Fulton Musical Industries Model 80 & "J-Modular" loudspeakers More Reviews From JGH

J. Gordon Holt also wrote about the FMI J-Modular System in September 1973 (Vol.3 No.6):

After the foregoing report was written, we got a preliminary listen to a pair of the Model J systems. The Model J consists of a floor-standing woofer (about 18" square by 33" high) with an FMI Model 80 on top of it and then an RTR ESR-6 tweeter on top of that. Since all three boxes are different sizes and shapes, the combination looks like something Junior would construct from his building blocks, but we understood that "something" will be done about that little hitch.

Sonically, the system was hard to fault. It seemed to have, no lower limit, no upper limit, and no coloration. (Of course, it has all three; they just don't show all that much.). And if the overall definition wasn't as good as that from a Tympany 1A, its overall performance in terms of realism and listenability put the Tympany III to shame.

Oddly, though, it did not have the immediacy—the sense of reach-out-and-touch-it aliveness that the 80s alone have. We understand, though, that the system is still undergoing some "trimming" prior to production, and all we can say is, if the final version is better than what we've heard to date, it could wipe out everything else from our Class A-Recommended speaker group.

We suggest waiting a while before running out and buying a Model J. On the other hand, you could buy a Model J now and, unless immediacy is something you crave, live happily ever after with it.—J. Gordon Holt

J. Gordon Holt returned to the FMI J-Modular System in January 1974 (Vol.3 No.7):

We finally received our finally finalized versions of the Js, just before press deadline. (We do have deadlines, believe it or not; they just get moved around from time to time.)

The efficiency is now about 10dB higher than previously, making these a shade less efficient than a typical good bookshelf system. (The first Js were hopelessly inefficient.) But our first reaction was disappointment. Overall sound was extremely smooth, with incredible low- and high-end range, but with somewhat closed-in sound. Not quite there.

We were prepared to relegate them to our Class B Recommended group until we heard another pair of them in another room. On the basis of that rather disconcerting experience, we are now obliged to rate them Class A, along with the Infinity SS-1A, with the following reservations for both: The Js are at their best in acoustically bright rooms, the Infinitys in a softer acoustical environment. Both, require careful placement for best results but while the Infinitys are harder to locate for best results, their very sensitivity to room placement makes them more flexible and better able to cope with a variety of acoustical environments.

At their best, the Js are extraordinarily musical, in a way that classical listeners with highly trained ears for high fidelity will appreciate. They are neither forward nor remote (ideally, that is), they are rich without being heavy, and they reproduce musical timbres with unbelievable accuracy. We would venture to say in fact that we heard, through !he Js from a master tape of a small combo, the most astonishingly realistic sound we have ever heard.

The Infinitys are very slightly forward, with somewhat better focus but a little less warmth (fig.2). They do not go quite as deep in most rooms as do the Fultons, but the bass is somewhat tighter and, in most rooms, smoother. (Because the separate woofer can be located for smoothest response, without regard for upper-range driver placement.) They will, we feel, appeal more to the listener with rather catholic musical tastes, as they handle non-classical material in a manner that non-classical listeners find more satisfying than what the Js do. In a suitable room, though, the Infinitys, too, produced some astonishingly realistic sound from original tapes, although the tapes themselves were of material—orchestra and large chorus—that is far more difficult to reproduce credibly than is a small instrumental group.

606FMIfig2.jpg

Both of these are obviously Class A systems, although one (the J-Modular) is far less costly than the other, and can, if desired, be driven by a single power amplifier. The Infinitys have to be bi-amplified, but are adaptable to a wider variety of acoustical situations.

Under ideal conditions, either can provide more natural and accurate sound reproduction than any other speaker' system that has ever been made commercially available. But whichever you get, don't, for God's sake, try to drive it with anything less than the very best electronics. Use Paolis or Audio Research amps (or, perhaps, the Infinity class-D switching amp, which we have yet to test at the time of this writing). Anything less is a waste of the fantastic potential of these speaker systems.—J. Gordon Holt

The FMI J-Modular updated, from September 1975 (Vol.3 No.9):

At the time of this writing (late in July 1975), the best we can do in reporting on the J-Modular system is to say that it is still undergoing improvement. The original J woofer is now obsolete, having been replaced by a larger box that carries the low-end range down to around 20Hz and improves the appearance of the system, at least as viewed from in front. The sound is now quite stupendous, with a mild reservation or two; but since more changes are on the way, we will reserve judgment on the J-Modular until it appears likely that the version we report on win still be available by the time the report is published.—J.Gordon Holt

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COMMENTS
dalethorn's picture

We bought the FMI-80's in the late 1970's when FMI had already more than doubled the price due to Stereophile's rave review.  We used them until 2005 when they were destroyed by a shipper.  During those years we auditioned several well-regarded loudspeakers, but all of them had unacceptable colorations compared to the FMI-80.  Speakers we used prior to the FMI-80 include the LS3/5a, Dahlquist DQ-10, Advent.

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