Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Although Fyne Audio was founded in Scotland only three years ago, in 2017, they boast that their team has, collectively, “over 200 years’ experience” in all aspects of loudspeaker design and manufacture. Their website offers few details, but it’s my understanding that the design team mostly comprises people who used to work for Tannoy, plus a few from other UK speaker makers. A quick glance at their various models makes it obvious that not only do Fyne speakers pack a lot of leading-edge tech, they look the parts of high-end speakers.

Fyne Audio

The five F500 models comprise Fyne’s least-expensive speakers that include their IsoFlare point-source driver technology: a tweeter with a unique waveguide, coaxially mounted at the center of a midrange-woofer cone. These models are (all prices per pair in USD/CDN, except as noted): the subject of this review, the F500 two-way minimonitor ($895/$1195), supplied to us by Canadian distributor Gramophone; two 2.5-way towers, the F501 ($1795/$2295) and F502 ($2495/$3150); a premium edition of the F502 with some different parts, the F502SP ($4995/$6500); and the F500C, a 2.5-way center speaker ($745/$895 each).

Description

The Fyne F500 measures 12.8”H x 7.8”W x 12.5”D and weighs 16.1 pounds. Its overall shape is of a rectilinear box, but its front baffle is slightly convex, and its unique base commands attention -- Fyne calls it the BassTrax Tractrix diffuser, and it’s not there merely for looks (see below). The F500 is available in a satin finish of Black Oak or Dark Oak, or, for $80/$100 USD/CDN more per pair, Piano Gloss Black, or the Piano Gloss White of my review samples. The quality of fit’n’finish is above the norm for $895/pair -- the gloss paint, subtle curves, and lack of visible joins exude high-end quality.

Fyne has squeezed a lot of cutting-edge technology into these little cabinets. The 6” IsoFlare driver is composed of a multifiber midrange-woofer cone mounted on a cast-aluminum chassis and, coaxially mounted in that cone’s throat, a 1” titanium-dome tweeter. The tweeter’s neodymium magnet vents to a rear chamber that, per Fyne, puts its low-frequency resonances well below the crossover frequency of 1.7kHz. In addition, Fyne claims that the unique geometry of the tweeter’s waveguide -- several small fins radiating out from the dome’s apex and ending at the inner edge of the cone’s central hole -- avoids internal reflections and results in a flat frequency response.

Fyne Audio

The F500’s downfiring bass port mates to the BassTrax Tractrix profile diffuser. This, says Fyne, in addition to serving as the speaker’s physical base, converts the plain wave energy to an expanding, spherical, 360° wavefront, disseminating energy uniformly throughout the room. This diffuser comprises three thin, horizontal plates of black metal, secured with spacers. Fyne claims that this loading system also broadens the tuning frequency to reduce cone excursion, and acts as a muffler, blocking standing waves produced by the main internal port.

The F500’s specified frequency response is 45Hz-34kHz, “-6dB typical in room”; its sensitivity is 89dB/2.83V/m, and its nominal impedance is 8 ohms. On the rear panel, two pairs of high-quality, five-way binding posts accommodate biwiring (jumpers included). The F500 is backed by a generous warranty of seven years.

Setup

The two Fyne F500s came well packed in a single box, with an instruction manual titled Fyne Advice and two magnetically attached grilles of black cloth. I set the Fynes atop the 24”-high stands that came with my Focal Sopra No1s, in the spots speakers usually occupy in my room: with their rear panels 23” from the front wall, and describing a 9’ equilateral triangle with my listening chair. After a few days to break the speakers in, but before sitting down to seriously listen to them, I experimented with toe-in angle to hear if my usual 15° or so would be optimal. I thought the sound was a bit too sibilant at 15°, but that was mitigated -- with, I was pleasantly surprised to hear, no loss in imaging specificity -- with less than 10° of toe-in. So that’s where they stayed. Fyne Audio claims that the F500s produce outstanding stereo imaging even when listened to off axis, and they did. The speaker’s smooth, wide dispersion gave me more freedom to experiment with toe-in angle to get just the right amount of treble response.

Fyne Audio

My room is a relatively small (15’L x 12’W) space dedicated to listening. It’s treated with broadband absorption at the first-reflection points on the sidewalls and on the long wall behind the speakers, as well as with homemade bass traps in the front corners. The F500s were connected to my NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier with my own homemade speaker cables, which have conductors of 12-gauge, oxygen-free copper terminated with locking banana plugs. The source component was a Bluesound Node streamer and internal DAC, connected to the NAD’s line-level inputs with AmazonBasics interconnects (RCA). I used the Node as a Roon endpoint, controlled by a Surface Pro 6 laptop computer running Windows 10 and Roon Core 1.7 to render tunes from Tidal and FLAC files ripped from CDs to my NAS.

Sound

I began my serious listening with “Too Real,” from Adam Cohen’s We Go Home (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Rezolute/Tidal), and was first struck by the F500’s honesty and transparency. From the opening twangs of the acoustic guitars, one to the right and off in the distance, the other farther front at center left, I could hear no fingerprint of a speaker cabinet. Each pluck of string had bite, and a rich and detailed reverberation. The whacked snare drum at center stage was tangibly real -- I felt I could hear the textures of the skins. When Cohen’s slow, expressive voice enters at 0:26, I heard such subtle details as the pursing of his lips and his deep inbreaths. His voice also had commanding presence -- he seemed to be singing in my room, just behind the plane described by the speakers’ frontmost vertical edges. In the chorus of this track the imaging and separation, too, were superb, the F500s clearly delineating the subtle backing singer positioned just behind Cohen.

The next thing that struck me about the F500s -- and I heard this throughout my time with them -- was their lack of soundstage height. In particular, when I focused on lead singers, whose voices are typically mixed dead center, I found that their aural images never rose much higher than the tops of the speaker cabinets. Through most two-way, stand-mounted speakers, I hear Cohen’s voice emanate from a spherical image clearly above and just behind the fronts and tops of the speaker; through the Fynes, his voice seemed to emerge from a space near or around the tops of the cabinets, but never above them.

Next up was “Nightswimming,” from R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People (16/44.1 FLAC, Warner Bros.) -- a simple, well-recorded track with piano and strings accompanying Michael Stipe’s anguished and beautiful singing. The plunks of the opening piano figure, spread across the right side of the soundstage, were convincingly reproduced by the F500s, with authoritative leading edges and long decays that made the instrument sound real. Overall, what I heard was clean and transparent, with no hint of cabinet coloration. I did wish for a bit more weight at the lower end of the keyboard, but that was it. Stipe’s voice, too, sounded eerily real, with tangible presence, but, like the sound of the piano, was just slightly lean. At 1:06, when the violins enter behind and to the left of Stipe, the F500s reproduced them with superb detail and vibrancy, without sounding sharp or irritating. Another impressive aspect of the Fyne’s sound was its cohesion: I never heard that 1.7kHz handoff of midrange to tweeter. The sound had a uniform rightness -- no voice or instrument ever sounded disjointed. The F500s sounded like a pair of single-driver point sources -- mission accomplished, Fyne.

Fyne Audio

I next cued up an all-time favorite: “Til I Am Myself Again,” from Blue Rodeo’s Casino (16/44.1 FLAC, WEA). Its nice, quick tempo usually gets my toes tapping and puts a smile on my face, and the little Fynes didn’t disappoint. The F500s provided taut, quick-paced bass that really energized this music. I felt satisfying punch from the kick drum, nimble speed from the bass guitar. Jim Cuddy’s voice was reproduced with authoritative presence and transparency, dead center between the speakers. The frenetically plucked electric guitars front and center on the stage, and farther behind and to the right, came through with bite, speed, articulation, and detail. The gentle hi-hat and cymbal work at hard right and center left was smooth and delicate, extended but not accentuated. The delineation of instruments was also excellent -- despite the congestion inherent in this mix, the F500s let me easily ascertain the positions of instruments and singers on the stage, from left to right and from front to back. Other than the low soundstage height mentioned above, the Fynes nailed this track, and completely immersed me in a song I really enjoy.

After a few weeks spent with the Fynes, it dawned on me that I could raise that low soundstage by tilting the speakers up a bit. I rummaged around in my basement for something to use as shims under the fronts of the speakers’ bases, and settled on the little shelves that came with the IKEA Gnedby CD storage towers I was no longer using. I estimate that I angled the F500s upward 6-7° -- their driver axes now fired just over my head.

Didn’t work. Singers sounded just as low as before. I removed the shims and slouched down in my listening chair, to lower the height of my ears relative to the Fynes’ drivers. Didn’t work either.

Fyne vs. Focal

I compared the Fyne F500s with my Focal Chora 806 minimonitors, after first matching their levels using pink noise and an SPL meter. I’d recently reviewed and bought the Focals to serve as my reference affordable stand-mounted speakers. The Chora 806 retails for $990/pair USD -- not far from the F500’s price of $895/pair USD.

The first and most obvious difference was in soundstage height. With R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” the F500s conjured up the illusion of Michael Stipe seated at the piano; through the Focals, Stipe appeared to be standing just in front of the piano. This stark difference between the speakers was apparent with everything I played. I strongly preferred the Focals’ higher soundstage, but then again, I find the illusion of soundstage height particularly compelling -- even more transfixing than width and depth. I like a pair of speakers that can project the aural image of a singer a clean 2’ or 3’ above the top of the speakers -- assuming, of course, that the recording contains such information to begin with.

The F500s edged out the Choras in transparency, as I heard when I focused on the piano solo that begins “Nightswimming.” The Fynes produced sharper transients at the leading edges of notes, followed by detailed decays that were freer of the speaker cabinets than was the sound of the Focals. In short, Stipe’s piano sounded slightly more realistic through the F500s, despite the fact that individual keystrokes were slightly fuller through the Focals. Conversely, the Focals better separated aural images of instruments on the stage, providing more of a sense of space: the piano was slightly farther to the right of Stipe’s voice, the strings farther behind and farther left.

Fyne Audio

In direct comparisons of these speakers’ bass responses with “Rolling in the Deep,” from Adele’s 21 (16/44.1 FLAC, Columbia), I heard a bit more impact and extension from the Focals. However, the Fynes’ bass sounded faster, with a quicker start and stop of each kick-drum stroke. Using my miniDSP UMIK-1 microphone, I measured the F500s’ in-room -3dB point and got 37Hz -- as close as dammit to the Choras’ 38Hz. I guess measurements don’t tell the whole story -- the differences I heard were bigger than 1Hz can account for.

With respect to the reproduction of voices, I preferred Adele’s through the Focals -- it seemed to float higher above and freer from the rest of the mix compared to the Fynes, with a bit more presence and body. In terms of treble extension, it was very close, but in the crescendo at 1:00, I heard through the Focals more extension, more dispersion, and a hair more refinement in the cymbal crash at left.

For a comparison of the speakers’ reproductions of male voices I turned to “These Arms of Mine,” from Colin James’s National Steel (16/44.1 FLAC, Rhino). The highlight of this track is James’s voice, mixed at center left and accompanied only by acoustic and bass guitars and subtle drumming. The Fynes delivered his poignant singing with a bit more realism and transparency than did the Focals -- even at high volumes, I heard zero cabinet colorations from the Fynes, but an occasional hint of them from the Focals. But the Focals managed to reproduce James’s voice with more body -- a fuller, meatier sound that I found more pleasing than its sound through the Fynes. Again, my biggest complaint about the Fyne F500s, as superficial as it may be to some readers, was James’s shorter aural image.

Conclusion

For a speaker of its size and price, Fyne Audio’s F500 did very little wrong and most things right. In my room, the F500s excelled at detail retrieval and realism, providing me with a degree of transparency I’d expect from speakers costing much more than $895 USD. Their sound was neutral overall, with a cohesive, palpable midrange. The bass was quick and taut, and the top end was well balanced, extended, and delicate, never shrill or dull. While the coaxially mounted tweeter can likely be credited for that sense of coherence, it may also have been the source of my main complaint: a lack of soundstage height, especially with voices.

I also liked that the Fyne Audio F500 looks far more expensive than it is -- at least, my review samples did in their premium Piano Gloss White finish. Whether you want to spend the extra $80/pair for that finish or just $895/pair for the standard finish, I wholeheartedly recommend that you add the F500 to your list of minimonitors to audition. For under a grand, it’s one of the fynest speakers out there.

. . . Diego Estan
diego@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers -- Focal Chora 806 and Sopra No1
  • Subwoofers -- SVS SB-4000 (2)
  • Integrated amplifier -- NAD C 316BEE
  • Power amplifier -- McIntosh Laboratory MC302
  • Crossover -- custom Marchand Electronics XM446XLR-A (between preamp and amp)
  • Preamplifier-DAC -- McIntosh Laboratory C47
  • Room correction -- miniDSP DDRC-22D with Dirac Live 2.0 (between digital sources and DAC)
  • Digital Sources -- Rotel RCD-991 CD player, Bluesound Node streamer, Surface Pro 6 laptop computer running Windows 10, Roon Core
  • Analog source -- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
  • Speaker cables -- homemade, with conductors of 12AWG oxygen-free copper, terminated with locking banana plugs
  • Analog interconnects -- AmazonBasics (RCA), Monoprice Premier balanced (XLR)
  • Digital link -- AmazonBasics optical (TosLink)

Fyne Audio F500 Loudspeakers
Price: $895 USD per pair, $975 in gloss or white ($1195/$1295 CDN).
Warranty: Seven years parts and labor.

Fyne Audio Limited
Grovewood Business Centre, Suite 42
Strathclyde Business Park
Bellshill, Lanarkshire ML4 3NQ
Scotland, UK

E-mail: enquiries@fyneaudio.com
Website: www.fyneaudio.com