Hiquphon 20mm - 3/4 inch soft dome tweeter type OW I, OW II, OW3, OW4, the new OW3 and OW4 and more. Designed and produced in Denmark since 1983.

Go to content

Fried Studio V

Spare parts

Fried Studio V

Review by Rob G. on November 19, 1999 at 12:25:31

Fried Products Corporation is, sadly, no longer with us. This review is a "heads up" for anyone encountering these astonishing speakers in the used market.
First, the basics, then the lagniappe. This is a floorstanding 3-way dynamic speaker standing 41" tall x 11" wide x 18" deep in a purely rectangular veneer-over-MDF cabinet. Mine are light oak, but a dark cherry appears to have been the most popular choice. On the front panel, from top to bottom, are the 6.5" midrange, 3/4" soft dome tweeter and 8" woofer. The midrange and woofer are both transmission-line loaded, with the mid ported to the rear and the bass ported forward at the bottom of the front panel. These drivers are treated paper cones (treated with a sticky mystery-glop that I believe contains some amount of carbon fiber) with butyl rubber surrounds. These proprietary dual-voicecoil drivers (more on this later!) were custom manufactured for Fried. Say "Freed," by the way, not "Fryed."
The tweeter is a very expensive Hiquphon design ($175/pair on the DIY market in 1999), and Fried's OEM specs include both a smaller faceplate than stock and adds ferrofluid for cooling. The speaker uses 1st Order, 6dB/octave series crossovers, so no bi-amping or bi-wiring is possible. This design offers the best possible phase response in a multi-driver array, but achieving such time alignment has its costs: each driver must operate smoothly well outside of its main bandwith, and handle high power levels in these nether regions. Unlike the Thiel or Hales designs, which use sloping front baffles to physically align their drivers in the search for coherent impulse response, this speaker uses a flat front. Please note, however, that it is the midrange driver which is at ear level when seated, with the tweeter below. This creates a longer signal path to the ear for the tweeter, in effect achieving an equal distance to the two drivers' voice coils without the cost of a complex baffle. In addition, the mirror-imaged cabinets offset the midrange a fit to one side and the tweeter a bit to the other. Though toe-in and swapping left for right, a listener can achieve equal mid & high signal path lengths. The off-center positioning of these drivers also mean that any diffraction effects are somewhat minimized by the unequal distance from driver to cabinet edge (rounded, by the way). The speakers weigh a substantial 90 pounds each.

The speaker is rated as 91dB efficient, with 8 ohm nominal impedence (5.3 ohm minimum), and -3dB at 28hz. In room listening with the Stereophile Test CD3 tends to support this excellent bass extension.

Now for the "something extra" and those dual voicecoils. This speaker is the first commercial implementation of the "M.A.R.S." system. The "M" is for Charles McShane, formerly a designer for Acoustic Research in the AR3 glory days. The "A.R.S." is for "ambient recovery system." This is a purely mechanical implementation of the concept of interaural crosstalk cancellation. Most people will be familiar with Carver's electronic implementation called "Sonic Holography." The basic idea is this: we use both timing AND loudness cues to locate sounds. This works fine down to about 800hz, where wavelengths become longer than the distance between our two ears. At this point we begin relying ever more on loudness differentiation, since we are no longer able to "parse" the wavelengths. This is why people claim that bass is non-directional or monophonic. All would be well in a single-subwoofer world EXCEPT: microphones ain't ears! Pure stereo miking is reliant upon a rich blend of uncorrelated bass signals. In order to reproduce this with two channels we need a strong separation of left and right channels. What any of these "interaural crosstalk cancellation" systems do is add a L-R signal to the right channel and a R-L signal to the left channel. Carver does this electronically, with a bit of time delay just to muck up the signal even more. The M.A.R.S. system does this by feeding these L-R and R-L signals to the second voice coil of the midrange drivers and woofers below 800hz. This requires a minimum of crossover magic and a speakercable that runs between the left and right speaker. Disconnect the cable and you completely defeat this feature.

How does it sound? First, here is the speaker with the M.A.R.S. feature disconnected. This is a well-, if somewhat warmly-, balanced speaker which favors no particular frequency from the lowest to highest octave. I currently use a Golden Tube Audio SE40 amp, a 40wpc single ended pentode, that lacks sufficient bass control for these speakers, but still plays at symphonic levels down into the mid-20hz range. Well recorded piano, cello and voices are reproduced seamlessly, with inaudible crossover points, at least as far as bass room nodes allow. The high frequency balance could be described as "natural" vs. "hi fi," but this could be due to my amp's soft top end. Nonetheless, even though the speaker plays the highest frequencies without distress, hardness or extra sibilance, it lacks the airieness of the best metal dome or ribbon tweeters. There is a Fried family sound here, consistent since the early 70's: buttery-rich, full and almost woody-sounding mid-bass with a smoothly rolled-off top end that seems to better reflect the sound of a good concert hall than the aggressive sound of more-measureably "flat" speakers. Fans of "British sound" speakers like Spendors and Pro-Acs will recognize this immediately.

The bottom end of this speaker is pure transmission-line magic: with an immediacy and pitch-accuracy sealed designs cannot match, and a dynamic freedom and lack of bloaty-congestion ported designs can only dream of. Designer Bud Fried was the first to implement polypropylene drivers, but he always had reservations about their long settling time. These new drivers "let go" very quickly, which appears to be key to their dynamics, pitch-accuracy and freedom from bloat. They will play as loudly without strain as any price-competitive speaker except the NHT 3.3, which is unusual for a 1st-order system.

Without the M.A.R.S. system engaged they image very well but, despite their time- and phase-coherent design, do not match the best direct-radiating mini-monitors. There are time when they should, but do not, "disappear." I think this can be attributed to two design compromises made to reach the price point: the cabinets are not particularly rigid and the continued presence of front baffle diffractions. The large size panels and rear panel (screwed on) resonate freely. I plan at some point to modify these speakers by lining the cabinet with the same anti-resonant borosilicate paste used in Totem speakers, adding spikes, and I will experiment with anti-diffraction felt or hard-rubber around the tweeter on the front panel. While these measures should help I think I will still come a bit short of the best imaging direct-radiator speakers (Dunlavy, Thiel, Avalon).

Connect the M.A.R.S., with a simply-miked recording, and the world changes. The depth and width of the sound stage increases by several orders of magnitude. Most symphony orchestras will play with the string basses to the listener's right. The very best imaging speakers, including planars and line-sources, will place these just outside and slightly behind the right speaker. With M.A.R.S. the Studio V's place these outside of and behind the listening room! (the "!" is justified here, I think.) I am talking about perceived distances of 5-to-10 feet to the right of the right speaker, and 10+ feet behind the right speaker. The amazing thing is that there is no -- none, zero, zilch -- price to pay for this. Crappy multi-miked recordings congest in between the speakers just like they always do. Big images sound big, but without the six foot wide solo guitars you often get with planar speakers like Magnaplanars. Combined with the dynamic felicities of the transmission line bass you can hear the wavefront of a bass drum as it powers towards the microphones and beyond into the hall. Amazingly, these speakers seem to energize the room more like good dipoles than forward-firing dynamic speakers, moving air rather than just powering the room modes into resonance. Ultimate bass? No, no 8" driver will do that, but deeper than any planar while retaining their extraordinary pitch definition: this lover or orchestral power music sees no need for a subwoofer in any normal sized room.


Product Weakness: Lacks the image focus of the best mini-monitors.
Product Strengths: Space, the final frontier!

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Golden Tube Audio SE40
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Melos SHA Gold, McCormack Micro Phono Drive
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Oracle/ETII/BPS; crappy Aiwa portable Seedy player
Speakers: Fried Studio V
Cables/Interconnects: Kimber PBJ, Kimber 4TC
Music Used (Genre/Selections): 80% Classical, 20% totally eclectic
Room Size (LxWxH): 29 x 17 x 8
Room Comments/Treatments: Medium-damped, no special treatment
Time Period/Length of Audition: Owned as above for 4 years
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): 1,000+ LPs, vacuum cleaner, understanding neighbors
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

Welcome | About us | Products | How to buy | FAQ | News and links | Spare parts | Site Map

Back to content | Back to main menu