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Ferguson Hill FH007 and FH008 Speakers - Ferguson Hill FH007 and FH008
The difference might not sound like much, but when you consider that the ear is most sensitive to frequencies around the 2-3kHz mark, which is precisely where most speakers cross over from their mid/bass drivers to their tweeters, the advantages of a single driver to cover the whole range become obvious.
The horn, or horn-loaded to use the correct term, design also means that the speakers are highly efficient and able to reach loud volumes with very little movement of the driver cone. In theory this means lower levels of distortion - both at the amplifier and speaker ends of the equation - as the speakers are having to shift less air, and the amplifier circuitry is having to do less work.
So much for the theory: does it work in practice? Well, it very much depends on the sort of music you want to listen to and the volume you want to listen at, but in most instances I'd have to say the answer is, most certainly, yes. Firing up Diana Krall's When I look In Your Eyes reveals the true strengths of the FH007s. Her smoky vocals just leap from the speakers in a way that seems holographically real. You can hear plenty of detail, such as when she takes breaths in between phrases, but importantly, the rich, subtle singing never overwhelms these speakers and they remain silky smooth right up to the top end, with a remarkable lack of sibilance and distortion.
Moving on to a touch of Stacey Kent and the performance is repeated. Stereo imaging is remarkable - these speakers not only melt into the background physically, but they also do so in an audio sense. The FH007s create a soundstage that's convincing, and they do so in a completely effortless way that's a joy to the ears.
Listening to some classical Spanish guitar played by the inimitable John Williams also plays to these speakers' strengths. Each pluck of the nylon strings on his guitar hangs in space before the speakers, as if the great man were sitting in your living room giving a personal recital. The rasp of finger against nickel-wound strings sends a shiver up your spine.
On Ben Folds' jubilant piano-led pop on Songs For Silverman there's a sense of space realism to the music that ‘normal' speakers just can't reproduce. And even a bit of Metallica - at medium volume levels sound great, with the sub really helping to thump out the low notes and the bass spheres working well on the driving guitars.
There are a couple of caveats, though. These speakers don't deal with loud, dramatic music very well. Push the volume right up to neighbour-bothering levels while listening to something demanding, like Mozart's Requiem, and the FH007s will start to sound a little muddled. Likewise, a session of Soundgarden, Biffy Clyro and The Prodigy had me hankering after a more traditional, box speaker sound. The FH007's horn-loaded design also means they're not a great party speaker. They're highly directional, so for the best sound quality you have to point the speakers straight at your listening position. Move off axis and that detail and involving sound starts to disappear. These are small points in the overall scheme of things, but ones that are worth bearing in mind when you're thinking of buying a set.
You'll have probably figured out by now that I think the FH007 speakers are very good. But I'm not going to pull the proverbial high-end audio wool over your eyes: they're not perfect for every scenario. If you mainly listen to dance or metal at ear-splitting volumes and like your rock to rattle the window frames they won't be for you. It's also a shame the amp doesn't have more inputs. If it did, I'd consider recommending it as the main amp and speaker setup in a basic separates system. And it's a pity the sub is such a behemoth, which detracts a little from the overall appearance.
But in every other respect, the FH007s are simply stunning. Despite the seemingly high price tag, these speakers are actually great value for money for an amp, sub and speaker set up. They look wonderful, resplendent with their transparent spheres and horns, and the amp is well-designed too. But all that takes a back seat when you start to listen. They produce a sound that's detailed, natural and emotionally involving in a way that you just don't get from traditional speaker designs, and that's worth paying good money for.
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