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Review: Fyne Audio F1-5 Bookshelf Speaker

Review: Fyne Audio F1-5 is a loudspeaker with its own character which long-term enjoyment and complete immersion in music.

Review: Fyne Audio F1-5 : The Scottish supplier Fyne Audio is still a relatively young loudspeaker manufacturer and had its first major appearance in Germany in 2017 at the Munich High End. Despite this, the company boasts “200 years of experience” in the audio sector – according to the product brochure. How does that go together?

Well, the majority of the Fyne Audio founding members consist of “renegades” from the manufacturer Tannoy, who were clearly in the mood for something new. If you add up their periods of service in the loudspeaker business, a total of 200 years actually seems realistic. Founder and Technical Director at Fyne Audio is Dr. Paul Mills, who alone has 27 years of experience as a development engineer at Tannoy. And this legacy cannot be completely concealed when you look at the products from Fyne Audio: Coaxial systems are also characteristic of the appearance here, both optically and technically with sophisticated sound guidance, the design of which is quite clearly reminiscent of the drivers installed in many Tannoy loudspeakers. However, our test subject today, the compact Fyne Audio F1-5, has nothing in common with the angular and sometimes very rustic-looking “vintage boxes” known from the Tannoy Prestige series: You have to look for quite a long time here to find a right angle. And instead of waxed wood, there’s high-gloss paint. But first things first.

The Fyne F1-5 is the smallest compact speaker in the F1 series, which consists of two floor-standing speakers and two bookshelf speakers. The F1 series is the most advanced product line at Fyne Audio – also in terms of price; there are other series with more than 20 models, including subwoofers and center speakers.

For a pair of the F1-5s, which measure just around 32 x 19 x 29 centimeters (HxWxD), you have to shell out 3,800 euros, which is no small matter for a loudspeaker of this format. Let’s see what’s on offer for this.

Fyne Audio F1-5 – technical concept

One thing is quickly clear: the choice of materials and the quality of workmanship are first class. Curved case lines that taper towards the rear, perfect high-gloss walnut veneer (there are no other versions, by the way) with a beautiful grain, gap dimensions on the verge of measurability, high-quality WBT NextGen single-wiring connection terminals with grounding – that makes a good impression.

Fyne Audio F1-5

The dominating element is of course the coaxial driver. The 125 mm chassis has a die-cast aluminum basket and comes with a “mixed fiber” cone for the low-mid range. We find an interesting detail on the edge area of ​​the membrane, the surround: A special pattern has been embossed into it, which is intended to “swirl” any resonances that may occur and thus minimize them. The pressure chamber tweeter, which is reinforced with a stiff magnesium dome, kicks in from 1.9 kHz, sits behind the mid-bass driver and has a ventilated rear chamber, which is intended to ensure that the natural resonance falls well below the crossover frequency, while the break-up frequency is above the human hearing range located. A sophisticated wave guide geometry allows the sound of the tweeter to emerge in the center of the mid-bass driver.

Fyne Audio F1-5

The Fyne Audio F1-5 is designed as a bass reflex system in which the reflex tunnel fires downwards at a defined distance from the base plate. Below the bass reflex outlet is a wedge-shaped diffuser based on the so-called tractrix curve, which evenly distributes the sound energy over 360 degrees in the room. An interesting take on Traktrix technology, patented back in 1927 by British audio pioneer Paul Voigt and originally intended for horn attachments in cinema sound systems.

Worth mentioning is the high-quality internal wiring from van den Hul and the cryogenically treated crossover , which is obviously equipped with components from the “higher drawer”, and which has an unusual feature: you know loudspeakers where you can turn on a switch or flip a Cable bridge can increase or soften the low and/or high frequency range. F1-5 takes a different approach from F1-5: there is a potentiometer underneath the coaxial driver. In the middle position (12 o’clock) the loudspeaker plays neutrally. When the potentiometer is turned to the right, the frequency range between 2.5 and 5 kHz is increased by up to 3 dB, and when it is turned to the left, it is lowered accordingly. Is that really necessary? We’ll see!

Fyne Audio F1-5

surprise

The gods have put sweat before enjoyment. The Fyne Audio F1-5 – brand new out of the box and standard on my Abacus Ampollo Dolifet power amp on a leash – couldn’t really convince me at first. It sounded somehow unbalanced and sticky tonally, without me being able to really say what exactly is missing. The sound, however, strikingly reminded me of my first encounter with the Tannoy Turnberry: At first I was downright shocked at how “little sound” came from “so much housing” – but I had reckoned without the host: apparently an increased break-in period was necessary here . After about 100 hours, the sound of the Turnberry had changed and improved so substantially that I bought the loudspeaker after completing my test work and was very happy with it for many years.

Fyne Audio F1-5

So I put the Fyne F1-5 through a similar process and blew it out in a week of non-stop operation. The effect was amazing: it was as if I had connected a completely different speaker. Then the rest of the standard procedure: Before I delve into listening sessions with loudspeakers, I try out my amps one after the other and see which one works best with them. And that’s when I experienced the next surprise: The Fyne Audio F1-5 appreciate careful matching with the other components in the chain – and that much more than other loudspeakers I know. It sounded by far the best with my Tsakiridis Aeolos+ tube amp and Valvet E2 power amp, while pairing it with the Abacus Ampollo Dolifet and Hegel H90 Although it was also “somehow good”, it didn’t quite bring the qualities that the first-mentioned amplifiers were able to tease out of the F1-5. Why is it? I can only speculate: both the Abacus and the Hegel amp have an above-average damping factor, and both guide the loudspeakers almost as if they were on a tow bar. The Fyne audio monitor doesn’t seem to like that, he obviously prefers to walk on a longer leash – and that’s exactly what we’re going to do now.

Fyne Audio F1-5: Sound Test & Comparisons

Are you looking for a studio monitor with which you can really put your recordings to the test, rub salt in production-technical wounds and relentlessly uncover mastering errors? Do you delight in the crackling noise floor of old Stranglers recordings and want to grumble and shake your head because the sound driver for songs by The Police forgot to mute unused tracks on the console? 

In my opinion, the Fyne Audio F1-5 is above all a loudspeaker for enjoyment. You can drift into other worlds with him and get away from the dreary reality in a good mood for a long time. How does he do that? Is he a whitewash, a flatterer? Not that again. But he brings with him an incredible ease and nonchalance (not carelessness!) that is based on multiple talents.

The room floodlight

The first, and most notable, is probably the speakers’ ability to “make themselves invisible”. Here, no sound sticks to membranes or housings, the music fans out widely in the room and can also be heard to the left and right of the speakers. This works not only with acoustic recordings that were captured live with run-time microphones, but also with “fully synthetic” music and/or music “put together” on the computer. How to listen to the numerous synth tracks on Depeche Mode’s “Behind the Wheel” (Album: Music for the masses) fan out and manifest in the stereophonic panorama, both broadly and deeply, as if they were acoustic instruments – it almost makes you spit. For once, I have to use the term “holographic reproduction” again and throw a penny into the phrase pig: Even sounds deep in the back of the room seem tangible. But smaller arrangements and “Girl with a piano” are also a pleasure: when Adele raises her voice in the refrain of her song “Make you feel my love”, it gives official whole-body goosebumps, because the lady is singing in the living room as a real person seems to. This is authenticity in its purest form, far removed from canning.

Finely drawn

In addition, voices and acoustic instruments are a home game for the Fyne F1-5. Especially in the middle band, this loudspeaker has a remarkable fine definition and accuracy, which makes it easy to find out whether a real piano is playing (Dire Straits: “Telegraph Road”), where you can also hear the soft gliding of the dampers on the strings – or a sample (Adele: “Make you feel my love”). Things are a bit different in the high-frequency range. Compared to other representatives of the guild, this looks a bit darker or golden; This goes hand in hand with the fact that the resolution in the treble is still good, but does not represent the end of the high-fidelity flagpole and falls somewhat short of the stupendous fine definition in the mid-band. Here I think of the much more expensive one as a blatant counter-example B&W 805 D3 (6,000 euros), which brings a resolution in the treble and super treble that I have hardly heard from any other loudspeaker before, but again cannot quite maintain this high level of detail in the mid-band.

The effect brought by the controller on the front is interesting. Here, the overall sound can be “freshened up” in an uncomplicated way, but it can also be further darkened. Unlike dedicated bass or treble adjustments, this controller puts the reins on the horse from behind, so to speak, and makes it surprisingly easy to compensate for certain limiting effects of the room acoustics or the upstream electronics. Because while bass and treble controls usually only raise or lower a certain frequency and its immediate surroundings, Fyne works over a larger range, which looks more organic overall and fits into the perceived frequency response less bad “dents” builds, but rather slight increases / decreases. This is a practical matter, even if I personally liked it best overall in the “flat” position.

The Fyne Audio speaker, which is somewhat darker due to the milder highs mentioned above, has advantages and disadvantages. It is of course a disadvantage if you want to cough every flea and hear every blade of grass grow in the high frequency range. But it can also be a blatant advantage if you listen to music that is either a bit thick on top or that comes from the early days of digital studio productions – and thus sounds pointed, “wet” or artificial. That was often the case in the 1980s in particular, many productions from that time seem uncomfortably sterile due to an analytical chain: Bands like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Nik Kershaw, Hooters, Spandau Ballet come to mind herebut also productions that are supposedly highly praised as audiophiles, which, on closer inspection and longer listening, often tire with a certain sterility (Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” or Donald Fagen “Kamakiriad”, for example). With the Fyne Audio F1-5 you can listen to these and other albums and artists for hours without getting tired. Even somewhat mediocre live recordings (Peter Gabriel “Plays Live”) are suddenly really fun, because the F1-5 doesn’t put the index finger so much on artefacts such as noise or a “grippy” treble, as is sometimes the case with less good productions.

Fyne Audio F1-5

 

felt sound

In terms of bass, the F1-5 can of course neither keep up with a full-blown floorstanding speaker nor with some larger compact ones; From about 80 hertz down it gets a little thinner and an octave lower then the funny thing is over: The synthesizer intro to “Telegraph Road” (Dire Straits, Album: Love over Gold), under which there is actually a low-frequency, restless rumble is noticeably less threatening than over a larger box. On the other hand comes a belly bass (Madness, “Our House”, Album: The Rise & Fall / Babyshambles, “Fuck Forever”, Album: Down in Albion) but quite sovereign and also with taste over. This “tasty” results on the one hand from a slight emphasis on the upper bass, but on the other hand also from the good contouring, speed and precision – with such merits you can counteract the lack of absolute depth in the “felt sound” to a certain extent. In comparison to the significantly cheaper but around 20% larger B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition (749 euros), the Fyne Audio F1-5 can unleash significantly more low-frequency energy.

What amazes me, by the way: Even on a tube (my Tsakiridis amp), the F1-5 can play up quickly, the “long leash” in relation to the low damping factor does not cause any negative effects here – I already wrote about the gut earlier contoured bass. But things are also going fast upstairs. The F1-5 ruthlessly shows that the drummer in “All you Zombies” by the Hooters performs the offbeat rimshots and crash cymbals with great precision, but occasionally wobbles and drags in the hi-hat in the verse. He peels the American drummer Christopher Parker’s ultra-precise hi-hat and cymbal work, almost reminiscent of a drum machine, in Donald Fagen’s album Kamakiriad  (e.g. “Trans-Island Skyway”).

Fyne Audio F1-5

You see: On the one hand, the Fyne Audio F1-5 looks at the music material with a certain “grace”. Not with whitewashing, but with a certain nonchalance. On the other hand, he takes a very close look at some disciplines (timing, fine resolution and microdynamics in the mid-range). This unusual mixture of laissez-faire and precision is not only rare, it also has its very own magic that draws you in even more the longer you deal with the Fyne F1-5.

Fyne Audio F1-5 – Conclusion

That pleases the tester – the Fyne Audio F1-5 is a loudspeaker with its own character. Mastering and studio tools, party loudspeakers, blender, “men’s box” – no, it’s not that. What he promises and keeps, however: long-term enjoyment and complete immersion in music. In small and medium-sized rooms and at levels well above room volume, a slightly softened, pleasantly “velvety” sound is created in the treble, which at no time spoils the enjoyment through insubordinate harshness or cold analysis. Music that is not perfectly produced can also be enjoyed via the F1-5 – and the treble control on the front offers a practical option for fine-tuning the overall tonal character of the loudspeaker to suit your taste.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but at second sight the F1-5 really did spark a great passion in me. A generous warm-up phase is essential for this – and careful matching with the electronics being played is also recommended, especially with regard to the amplifier. A tube that is not too weak in terms of wattage seems ideal to me as a player, but a somewhat more “casual” transistor amplifier (Valvet: dream pairing!) also provides a lot of fun. And there is a bonus point for the fantastic workmanship and the high-quality design: the F1-5 are real gems.

Characteristics Fne Audio F1-5:

  • The frequency plot doesn’t really look smooth as a ruler. The F1-5 is not a studio monitor, but rewards you with extremely stress-free listening – for many hours.
    • The bass range fades out quite clearly from around 50-60 Hertz, but a slight emphasis on the upper bass makes it possible for the inclined listener to still have a “complete” feeling at moderate listening volumes.
    • Tonally seamlessly connected to both the bass and treble ranges, balanced, not protruding, yet at the same time very clean and finely resolved, the mid-range band, which traces voices and acoustic instruments in an enchantingly authentic way.
    • Rather mild and slightly darkened in the high-frequency range, the resolution here is not as good as in the mid-range.
  • Rough dynamics inconspicuous and appropriate to size: It can rock, but it’s not a party box.
  • Finely dynamic, nimble on the move, background noise, breathing and puffing, flageolets, shakers, silver drums: that comes across as very authentic.
  • The stereo stage is something for lovers of extensive room flooding: the stage is completely detached from the loudspeakers, sound sources can be precisely located in width and depth – and manifest themselves amazingly realistically and vividly.

Facts:

  • Model: Fyne Audio F1-5
  • Category: Two-way bass reflex compact speakers
  • Price: 3,799 euros
  • Sensitivity: 87dB/W/m
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
  • Dimensions & Weight: 32.1 x 18.6 x 28.9 cm (HxWxD), 5.7 kg/each
  • Finish: high-gloss walnut
  • Miscellaneous: Downfiring Traktrix bass reflex port, treble adjustment (2.5 – 5 kHz; +/-3 dB)
  • Warranty: 2 years, 7 years upon registration

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