Review: Fritz Speakers Carbon 7 Monitor
C.E.C. CD-3300 transport
Benchmark DAC1/PRE preamp
Parasound HCA-1500A power amp
Kimber Hero IC’s; Kimber 8TC v.2 speaker cable; Belden 1694A digital cable
Carbon 7 Specs:
Price as tested: $1750/pr (standard drivers/standard finish selected) 30 day return policy
Speakers were placed 8ft apart, 12ft from the listening position, with a ½” of toe-in. They were placed on Target MR28, 28” stands. The rear corners of the speakers were 16” and 16 ½” from the wall, about 28” from the front baffle. The Carbon 7’s have a rear bass port near the top of the cabinet. Grills are provided, and very well made. They attach magnetically, and the magnets are hidden behind the wood veneer on the front baffle at each corner. All listening was done with the grills off.
The room is large, approx 14’ x 36’ and the listening area occupies the first 1/3 of the room; so there is a lot of open area behind the listening couch. Sub-floor is concrete slab, and the ceiling is vaulted.
I listened to a wide variety of music, from classical to metal and practically everything in-between. Some of the things I found noteworthy, in order of discovery:
1. Bass. Bass is impressive; tuneful and deep. They can (and do) energize my rather large listening room when notes call for it. I suspect they are hitting the 35Hz range at about -6dB level. I didn’t expect bass to be a stand-out characteristic on a monitor speaker, and I certainly didn’t expect them to be able to energize my room.
2. Ease. The Carbon 7 is laid back, easy-going and extremely delineating. It makes for a sound that you can listen to for hours on end, without fatigue. The treble is smooth, but it doesn’t cheat you out of anything—it just doesn’t let you know it’s there unduly (see integration). Music flows from these speakers with a naturalness that’s hard to describe.
3. Layering. These speakers produce a wonderful, 3-dimensional layering of sounds. You can easily hear distinct front to back spacing between performers, depending on their position in the soundstage. I have owned no other speaker that could do this to the degree these do. The soundstage is expansive, and easily escapes the confines of the cabinets, providing the source material is up to the task.
4. Integration. The woofer and tweeter sing as a single unit. It’s seamless, and makes for a very satisfying, balanced, and textured midrange. There’s no beaming, even at high output levels. Woodwind instruments sound incredibly real, having a more realistic push to the upper midrange, and less so from the tweeter. I’ve never heard cymbals sound so brassy and life-like, without calling attention to the driver itself.
5. Subtle Nuances. The warbling ring of a decaying piano note, the shimmer of a cymbal as it fades, the extension--rather than the premature end--of a given instrument or vocal. Maybe it’s the way this speaker "holds on" to detail in the decay of notes? It’s difficult to describe, but it’s there, it’s real, and it’s cool.
6. Dynamics. Output was a major concern for me, as the room is large, and I like to “get on the gas” once in awhile, especially when watching concert events where scale is an important part of the experience. It was a concern up until I allowed them to run in for a couple hours, and then preceded to punished them with an assault of hard hitting, bass heavy music. I showed no mercy. Not only could the Carbon 7 provide more than enough scale, it did so without any loss of fidelity, realism, or composure.
On the other end of the spectrum, they also sound good at very quiet listening levels. It's a great candidate for that ever special late night listening session.
I'm not sure if this would be considered a “con,” but these speakers lean to a warm tonal character. “Detail fanatics” may be a little disappointed in their less-than-hyper detailed presentation.
Mid bass can get a little heavy if placed too close to boundaries, I found 16” (or more) from the rear of the speaker to the wall was sufficient to keep bass response smooth and natural. This should be easily accommodated in practically any room.
I wasn't going to include this observation, because it's so minor in scope, and I'm not so confident that it isn't source related, but I felt compelled to pass it on anyway—and you can draw your own conclusions. Sometimes I get a sense that the rhythmic pace is a touch slow. It may be due to the laid-back nature of the speaker; but in the grand scheme of things, it's a minor nit pick at best.
I found the Carbon 7’s to open-up after about 40-60hrs of break-in, up until that point, they’ll sound somewhat flat and recessed. Let them air-out a bit before doing any serious listening. If there were some compromises made with the design of this speaker, I’m having difficulty finding them. The Carbon 7’s ability to become a chameleon with practically any genre of music, it’s impressive bass, smooth midrange/treble, sound staging and imaging, and dynamic capabilities make it an excellent all-around performer. More importantly, it sounds elegant and completely integrated, allowing it to melt into your listening environment with ease. This is a speaker for music lovers; analytical, lab coat wearing types need not apply. Not that it lacks detail, it just doesn’t present detail in a conjured, in-your-face manner—it flows detail like a high-end purposeful design should.
The build quality, substantial heft, and gorgeously executed wood veneer is impeccable. The ease at which the Carbon 7 reproduces sound helps to tame, and lend some body to recordings with excessive treble and a flat soundstage—typical of poorly engineered CD’s. The Fritz Carbon 7 is one of the most satisfying speakers I have owned in 35 years of pursuing this hobby.