The F501 is another Fyne ef­fort from this new speaker brand

Well made and fin­ished; in­ter­est­ing tech­ni­cal as­pects Re­quire ju­di­cious sys­tem-match­ing

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Never heard of Fyne Au­dio? Don’t feel bad or in any way out of the loop; this is a very new com­pany.

And don’t be too down on what, at first glance, looks like a rather laboured brand name – this new loud­speaker man­u­fac­turer’s Scot­tish back­ground means the word ‘Fyne’ can be le­git­i­mately de­ployed with­out it be­ing a pun that might soon grow te­dious.

Fyne Au­dio has ar­rived fully formed, with two com­plete se­ries of speak­ers (the F300 en­try-level range and the F500 range from which these F501 are taken) plus a ‘state­ment’ (for which read ‘ex­pen­sive’ ) speaker, the F1Š10.

The F500 range con­sists of the F500 stand­mount­ing de­sign (plus match­ing stands), two pairs of floor­standers (these F501s and the big­ger, more ex­pen­sive F502s), a cen­tre speaker (F500C) and the F500FX dipole in­tended for use as rear speak­ers in a sur­round-sound set-up. And Fyne has a range of three sub­woofers, too.

That’s a thor­ough de­but for a com­pany start­ing from scratch. But it’s safe to say the F501s look, feel and, most cru­cially, sound more like the prod­uct of a com­pany build­ing on years of ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise.

In­trigu­ing combo

At 98cm tall, 20cm wide and 32cm deep, the F501s are of un­re­mark­able di­men­sions for a prod­uct of this type. In terms of build qual­ity and fin­ish, they’re ex­actly what a £1200 floor­stander needs to be – they’re stur­dily made, from the chunky lock­ing spikes be­neath the sub­stan­tial plinth all the way along the gen­tly curved Mdf-be­neathreal-wood-ve­neer cab­i­nets.

The fin­ish is smooth and seam­less – the ve­neer feels as good as it looks, and the shiny sil­ver band above the port sys­tem at the bot­tom of the cab­i­net is sub­tle rather than showy.

On a tech­ni­cal level, the F501s are an in­trigu­ing com­bi­na­tion of the pre­dictable and the un­usual. The broad strokes are pretty pre­dictable: a two-and-a-half way de­sign us­ing a 25mm tweeter, 15cm mid/bass driver and 15cm bass driver, nom­i­nal im­ped­ance of 8 ohms and 90db sen­si­tiv­ity won’t raise any eyebrows at this kind of money.

Tech­ni­cal as­sur­ance

But Fyne Au­dio has brought some in­ter­est­ing think­ing to bear. The tweeter – a highly rigid ti­ta­nium dome – sits in the throat of the mid/bass driver in an ar­range­ment Fyne calls Isoflare. This kind of point source de­sign, in­tended to pre­serve the time-align­ment and the stereo imag­ing of the sound, is not un­heard of – but it demon­strates the sort of tech­ni­cal as­sur­ance start-up com­pa­nies aren’t nec­es­sar­ily known for.

The big­ger driv­ers are mul­ti­fi­bre pa­per cones, with un­usu­ally sculpted sur­rounds. Fyne Au­dio calls this de­sign Fyne­flute, and claims it of­fers more ef­fi­cient dis­si­pa­tion of cone en­ergy and re­duc­tion of un­wanted res­o­nances as a con­se­quence.

And, at the bot­tom of the cab­i­net, Fyne has em­ployed tech­nol­ogy so sin­gu­lar its patent is pend­ing. Called ‘Basstrax Trac­trix Di™user Sys­tem’ (we can’t help think­ing Fyne Au­dio got a lit­tle car­ried away there – try say­ing it fast), it com­bines a fairly con­ven­tional down­ward-šring port above a care­fully prošled, con­i­cal di™user.

This is de­signed to con­vert the stan­dard plain-wave port en­ergy into a 360-de­gree wave front; the port’s re­sponse is dis­persed more evenly and the speaker should be less picky about its po­si­tion in your room.

Vis­ual piz­zazz

All of this low-fre­quency reg­u­la­tion takes place be­hind some slat­ted vents, which also add a lit­tle vis­ual piz­zazz to the oth­er­wise nec­es­sar­ily pre­dictable aes­thetic. The F501s’ grilles are, like many a ri­val de­sign, held in place by mag­nets be­neath the wood ve­neer. Un­like many ri­vals, though, Fyne has con­sid­ered what hap­pens to the grilles once you’ve whipped them off – the rear of the cab­i­net has mag­nets, too (as well as chunky bi­wiring speaker ca­ble ter­mi­nals), so the grilles can be safely and con­ve­niently stored.

Free sound

Af­ter the usual leisurely run­ning-in pe­riod, we get the F501s po­si­tioned just so in our lis­ten­ing room. The thought­ful Fyne ap­proach makes the speak­ers pretty for­giv­ing of room po­si­tion – but we find the F501s to be hap­pi­est out in some free space, and toed in just a frac­tion to­wards our lis­ten­ing po­si­tion. In this, they’re no dif­fer­ent to the ma­jor­ity of loud­speak­ers.

“Tim­ing and in­te­gra­tion are ex­cel­lent, and the sym­pa­thetic re­spon­sive­ness of the mu­si­cians in ques­tion is never un­der­stated or over­looked”

At this sort of money, loud­speak­ers need to be able to turn their hands to any type of mu­sic with­out alarms – but we have to start some­where, so we give the F501s the chance to show off with Diana Krall’s ver­sion of Al­most Blue. This is a high-gloss hi-fi record­ing, with painstak­ingly recorded pi­ano and close-mic’d vo­cal sup­ported by stand-up bass, brushed drum kit and eco­nom­i­cal gui­tar – and the F501s ab­so­lutely lap it up.

Co­her­ent sound

Ini­tial im­pres­sions are of a broad, well-de­fined sound stage, solid stereo fo­cus and a lav­ish amount of de­tail. No nu­ance of Krall’s phras­ing, no creak of dou­ble-bass fret­board, no lin­ger­ing de­cay of a pi­ano note is ig­nored. But while they’re bor­der­line-fa­nat­i­cal about lay­ing out the last scrap of in­for­ma­tion, the F501s don’t sac­ri­fice the co­her­ence or unity of a

per­for­mance in the process. Tim­ing and in­te­gra­tion are ex­cel­lent, and the sym­pa­thetic re­spon­sive­ness of the mu­si­cians in ques­tion is never un­der­stated or over­looked.

Uni­fied tonal­ity

Up­ping the as­sertive­ness quo­tient more than some­what with a switch to Burn With Me by DJ Koze al­lows the F501s to show off their beau­ti­fully even, con­sis­tent tonal­ity. The speak­ers’ clev­erly judged crossover points mean, from the bot­tom of the fre­quency range to the top, there’s no no­tice­able gear-change to the F501s’ de­liv­ery. This uni­fied tonal­ity, along with the sweet tim­ing and trans­parency of their sound, makes the pic­ture the Fyne Au­dios paint ab­so­lutely con­vinc­ing.

Mov­ing to the Deutsche Gram­mophon record­ing of Rhap­sody In Blue by the Los Angeles Phil­har­monic un­der Leonard Bern­stein al­lows the F501s to demon­strate again not only their fine grasp of tim­ing (Bern­stein takes the LAP through at an ec­cen­tric and awk­ward tempo, but the speak­ers have not a mo­ment’s trou­ble ty­ing it all to­gether) but also their dy­namic prow­ess. Rhap­sody is full of at­ten­tion­seek­ing shifts from ru­mi­na­tive pi­ano to full-or­ches­tra out­rage, and the F501s han­dle each with con­fi­dence. They snap into the lead­ing edges of notes, alive with well-con­trolled drive and at­tack, and exit with sim­i­lar alacrity. And they put some sig­nif­i­cant dis­tance be­tween ‘very very quiet’ and ‘very loud in­deed’.

Mu­si­cal truth

No mat­ter the stern­ness of the chal­lenges we pose to these speak­ers, they prove un­faze­able. Lotte Kest­ner’s Se­cret Lon­gi­tude shows the F501s can de­liver all the char­ac­ter and emo­tion of a vo­cal per­for­mance; The Grit In The Pearl by Clark demon­strates low-fre­quency punch, speed and body; The Byrds’ You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere re­veals top-end crispness.

We’ll con­cede the F501s’ tre­ble re­sponse is ab­so­lutely as con­fi­dent and as­sertive as it can be with­out be­com­ing hard or tir­ing. A de­gree of sys­tem-match­ing is al­ways nec­es­sary, but in this in­stance it’s im­per­a­tive – the Fyne Au­dios’ top end isn’t im­pos­si­ble to pro­voke. Equally, while the thrilling ra­pid­ity of their low-fre­quency re­sponse might (on first ac­quain­tance) be con­fused with a lack of ex­ten­sion, leaner elec­tron­ics are prob­a­bly best avoided.

Bold state­ment

And while we’re lay­ing out our few caveats, we don’t think the F501s are all that tol­er­ant of back­ground-mu­sic lev­els of vol­ume. They re­main co­gent and lis­ten­able to at low vol­umes, but their vi­brancy and ex­cite­ment comes to the fore once the vol­ume con­trol nudges above ‘po­lite’. But they’re such an enthralling lis­ten once the wick is prop­erly lit, we doubt you’ll want to hear them at back­ground lev­els any­way.

It’s ob­vi­ously a bold move to launch a loud­speaker into the sort of com­pe­ti­tion the F501s are go­ing to face – but then it’s equally ob­vi­ous Fyne Au­dio has no prob­lem with act­ing boldly. The F501s are an ex­tremely con­fi­dent call­ing card.

There are chunky bi­wiring ter­mi­nals on the back of the speaker

Best lis­tened to at higher vol­ume rather than at ‘back­ground­mu­sic‘ lev­els

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