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Fyne Audio F501 Loudspeaker

The story of Fyne Audio is underscored by the resolve to maintain an audio manufacturing base in Scotland. Tannoy was acquired by the international holding company Music Group in 2015, and by 2016 the new owners announced the decision to close the Scottish Tannoy factory at Coatbridge and move production to a new facility in China. This played a significant part in the motivation of a team of experienced ex-Tannoy employees to embark on a journey to start Fyne Audio. With financing in place, Fyne Audio was officially launched in January 2017. At the end of 2019, Fyne Audio had a manufacturing base near Glasgow in Scotland, where mid-to-high-end products are built. Affordable gear, including the entire F500 range, is manufactured in China to Fyne Audio’s exacting standards. These days, manufacturing in the East has become essential to staying competitive at entry-level price points. Product reception has been enthusiastic, and while the UK is a core market, distribution arrangements already span 50 countries. 

Similarities between the $1750-per-pair F501 and Tannoy’s Revolution XT6F loudspeaker are unmistakable, and probably not surprising, since they were designed by essentially the same technical teams. The obvious question that came to mind had to do with the actual differences between the Tannoy and Fyne implementations of the coaxial point-source technology. So, I reached out to Fyne Audio for answers. Fyne’s acoustics design was carried out by its technical director, Dr. Paul Mills, who has many years of experience in point-source driver design. He explained that while a time-aligned point-source driver concept is not new in itself, the way it’s implemented is critical. According to Dr. Mills, Fyne Audio has developed its own waveguides, cones, driver surrounds, magnet systems, and high-frequency compression drivers to move the art form forward significantly. Fyne has also found new ways of integrating its IsoFlare coaxial into speaker cabinets to maximize overall system performance. Dr. Mills emphasized that the nature of Fyne Audio’s waveguide is different than anything Tannoy ever did, and therefore there are no intellectual property conflicts with Tannoy products

Not all speakers are born time coherent. In particular, multiway box speakers with a multiplicity of conventional drivers struggle to achieve time coherence. My appreciation of coaxial drivers spans several decades and is due to the fact that functionally they perform as wide-range drivers with excellent coherency, ensuring that the music’s fundamentals and their harmonics originate from essentially the same spatial location. Fyne’s coaxial driver is built around a rigid cast-aluminum chassis. The tweeter, a titanium dome, is located in the throat of the midrange/woofer cone and shares a common acoustic center with the woofer section. A vented rear chamber in the tweeter’s neodymium magnet pushes its low-frequency resonance well below the crossover region. Multi-fiber paper is used for the bottom woofer and mid/woofer cones. The coaxial’s low-frequency section is operated up to a second-order low-pass crossover at 1.7kHz, where the tweeter comes in with a first-order high-pass filter. The bottom 6″ woofer operates up to a frequency of 250Hz with a second-order low-pass filter. The woofer surrounds feature a computer-designed variable geometry to better terminate cone energy and minimize reflections. Fyne’s fancy name for this is FyneFlute technology.

The bass loading is no ordinary bass reflex. The woofers are loaded by twin chambers connected via an internal port. The lower chamber vents to the exterior through a down-firing port at the bottom of the cabinet. In contrast with a conventional bass-reflex alignment, which is tuned to a single frequency, this loading system broadens the tuning frequency to further reduce cone excursion. My impedance measurements showed exceptionally well-damped twin bass-reflex peaks, widely spaced in frequency at approximately 20 and 60Hz, more so than you would expect from a conventional loading. Below the vent in the base of the loudspeaker, a diffuser is used to improve dispersion. Dubbed the BassTrax, its profile is rather unusual being Tractrix-shaped. The cabinet base features spiked feet for anchoring the cabinets on carpeted surfaces. In a clever bit of engineering, the spikes are adjustable from the top using an Allen wrench. Grilles are supplied, which are held in place by magnets hidden beneath the wood veneer. Be sure to remove the grilles for critical listening. Simply move them from the front to the back, above the bi-wire speaker terminal, where another set of hidden magnets will hold them neatly in storage.

Note that even though the F501’s impedance magnitude is rated at a nominal 8 ohms, it touches 4 ohms below 100Hz and even dips slightly below that in the range between 80 and 100Hz. However, Fyne Audio believes that since this is over a narrow frequency range it does not compromise the overall impedance rating. The impedance magnitude varies from about 3 to 32 ohms, not unusual for most box speakers. But in the case of tube amps with multiple impedance taps, typically 4- and 8-ohm, it wouldn’t be obvious at all which choice would be optimal. My advice is to experiment with both sets of taps before making a final decision.

In practice, the ideal of a point-source coaxial driver has been difficult to execute without serious side effects in the form of cavity resonances. Fyne’s tweeter design is pretty well behaved with only a few small bumps in the frequency response between 5 to 15kHz. Above 15kHz there is a response lift on-axis which flattens out at off-axis listening positions. More serious, however, is a response dip of as much as 4dB in the upper midrange between 2 to 3kHz where the auditory system is quite sensitive. Both the factory-provided response curve as well as my own measurements show a similar upper midrange dip. More about that later. 

 

The F501 was situated in newly configured listening room No. 2, with a 14′ x 25′ floor plan which was previously used for home theater and recently converted to full-time audio use. I experimented with speaker placement in order to obtain the most satisfying bass response. That turned out to be about 7.5′ from the rear wall where useful in-room bass extension was about 45Hz. I found it necessary to toe-in the speakers toward the listening seat, since there was too much treble roll-off at angles beyond about 10 degrees off-axis. 

Initially, partnered by a tube amp, bass definition suffered considerably, being rather bloated or plummy (as the British are fond of saying). The change over to the Wyred 4 Sound SX-1000R monoblocks proved to be a game-changer. Midbass tightened up considerably, as evidenced by the impact generated on kick drum and tympani, communicating a satisfying degree of slam—well beyond what you would ordinarily expect from a 6″ woofer.

Once the bass range was dialed in, it was time to take stock of the phenomenal imaging. Image outlines were almost palpable and focused within the confines of a soundstage of remarkable depth and breadth, which was totally untethered from the speakers. But it wasn’t just the spacious soundstage and focused image outlines that had me enthralled; the critical midband was reproduced with excellent clarity and detail resolution that resulted in the sort of open-window transparency I wasn’t used to experiencing in sub-$10k loudspeakers. Reproduction of choral music was particularly satisfying in that it was possible to resolve individual voices within layers of depth perspective. Playback of Calrec Soundfield single point-source microphone recordings evoked a strong sensation of being there, of being transported to the recording venue. Oldarra—Le chant Basque (Erato/Elektra), a large men’s chorus recorded at Chapel of Notre Dame du Refuge, Anglet, Basque Country, perfectly captures the church acoustic and was beautifully reproduced by the F501.

There wasn’t even a hint of gratuitous brightness, but harmonic colors occasionally dipped a bit below tonal neutrality. According to Fyne Audio, the final frequency response was determined subjectively with a number of different listening rooms, listeners, and systems. But in the context of my system, the upper midrange lacked a tad of harmonic richness, possibly due to the response dip in the 2 to 3kHz range. To be fair, it was a subtle effect, most notably perceptible on soprano upper registers and on trumpet—two musical ingredients that are front and center on the Baroque Duet (Sony Classical) recording. Kathleen Battle, a wonderful light lyric soprano, is perfectly suited to the Baroque repertoire, which makes her collaboration with Wynton Marsalis totally delightful. On this recording, the perceived tonal balance was somewhat diminished in presence. This effect became more obvious when contrasted with the response of the Russell K. RED 50 mini-monitor, a unique little speaker that has earned quite a few accolades in its native UK market and has won me over as well. It lacks the bass of the F501 and its soft dome can’t compete with the detail resolution of the F501’s titanium compression driver. But its sense of rhythmic drive coupled with a compelling midrange are quite addictive. And it measures quite flat through the upper midrange and presence regions. It confirmed quite clearly that, in the same system context, the F501 had pushed the soprano vocal and trumpet slightly back in the mix. To be sure, the effect was minor and thus could very likely be mitigated by careful system matching.

The F501 looks and feels like a mature product that has been brilliantly executed. It proved easy to listen to over long listening sessions. Initial listening excitement sometimes wears off pretty quickly. Not so with the Fyne F501. I continued listening late into the night. With my eyes closed, I could imagine being teleported to the original recording venue, not exactly front row, but a satisfying mid-hall perspective. The F501 delivers outstanding detail resolution, midband clarity, and spectacular imaging. Add excellent transient speed and control to the sonic mix, especially when partnered by solid-state amplification, and what you end up with is a mighty-fine Fyne F501—a compelling buy at its price point. 

Specs & Pricing

Frequency range:  36Hz–34kHz (-6dB typical in-room)
Sensitivity: 90dB (2.83V/1m)
Continuous power handling: 75W RMS
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Drive unit complement: One 150mm IsoFlare coaxial with 25mm titanium dome compression tweeter, one 150mm woofer
Finishes: Dark oak, black oak, piano gloss black, piano gloss white
Dimensions: 7.9″ x 38.8″ x 12.6″ 
Weight: 41.7 lbs. each
Price: $1750/pr. ($2045 in gloss finish)

FYNE AUDIO LIMITED
Suite 42, Grovewood Business Centre
Strathclyde Business Park
Bellshill, Lanarkshire ML4 3NQ 
Scotland
fyneaudio.com

THE SOUND ORGANISATION (U.S. Distributor)
1009 Oakmead Drive 
Arlington, TX 76011
(972) 234-0182
soundorg.com

Associated Equipment
Power amplifiers: Wyred 4 Sound  SX-1000R and VTL Manley reference series 100/200 monoblocks
Line Preamplifier: Lamm Audio L2.1 Reference & PrimaLuna Evo 400
Phono front end: Revox B795 turntable; TPAD 1000 phono stage; Sound Tradition MC-10 step-up transformer
Digital front end: audiolab 6000CDT transport; Altmann Attraction and Soekris 1421 DACs
Cable & interconnects: Tara Labs RSC speaker cable; Wire World, and Kimber KCAG  interconnects

By Dick Olsher

Although educated as a nuclear engineer at the University of Florida, I spent most of my career, 30 years to be exact, employed as a radiation physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, from which I retired in 2008.

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