Fried Model G/3 loudspeaker Page 2
The G/3s finally ended up in the imaging sweet spots of my listening room: away from the rear and side walls and with a slight toe-in toward the listening position. I tried both the "correct" mirror-imaged placement of the left and right speakers (with the tweeters on the inside), as well as the reverse arrangement (tweeters on the outside), and I can tell you that the soundstage was far better integrated with the intended positioning; that's how they were left for the listening tests. This room placement involved a compromise in bass response, which for these speakers would surely be more extended with closer-to-the-wall placement. On the other hand, they image so well that was worth it to opt for a placement maximizing their imaging capabilities.
I was struck immediately by the excellence of the soundstage reproduction, which is quite remarkable for a sizable three-way design. Instruments are nicely focused within a wide soundstage, depth perspective is excellent (whenever the program has it), and the height perspective is very realisticprovided that you listen at or below the axis of the tweeter. This last should generally prove easy, considering the height of the speakers, unless you normally use a bar stool for a listening seat. Listening from above the tweeter axis compresses the height perspective, resulting in the illusion of looking down at the performers.
With an amplifier of the caliber of the Boulder 500, resolution of low-level detail is very, very good. For example, in the sacred choral music cut from the Opus 3 Test Record 1, the chorus's sharp breath intake is clearly resolved. The Fool On The Hill (EMI-Australia OASD.7589) is a ballet devised and choreographed by Gillian Lynne with music based on themes by the Beatles, with orchestration by John Lanchbury and others. There's an embarrassing boo-boo in the mixdown of "Eleanor Rigby": the soloist, Gaye Macfarlane, is panpotted from center stage to the right and then back againall in mid-word!
All of this is easily exposed by the G/3s. On live recordings, audience noise and feedback is effortlessly audible. Hall ambience, a complex mixture of early and late reflections, is properly reproduced through the G/3. The "Good Night Irene" cut from the Weaver's 1963 concert at Carnegie Hall (Vanguard VSD 2150) has the audience singing along during the refrain, precisely the sort of detail that is very difficult to pick up with run-of-the-mill speakers, but all of which is easily discernible with the G/3.
It must be pointed out, though, that the G/3 does not represent the state of the art in the areas of detail resolution or soundstage transparencyareas in which conventional moving-coil loudspeakers have traditionally lagged behind such high-tech designs as full-range electrostatics and ribbon systems. The Apogees, for example, are just devastating in their ability to remove veiling up and down the audio spectrum, offering a more penetrating perspective into the soundstage than any other speaker I know. Another example is the Sound Lab A-3 electrostatic. At a recent listening session in J. Gordon Holt's basement, the A-3 astounded me with its level of resolution and lack of coloration. It produced the most musical and harmonically correct sound I've ever heard from JGH's systems, including the Infinity RS-1Bs (though the A-3s don't match the latter's bass impact and dynamic range).
Bass impact, power handling, and dynamic range are the areas, in fact, where conventional speakers can better high-tech designs. Personal priorities become important, therefore. If these aspects of reproduced music are more important to you than unearthing the last recorded nuance or eliminating residues of mud and fuzz from musical textures, then you're likely to find conventional speakers ultimately more satisfying.
The G/3s do indeed excel in the area of dynamic range. They're comfortable with small-scale, intimate music, but really show their stuff on high-powered symphonic stuff. Orchestral crescendos present no problem, and are reproduced without any apparent congestion, compression, or stressat least at volume levels I'm comfortable with. This ability to effortlessly go from soft to loud is an impressive attribute of the G/3s, far beyond the reach of minimonitors.
After a moderately long listen to the G/3, the character and extent of a serious tonal balance deficiency became obvious. The region affected stretches from about 2 to 5kHz, and includes the upper mid and presence regions. There's a pervasive dry, thin quality throughout this range that most notably affects string overtones. Along with the dryness, there's a roughness in the upper mids, around what must be the transition region between the mid driver and the tweeter, most easily heard in the upper registers of the flute and soprano voice.
My frequency response measurements revealed a depression, 48dB deep and centered at 4kHz, the width of which is critically dependent on the vertical height of the microphone along the front baffle. With the microphone aimed between the mid and treble drivers, the depression is widest and extends from 2 to 6kHz. This sort of result is indicative of severe interference between the mid and treble drivers. The warmth region of the G/3 is fullmaybe just a bit on the lush side, further highlighting the spare character of the upper mids.
Overall, the mids are a bit too grainy for my taste. I think that other audiophiles who are obsessive-compulsive about midrange tonal purity, and having experienced the pristine mids of the old Quads or KLH 9s, will also not be satisfied with the G/3s. The brightness region is well behaved, with excellent control of vocal sibilants, brushed cymbals, and massed brass, though the extreme treble is not sufficiently smooth and airy for my jaded ears. Nevertheless, it is still very good for a soft-dome tweeter. The bass doesn't dig particularly deep, being subjectively extended into the mid 40s and measuring flat to 50Hz. Organ music is missing its bottom extension and powerfrom 20Hz to 35Hz the response is shelved down by 18dBwhich I find not only disappointing, but also, after spending a couple of weeks with the KEF 107s' deep and powerful bass, unacceptable for a full-range system with a multi-kilobucks price tag (though the KEFs cost $1700 more). The mid-bass is quite good, however, with decent speed, and exhibits only some mild boxy colorations that give the G/3 a little extra whump.
At its retail price of $2190/pr, the G/3 is up against some very stiff competition from both conventional speakers, like the Thiel CS3.5, and not-so-conventional ones, like the Apogee Caliper and Magnepan MG-IIIA. Nor does the G/3 break out of its price class. It does not, for example, have the bass extension and power of either the Snell A/3 or the KEF 107, nor does it have the KEF's smoothness and harmonic integrity.
The G/3 undeniably has appeal. It excels in the areas of imaging and the reproduction of dynamic shadings, and will therefore make some people happy. However, it is clearly flawed in terms of tonal balance and harmonic accuracy. These problems may be fixable with better integration of the mid and treble drivers.
In prototypical Fried fashion, I was at the last moment sent two pieces of foam to insert in the midrange "transmission line," but they arrived too late to include in this review. Bud's reports from the field indicate that the additional damping improves midrange claritywhich tends to bear out some of my criticisms.