Small two way speakers have been around for quite some time now. Once known as bookshelf speakers, people actually did put these speakers on book shelves. You could have your system in a neat package that had a very high wife acceptance factor. The sonic results of this practice were another matter altogether. The practice of putting speakers on shelves quickly stopped once good dedicated speaker stands became available and people realized the sonic advantages of removing their speakers from shelves.
Anyone wishing to have anything approaching full range sound however, often resorted to “shoe-horning” a pair of large floor standers into rooms that were really too small to properly accommodate them. Apartment dwellers often wound up sharing the bass from these large speakers with their neighbors. More often than not, the neighbors were not appreciative of the situation. The alternative was to live with the “book shelvers” and their highly compromised sound.
Fast forward to the present and, we have two-way stand mounted speakers that can cost upward of five figures. Correspondingly, the sound quality of small speakers has improved far beyond what anyone would have thought possible in the recent past.
John “Fritz” Heiler, the designer and owner of Fritz speakers, has taken a somewhat different approach in building and marketing their speakers. The company is dedicated to producing very high quality speakers at very affordable prices. These relatively low prices are not achieved by cutting corners or using cheap parts. On the contrary, Fritz uses the highest quality parts in his designs. The drivers are sourced from companies such as Vifa/Scanspeak, Morel, Seas & Peerless. These manufacturers also provide the drivers for many of the highest end speaker manufactures in the business today. The Carbon 7 crossover is a First Order hand built unit made of very high quality parts that are matched to less than 1% tolerances. There are no caps or resistors in the circuit.
The cabinets are all hand finished and are made from furniture grade woods; custom finishes are also available. Measuring only 16”X9”X12” these speakers are simple yet very handsome in appearance. At thirty pounds apiece, it’s apparent that they are very solidly built. The overall fit and finish is excellent. The main reason Fritz is able to offer such high quality speakers at such low prices is because he sells them factory direct. Consumers are able to realize substantial savings due to the lack of dealer markups and distributer costs.
I haven’t had much experience with small speakers in my system. I have however, been most favorably impressed with the Levy Acoustics speakers. While these are stand mounted units, they are not exactly what I would call small. Given that, their performance is as close to full range as you will come in a speaker that size and they rival or exceed many floor standers.
A friend of mine Paul Mah, called me up one day and told me that I had to check out the Fritz speakers. It was easy to tell that he was very impressed with these speakers. As I said before, small speakers have been improving steadily over the years but, after all, these were not mega-buck speakers and they were quite small. My first thoughts were, given their size and the fact that they were relatively inexpensive, how good could they be? Well, I was soon to find out.
I soon had a pair of the Carbon 7s set up in my listening space. I placed them about three feet from the rear wall and about five feet apart with a slight toe-in. This position seemed to yield the best sonic results.
The first thing I noticed about the sound of the Carbon 7s was their tonal balance. From top to bottom, the sound was even and very well integrated. Due in part to their small size and the simplicity of their design, the Carbon 7s were very good at disappearing. They never really called attention to themselves, other than their surprisingly good sound quality.
The small size of the Carbon 7s contributes to their ability throw a realistic sound stage. They floated a wide stage that was well populated from side to side. Depth was quite good considering the limitations of my room in this area. Images were somewhat rounded rather than razor sharp overall but, I would say that the sound stage was very natural.
The bass extended below 50 Hz which was quite surprising. There was no attempt to artificially extend the bass below the speaker’s abilities therefore; it was very natural and pleasing. On Ray Brown’s “Teach me Tonight from his album, “Solar Energy”, [Pure Audiophile Records –A-002], the Carbon 7s are not able to reproduce the big full bass that is in the recording. However, the pitch and timbre of the bass is very good and is well within the speakers’ performance range. There is enough bass output for the performance to remain convincing. These are not the speakers for head-bangers, heavy rock or Reggae enthusiasts; they should be looking at much larger speakers. Overall, I would rate the bass performance of the Carbon 7s to be quite good.
The mid-range (all important), is in my opinion, where the Carbon 7s really shine. Voices and instruments are presented without a hint of edge or glare. Female vocals are natural sounding and compelling. Claire Martin’s version of “When the Sun Comes Out” [Honest – HON CD-5028] is a good example of what these speakers can do. Her voice is clear and open, with the color and vibrancy of her vocals intact.
Miles Davis’ muted trumpet solos on track 8 “someday My Prince will Come” from the album of the same name,[Columbia Legacy CK – 65919], has the correct amount of brassiness and bite. The timbre is full and rich which suites me just fine. The Carbon 7s render a good representation of real instruments.
The treble is extended but not over extended. Case in point is Art Blakey’s album “A Night at Birdland” [Blue Note CDP 7465202]. On every song on this album, Blakey’s big cymbals are clearly diminished in their size and intensity. I believe that this is a design trade off to avoid the harshness that you could would probably encounter be trying to extend the treble response too far.
On larger scale orchestral works, the size of the Carbon 7 proves to be a limitation. This is in no way unexpected. Aaron Copland’s “Third Symphony” [Reference Recording- RR93CD] lacks the bigness and impact that that much larger speakers are able to provide. All of the detail and music is there but on a much smaller scale.
The Fritz Carbon 7 speakers are intelligently designed and extremely well build. I would characterize the overall tonal quality of these speakers as somewhat on the warm side, this makes a large contribution to these speakers very musical performance.
Anyone who is in the market for a very high quality small stand mount speaker must do yourself a favor and audition the Fritz Carbon 7s. If you overlook these speakers, you could pay a lot more money and wind up with a lot less performance. The Carbon 7s are highly recommended.
The Fritz Carbon 7 Loudspeaker
Manufactured by Fritz Loudspeakers
Tel 310 379 8190
Source: Manufacturer loan