Fritz Carbon 7 Loudspeaker Review
by Sean Fowler on April 24 '10
The truth is that I would have never known about the existence of Fritz loudspeakers if it weren’t for browsing the ‘net late one boring evening. In many respects, Mr. Fritz is the classic example of a one man operation whose minimalism towards advertising results in market obscurity. As I sat there sipping on my drink and reading over testimonials from customers who were daring enough to take a chance on the relatively unknown brand, I couldn’t help but notice how often Fritz’s speakers, particularly the Carbon 7’s, were favored over highly respected and often more expensive loudspeakers. It’s not like these people were pulling references out of their rear end. They had pictures to prove their claims! After digging up a bit more info on the Carbon 7’s from Fritz’s dated looking website, my interest was piqued enough to give the man a call. Two weeks later, a set of Carbon 7’s landed at my front door.
The Carbon 7
In a nutshell, the Carbon 7 is a simple rear ported 2-way loudspeaker that features a robust MDF cabinet, two venerable Scan Speak drivers, a simple series crossover with no capacitors in line with the tweeter, and a simple two conductor binding post system. Magnetic grills and purdy’ real wood veneering are thrown in as a cherry on top. The whole design is about as basic as it gets. Good MDF box? Check. Good drivers? Check. Good crossover? Check. Pretty veneering? Check. A little voicing-by-ear love? Check. Everything flows right in line with the proven recipe that makes for a very solid performing set of loudspeakers. The question is, how do the Carbon 7’s sound?
DETAILED PERFORMANCE SUMMARY
The Good: Great build quality; Aesthetically pleasing veneer; A very warm and engaging presentation that is very smooth and non fatiguing; Produces a very full sound for a monitor; Excellent timbre, particularly with acoustic instruments; Good imaging; Excellent power handling ; Creates a palpable sense of ‘air’; A very fair asking price considering all that you get for the money.
The Bad: Difficult to audition before buying; Is not for the type of listener who likes a forward or highly detailed presentation; Bass may sound bloated when placed near a wall; They are less efficient than advertised and perform best with powerful amps that can control the 7” Scan Speak woofer; May not win any WAF awards.
The Bottom Line: The
Carbon 7 is a straight forward, no frills bookshelf styled loudspeaker that
uses drivers of reputable pedigree to attain excellent sonic results. Their
warm and smooth sound may be a breath of fresh air to those who are tired of
the sharp and unforgiving sound of many high end loudspeakers. While they may not be the most resolute
things on planet earth, the Carbon 7’s are nonetheless highly enjoyable and
very easy to work with. Best of all, you won’t have to sell body parts to
afford a set.
The Bottom Line: The Carbon 7 is a straight forward, no frills bookshelf styled loudspeaker that uses drivers of reputable pedigree to attain excellent sonic results. Their warm and smooth sound may be a breath of fresh air to those who are tired of the sharp and unforgiving sound of many high end loudspeakers. While they may not be the most resolute things on planet earth, the Carbon 7’s are nonetheless highly enjoyable and very easy to work with. Best of all, you won’t have to sell body parts to afford a set.
Specifications: $1,750 USD / pair
Cabinet: MDF Composite
Tweeter: 1 inch Scan Speak D2905/9500 textile soft dome.
Mid-bass driver: 7 inch Scan Speak 18W/8545K carbon graphite/paper pulp composite cone
Frequency response: 39 - 20.000Hz +/- 3db
Sensitivity: 88dB @ 2.83V/m
Impedance: 8 ohms nominal
Cabinet dimensions (HxWxD): 16 x 9 x 12
Weight (per speaker): 30 lbs
Contact by e-mail at: email@example.com
Contact by phone at: 310.379.8190
General Character: The Carbon 7’s produce a sound that is very smooth, warm, and laid back. While their distinct tonal colorations may not satisfy those who seek speakers that take on a lively or “tell it like it is” approach, the Carbon 7’s will appeal more to those who want a speaker that can play both excellent and crappy recordings without discrimination. In a way, the Carbon 7’s are anti-audiophile in their delivery of making music in that they forgo the usual goals of resolution, speed, and transparency. Instead, emphasis is placed on providing the listener with a rich and consistent listening experience.
Overall, the Carbon 7’s take on a presentation that is very ‘mid hall’ in nature. I cannot say that there was ever a time when I heard the speakers push music out into room with any hint of aggression. Instead, what they deliver is a very relaxed sound, one that sports rolled off treble, organic midrange, and full bass that also errs towards the ‘warm’ side of the sonic color palette.
Treble: One of the things that surprised me the most about the Carbon 7’s is how well they showcase the Scan Speak 9500. I’ve heard this tweeter tons of times and in tons of different loudspeakers. I thought I knew what it was all about. That is, until now. This is the first time that I’ve heard the tweeter perform without this unnatural, attention-drawing “grit” that I’ve often associated with the dome. It’s also the first time that I’ve heard this tweeter produce so much ‘air’. I love how the Carbon 7’s can project such effortless top end while at the same time lacking any hint of edge or glare. Of course, a good part of it has to do with the tweeters drop off point at 15kHz. This roll off is quite obvious, and it may take some listeners time to adjust to it. I found that once you do, you will soon discover that it doesn’t require taking frequencies into the proverbial stratosphere to enjoy a well articulated presentation. What this tweeter does within its respective range is quite enjoyable. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if there was any speaker that perfectly befits the word “smooth”, it would be the Carbon 7’s.
Midrange: Thick, full bodied, and enveloping, the mid’s on the Carbon 7’s are the sort that allow you to hang up your audiophile hat so that you can sit back and enjoy the musical ride. Soon you will be forgetting all about those brand new speaker cables and tweaks, focusing instead on the wonderful texture of the voices and instruments on your favorite (and even not so favorite) recordings. While the Carbon 7’s won’t be challenging the likes of ATC or Duntech in terms of top to bottom linearity, they manage to remain transparent enough to where you can easily tell the difference between a Gibson J-100 Standard and a Taylor KOA GS-K acoustic guitar.
Bass: The same warmth that permeates throughout the midrange flows effortlessly into the low end. On the upside, this character results in a very coherent overlapping between the main frequency bands and keeps the entire presentation solid and consistent. The additional warmth also aides in giving the speakers a sense of solidarity that is usually reserved for larger, tower sized loudspeakers.
On the downside, this warmth may result in an oversaturation of bass. A good way to keep this from happening is to keep the back of the speakers a good two feet away from the back wall. Matching the Carbon 7’s up with a strong amplifier that is capable of good bottom end control will also go a long way in keeping the bass nice and tight. That said, when things are set up right, the Carbon 7’s are capable of producing quite a bit of low end grunt. While I feel that the rated -/+ 3db point of 39Hz is a tad generous, I am confident that many listeners will find the Carbon 7’s more than capable in terms of bass output and extension.
Imaging: Usually soundstage prowess is one of the key strengths to any monitor-styled loudspeaker, and the Carbon 7’s are of no exception here. Despite having to use a large baffle to accommodate the 7 inch Scan Speak woofer, the speakers do an exceptional job at creating a very wide and focus sound-stage. What I found to be most impressive is how the Carbon 7’s are able to articulate the air around each note within the soundstage, giving acoustic instruments and vocals a very realistic presence. I also enjoyed their off axis response. You don’t have to sit in one tight ‘sweet spot’ area to get a coherent soundstage out of the Carbon 7’s.
Dynamics: On one hand, the Carbon 7’s are very dynamic in that they can deliver a shit ton of output before showing signs of distress. On the other hand, they aren’t the sort of dynamic speaker that has a lot of punch. Instead of creating a more visceral sensation of say, a kick drum, the Carbon 7’s merely focus on low end rumble and tonal expression. This isn’t to say that they lack the cajones to rock out. It means just means that they may not satisfy those who want to literally feel the music.
Wrap Up: There’s a lot to like about the Carbon 7’s. When you add together their good looks, smooth top end, organic mid’s, deep bass, and ability to rock to any style of music without the side effect of tearing your ears to shreds, there isn’t a whole lot left to complain about – especially at this price point. That said, they are not without fault. It’s now time to explore what they don’t do so well.
Aside from the issues that I’ve mentioned earlier in this review, one of the main compromises that I encountered with the Carbon 7’s is how they suffer from what I call the ‘sameness’ effect. This is when the speakers tonal colorations make it sound as though all of your recordings were mixed by the same person in the same recording studio. For some listeners, this isn’t a problem, as the benefit of being able to explore an entire music library without much fear of encountering horrible sound completely overrides the issue. For others though, this may be a complete turn off.
Also, I couldn’t help but notice a slight thinness in the upper midrange. While I do not consider this to be a damning fault, especially when you factor in the speakers price, this trait now leads me to believe that the Carbon 7’s may not bode too well with electronics that already sound a bit lean in the midrange. Unfortunately, since the McIntosh MA7000 returned back to its home in New York, I now have no way to test this theory with an unshakeable “tell it like it is” piece.
Part of what I like so much about Mr. Fritz and his Carbon 7’s is how he makes no claims of unearthing some magical formula that lesser engineering mugals have yet to discover. His products are simple and follow very basic design principles. He makes no excuses for it, and the affordable pricing that he affixes to his product reflect that approach accordingly. I find this sort of honesty to be very refreshing, especially at a time when so many manufacturers claim that their brand new MDF styled box is so ‘revolutionary’ that it will tickle our nether regions with exciting performance. The cool thing about the Carbon 7’s is that they are pretty damned good sounding loudspeakers as is. No whiz bang nano-technology required! Moreover, they are affordable to boot!
So, whether you are in a big room or a small room, whether you are an audiophile that’s fed up with the unforgiving sound of your average high-end loudspeaker and want to get back to enjoying the music again, or are simply looking to build a versatile secondary system, the Carbon 7’s make for a very convincing solution. After spending roughly two months with the speakers, I now understand why a few owners are so content with their Carbon 7’s. They truly are a great value, the kind that won’t leave you wondering just where in the hell your money actually went. Moreover, they aren't wussy stand mounts that only sound good at reproducing little girls singing along to their guitars. Throw in some real music, and enjoy. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about.
Well done, Mr. Fritz, well done.