has a single, fairly large chassis on the front. Tone controls, a grounding clip on the speaker terminal, and the whole thing comes from Scotland – right, we’re talking about speakers from … Fyne Audio. Admit it, I fooled you. They wanted to say “Tannoy.” What can be understood given the Fyne Audio Classic X (price: 7,699 euros)? Which is the subject of the following? You are not entirely wrong…
One cannot write about Fyne Audio without mentioning Tannoy. Anyone with a little knowledge of the hi-fi scene will already know why when they see the Fyne Audio Classic X. Above all, there are the iconic coaxial drivers, in which a tweeter horn sits in the center of the membrane of a comparatively large cone driver. For a long time, this design was the trademark of the traditional English company Tannoy – even if Tannoy is not the only manufacturer to build such a chassis.
Tannoy has a foothold in the hi-fi market and the environment of professional recording studios. Thanks to this fact, “Schotten” was bought by the Music Tribe group in 2015. Not all employees liked the associated focus on the Pro division. So it came about that some tried and tested team members around the former technical director Dr. Paul Mills went independent with a new company – Fyne Audio. Unsurprisingly, they remained true to many tried-and-tested design principles and developed them with fresh ideas into new products. But that should have been it with Tannoy. From here on, it’s all about our current test candidates, the Fyne Audio Classic X.
Fyne Audio Classic X: Technology & Concept
Anyone who thinks Fyne Audio mainly tries to occupy the Scottish sound furniture niche market is wrong. By far, the larger part of the loudspeaker portfolio consists of modern-looking loudspeakers, such as the Fyne Audio F1-5. The Scots are also not strangers to topics such as home cinema or installation solutions. The cabinet-like sound furniture of the Classic series, with currently four, and the Vintage series, with three models, represent the smallest product lines, with the Classic being priced below the Vintage series. Within the Classic series, the Classic X with its ten-inch drivers is the middle model; above that, there is the Classic XII with twelve-inch and below that, the Classic VIII with eight-inch drivers – which is also available as a bookshelf speaker version, the Classic VIII SM are available.
What most speaker models from Fyne Audio have in common is that they work with coaxial drivers. “IsoFlare” is what Fyne Audio calls the chassis, whose radiation characteristics come close to those of an ideal point sound source and are intended to ensure particularly good stereo imaging. A special technology called “Fyneflute” is used for the bead. You can recognize them by their distinctive ribs. These ribs are intended to prevent various negative influences, especially resonances. Other special features of all high-end Fyne Audio models are the “Basstrax” sound guides, in which the bass reflex opens downwards onto a tractrix-contoured cone mounted on a second case back, which directs the sound and is intended to ensure that it is radiated in all directions. According to the Scots, this makes the loudspeakers less critical to positioning.
Most Fyne Audio loudspeakers have controls with which you can influence the frequency response and thus adapt it to the listening room or your listening taste. In addition, Fyne Audio also belongs to the growing community of loudspeaker manufacturers who attach a relevant role to the grounding of the chassis in terms of sound. Consequently, there is a connection for a ground wire next to the speaker terminals.
Thanks to separate connection terminals for tweeters and woofers, the Fyne Classic X offers the option of bi-wiring and bi-amping. Good cable bridges are also included in the scope of delivery, as are massive spikes and plates that protect sensitive floors. The spikes may be the best solution acoustically, but in my opinion, it doesn’t quite work visually. Otherwise, the appearance of the Classic X meets my taste 100 percent. You can discuss the black and gold design of the controller field, okay, but you can also put the rustic front cover in front of it, which I also like.
A little more technical information about the Fyne Audio Classic X: The IsoFlare chassis has a diameter of 250 millimeters, i.e. around ten inches; the membrane of the low-frequency part consists of a mixed fiber with a very smooth surface; at first glance, I would have thought it was a plastic membrane. The treble part is handled by a pressure chamber driver with a 75-millimeter titanium membrane, which emits through a comparatively small funnel and ends where the dust cap sits in a conventional chassis. The separation frequency between the tweeter and woofer is at a very low 750 Hertz. The drivers work on a double bass reflex housing; according to the manufacturer, it goes down to 26 Hertz (-6 dB).
I don’t have a tube amplifier, but I have the fantastic Audio Analogue Class A bolide ABsolute. But the first tones that the Fyne Audio Classic X emit are … frightening. In the mids, it blasts me violently; in the bass, it rumbles somewhere, all of which has little to do with high-fidelity music reproduction.
Michael Hülsewiesche from TAD Audiovertrieb, who brought the Fyne Audio Classic X to me and helped unpack and set it up, puts my mind at ease. The loudspeakers hadn’t played for a long time, had just come out of the car, had been shaken up after a drive lasting several hours, and therefore had to acclimatize first. New Fyne Audio loudspeakers even need a break-in period of around 200 hours before they develop their sonic potential, but my test sample has already been played in and would be in top form much faster… So the Fyne Audio Classic X can start for around a week and play continuously in the background; after that, I find the sound stable.
Is everything fine?
Next, I experiment with the setup and the knobs for “Energy” (tweeter level > 750 Hertz) and “Presence” (about 2500 to 5000 Hertz). Aligned directly to my listening position and with both controls in the middle position, the Classic X does too much for me, from the presence range to the heights of the good. So I take “Energy” back to a comfortable level for me. I leave the presence range in the middle position, which suits my hearing best.
I’m a bit surprised that the Fyne Audio Classic X gen treble is tuned so offensively that the middle setting of the treble controller, which according to Fyne Audio, should be the neutral position, is too much for me. Given the very dense, magnetically adhering front coverings, however, I have a suspicion – which is confirmed when I hear the loudspeakers compared with and without the coverings. The treble sounds more restrained with the fabric in front of the IsoFlare chassis. Here the middle position of the “Energy” control proves to be appropriate. But of course, you can use the controls to compensate for the influence of the front covers and adjust the speakers to the listening room or your taste. I like that, especially since the Classic X was equipped with practically designed tone controls. The other side of the coin is that I can’t make an “absolute statement” about tonality because it can be influenced with the help of the controls.
The front covers have another influence, and this brings us to the subject of spatial imaging. That’s supposed to be a parade discipline of coaxial drivers. And indeed, without front coverings, the Classic X delivers a clear, sharply defined stage where the musical actors can be localized precisely. The dimensions of the recording room can also be experienced. The stage begins pretty much exactly at the baseline between the speakers. The whole thing seems to me a bit like a “peep box stage,” where I sit as a listener in front of the stage box that is open to the audience. I am clearly in the spectator position and observe (okay: hear) what is happening “from the outside.”
Now, I’m one of those people who like a slightly more involving space. This works best when the speakers include the listening room, at least to a certain extent. All-round and dipole radiators, such as the Kingsound Queen V, do this – but often to an unpredictable extent, so the concept can also flop depending on the room. In my experience, other technologies that “spray” a bit of diffuse noise work more reliably, such as the Larsen 8. Technologies include perforated phase aligning acoustic lenses, the Paradigmin front of tweeters, and mid-range speakers. Another possibility is additional tweeters that radiate backward or upwards, such as Lyravox, have been installed in the Karlsson or DoAcoustics in the Armonia Mundi Impact.
The front covers of the Fyne Audio Classic X also scatter the sound a bit because, with the covers, the image is no longer quite razor-sharp, but the music seems to have more to do with my listening room. The peep box illusion is softened, and the music moves a little closer to me. So whether to listen to the Classic X with or without the front panels should not be purely aesthetic but based on sound. The nice thing is that you can choose whether you prefer it served “studio-style straight” or “authentic-live-like-softer.”
The bass range
Enough for the front covering! The fabric is not noticeable in the bass – and it cannot be removed in front of the Basstrax sound ducts that open around the loudspeakers. The ample volume the angular housing provides the ten-inch chassis with is noticeable in a deep, sovereign bass reproduction. The emphasis is more on quantity – if need be, the speakers unleash impressive energies. On the other hand, my Divine Audio Bellatrix (9,000 euros) shows that it can be a bit more controlled and detailed, i.e. a little more in terms of quality.
My current favorite dancefloor track, Tove Lo‘s “2 Die 4” on the Dirt Femme album, descends deep into synthetic abysses. The Bellatrix makes it clearer that things are still quite differentiated down here, while the Classic X pushes the beat more powerfully into my stomach. The Bellatrix plays more neutral in the bass, while the Fyne Audio gives a bit more boost, which doesn’t hurt things. So the fun factor is slightly higher with the Classic X and the detailing with the Bellatrix.
Mids and highs
My colleague Jochen Reinecke describes the Fyne Audio F1-5 as “velvety” and rather euphonic. On the other hand, I find the Classic X to be “straight.” They present voices with an almost monitor-like directness and clarity; that’s quite an announcement. The great resolution that the IsoFlare chassis offer surprises me. The Fyne Audio Classic X are loudspeakers for conscious listening. The clear, transparent sound invites you to prick your ears and listen deeply to the music. On the other hand, the Classic X seems to take a step back in the highest registers. The fine “air” of high-frequency specialists, such as that of a ribbon-equipped Jean-Marie Reynaud Abscisseat, at least they don’t offer it. Nevertheless, compared
I already said it: The Fyne Audio Classic X are loudspeakers for listening – less for “listening by.” They always tend to make themselves or the music that is playing heard. Just let it run for a nice background sprinkling. This works better with other speakers.
The fact that this is the case is partly because the Classic X is very dynamic. With its 75-millimeter pressure chamber driver and ten-inch paper cone, the horn can directly implement transients. The Fyne Audio Classic X is not children of sadness.
On the contrary, they are always on the ball regarding coarse and fine dynamics and can hardly wait to pounce on every impulse – a subtle nuance or a powerful level jump. Not everyone likes that, I know. But I like loudspeakers that have this kind of liveliness, especially if it doesn’t express itself in nervousness but sounds confident, as is the case with the Classic X. My Horns FP10, for example, also had this talent, but sounded “rougher” than the Fyne Audio. And yes, depending on the genre of music, I would wish my Divine a little more of this esprit.
Even mediocre recordings sound pleasantly lively over the Classic X. It’s logical that they bring out dynamic material even more impressively. What works great, for example, is a large orchestra. That’s where things get going in terms of dynamics.
The Préludes by Franz Liszt (recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Sir Georg Solti) had the sad fate that the Nazi regime used their main theme during World War II as the theme tune for the Wehrmachtbericht. One immediately knows why when one hears the theme, which escalates into a dramatic fanfare. On the other hand, other passages in the symphony are very quiet and reflective. The Fyne Audio Classic X has no problems confidently implementing the high dynamic requirements of the different moods. On the contrary, that’s the stuff these speakers thrive on.
The Fyne Audio Classic X require some break-in time, and whether to listen to them with or without front covers should be decided at leisure – and you should also experiment with the setting options of the treble/presence controls. It’s not just about the tonal balance or the question of what dose of treble you feel is right or pleasant; it’s also about how the music is spatially presented.
Regardless of these options for influencing tonality and room imaging, the Classic X convinces with almost monitor-like virtues. You have come to the wrong place if you are only looking for a relaxed background sound. I like their direct response, their richness of detail, and the fine dynamics, as well as their coarse dynamic reserves. Most people will forgive you for the fact that the Classic X delivers the bass a little softer but with a bit more flavor. That fits.
The Fyne Audio Classic X is characterized by …
- a (without front panel) very clear, sharply contoured spatial image that begins at the baseline between the loudspeakers and offers an exact insight into the recording room, which is also cleanly drawn in size. With the coverings, the image is no longer “razor-sharp,” and the stage impression is more involving and freer.
- A deep, a little more powerful bass foundation, where a little more precision could be imagined.
- Finely resolved, clear mids that entice you to listen closely. The Fyne Audio Classic X has less talent for providing a cozy background stream; they have more of a monitor character.
- A very clear, high-energy treble that resolves very well. Even more “air” would be possible at the top of the super-high range.
- An impressive fine dynamic resolution and coarse dynamic assertiveness. Nobody can complain about a lack of level reserves in normal-sized listening rooms.
- A high-efficiency level, which, in conjunction with their impedance of 8 ohms, also recommends the loudspeakers for tube amplifiers.
- The possibility of adapting the sound to one’s own listening taste and the listening room’s acoustics using the “Energy” and “Presence” controls and the front panels.
- A pretty cool retro design and very good build quality.
- Model: Fyne Audio Classic X
- Concept: 2-way floorstanding speaker with coaxial chassis
- Price: 7,699 euros
- Dimensions & Weight: 918 x 450 x 381 mm (HxWxD), 45.2 kg/each
- Finishes: walnut
- Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
- Efficiency: 94dB/W/m
- Other: front cover, two-tone controls
- Guarantee: 7 years