The F501 is another Fyne effort from this new speaker brand
Well made and finished; interesting technical aspects Require judicious system-matching
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 F110.
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.
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.
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 Diuser System’ (we can’t help thinking Fyne Audio got a little carried away there – try saying it fast), it combines a fairly conventional downward-ring port above a carefully proled, conical diuser.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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