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Positive Feedback ISSUE 75
The Neoteric Listener and The Fritz Hemp 6 Loudspeakers
John (Fritz) Heiler has been designing his Fritz Speakers loudspeakers for over thirty years. His credo is always consistent: He uses the same premium parts as speakers costing much more, and works hard to make affordable speakers that deliver exceptional sound. I've met Fritz many times over the years. He's a really likable, down-to-earth guy, who knows speaker design inside and out, with no BS and no blowhard salesman's attitude. Fritz Speakers always sound good at shows, and the Fritz Carbon 7 is a runaway favorite with many listeners and reviewers, but though I liked his speakers, I never loved them. I chalked it up to personal preference, and, because I respect a small company that endeavors to provide high quality at a reasonable price, I was glad that other Positive Feedback writers were eager to get the review opportunities that I couldn't appreciate.
Fortunately for me, a chance meeting with Fritz Heiler at a local Head-fi meet (his speakers are very popular with the headphone crowd, of all places) found him waxing enthusiastically about a new standmount loudspeaker design. His exuberance and the novelty of the speaker design piqued my interest. The Fritz Hemp 6 loudspeaker boasts (surprise!) a 6 1/2 inch Hemp fiber cone mid/bass driver. It also employs a 1 inch ScanSpeak Discovery textile dome tweeter, and series crossovers without any capacitors or resistors in the tweeter circuit. The big news, of course, is the hemp fiber mid/bass driver. This speaker is made by Tone Tubby speakers, and was selected by Fritz because he agrees with Tone Tubby's assertion that, "Hemp provides a rich, full spectrum of tone from a cone that is stronger and more flexible." Tone Tubby primarily makes speakers for use in guitar amplifiers, but also provides versions tailored for home audio applications. Without having a paper coned mid/bass speaker to compare it to, I can't say for certain that the sound of the Fritz Hemp 6 results from using an exotic speaker material. What is true for me, in my system at any rate, is the nicely balanced, cohesive, and, yes, sweet sound of the Fritz Hemp 6 speakers.
I'd previously had the opportunity to audition the Fritz Grove speaker at my home. Anyone can appreciate that the Grove has exceptional bass and authority for its size, and the Hemp 6's prove almost as praiseworthy in this regard. Whereas the Grove, however, sounded a little slow of foot in my system, the Hemp 6's deliver music sprightly and effortlessly. Fritz Heiler conjectures that what I heard had more to do with a system mismatch than the sound of the Grove speaker, stating "The Grove has a polypropylene cone with a 3 inch voice coil that is typically much harder to drive than a paper or Hemp cone." If so, it seems that the Grove and the Hemp are both speakers that need power to be at their best. Alternately, what's nice about the tonal balance of the Hemp 6's is that I never felt like any one area was predominant. I live in the midrange, but it seems as if the majority of new standmount speaker models tilt the sound unnaturally in this direction. The Hemp 6 maintains a really fine balance that wears well over the long run. I like the Hemp 6's with all genres, and they are a fine fit for my small room. They handle shimmery female voices as easily as full bore rock and roll, and compete very well in their super competitive price category. At a nominal 8 ohms Impedance and 87 db Sensitivity, they were a hard load for the Peachtree iNova to drive, so fair warning for the low watt amp contingent. I have a feeling that they would really respond to more power, and that they would still sound great even if that power is not of the absolutely highest quality. Those of you who scour the online ads for power amp bargains should be well pleased with how well your special finds match with the Fritz Hemp 6 loudspeakers.
One of the things that occurred to me while writing this column about the Fritz Hemp 6 is that the use of hemp as a material in manufacturing is now so ubiquitous, hardly anyone sees it as a counterculture trojan horse to let the sunshine in anymore. And people hardly even bother to take, um, pot shots at using hemp. Still, one of my Positive Feedback colleagues joked that, if you drove the Hemp 6's too hard, you'd get a buzz when the speakers started smoking. Tons of Cheech and Chong type yucks come with the price of purchase, but I think that you'll enjoy the Fritz Hemp 6 loudspeakers, even if you don't know Phish from fish sticks. Fritz Hemp 6 loudspeakers are a pleasure to hear.
Fritz Hemp 6 Loudspeaker