Dacron stuffing, taking up about half of the line’s interior volume, is used to preferentially attenuate standing waves higher in frequency than the quarter-wave fundamental. Jim Salk relates that as far as he’s been able to determine, Bud Fried preferred wool, but that listening tests did not find significant audible differences between wool and Dacron. The speaker ships with a spiked footer assembly that attaches to the bottom of the cabinet and provides a firm footing on carpeting. The effective acoustic crossover slopes are fourth order at 2.8kHz and are achieved by using series second-order electrical networks. The drivers are arranged in a D’Appolitto MTM configuration for improved vertical dispersion. Driver integration is quite good, especially considering the task at hand of mating 7" woofers to a 3⁄4" tweeter. The midrange is slightly emphasized relative to the upper mids, which serves female voice well. Although the tweeter can soak up fair amounts of power, and is capable of excellent speed and treble finesse, some compression was evident during the scaling of loud passages. Bass extension measured flat to 40Hz, though, at least in my room, the bass balance was slightly uneven, with emphasis centered on the midbass band at the expense of the upper bass. In general, resolution of bass lines was excellent, with tight control and ample rhythmic finesse. In bass punch, the Fried Tower easily eclipsed the headroom of the SongTower.
Fried Tower’s measured impedance minima are 4 ohms at 200Hz and 2.7 ohms at 2.7kHz, the latter minimum being crossover related. That leaves the door wide open for power-amplifier/source-impedance interactions at these impedance minima. For example, switching from a solid-sate power amp with a source impedance under 0.1 ohms to a tube amp with a source impedance of 1.6 ohms resulted in about a 1dB reduction in SPL near these minima. The audible result was a lean upper-bass range and an upper-midrange dip that shifted soprano and violin tonality toward a darker and coarser timbre than the real thing.
What you ultimately think of this speaker will be a strong function of the partnering power amp, the safest bet being an amp with a high damping factor. When I asked Jim Salk for amp recommendations he mentioned an inexpensive option such as the Emotiva XPA-2, several of Frank Van Alstine’s designs, and the BAT VK600. To that list I can safely add the expensive Lamm Audio M1.2 Reference monoblocks and the affordable PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium integrated amp operated in triode mode with a pair of KT120. Even with an optimal power-amp choice, the Tower is positively not a “flame thrower,” meaning a bright-sounding speaker capable of scorching one’s eyebrows. Its presentation tends to be concert-hall-like with the treble taking a bit of a backseat to the midrange.
My preferred toe-in angle was with the tweeter pointing toward the listening seat—otherwise the integration between the drivers suffered in the upper midrange. Image outlines were tightly focused and easy to pinpoint within the confines of a transparent and nicely layered soundstage. The Peerless Nomex cone woofers acquitted themselves extremely well. I was surprised by this woofer’s level of midrange clarity and ability to reproduce clean and pure harmonic textures. Resolving low-level detail in a multitrack mix was child’s play—no strain involved in picking out pan-pot effects and vocal overdubs. Spec-wise this woofer may not look particularly impressive, but it delivered the sonic goodies. Toward the end of the review period, I coupled the Fried Tower with my upgraded Leak Stereo 20 amplifier that had been modified by Stu Remington to operate in pentode mode. Within the Leak’s power limitations of about 12Wpc, this combo turned out to be a match made in heaven resulting in exquisitely sweet midrange textures and a clear and precise top end.
As Jim Salk says, “The process of trying to build on a legend is both interesting and challenging. As we continue our work, our goal is to eventually get as close to Bud’s definition of the ideal loudspeaker as possible.” The Bud Fried Tower undoubtedly does justice to his legacy and does so at an affordable price point that should attract music lovers and audiophiles alike. The Bud Fried Tower not only earns a no-brainer thumbs-up recommendation at its price point, but I find it to be competitive with any box speaker I’ve evaluated under $6k. I’ve enjoyed its company over a lengthy review period and would advise you give it a serious audition.
SPECS & PRICING
Frequency response: 35Hz–20KHz (+/-3dB)
Sensitivity: 88dB 2.83V/1m
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Minimum recommended amplification: 35Wpc tube/50Wpc solid-state
Weight: 58 lbs. each
Dimensions: 8.5" x 45" x 14"
40 West Howard St, Suite 204
Pontiac, MI 48342
Lamm Audio M1.2 Reference monoblocks, PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium Integrated amp, PAOLI 60M monoblocks with Curcio upgrade, Leak Stereo 20 with Stu Remington upgrade; EAR DAC, Sony XA-5400 SACD player with ModWright Truth modification; Kuzma Reference turntable; Kuzma Stogi Reference 313 VTA tonearm; Clearaudio Da Vinci V2 MC phono cartridge; Pass Labs XP-25 phono stage; Pass Labs XP-30 line preamplifier; FMS Nexus-2, Wire World, and Kimber KCAG interconnects; Acoustic Zen Hologram speaker cable; Sound Application power line conditioners