The Ferguson & Hill FH009 splits audio duties between the horn drivers and the central unit. Each horn unit features a small speaker cone at its centre, whose dinky stature may surprise those not familiar with horn designs. Although they're the most visually-commanding part of the setup, their job is to provide the top-end sweetness we're looking for - while perhaps not as wholly treble-obsessed as a standard tweeter, it's up to the much larger drivers of the central unit to augment the sound with body and "slam".
Upon first setting-up the system, we noted that both the horn drivers and the central unit speaker cones emit more hiss than we're used to from new speaker systems. It may be argued that it's subtle, but we could notice it from our standard listening position, a couple of metres away from the speakers. It's also not something that you'll be able to hear when the system is outputting audio, but does seem to kick in whenever the unit is on, and no matter which input is selected.
What the FH009 is good at providing is sound with scale. Some lifestyle systems can sound rather small, but this one has that full-bodied, assured sound of a full-size Hi-Fi. It also goes terrifyingly loud - unlike the recently-reviewed Libratone Lounge, which was rather too well-mannered on that front.
After putting up with the limitations of the FH009's old-fashioned approach, it finally pays off with sound. There's plenty of warmth and mid-range texture, which those of you who love to cling on to the idea of a warm, analogue-sounding past will no-doubt appreciate. It works wonders with vocals in music in particular.
When given tricky material, the system does tend to trip up a bit, sounding a little muddled at times. The FH009 doesn't have the clarity of the top-end models in Ferguson & Hill's range (no surprise given they cost around 10 times the price) or plenty of other systems available for this money, and when this is wedded to warmth, this effect is a predictable outcome.
Switching over to films, we started to feel the lack of a subwoofer. While the 5in bass drivers can handle a kick drum with ease, they can't render the roar of action film explosions all that convincingly. However, you can plug in up to two subwoofer units using the ports on the back of the main unit. Ferguson & Hill provides its own FH008 sub for £275, and is a good idea if you're thinking of this as primarily a movie partner. But if that's the case, you should perhaps consider a 5.1 system - for £800 you can buy a great one.
Looking through Ferguson & Hill's back catalogue of products, we can't help but feel that the central unit of the FH009 is a weak link. It lacks the elegance of the acrylic horns and the orbs of the FH007, and doesn't feel as carefully-designed as it should be. When this is a system that can't hide such issues behind a wall of features, this is a definite drawback.
With home audio systems based on an unusual look, you often have to let go of the idea of value for money, but not so here. Packing-in a large central unit and two horn speakers complete with stands, £800 sounds like a good deal for such a system. However, the Ferguson Hill FH009's old-school approach comes with plenty of compromises, including limited connectivity and noisier operation than we're used to. The payback is a warm, involving sound - though it is a little bass-light for movie-watching.