The Fritz Grove speakers have landed at the Sonic Flare Studio. Here's our first look review at these love letters to the world of Dynaudio:
First Look Review: Fritz Grove Speakers In The Studio
by Josh Ray on June 23 '11
I typically shy away from the boutique loudspeaker companies because, really, building a speaker is easy. Building an excellent speaker, however, one that can compete with the giants in hi-fi, is very, very difficult indeed. The designers at top companies know what they're doing and their creations are worth the money.
But Mr. Fritz of Fritz Speakers is an exception to the rule. Think of Fritz Speakers as a bespoke audio manufacturer, not a traditional loudspeaker outfit. Where most companies stick with one design philosophy, be it full-range drivers or ceramic cones, Mr. Fritz taps the world's premium transducer companies like Scan Speak, Seas, Morel, Accuton and more for his designs. One visit to Fritz's custom speaker page shows the man's pedigree (and that's only a fraction of the speakers he's created).
And while it's easy to stick random drivers in a box, after numerous conversations and listening tests with Mr. Fritz, it's clear his goal isn't to use every driver on the planet, but to methodically test the drivers and find the one's that work. After all, just because a driver measures well doesn't mean it actually sounds good. Fabric domes, metal cones, planars, ribbons, and more, Fritz has used them all. I consider myself a raw driver junky and it didn't take long for Fritz to humble my ass with transducer geekology.
It's worth noting that Fritz Speakers feature CNCed MDF cabinets with a slick wrapped veneer. It's a high-end construction, well beyond the purview of DIYers, but while Fritz's matched veneers are beautiful and exotic, their overall design can't compete with the cutting-edge work of, say, Dynaudio, Focal or B&W. That's the boutique route tradeoff.
Now, while Fritz will custom design for you a speaker with just about any drivers in any configuration (and in any veneer) to fit your personal sonic desires, he only lists a handful of speakers on his website, and they're all of the monitor variety within a few hundred dollars of each other. What's the deal? Well, Fritz is more geared towards designing speakers with different sounds than pursuit of the best of the best. There is no absolute sound, only sound stylings. Strange? Yes, but that's why you're here.
The Fritz Grove speakers ($1500/pair) are, in a sense, love letters to the world of Dynaudio. Dynaudio's split poly cone woofers and Esotar tweeters found their way into hundreds of speaker designs and spawned numerous offshoot driver manufacturers tweaking or improving their formula. Companies like AudioTechnology, Morel, Hi-Vi, Dynavox, Jantzen and others have picked up business after Dynaudio severely dialed back their raw driver side to focus on selling complete loudspeakers. The Dynaudio pedigree is found in manufacturers like Verity, Totem, Eggleston, Rockport, Peak Consult and Tetra to name only a few.
The Fritz Groves feature Dynaudio-inspired 6.5" poly cone and Esotar-inspired 1" fabric tweeter in a traditional rear ported design. His series crossover, however, is a little more unusual. No capacitors to attenuate the sound, the series crossover aims for transparency and purity of the signal path. But it's a pain to design, requiring a great deal of tweaking to get the woofer and tweeter to blend correctly.
Published specs are 45Hz-20kHz (+/- 3db). 86db sensitive with an 8 ohms impedance.
So how do the Fritz Grove speakers sound?
Excellent, in fact. I was expecting Dynaudio decaf, but the Groves really go in a different direction entirely. Where Dynaudio champions that European coolness and precision, the Fritz speakers are more lively, in your face and aggressive (in a good way). That's not to say they're better than Dynaudios, only designed for different taste buds.
They're also closer to Verity than Peak Consult or Eggleston. Naturally, comparisons like this are somewhat ridiculous considering the price difference. But when talking design goals and sonic aesthetics, it's worthwhile to take a look at the prima bellas. The Fritz speakers won't appeal to the laid back listener, or one who likes rolled off highs.
Really, the Fritz Groves are more of the Totem and Tetra variety, clearly a creation of extensive listening tests, not test bench measurements. Fritz lets that excellent tweeter cut loose, and the mids with the clear voices sound wickedly good. Great soundstaging and tons of air. I'd say Fritz's dedication to crossover design paid off with the auditory fireworks in the mid to upper frequencies.
Simply, these are complete loudspeakers, and obviously the masterwork of a true craftsman. Fritz makes these drivers shine.
The downsides are, well, typical -- this is ported design and needs care in placement or you'll be hearing port noise and the driver working to fill the room. The Sonic Flare Studio is large -- roughly 20ft x 36ft x 12ft high -- and that 6.5" cone breaks a sweat when blasting the big decibels. But that's what extra drivers and subwoofers are for.
Also, it goes without saying that cone material has a specific sound. Here, the poly cone sounds like a poly cone. That's not a bad thing, but it doesn't sound like a paper cone. Or beryllium diamond nano cone. And I'm not saying the Groves douse your earbuds in polypropylene resin, only that you'll appreciate Fritz's 30 day trial period if, for whatever reason, poly isn't your thing.
Overall, the Fritz Groves are terrific speakers, regardless of driver heritage. I wouldn't be surprised if the Grove design got snatched up by a larger audio company (and resold for a much higher price). It's almost criminal Fritz is allowed to exist.
The Groves will stick around the Sonic Flare Studio for a little while longer. Stay tuned for more.