How do I become an audiophile

Test: audiophile FAST cylindric | Active speakers, floorstanding speakers

Two-, three- and four-way speakers, active or passive, surface radiators and electrodynamic drivers, with and without horn, dipoles, bipoles ... there is no shortage of different ways of converting sound, and the multitude of loudspeakers that you can use is correspondingly colorful gets to do it as a hi-fi editor. In all these years, however, I haven't had the pleasure of using one principle: the line array. It's nice that this changes with the current test subject, the audiophile FAST cylindric (Web: www.audiophilefast.de).

With professionals and at home

Line arrays are commonplace in professional sound reinforcement technology. Whether at a rock concert or in church, you see the long, vertical “loudspeaker lines” more often - as a rule, they look slightly angled from an elevated position towards the audience. Their main field of application is the targeted sound reinforcement of an auditorium (also) further away. The decisive trick that makes this possible is the deliberately used sound bundling in the vertical, so that as much of the acoustic energy as possible arrives where it is needed and not where it disturbs.

The line array loudspeaker audiophile FAST cylindric

Such line emitters are of course rarely found in home regions. That should be inherent in the principle: You need a certain height. It doesn't have to be as expansive as the good old Infinity Reference Standard or the current McIntosh loudspeaker flagship XRT2.1K - both line arrays - but our test candidate also rises about 1.8 meters in height. He cannot be hidden. But why should I? Thanks to the special shape and the sheer number of drivers, the audiophile FAST cylindric (price of the test sample: 17,500 euros) has something sculptural and very eye-catching anyway. Speaking of which - if you don't like the somewhat rustic look of our test specimen “solid wood natural”: The column can also be supplied in the veneer of your choice or in the RAL color of your choice.

Background

The audiophile FAST company is young. Founder and mastermind Prof. Dr. Michael Bruns worked for many years as a university lecturer at RWTH Aachen University, followed by managerial positions in well-known large German companies, with a focus on system technology and process automation. This is a very unusual background for the hi-fi industry. It seems more familiar that someone here has turned his passion into a profession. After several years of development and experimentation, audiophile FAST GmbH was founded in the summer of this year. There are currently two loudspeakers in the program, in addition to our test candidate FAST cylindric there is also the FAST spheric, which - nomen est omen - radiates spherically and has a somewhat more conventional effect compared to the FAST cylindric.

Modular concept

The name says it all at FAST cylindric. FAST - that stands for full range speaker and subwoofer technology. It is therefore a two-way loudspeaker in which the majority of the frequencies are transmitted by broadband chassis; One and a half inch cone drivers from Dayton Audio are used.

One and a half inch broadband cone drivers from Dayton Audio - a total of 2 x 30 pieces were installed in our test sample

6-inch woofers with a flat membrane are responsible for the bass. For a real sub, the crossover frequency of 210 Hertz (a second filter stage starts at 300 Hertz) is quite high, but the small broadband cones will hardly be able to be coupled cleanly lower. According to Bruns, the Tang-Band bass drivers used are characterized by a particularly low level of distortion and the fact that they can play down really deep in small volumes - 7.2 liters are available in each closed case.

Each module of the audiophile FAST cylindric has a 6-inch bass driver

As is easy to see, the audiophile FAST cylindric is a modular system. On a large and heavy base, for the stability of which a steel plate was installed on the underside, we first find the so-called "Connectivity Module". The active electronics reside in it (or the passive crossover, you have the choice, more on that later).

The electronics of the active audiophile FAST cylindric are in the base

Three to six loudspeaker modules are then arranged above this, each housing a woofer and, in front of it, six full-range speakers.

The audiophile FAST cylindric is available in different sizes and consists of three to six such loudspeaker modules. Five each were used in our test sample

For most rooms, a configuration with four or five loudspeaker modules is best, says Bruns, but three or six modules could also be useful in smaller or particularly large rooms. The prices vary according to the number of modules from 12,000 to 19,500 euros.

Crucial: the radiation characteristics

For the mid / high frequency range, the sound-radiating surface of the 5 configuration tested here is around three centimeters wide and 150 centimeters high - the 30 broadband chassis stacked on top of each other per loudspeaker work acoustically like one. Since the radiation behavior depends crucially on the relation “wavelength to driver size”, the sound field opens up quite broadly in the horizontal direction at around 120 degrees, while in the vertical it “beams”, i.e. bundles. This is exactly what is wanted, because this way reflections on the floor and ceiling can be minimized. Instead of being in the form of a sphere as with an (ideal) point sound source, the radiation with such a line source is cylindrical. At least in the theoretical ideal.

But that's not what Mr. Bruns is aiming for in its purest form: in practice, the radiation of the audiophile FAST cylindric is approximately in the form of a spheresection. This is achieved by the convex shape of the loudspeaker and supported by the fact that loudspeaker modules 1, 4 and 5 (counting from the bottom) are attenuated by 3 dB in level. Such a spherical segment is worth striving for because the sound propagation in nature is also spherical and our hearing perceives this as natural. But the larger part of the "sound ball" - above, below and behind the loudspeaker front - causes sound problems due to room reflections. The FAST cylindric therefore only uses the desired front part of the ball.

Active or passive

As mentioned, this loudspeaker is available as standard in an active, but also in a passive version. In the active version, an ICEpower Class D module with 2 x 125 watts of power and an integrated DSP including crossover function is used for each channel. Thanks to the DSP, a linear-phase behavior between sub and broadband can be achieved, the two paths are separated in two steps at 210 and 300 Hertz with a slope of a total of 24 dB / octave.

Each loudspeaker module is contacted by a four-pole Speakon connector

It is the same with the passive version, but it does not allow linear behavior, but only minimal phase behavior, says Bruns. Passive room measurement is of course not possible, with the active version, the installation situation at the customer's site (close to the wall, close to the corner, free) and any existing room modes can be taken into account. However, the active FAST cylindric does not offer a practicable volume control. There is a volume control on the back of each speaker, but it is more used to adjust the input sensitivity.

Since the construction and construction of the passive crossover are complex, there is no potential for savings compared to the active loudspeaker, says Bruns, and accordingly both versions are priced the same. We tested the active FAST cylindric.

audiophile FAST cylindric: sound impression & comparisons

The audiophile loudspeaker FAST cylindric "was developed primarily for friends of classical music", according to the manufacturer's website. That is a sympathetically clear statement - which still needs to be clarified a bit: Not only the genre "classical" is meant, but rather "classically instrumented music", in other words: The reproduction of acoustic instruments should be particularly successful with the FAST cylindric. On the other hand, it is of course suggested that film sound, techno, hip-hop, hard rock, etc. are less likely to represent the strengths of the slim, high pillars. Of course, I have to check that right away.

I start with normal pop, push the song "It's A-Coming" by Natalie Merchant in the playlist, because it has a really fat bass line on it, off you go ... and what do I experience? Instead of a slightly anorectic sound, which I expect from the above statement, it is really substantial and sonorous. Well, “sonorous” does not automatically mean “strong bass”. But also the electric bass line in this piece is presented with a nice grip and physical, there is a lot of meat on it, it looks well-contoured, so neither too dry nor too soft ... there is no reason to complain. What is Bruns actually writing on his homepage?

Okay, we need nastier tracks. It has to get louder. With Nik Bärtschs bass-heavy "Module 15" slowly dawns on me what is meant Lushes Wall-of-sound scrub (Album: Service Industry; on Amazon) it becomes even clearer: The combination of powerful bass / deep bass content and very high level is actually not the core competence of FAST cylindric. There is even more that is possible, which is not primarily a question of money, but of the concept. I still vividly remember how the horn-assisted Genelec S360 SAM (8,120 euros) literally blew me away with such program material. Sure, that's exactly what the Finn was trained for. Levels, dynamic limits, sheer bass power, it can do that more than almost any other speaker in its price range. Resolving power on the other hand, naturalness of the timbres, spatial impression? Hmm, well ... okay too. But no comparison to FAST cylindric. Not even remotely. More on that, we will state for now: If you want to enjoy rock, metal and all sorts of other “noisy” things at high volumes - you have alternatives, you won't go for the FAST cylindric, because it works with it, too, but not as convincing as with other offers on the market. This speaker has something else in mind.

But what exactly? If I had to say it in one sentence: to present orchestral music and chamber music - including jazz, folk, etc. generously - as naturally as possible. Reads nice, doesn't it? But it also reads quite abstractly. Because logically, the next question is: What is it that makes this ominous “natural sound impression”? Well, for me the recipe with which the audiophile FAST cylindric achieves this naturalness essentially consists of three ingredients.

Well matched

The first is an overall tonality that can be described as "balanced, with a slightly warmer touch". Overall, the accent is more on the upper bass / fundamental than on the area from the upper middle / lower treble. The super high frequency is there, but it is kept more subtle, exceptionally "airy" as with some surface radiators (ribbons, magnetostats, AMTs, etc.) it certainly does not sound. In addition, there is the other extreme, the deep bass. That can also be heard, sometimes I am even amazed at how clearly it comes in view of the manageable size of the individual loudspeaker modules of the audiophile FAST. But in the end it is also a bit more reserved, at least for an active speaker in this price range.

Bass driver of the audiophile FAST cylindric

How sensitively the loudspeaker was timed can be seen in women's voices, which are never occupied, but always sound physical, solid, yes, "solid". It is good for the realism of the reproduction. You can also notice it with stringed instruments such as violin, viola, cello, guitar, harp: scratches or paintwork are a bit milder, but never padded. It's just that the wooden body of the instruments is more supported than the strings. And that's why the FAST cylindric is pleasantly more gracious than a “pure teaching” studio monitor in the near field, namely organic, believable, saturated, but also not simply “full”. I have to say that this line array balances very confidently over the fine line “pleasant but never comfortable”. (By the way: If you want a different tonal direction, this can be done quickly with the FAST cylindric, because personal taste can be addressed via DSP. But here I am discussing the coordination that the developer has planned. Everything else is yes little point.)

Clean!

The second ingredient for me is the cleanliness with which the audiophile FAST makes music across the frequency band. Revelations, the second of three albums by Cuarteto Casals (listen on Amazon), on which all of Beethoven's string quartets are gathered, is running - as a 24/96 stream from Qobuz. And the name says it all: My God, how good do these strings sound through this tall loudspeaker ?! That little bit of fundamental warmth may be a small part of it, okay, but that's not it alone. The tone colors are decisive here, they appear pure, differentiated, fanned out - and therefore not monochrome.

Broadband driver of the audiophile FAST cylindric

In addition, this loudspeaker offers the pleasure of a good resolution on the one hand - I sometimes feel as if I can see how the pressure of the bow on the strings is varied while playing - and on the other hand, it is "embedded" by the tonally slightly more sonorous interpretation. With all the richness of detail, the FAST cylindric never appears exhibitionistic. In contrast: The combination of Musical Fidelity M8700 power amplifiers and the Paradigm Persona 3F (for a total of around 23,000 euros) is certainly even more detailed, which is not least due to the famous beryllium midrange of the Canadian loudspeaker. But that goes hand in hand with the tonal diction mentioned above, “pure teaching”, which will not appeal to every pleasure listener. Exactly such listeners should feel right at home with the FAST cylindric, because it shows a finely tuned balance of resolution and tonal enjoyment.

The wow factor

So far so beautiful. But it is the third ingredient that gives the sound image a really special touch: the impression of space that is conveyed here is not only great, but great. Especially when you hear symphonic works that need a lot of space. "Away with the dollhouse, with space, air and light", the motto seems to be. No matter if I am now Zappas Yellow Shark (listen on Amazon) run or that Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev Shostakovich's 1st Symphony Intoned: The spaciousness with which the audiophile FAST pulls up the sound stage is nothing short of splendid - and that contributes significantly to the desired natural effect of orchestral music.

My "ex-loudspeaker" Blumenhofer Genuin FS1 MK2 (in the meantime the Gran Gioia 2 × 10 has been tethered) was also able to convey a very large stage impression. But the FAST cylindric proves that it can be even more generous and at the same time a higher imaging precision can be offered. Sure, the latter can be increased with compact monitors bred for time accuracy, but such concepts usually no longer come along when it comes to the projection of sheer room size. In addition, there are people who speak of “hyperrealism” when the edges are too sharp. With all its precision, the FAST cylindric draws more organically, round and pleasantly three-dimensional.

The audiophile FAST cylindric - from the front and from the back

A few more things stand out: Instead of a sweet spot, you can speak of a sweet area, it doesn't really matter whether you are to the left or right or in the middle in order to enjoy the stage setting. And whether you are sitting, lounging extremely deeply on the sofa or standing does not really matter - vertically nothing changes tonally. Nice thing, you don't have that that often. However, the FAST cylindric is a bit higher than the average speaker, I would say about a head higher. And so it happens that singers actually stand in front of you instead of sitting. After a short period of getting used to it, I find it more realistic.

What is more important, however, is that some speakers project the stage forwards and appear somewhat limited towards the rear - others do it the other way round, offer great depth gradation, but sometimes come across as a bit reserved / distant. You can put this “either-or” aside with the audiophile FAST.Depending on the recording, it can play just as well towards the front as it can towards the rear - preferably both at the same time - and acoustically it does not really stick to the side borders of its housing. Friends of “great classical music” in particular should really hear this loudspeaker, because it is like this: size matters.

And dynamic?

Back to the beginning and the question: How is it dynamic? The wrong conclusions should not be drawn from what I wrote - that there are concepts for very loud, bass-heavy, "noisy" music that deliver more in terms of dynamics. More than once I was surprised how dynamically gripping classical music is transported, and not only with chamber music, but also with symphonic works. In terms of fine dynamics, everything is in balance with the FAST cylindric anyway.

Maybe you don't have to be very surprised, after all, we are dealing with an active loudspeaker, and they are usually quite good at something like that. In addition, thanks to DSP power, the FAST cylindric has acquired a phase-coherent game of woofer and midrange / tweeter, and this translates into precise timing and a convincing sense of rhythm. So: With the FAST cylindric you don't get a rock star, let alone a steam hammer - but you do get a pleasantly lively loudspeaker.

Billboard