Some months back here on AC, I threw my hat in the ring for a potential demo tour of some stand mount speakers. Shortly thereafter, I received an unsolicited PM from Fritz Heiler of Fritz Speakers. He let me know that he also lives in So Cal, and that he would be happy to let me demo a pair of his Carbon 7 speakers. I responded that I'd love to hear them, but that I was not in a position to buy speakers at the present time. He let me know that he wasn't trying to sell me speakers, just offering up a demo because he liked listening to his speakers with different types of gear and in different acoustical environments. With that having been said, I let Fritz know that I'd love to give them a try.
Having completely forgotten about this exchange, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Fritz the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. He let me know that he'd be going through my town on his way up North for the Holiday and asked if I wanted to demo his Carbon 7s for a couple of weeks. Wow, two weeks of demo speakers with no shipping costs involved? Sure! So on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Fritz stopped by my work and dropped off the speakers.
Now mind you, I was at work. There was no way to play them at all, but Wow!, what pretty speakers. Medium sized stand mount speakers, finished in a beautiful walnut burl veneer. Their size belies their weight - I'm guessing a good 30+ pounds each, but man are they easy to look at. We talked for a while about his speakers, the crossovers, the upcoming Holiday and so on. Fritz was engaging and obviously passionate about speakers and audiophillia of all sorts and it was a pleasure meeting him. I told him that he needed to stop by and we could barbecue and listen to his speakers on his way back through town. He told me he'd be back in a couple of weeks and we see how it went.
Stands were built in the Maintenance shop the next day, and it was time for some listening! The speakers are easy to place, and pretty forgiving of their placement. I tweaked on the speaker placement for a couple of days just doing casual listening, and dialed them in a little over two feet from the front wall to the backs of the speakers and a little over eight and a half feet apart from each other. To me, they just shined with zero toe-in, sitting straight on-axis.
In a word - awesome. These speakers play music like they are an instrument, and I have no other way of saying that is how well they sound. For two weeks I ran through every demo song I have, every favorite, and nearly every genre I have available. The Carbon 7s played all of it back with uncanny realism and musicality that made me wonder how sound so big could be coming from such small speakers. The soundstage was crazy deep and dimensional, allowing for perfect placement of each instrument in each track, and greatly exceeded the width of the speaker's placement. The integration of the two drivers is perfect. Shining highs with zero brightness, mids to die for, and the most unbelievable bass I have ever heard from a stand mount speaker. Seriously, these things have to be digging into the low to mid 30's, yet they never overloaded the room with bass boom; just music. Really pretty music.
I have a very special live recording of Rachael Yamagata's Paper Doll. It really is a great recording. About mid way through the song or so, a cello plays. I have never heard this recording where the cello sounded so real. I swear, every time I played it I'd unconsciously jerk my head towards the speakers and look at them, fully expecting them to be vibrating like a cello string beneath a bow. They are that revealing, and that musical.
The other interesting thing with the Carbon 7s is that you can stare straight at them and no sound emanates from them at all. I mean NOTHING. They just sit there, all pretty looking and make a soundstage. I get good imaging, and I understand how to achieve it, but these speakers seem to make no direct sound of their own; just room filling, beautiful music. You can't even see the mid bass driver moving at all.
Taking that as a challenge, I cued up Queen's 'The Invisible Man' and drove the living hell out of them. Pushing the 280 watt AVA Fet Valve Ultra at just over 100 decibels, yep, those drivers move. But you still can't hear a damned thing coming from the speakers; just great room filling sound with an unbelievable, three dimensional soundstage that sounds like the band is here in the room.
In short, I don't think there is a song, or genre of songs, that these speakers could not play back effortlessly and beautifully. They really are something special.
This past Saturday Fritz gave me a call and told me he would be by in the early evening to pick up his speakers. It kind of reminded me of my high school agriculture student days when we had to give up our livestock; I was really enjoying having these speakers! Unfortunately, I didn't have my act together enough to slap together a quick barbecue. In any case, Fritz stopped by about 6:00'ish. He brought with him a very fine selection of a cold beverage, packaged by the six. The stereo was already on, and we just started listening and talking.
Fritz Heiler is a great guy. We never really did any 'critical listening', we just sat and talked while the tunes played. Fritz is articulate, intelligent, funny and down to earth. He knows a ton of the Industry guys, and speaks highly of every one of them. He never bad mouthed another speaker system, just elaborated on his design goals. It was intriguing to hear him discuss crossover design, and how important it is to know the harmonics of the types of instruments themselves to get it right. Rather than discussing math and slopes, he made me understand how the hell he gets these speakers to sound so good.
For the most part, I was streaming random tunes rather than cherry picking great recordings. Repeatedly throughout the night we would both look at each other and go "Holy crap, this sounds good!" I must have spontaneously told him a half dozen times "Damn, Fritz; you make nice speakers!" Bozzio Levin Stevens 'Duende' came on randomly and we both just went 'Wow". Fritz chuckled "Where's the sub?" I reiterated that he makes damned fine speakers. The sound was just unbelievable - deep, airy, spacious and most importantly uncannily and eerily realistic. Who knows how such amazing sound comes from small speakers.
Ultimately, it started getting late and Fritz has a bit of a drive left before him. We disconnected and boxed up the Carbon 7s and I repositioned my speakers and hooked them back up. I played him the Rachael Yamagata song again, and while my speakers dig a bit deeper, the cello doesn't make you feel like you're sitting inside the body of the instrument.
The Carbon 7s are a special speaker, and have made me totally reconsider how I want to integrate speakers into my room and system. It is extremely unlikely that I will do anything without Fritz's advice and counsel, regardless of what route I take. If you are in the market for speakers, these should be added to your short list immediately. I wish I could throw out some of that bitchin' speaker prose, but I can't. These speakers sound like musical instruments, and I ran a ton of music through them just enjoying what they convey to the room. If you want that uber-deep bass, it would be a walk in the park to integrate even a most-modest sub in with these speakers because they already cross so well over so many musical instruments. At their price point of about $1,700.00, they are under priced and have to be one of the better values out there. With a 30 day 'No BS' guarantee, these deserve a listen.
In closing, thank you, Fritz. I appreciate the gracious demo of your speakers. If you're going to be in the neighborhood again, let me know. I owe you a barbecue.