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November 2011
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Fritz Speakers Carbon 7
An artisan-crafted speaker that is capable of riveting you to your favorite music.
Review By Clarke Robinson

 

Fritz Speakers Carbon 7  I first heard of Fritz Speakers at the CAS 2011 (California Audio Show) in July. The Carbon 7s were playing in one of the best sounding rooms of the show, and I struck up a conversation with Fritz himself at an after-show get together he and his showroom-mates were hosting. We hit it off immediately, which will come as no surprise to anyone who's met him...chatty and amiable, Fritz gives the impression that he could hit it off with just about anybody. He's also got a ton of great stories about the audio industry, the music industry, and about building speakers...something he has been doing for a long time.

Fritz Heiler is a modern American artisan. He started out as a cabinet maker, but a day spent at a local audio dealer looking at speakers inspired him to make his own. Then he started making them for friends. Then friends of friends. Now, almost 40 years later, he is still at it, and he's still a one-man operation, designing and building everything he sells.

Fritz stars out the design process with cabinet size and crossover values determined by loudspeaker modeling software. He then meticulously tweaks the crossover -- one part at a time, one value at a time -- by hand and ear alone. The subject of this review, the Carbon 7s, feature a series crossover which, as I understand it, allows for a very low parts count that maintains the sonic purity you might find in a first-order crossover, but provides a much steeper curve that enables each driver to "focus" on what it does best. A series crossover is not a magic bullet...it still requires careful matching with the drivers, and the ScanSpeak 8545K mid-woofer and ScanSpeak 9500 tweeter seem perfectly suited.

Of course, none of that would matter if it didn't prove itself in the listening, but prove itself it does: the Carbon 7s are a true music lover's speaker. They do not reach out and grab you in an in-your-face audiophile way, they more seduce your with an irresistibly inviting, smooth presentation. More like a warm campfire than a firework show, but did you ever notice how you can't look away from campfire? That's kind of how it is when the Carbon 7s are playing. "Just one more track..." I kept telling myself, long into the night.

While the Carbon 7s are definitely for those who want to enjoy, rather than analyze, their recordings, they don't have the overly sweet/syrupy tonality often associated with "musical" speakers. Highs are crisp, clear, and accurate: recordings with excessive sibilance, like the first few tracks on Emmylou Harris' Spyboy, still sound sibilant, although not as annoyingly so as they would be on a pair of ultra-linear monitors. Bright recordings, like Van Halen I, still sound bright, but also come across with all of the energy and impact that comes with an extended top end.

Bass on the Carbon 7s is extraordinary: they play very low for a speaker their size...test tones in my living room were audible below 30Hz. Of course, these are still stand-mounted speakers...they don't move a ton of air, and won't rattle your floorboards. Still, I kept them about four feet from the front wall, and never felt the need to turn my subwoofer on the entire time they were in my system.

Of course, music lives primarily in the midrange, and the midrange is not neglected in the Carbon 7s. I had an easy time finding music that sounded fabulous on them. Smaller groups are the thing (reproducing full-scale symphony orchestras is not a strength of any stand-mounted monitor), but even largish groups like the David Murray Octet, on their classic Black Saint album Home, sounded excellent, swinging madly with clear delineation between the band members. That said, the most magical moments I had with the Carbon 7s were with intimate recordings of duos, trios, and soloists.

 

Listening
Fritz Speakers Carbon 7First up was a new album by Norcal singer-songwriter Mokai. I'm not a huge fan of the "singer-songwriter" genre, but the album's two instrumental tracks, "Holy Guacamole" and "Hayes Street Blues", are worth the price of admission. Mokai is easily one of the most tasteful finger-pickers you've never heard..."Holy Guacamole" opens with a brisk, Spanish-style melody before taking off into a delightfully head-bopping groove, slapping the strings to create fantastic dynamic tension on a close-mic’ed Gibson J185. His virtuosic use of harmonics on "Hayes Street Blues", give the piece a spacious, atmospheric vibe that is gorgeously rendered on the Carbon 7s.

I love challenging, experimental music, and I find it makes excellent evaluation material for audio components: if I can be enthralled by music that is devoid of obvious hooks and grooves, the system must be doing something right. I recently picked up Historically Innocent and Sexually Indifferent, by Chicago-based improvisers the Fanlab Duo [Peira Records PM06]. Both members (Daniel Fandi on one channel and Brian Labycz on the other) play modular synthesizers, only occasionally using them to generate sounds normally associated with music. Sounds range from microscopic pops, clicks, and glitches to full-tilt washes of static and noise. However, if you listen closely, which is very easy to do with the Carbon 7s, their elaborate dialog becomes clear...each of these pieces is a dramatic ebb and flow of non-traditional sound, completely improvised live. The third track, "Your Dad is a Grandpa, Your Uncle is in Jail, Your Dog is an Orphan" may be the best piece I've found yet to introduce people to this type of music. It's fairly short, just under 6 minutes, and builds to a palpable climax before releasing into the closest thing to harmony the album has to offer (it is, at best, a Schoenbergian harmony, but a harmony nonetheless).

As my time with the Carbon 7s was winding down, ECM released the remarkable ­ECM [ECM 2211], a remix project for electronic music producer Max Loderbauer and greatest DJ in the world Ricardo Villalobos. Loderbauer and Villalobos were given full access to the ECM back catalog, and I must say, I'm impressed with their choices: recordings from Arvo Part, Louis Sclavis, John Abercrombie, and Christian Wallumrod (whose music I was previously unfamiliar with) all appear, along with several others. I must also say that the sonic results are unlike anything that has appeared in the oeuvre of any of the artists involved: nothing on here will be mistaken for the spacey breed of chamber jazz the label is typically known for, but this is no booty shaker, either. The more abstract tracks work the best: a stunning showcase for the Carbon 7s imaging ability, re: ECM opens with "Reblop", which tosses subtle electronic swirls and curlicues at you from every corner of the soundstage. Acoustic instruments (like Christian Wallumrod's piano) bubble to the surface as well, giving the feeling of walking through a forest late at night that's teeming with life you can't see. Mesmerizing.

 

Conclusion
Needless to say, I enjoyed having the Carbon 7s in my system. They are more expensive than the speakers I typically audition, but consider what you're paying for here: a unique, an artisan-crafted (in the USA) pair of speakers that is capable of riveting you to your favorite music for a lifetime. How much is too much for that? The best word I can come up with to describe the Carbon 7s, both their sound and their fit & finish, is "beautiful". I suppose beauty isn't for everyone, some might prefer "honest", but for those who feel they need a little beauty injected into their system (or their life), I highly recommend giving Fritz a call.

 

Associated Equipment
Marantz SA8003 SACD Player
Music Hall DAC25.3 USB DAC
Parasound Model 2100 Preamplifier
Parasound Model 2125 Amplifier
Listening room is approximately 13 feet wide and 25 feet long.
Acoustic treatments include wall-wall carpet, curtains, and a large overstuffed sofa.

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Two-way monitor speaker
Frequency Response: 39 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 3dB)
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal
Sensitivity: 87 dB/W/m
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 cooling, aluminum face plate.
Crossover: Series crossover without any capacitors or resistors in the circuit with the tweeter. Acoustic Reality Series Crossovers
Dimensions: 16 x 9 x 12 (HxWxD in inches)
Weight: 30 lbs. each
Recommended Power: 30 - 150 Watts RMS, without clipping 
Price: Starting at $1795 per pair

 

Company Information
Fritz Speakers
Voice: (310) 379-8190
Website: www.fritzspeakers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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