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FritzSpeakers REV 5 Loudspeakers
Flyweight Mini Packs a Mighty Punch

 

April 2011

 







I’ve been corresponding with John “Fritz” Heiler for some time now. I first saw an ad for his speakers on Audiogon a few years ago. They seemed like attractive speakers using real-wood veneers and high-quality drivers, so I got in touch with Fritz and we had a nice chat. Fritz was trying to get me to review his Carbon 7 speakers (a larger 2-way monitor) for some time, but I did not feel they’d be the best fit for the listening rooms I have available. Perhaps they would’ve worked well in my large listening room but for whatever reason it never worked out and Fritz and I fell out of touch for a while.

One Saturday evening, Fritz called me out of the blue. He was excited about how well his speakers were received at the California Audio Show and more recently at T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas. He said the Carbon 7’s were getting lots of comments and attention powered by the new ModWright electronics. In fact, I was told that friend and publisher Clement Perry was among the admirers.

This time, I was looking for high performance speakers that would work well in my smallish 11’ x 14’ listening room. I had been using the Silverline Audio Preludes with great success, but I got the itch and sold those in an effort to find something different that I might like even better. To tide myself over I bought a pair of Magnepan SMGa Series II speakers. I had the Magnepans singing very well in my small room powered by a Quicksilver GLA tube amp using Svetlana Winged SED EL34 tubes.

Fritz suggested his new 2-way REV 5 monitors for this room reasoning that his Carbon 7’s might have too much bass for my room. Since having too much bass in this particular room had been a problem with some speakers like the Audio Physic Virgo 2’s, I heeded Fritz’s advice and asked that he send the REV 5s.

The REV 5 is a fairly petite 2-way monitor that employs a ScanSpeak Revelator 5.5” mid/woofer and a ScanSpeak model 9500 dome tweeter with a minimalist series crossover. The series crossover uses less parts and a smaller coil than traditional crossovers so less power is soaked up by the crossover resulting in more usable power going to the speaker drivers. In practice this seemed to work very well judging by the speaker’s ample dynamics and bass output and the harmonically continuous blend between woofer and tweeter.

The nominal impedance is 8-ohms and the sensitivity is on the low side at around 86dB/watt but seemed a bit higher in practice as I was able to drive the speakers to borderline loud levels using a 40-watt/channel tube amplifier. The speaker’s free-air resonance is 30Hz and the small rear-port is tuned for reinforcement at about 45Hz. There is one pair of gold-plated 5-way binding posts on the back of each speaker which worked fine with both spade lugs and banana plugs. The REV 5s are priced at $1,950, which is commensurate with their parts and build quality when dealing direct with the manufacturer and a bargain when you combine the direct-pricing with their impressive musical attributes.

I must say that my wife, Tina, loved the look of the FritzSpeakers right off the bat. The stained Teak real-wood veneer was applied in continuous sheets around the speaker’s sides and top so one could follow the grain pattern around the speaker without a break. The REV 5s come with black cloth magnetic grills and the strong neodymium magnets are imbedded under the wood in the front baffle and in the speaker grills so you don’t see any holes, posts, or hardware of any kind, just the attractive wood finish, with the grills removed. They are available in several standard finishes (Oak, Cherry, Maple, Walnut, & Mahogany) and can be ordered in a wide variety of other woods & finishes.

The small size of the REV 5s was welcome in a home that has large floor-standers in both the large-room stereo system and the home theater system. Thankfully the Fritzs appear rather cute and well-mannered compared to my “small” Magnepans. Additionally, the REV 5s allowed me more space around the speakers for walking and for placing large amplifiers. Nice.

Set up
Setting up the Rev 5s in my small room was relatively easy. I put them on sturdy steel spiked stands that held them 19” off the floor with a slight backward tilt and moderate toe-in. This had the tweeters at a height of about 30”, which is likely a few inches low, hence the backward tilt. For the average installation 22” to 26” stand height may be better. The speakers are about 6-feet apart center to center, the front baffles are 45” from my front wall and the speaker sides are about 2-feet from the side walls. Distance from the front plane of the speakers to the listening seat is at least 7 feet.

Initially I set the Rev 5s alongside my Magnepans and was surprised at how great they sounded in that strange position with one Maggie inboard of the left speaker and the other to the outside of the right speaker. I believe the Maggies were soaking up reflections from the front wall, which worked better than I’d anticipated. Later I put the Maggie panels behind the Rev 5s near the front wall and played with their angle to get the best soundstage focus. Curiously, using my SMGas for room treatments is probably more cost effective than buying “audiophile” room treatments and it’s hard to argue with success. I bought some faux leafy plants to use for the same purpose in case I sell the Maggies, but I didn’t get to experiment with the plants at the time of this writing.

My line preamp for this review is the VTL TL-2.5. I had the VTL feeding a 40-watt/channel Quicksilver GLA tube amplifier, which proved to be a heavenly combination. If you like to listen at very loud levels or you have a larger acoustic space to fill, you may need a more powerful amplifier. I briefly substituted the Wyred 4 Sound ST-250 solid-state ICE-Power amplifier for the Quicksilver, but the Quicksilver amp proved more harmonically pleasing and a touch less forward in the lower treble. So for the bulk of my listening I stuck with the Quicksilver GLA. This was not too much of a surprise because my previous comparison of the two amps resulted in the same outcome with the Magnepan speakers. Solid-state or tube hybrid amps will likely work better with the REV 5s in larger rooms (especially with some room treatment) where the speakers can be placed farther from the side walls and on taller stands.

The Bliss
Listening is of course, the “bliss” I’m referring to. Right from the start I was mesmerized by the wonderfully detailed and musical presentation the REV 5s spewed seductively into the room. The bass and dynamic contrasts are unbelievable for such a small 2-way, which in fact sounds like much larger speakers, at least in my small room.

Let me offer some perspective. These speakers perform much better than typical 2-ways anywhere near their size. To me, they have the midrange tonal purity of speakers like the Rogers LS 3/5A but with more dynamic impact and body. The bass is unbelievably deep and powerful and the highs are very well integrated and are extremely detailed and clear.

Compared to the Mark & Daniel Diamond speakers, which I had in my system for a while, I’d have to say that the REV 5s are more musical while having just as much detail (though not as extended in the extreme highs). In my system the M&D Diamonds had very good bass as well, but they were dryer sounding in the midrange and not as harmonically “right.” My belief is that the series crossover used in the REV 5 is more transparent and allows for a more seamless transition of the midrange and highs. It seems like the REV 5 comes across more like a full-range single-driver system, but with better extension at the frequency extremes than most single-driver systems.

I listened to the Beatle’s Love CD [Capitol 0 9463-79808-2 8] and it was a revelatory experience. The first track, “Because,” is a harmonious a cappella track that begins with ambient outdoor sounds like birds chirping and leaves rustling. I actually had to pause the track to check on whether or not the chirping birds were on the recording or outside my window. That’s how convincing the REV 5s can be. Also a church-like ambiance surrounded the Beatles voices on this track to a greater extent than I’ve heard it with other speakers.

Love turned out to be a very apt showcase for displaying the REV 5s’ considerable abilities. On “Eleanor Rigby,” for example, the violin and cello were lifelike and ever-so-sweet on the left channel while on the right side there was a percussion instrument that sounded like wood being struck with a drum stick. The sound had more texture and plausibility over the REV 5s which are particularly adept at portraying detail in all kinds of percussion from cymbals being brushed or struck to finger snaps to hands clapping. The REV 5s delivered these sounds clearly but more importantly, with greater authenticity than any speaker I can recall.

Of course the icing on the cake is the wonderfully natural reproduction of midrange instruments whether it’s male and female vocals (including the Beatles’ voices) acoustic guitar strings, or brass horns. The REV 5s not only do it right, they do it better than most speakers I’ve heard. And I’ve listened to a lot of very good speakers over the last 40 years.

For bass, the feisty Fritz’s provided quite a solid foundation for “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and a very full drum sound on “Within You Without You.” Actually, I can’t say enough good things about the bass these little guys belt out, and seemingly without breaking a sweat. And it’s not merely copious bass energy, it’s a superb balance of articulation and heft. Listening to the drums and acoustic bass on Devil Doll’s Queen of Pain CD [Lucky Bluebird LB73333-2] was quite telling—like the drums in the intro to “Heart Sized Crush” and the bass licks on “It Was Raining.” The little REV 5s did a very credible job of reproducing the drive and big sound on this recording.

Probably the best compliment I can give the REV 5s regarding their bass reproduction is that in my small room their apparent bass performance is not embarrassed by the 12-inch drivers in my VMPS speakers in my large-room system. In addition, the REV 5s provided more potent bass than my Magnepans, which are also rated to 45Hz. In this room I sometimes used the Maggies with my 12-inch subwoofer but with the REV 5s I felt no need to employ a sub as that would’ve been overkill.

Overall I found the FritzSpeakers a touch more musically pleasing than my big VMPS, but I should qualify that by admitting that the RM2s are using a very good solid-state amplifier compared to the Fritz using a very good EL34 tube amplifier. If the same tube amplifier were used in both systems I’m sure it would be a much closer contest with respect to harmonic richness. In fact, the REV 5’s treble did prove a bit too hot for my taste with the Wyred 4 Sound ST-250 amp swapped in for the Quicksilver in the small room.

One other observation is that the VMPS are more dynamic than the much smaller Fritz, and so, are more suited to a larger acoustic environment. The flip side of this picture is that the VMPS must be played at higher volumes than the Fritz to show their stuff. In my small listening room the Fritz’s sound great at moderately loud levels and still sound quite detailed and engaging at lower levels. I believe the explanation for this may be that the mid-bass of the REV 5s is slightly elevated as is the lower treble. This type of balance mimics hitting the “Loudness” button common on many older receivers and integrated amps, intended to restore proper frequency balance at low listening levels. Admittedly, they’re playing in a small room which is also influencing the tonal balance.

Caveats
Yes, there are always caveats. First of all the REV 5s are somewhat inefficient at 86dB/watt. Unless you normally listen at lower volumes you’re going to need around 40 watts per speaker of decent tube power. I suspect an amp like the 18-watt Almarro 318B would work alright in a small room as long as you don’t try to crank it to loud levels. The preamp volume settings I used with the REV 5s were virtually identical to that of my small Magnepans.

If you are going to use a solid-state amp, the REV 5s may tend to sound more forward and bright than you’d prefer, so my recommendation is to use a push-pull tube amplifier. I did achieve extremely gratifying results with the VTL TL2.5 tube preamp driving the QuickSilver GLA (with EL34 tubes) and I’m sure that other similar combinations will make magic with the REV 5s. However, in a larger, not-too-bright room, a nice tube preamp feeding a decent quality solid-state or hybrid tube amp may work just fine. Fritz is experimenting with different crossover resistors to see if he can produce a slightly toned down version of the speaker that still embodies the “magic” of my review samples.

One other thing: at the time I received my review samples Fritz Heiler had not gotten around to putting his brand name, model, or serial numbers on the speakers. To me, this is something that can cause a problem when it comes time to resell. Heiler told me he will work on getting this corrected. If you order speakers from him make sure you hound him about this detail.

Summing up
After listening to the Fritz REV 5s in my system for the past few months I’ve become quite attached to them. One would never associate their physical size with the kind of big sound that comes out of them. Indeed, who would’ve guessed that these diminutive Fritz monitors would compete with my many-times larger VMPS? I didn’t, but the Fritz’s have convinced me otherwise (albeit in a much smaller room). And the bonus is that the REV 5s maintain their virtuoso musicality and detailing at lower volume levels.

I preferred the FritzSpeakers with my tube amp and feel that some solid-state amps could sound overtly bright, especially under less than ideal conditions, i.e. with poor room acoustics or mediocre setup. Be assured that if you pay attention to proper installation procedures and feed your electronics clean AC power, I’m confident that the REV 5s will serenade you with a musical performance that will shatter your preconceptions regarding the performance limitations of small monitor speakers.

At this juncture, I have no choice but to heed my own advice and buy the Fritz REV 5 speakers. And I plan on keeping them for quite some time. If you’re in the market for small monitor speakers that do it all, you’d be foolish not to put the REV 5s on your short must-audition list.



 




Manufacturer
FritzSpeakers
PO Box 936
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Phone: 310-379-8190
Website: www.fritzspeakers.com

FritzSpeakers REV 5 Monitor Speakers
Factory-Direct Price: $1950.00

Specifications:
Frequency Response: 45Hz-20kHz
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal
Sensitivity: 85.5dB/watt (2.83 volts @ 1 meter)

Bass/Midrange driver: ScanSpeak 5.5 inch Revelator with a coated non-resonant cone & dust cap. Cast frame, low damping rubber surround, Patented Symmetrical Drive Motor Design
Tweeter: ScanSpeak 28 mm 1.1 inch hand coated textile soft dome with non-resonant rear chamber & ferro-fluid cooling, aluminium face plate
Crossover: Series crossover without any capacitors in the circuit with the tweeter (6dB/octave slope)
Dimensions/Weight: 13”H x 7.5”W x 12”D; 24 lbs (each)
Recommended Power: 30-150 Watts


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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