6moons review of FAB Audio Model 1 speaker

Fellow Audiogoners,
Have you ever read a review of a component you own and end up shaking your head in disbelief at what you've just read? This is the situation I find myself in after reading a Steve Marsh review on 6moons of the FAB Audio Model 1 high efficiency speaker (http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/fabaudio/model1.html).

It's probably natural to feel defensive about a product you own which got a mixed or bad review but in this case there are some serious doubts about the reviewer's attitude, equipment and room challenges. Here are my beefs thus far:

* It seems to me that the author didn't get along very well with Jim Fabian, FAB's owner, and as such had a proponderence to be critical rather than neutral in his review. His negativity is illustrated by the fact that he felt compelled to tell the readers about Jim's reluctance to answer some questions that would reveal proprietary info (would he have asked the same questions to DALI or Focal-JM Labs company owners?) and then mentioned that Jim did answer the question but so quietly as if to keep the reviewer from hearing Jim's answer, he mentioned Jim's desire to quickly leave, and that Jim made a 'parting shot' about suggesting he upgrade his NAD CDP which made him feel embarassed.
* If the reviewer is a credible audiophile, then why did he seem to rely heavily upon his audiophile friends for their opinions?
* He spend a disproportionate amount of text space writing
about the negative attributes of the speaker rather than
equal time with its positive traits. He also spend a
disproportionate amount of time listening to the 'upstairs'
system of no-name components rather than equal time with
the 'downstairs' higher-end system.
* If the speakers are room placement sensitive and as
revealing as we owners of them know them to be, then the fact that there were some sound issues is more a statement about Steve's room and system shortcomings; The speakers are a window into his room and upstream components, which isn't a speaker shortcoming. He obviously didn't see it that way prefering the sound of his vintage JBL speakers that mask the shortcomings.
* What is a serious reviewer doing using Radio Shack speaker cables and a NAD CD player for reviewing top quality gear? I even found out that one of the speaker connections on his amp was corroded! These facts should speak volumes about the lack of credible equipment used by the reviewer and his testing approach.

The speakers natural sound, when connected to proper gear, and set up properly in a decent room, astonishes and sucks the listener into the soundstage. I'm afraid Steve Marsh missed the boat on this review. Hind sight what it is, I'd guess that Jim might have pulled his speakers from the review process once he got to Steve's home and saw the home brew of assorted old components and home made speaker cables etc.

Thanks for your efforts Steve Marsh but I don't share your negative review of the FAB Audio Model 1 speaker. To each his own . . .
As reviews go, it seems like a reasonable review. He tried the speaker in different systems and in different rooms and enlisted the help of the manufacturer, but in the end concluded he didn't like the speaker's tonal balance. It's not like he trashed the product. If all I had to go on was this review, I would think it's a good to very speaker that appeals to listeners who value detail/resolution and soundstage over tonal balance. If you like how the Fab's sound then what difference does this mixed review make?

BTW, the speaker's sensitivity to room placement and the lack of a manual/set up guide brings into question the probability of an owner getting the speakers properly setup. That's a big practical issue.

I agree with Onhwy61. The review seems like a resonable one.

If you like the speakers, then that's all that counts. Reviews have their own preferences in sound which may not be the same as yours.

enjoy the sound

I didn’t take it quite as negatively as you apparently did but it was definitely not a glowing review. Relax, trust your ears, and enjoy your toys. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of time and experimentation to bring out the best in a component. The reviewer has a different everything than you do including the room so it makes sense he would have different results. I guess that is the problem with reviews.

What I find curious is that the manufacturer drove 10 hours to help him set them up and apparently didn’t bring along some electronics and cabling he knew would shown them at their best. They take less than 5 watts. How much trouble would it be to bring some decent gear?

I could have done without the photo of the three of them sitting on the sofa with the middle guy spread out showing off his package.
For the price, I expect more than what these 2-ways provide. They're practically monitors.

I thought the reviewer tried his absolute best, using different rooms and gear. At the end, he found he didn't favor them. What is he supposed to say? Isn't one of the biggest complaints audioheads have about reviews is there aren't any bad ones, making us wonder what the purpose is in the first place?

Every piece of gear isn't a shining jewel and competitive way above its price-point. I'm glad to read someone calling it like they hear it.

And, like the other comments, if you've gotten these speakers to harmonize, that's all that matters.
I'd say the review seems reasonable overall, and I WOULD call it a Negative. (It's actually very refreshing to see a negative review in the audio press.)

First off, if you like the sound of the FAB's, keep 'em. Everyone's ears are different - literally. This is something which is given very little attention. While listening, just hold your hands behind your ears, or move them around a bit - the frequency response and timbre of the music changes dramatically. And your ear canal is different than others, even more so. So the tonal balance of the FABs may be the eq that works for you naturally, and not for the reviewer.

I personally find some of the newer designs' tonal characteristics unlistenable, which many people (including 6Moons) rave about, i.e. Gallo Ref III's. Are they wrong? I dunno - all I know is what I like. And I couldn't care less what the self-proclaimed "experts" say.

As to the specifics, however:

- I didn't get a feeling that the reviewer had any personal beef with Fabian. But he did have some healthy skepticism - "I asked Jim in an email some basic questions about the crossover (type, slope, frequency compensation) but he stated that he is unwilling to reveal more specific information about the design due to -- unsuccessful so far -- efforts by a competitor to clone FAB designs." Gimme a break! This stuff could easily be measured and/or reverse engineered by a competitor willing to buy a pair. Is the FAB brand such a hot seller that a knockoff is going to make someone's business?

Overall, I think Marsh tried to be supportive where possible while stating firmly that he had some serious issues.

Now here I'll say a few things that the reviewer may have pulled some punches on:
On a technical note, I suspect that theoretically there is some reason for what Marsh hears. Matching a 10" paper cone to a metal (or any, really) tweeter, as an 80-2000 hz. mid-bass driver in a 3-way design is a very unusual choice - and to me, anyway, seems rather odd. Since there's already a 10" woofer in the rear, why not use a nice tight 8" (or even 6") for the important mids? The FAB borders on a Talon-like design, which is very difficult to pull off succesfully even using high-tech, specialized drivers.
And frankly, it appears to me that the rear-firing woofer is loaded into the same cabinet space as the 10" mid-bass? This makes no sense to me. Whatever's going on inside that cabinet, and the interaction of the two drivers' on each other would be a mess.

Frankly, to me, this speaker appears to be designed for an aesthetic "look" more than as an assault on new audio-highs.

The choice of the RS speaker wire and NAD cd doesn't bother me (too much) if this is a setup that the reviewer knows well and is happy with. I don't subscribe to the "megabucks is megabetter" hype, myself - ESPECIALLY when it comes to copper wire. Different CD players have different attributes, and I've heard cheap ones that I loved and ridiculously expensive ones that I hated. Most high end players are just assembled from stock parts, packaged into a pretty box. There are very few companies actually building transports and A/D converters. However, if I was a reviewer I would use more upscale equipment just to avoid having to protect myself from the Hype Police.

One fault I do find with the review, and 6Moons in general, is the dearth of objective measurement. Yeah, oscilloscopes don't define the "sound" of a component, but especially in the case of a negative review like th FABs it would provide some verification as to what the reviewer is actually hearing and where it might be coming from. A basic spectral analysis is not difficult or expensive to perform nowadays.

Overall, I think the review is probably indicative of a "problem" with the FABs as most people will hear them, and I give credit to Marsh and 6Moons for running it. But again, that doesn't mean there's something "wrong" with a listener who likes them. It could be just the right match for them.
for those who say enjoy what you have and who cares what a reviewer says are definately right. But on the other hand, one might also consider that a person who buys a high dollar product, might hope for a decent return when he resells it. If that product gets semi trashed in print the resale value could go down pretty quickly or get to the point where nobody wants it at all. That could be a bit disturbing.
Anyone who has read a few of my posts knows my opinion about the Fab Model 1. I think Marsh came up short in the "serious reviewer" sweepstakes with this one. Unlike others in this thread I sm convinced that upstream components make a big difference to the final outcome, especially when placed behind ultra-transparent speakers like these. Here's a portion of a letter I sent to 6moons on the subject:
On my previous speakers (also 97dB sensitive dynamic speakers from another manufacturer) my favourite speaker cables were TG Audio HSR. These sounded warm and full, with quite good transparency. In contrast, a pair of Argent Audio Pursang S which I also own were very transparent and detailed, but a touch lean and tipped-up sounding. Two silver cables but with somewhat different sounds.

On the Fab Audio Model 1 - in the same room, with the same Audion PX25 amp and Audio Note Level 4 digital front end - the pleasing warmth and body of the HSR morphed into an excessively warm, bloomy thickness, with a distinctly noticeable lack of transparency in the bass. In contrast, the Pursang S was revealed as quite forward sounding, with absolutely incredible detail, speed and imaging but a noticeable thinness and more than a bit of bite. While its bass was very transparent, it was obviously light.

So what have we here? Two speaker cables that both performed quite well on a lower resolution speaker, whose divergent personalities were revealed with unmistakable clarity by the Model 1. It was as though each cable had finally been allowed to express its inherent qualities to the maximum. This says to me that any fault in the Model 1 lies in its ability to make utterly explicit the effects of upstream components.

When I read Mr. Marsh's review in light of my own experience, my attention was immediately drawn to the descriptions of his speaker cables and vintage electronics. I don't know if these were the source of any of his dissatisfaction as I'm not familiar with any of them, but there is always the possibility that they were suboptimal partners to the Model 1. A follow-up review using a different room and system might be appropriate.

By the way, I subsequently purchased a pair of Kimber KS-3038 speaker cables, and the sound from the Model 1's driven through those is nothing short of stupendous. While the Model 1 require some care and feeding, like any top thoroughbred if they are fed properly they just might win the Derby.
Poor equipment synergy and room interactions are the only things I can point to to explain whey the sound that Steve Marsh heard diverged so radically from what I get in my (dedicated, symmetrical, well-treated) room. It's a shame, because this review has already discouraged at least one person I'm aware of from actually listening to Fab speakers for themselves (a decision I shall let pass without further comment).

I'll add one more thing about this tempest in a teaspoon - most of the responsibility for any insalubrious outcome rests on the manufacturer's shoulders. He was called in by the reviewer to help sort out the problems, and if the situation wasn't to his satisfaction it was his prerogative to withdraw from the review. He didn't, so presumably he felt things were good enough to proceed. Perhaps there's a lesson in there...

As others have said, if I'm happy with my speakers why should I complain? I'm not complaining that hard (especially nor for myself), but I firmly believe that reviewers have a responsibility to get at some amount of objective truth. Based on what I read and what I've heard, I'm not convinced that this review got close enough.
Thanks everyone for your viewpoints, all very interesting.
Shiva - you raise a very valid point about how a bad review could sink resale value - good thing I'm planning on keeping my Model 1s.
Opalchip - you raise too many good points to single out individually.
Miklorsmith - yes, it is refreshing to see that a negative review can and will be published which helps preserve our "trust" in the reviewers.

I don't mean to sound like a poor sport because frankly the review doesn't impact me at all and I have no vested interest in FAB AUDIO aside from being a customer. And as some of you have said, as long as the speakers work for me then who cares . . .!? While it does come across that the reviewer did everything he could to fix the problem - so cudos to him for spending the energy & time with what he had at his disposal - it just doesn't seem fair to use gear that is in a very different league than the speakers are to judge the speakers and then perscibe the sound problem as being speaker related. Taking an extreme example to make my point, would you use an Apple iPod as a sound source to judge very expensive speakers like the Wilson Audio Grand Slam or MAXX speakers? Of course not; most people's systems have components which are all fairly close to being at the same quality level (however you define quality). So if Jim from FAB Audio had brought along an amp and cables and CDP etc. and if the reviewer let him insert it then the outcome might have been very different. Chances are though that the reviewer wouldn't be familiar with Jim's equipment so most likely would have rejected the notion of using it.

Lets do the audio industry justice by providing a fair review to its readers by using upstream components/cables that are of the same quality of the component being evaluated.

" for those who say enjoy what you have and who cares what a reviewer says are definately right. But on the other hand, one might also consider that a person who buys a high dollar product, might hope for a decent return when he resells it."

I think it is a mistake to buy anthing in audio with a resale price in mind. It's far less expensive to attend an audio show and audition products to your hearts content and but the one you intend to keep.

I bought some gear this year, the last time was in 1994.

Hi Larry, I think your premise is flawed. The only way to determine if a particular piece of gear is a good match for the rest of your components including your room is to do it at home. I suppose if you visit an audio show and find a room you like you could buy the entire system, but if you hope to single out the characteristics of any particular piece of gear in a system of unfamiliar components in an unfamiliar room, well, that just won't happen. Even if you bought the entire system it would sound different when you got it home.

Likewise if you don't like the sound in a particular room. Does everything in the room not suit your tastes or is it one particular piece? Audio shows might be good for familiarizing yourself with what's available and narrowing your choices, but home audition is the true test.
Herman, I agree ALMOST totally. My one caveat: equipment you really love on home audition. You can really end up disliking after the Honeymoon period is over with.

One recent example that comes to mind is the Sonic Impact amp I bought just for the fun of it. I initially was very impressed with the amp. In my kitchen system initially I thought it sounded much better then the Cambridge Audio amp I was using. Super quiet, good resolution and dead quiet background. After a few months honeymoon period, I can't stand to listen to the amp. I've tried 4 sets of speakers and 2 CDP's. My wife and myself have both grown to hate the sound.

I guess its like a new girl friend. Those characteristics you find cute and charming initially can just get on your last nerve after awhile ;)

BW Maxx

BW Maxx
I find the review quite refreshing. After all the possibility exists that the product is just an average loudspeaker and nothing more. What's wrong with that? However, if you own the speakers and enjoy them, why worry about the review and/or what others think?
This is a very interesting thread. I agree with Judy426 to a large extent (although you might not know it to read my review on the Summits). There are some real dogs out there, and it seems like a lot of the stuff doesn't live up to the "hype". I firmly believe that a person should LISTEN TO THE COMPONENT IN QUESTION for THEMSELVES, rather than relying on some stranger they've never even met. On the other hand, in my case having a brilliant, but STRAIGHT-SHOOTING (!!!!!!!!) dealer to rely on for advice was vital in helping to assemble what I consider to be my OWN ideal system. A certain loudspeaker comes to mind that looked great on paper, but I just hated passionately upon first listen, and it was the company's "flagship". Gosh awful to my ears, but lots of people swear by them.

To me, this demonstrates the necessity of trusting one's OWN ears, and possibly those of a trusted confidante whose sonic preferences have consistently paralleled one's own over a span of several years on many different items.