An Extraordinary Find

Hi all. Thanks to the many folks who have helped me over the past year with my search for an attractive floorstanding speaker. It has been a long haul and I have now seriously auditioned at least a dozen speakers ranging in price from 4-12K. With a few notable exceptions, I left each of the demos either stunned by the mediocre sound I had heard or feeling like the product sounded quite nice but simply was not a good value for money.
This week I had the opportunity to hear a speaker which I feel offers extraordinary sound at a relatively modest price: the Fried Studio 7. This is one of the most musical speakers I have ever encountered. Without getting into all the typical descriptors, let me just say that the Fried's play music in an utterly "believable" fashion. They sound like a live event. I have never heard a speaker that does everything so well for anywhere near the 6.5K asking price. If anyone else out there has been scratching their head over the current state of over priced, over hyped, under achieving loudspeakers, I would strongly recommend that you give the Frieds a listen. Are there flaws? Sure. Image placement and specificity are not as precise as speakers like the Audio Physic. (Though the room I auditioned the Frieds in was quite poor sonically and probably contributed to the lack of image focus). I'd like just a little warmer balance, particularly in the midbass region. (Select amplification and source components wisely). That is all I can think of. Take every other audio parameter from build quality to sound quality and I would run this speaker up against anything on the market under 15K. The Studio 7 is that good. I understand they are working on expanding their dealer network so hopefully you will get a chance to hear them. I would be interested in hearing whether you were as floored as I was this week.
This is one brand I have heard good things about; over the years--but I have never heard any of them.--What were they running these with? Also, what price neighborhood are they in?
The Frieds were powered by a Audible Illusions preamp and 50 watt solid state monoblocks whose name I don't recall. One of the nice things about these speakers is how easy they are to drive. A very stable 4 ohm load and 90+db efficiency. The 50 watt monoblocks absolutely filled a huge room with sound with excellent control in the bass. A recent review in Bound for Sound recommends tubes all the way around--both because they are easy to drive and to achieve a slightly warmer tonal balance. However, these were preproduction units under review and several small changes have been made between then and the current production, which I heard. Having said that, I do agree that the tonal balance is slightly on the cool side of neutral. However this is not an analytical speaker--as I said, it is one of the most musical I have ever heard. It is just that there is none of the midbass bump many speakers posess which provides a warmer balance. In fact, if anything, there is a slight dip in the frequency response in the midbass region. What you hear in the bass is just a shade cool but with incredible power, drive and tautness. From there on up I would call the speaker very open and neutral in its presentation. And again, it sounds like live music--not hifi. This is what makes the speaker magical. I don't know if it is the first order crossovers or the tranmission line loading of the bass and midrange drivers or what but no other speaker I have heard sounds so real to my ears. In fact, the only other speaker which I have found similarly engaging is the Vandersteen 5A--at $15K! The Vandersteen has a similar musicality (also due to first order crossovers?) but with a warmer more liquid tonal balance. The Vandy doesn't have the dynamics and speed of the Fried but it is a warmer sounding speaker, which I actually prefer. Unfortunately, I can't do 15K and therefore that leads to the Fried as the best possible alternative. BTW, the Fried sells for 6.5K. Give a listen, you won't be disappointed. (Sorry to sound like a sales pitch--I have no relationship to the company whatsoever and am simply a consumer like most of us)
I first must say that I am a part of Fried...

Dodgealum, thank you for this thread! Where did you hear the speakers, if I may ask?

I have had differing experiences with the imaging, like you. I believe that the room first, and ancillary components second play a huge role in the way they will image. I have heard them not image very well, and I have heard them image in spectacular fashion. In the end, I will say that if you do wind up owning a pair, and get the other things right, you will find that they seem to image as least as well as any large floorstander has any right to.

Still, I believe a truncated pyramid is the king of imaging. No getting around physics there.

TRUE Transmission Line bass, implemented well, is surely something to behold. Deep, powerful, tuneful. Not much else to say beyond that it sounds real, and other alignments do not compare in terms of absolutes.

I have also heard the midbass sound a bit cooler than I personally prefer, but I have again found it room and system dependent. I also wonder if the superlative deep bass response that we are not usually used to makes the midbass seem not as warm as it actually is.

Not much to add to your statements on the midrange and treble, except to say that despite their musicality, the amount of detail and refinement is something that I am quite proud of. It sometimes takes a while to realize it, as I think we often get lost in the music as opposed to the tic tac toe analysis with a speaker like this.

As you mentioned, 50 watts more than powered them. Despite the specs, these are incredibly easy speakers to drive. Even at 4 ohms, my Atma Sphere M60 OTLs absolutely love them, more than any other speaker in fact. The quality versus quantity (parts count) of the first order resistive series crossover makes this a speaker that does not conform to a lot of the patterns we are used to. Please note that Frieds were Ralph Karstens long time speakers in the past, and that will explain a lot. I'm part of the low power SET and OTL tube crowd myself (Bud LOVED that - I say sarcastically).

I will pass along your comments, along with my own opinions to the company. As you mentioned, we are a company who believes in continuous improvement. Always seeking to extract the absolute maximum we can out of the product. Constantly making them better. The last point I want to make is that they were only $4995 in the recent past, and though I am happy to hear you feel them to be a good bargain at $6495, my goal is for us to always to offer the best product we can at the lowest price. I would be more comfortable at $5000, but I also cede (though kicking and screaming) to some of the realities of economics. My long term hope is twofold - to forever honor the legacy of Bud Fried and to be part of an American company that proves that we can more than compete with the best of the rest of the world.

Again, thank you very much!
Joe Trelli
Dodge, I wonder if you have heard the new Vandersteen Quattro. SInce you like the 5A, the Quattro might give you that sound at $7K.

Not to take anything away from the Fried, which is a speaker that interests me a lot based on a brief listening to an earlier model at CES last year.
Trelja. I had the fortunate pleasure of hearing them with Dr. Raines. Since you are affiliated with the company that may put the listening room and system components in clearer perspective. I am inclined to think that the tile/stone floor, wall of window and lack of any rear wall behind the speakers may have conspired to muck up the imaging. In fact, I am really surprised at the sound quality I heard given the surroundings. I am hoping to set up a demo at an area dealer as soon as one comes on line to hear the speaker under more ideal circumstances (and conditions closer to those in my own home). Dr. Raines indicated that there would soon be a pair at an outfit on the Upper West Side of Manhatten. As far as the price is concerned--I agree. I wish they were still 5K and am not clear as to the rationale for the price hike. Certainly the falling dollar can't be the culprit to any large degree. I also think it may be an error to price them above the original 5K since this is a company that is trying to get a toehold in a very competitive marketplace. Once you move above 5K you are looking at a somewhat different class of consumer. While I'm not really in that class, I will scrape together the extra 1.5K if the performance of the speaker warrents. Having said that, I stand by my statement that 6.5K is a bargain given what you get. I have heard a number of speakers that cost more that don't offer half the sound of the Fried's.

Drubin. Thanks for the tip on the Vandy Quatro. It is on my list and actually the last speaker I will hear before making my decision. It will have to be pretty darn close to the sound of the 5A to win out over the Fried. We will see.
Audio Revelation advertises these on Audiogon below "manufacturer's suggested retail". That's what their "$callpls" indicates.
In my opinion, there's good news and bad news for you, Dodealum...

The bad news is, as you indicated, in Dr. Raines most difficult room, you have yet to really hear the speakers. I think the hardness of the contruction materials contributes to the colder tonal balance. And, as you stated, no back walls do not produce the kind of bass the speakers produce in more conventional surroundings.

The good news is, I believe, if you liked them there, you should REALLY like them in a different room. While I have not had a pair of Studio 7s in my room, we did have a prototype in both his and my rooms, and I had to call him within 15 minutes of firing everything up just to tell him that he had NEVER heard what these babies really sounded like. With my speakers 5' from the back walls, and about 2.5 from the side walls, the low frequencies gave me a true taste of why you would want to implement a real TL bass alignment. I mean slammin bass, where I had been a bit disappointed previously. The overall tonal balance also shifted to be clearly warmer and easier to listen to.

The pair that you heard addressed my complaints to a nice degree, but I still think they would sound appreciably better in my room. Hopefully, you will get to give them a try in Manhattan, though I have no idea what that room and ancillaries are. Please let us know your impressions if that does happen.

Amplification in my system was a pair of AtmaSphere M60 MKIIs, fed directly by a Granite Audio 657 CD player. Cabling was HomeGrown Audio Silver Lace interconnects and Vampire STIII OCC copper speaker cables.

Tom, good to hear from you once again! Yes, I am running the OTLs, but now have a super modified pair of M60 MKIII, with 12SX7 input tubes, massively upgraded power supply, teflon film and foil caps, all the goodies. The improvement in sound is definitely not subtle. The sound is much more relaxed and liquid, along with having increased bass slam, warmth, refinement, detail, lower distortion, etc. It's about as good an amp that Ralph will build, with the addition of the tubes he doesn't generally approve of as they don't meet The 20 Year Rule - though he does concede the superior sonics.

They have been driving Bud's longtime speakers, which he so generously gave to me late last year, a pair of Fried A/6, and a homemade pair of Zalytron designed Cabasse drivered medium sized stand mounted speakers - all to great effect. Also, the amps really deliver much better sound with the Coincident TRS I am using now (for whatever reason, my KT88 tubed Granite monoblocks do not sound very good with this cable).

Based on an incredibly thrilling listening session at a friend's, using my Lowther ceramic magnet PM6Cs in his Lowther designed 36" tall ported cabinets, I will be going with my alnico magnet PM6As in a similar, but larger 44" tall cabinet (no, I don't just listen to Frieds). At that point, I'll try the M60s, but would have no qualms in getting a good 2A3 or 300B amp as well for these babies should the marriage not be ideal.

We ARE going to introduce a minimonitor. It addresses the incessant pleadings of Bud and myself to reintroduce the Beta, and open things up to people who want a smaller speaker, or have less money to spend on a pair of loudspeakers. Dr. Raines wants Fried to symbolize all of the best of what Bud accomplished, so they will be more upscale than the Betas. They will use a true Transmission Line bass loading, and, of course, the first order series crossovers. I feel that the technology in this speaker is a few notches beyond what is normally encountered. Especially, at their price. But, I'm not a techno snob, I focus on sonics. Because of that, I certainly do buy into the inherent superiority of TL and series crossovers. The cabinetry, as I am sure, Dodgealum will attest of the Studio 7, is first rate - better than I'd ever need. The cost will be $1750, which I think represents tremendous value, but who am I to make such a statement?
I can certainly confirm Trelja's comments on the cabinets. The veneer work is beautiful! Build quality is superb. This is one handsome speaker with a high WAF. Interestingly, one cannot really appreciate any of this by looking at the sales literature and website. The graphics really do not do the speaker justice. I was also taken back by the depth of the Studio 7. I really was not expecting such a deep speaker. The photos do not indicate this and even though the website says the speakers are 20" deep you really can't appreciate this until you see them.
Glad to have you confirm my suspicions regarding the room acoustics and the sound. As I said, if they sounded THAT GOOD in THAT ROOM I can only imagine what they will do in a normal space and placement. Trelja, what is your affiliation with Fried, if I might ask? If I were to list my current equipment, could you provide any insight as to system matching for the Frieds?
Fiddler. I'm told it is around 24K. A whole different kettle of fish price wise. I've also heard tell that it is one of the best speakers out there, period.
Fiddler, yes, Dodgealum is correct. The Reference is $24K. While this seems like an act of folly, I personally know that in building the cost no object, "how good can we build a speaker?" Reference, a lot was learned. Much of which has flowed (not trickled) down into the Monitor and Studio 7, with no cost penalty to them. So, after it was all said, and done, I feel the exercise has provided truly meaningful benefits to all potential purchasers.

At this time, I do not own a current Fried production model. Dr. Raines is working on that, and really is steering me towards the Reference. My biggest worry is the interface of such a speaker with my 15' X 13' listening room. Though, one could argue that the Studio 7 is not much different in terms of size...

Dodealum, it's difficult to say what my actual role in Fried is. I am an investor, that much is certain. I put up a significant sum of money for me (probably not for most) to become a part of the family. Not for profit, as I don't ever see this being something I make money on, or ever would be able to consider leaving my career as a software engineer for. No, it was an homage to a man I love and more importantly, respect, Bud Fried. An opportunity to make sure the incredible legacy of the man would never be forgotten after he was no longer with us. I don't have a title, yet when I stated that I was a "nothing player" in the company, Dr Raines vehemently disagreed. He put forth some sort of honorary title, which I am embarrassed to say I now have forgotten.

I'll use Damone's description, "Assistant to the assistant manager at the movie theater", but in truth, I seem to take the role of more or less the liason between us crazy audiophiles on the net and the company. My sensibilities are audiophile, not corporate driven. I am an audiophile, I know how we think, act, feel, etc. because that is who I am. I could never be any other way. We get into a lot of disagreement, most of which because I put forth demands of what I see as audiophile perspectives, and I think that is healthy. Hopefully, in the end, it is all mutually beneficial to the audiophile, the company, the industry, and the hobby. I think Bud was the same way, always prodding, challenging, complaining, striving to move forward. As controversial, opinionated, direct, abrupt, and confrontational as I am, Bud was even more. That's the way he lived his life, that's the way I live mine. We are both of the Philadelphia stock. Hopefully, the rest of the world does not overlook that our aim is to provide happiness ever after for the true music lover. That's really all I think either of us ever strived for.

While I certainly hope people buy the speakers, as it is probably one of the surest ways that Bud's contributions to this hobby are kept alive, I recommend, and even use, a lot of loudspeakers. I have tremendous respect for Bobby Palkovic and his Merlins and will own a pair one day. I own and love Coincidents. I love the sound of Lowthers, and am building a pair. I have heard countless other loudspeakers that I believe would fit nicely into an audiophile's life.

You are certainly not the only one who utters much surprise at the depth of the Frieds. It takes a large cabinet to get the lowest frequencies of music produced by a TL - or sealed or ported speaker for that matter. We're not here to cut corners. When someone buys a Fried, they better get real TL bass. Even more important, as I confirmed with Bud after my own listening experiences, is the TL midrange. THAT will be a surprise to many. Despite this, the cabinets are maybe 6" shorter than the ones Drubin mentioned above, while possessing MORE bass. Thank the Reference, and what we have learned for that. In addition, it gives the speaker a more solid, relaxed, visually appearing look.

Feel free to tell us all about where you wish to go, Dodgealum. This isn't only a thread where I speak, it's a community affair. I certainly don't have all the answers, only opinions. Opinions that some may agree with, and some will find ridiculous.

I will ask that following along with my opinions, priorities, and perspectives, that you do a bit more than tell us about your gear. Tell us about you, which I consider the most important component. What you are really looking for, what you like, what you don't like, what your sonic priorities are, how loud you listen, what kind of music you like, and what your room is like. It could be that Frieds are not the best speaker for you, in which case, perhaps Vandersteens are, or Merlins, or Quads, or Coincidents, or Magnepans, or Sonus Fabers, or... - in which case, I would say so.

The current Frieds are the yang to the current Quads and the Vandersteen 2s and 3s. Whereas they are more dark and voluptuous, the Frieds are open, spacious, engaging, and forward. As in all systems, they should be considered in terms of how they will interact with the system. They will be influenced by the sound of room and the electronics to a very fair degree.

What I will now say will fly in the face of most of the conventional wisdom of audio, but I can only be honest in what I hear, feel, and experience. If one found them too bright, I would recommend solid state amplification, as I find it more rich, warm, and luxurious for the most part. It will also provide that midbass blump that a lot of people crave. Rowland, Levinson, Parsound Halos would all probably give this kind of sound, though as you stated above, the speakers don't need anywhere near the kind of power most of the products of those companies produce. If one wants a sunny and shining sound, tubes are a great choice. Again, the AtmaSpheres absolutely mate like hand and glove to them, but there are other fine choices, transformer coupled or otherwise.

Hopefully, others will offer up their own perspective as well!
Will Fried speakers be at He2005 next week? It would seem like a great opportunity to get the word out.

BTW, I attended CES this past year with high expectations for the Fried room and meeting fellow Philly Phile Trelja. Unfortunately, I was dissapointed on both accounts. Joe wasn't there and the Fried room did not sound very good. However, I know not to draw conclusions from CES. Perhaps Joe will someday host a Philly Phile gathering that will showcase the Fried's. That would be cool!

Joperfi. I agree, shows are not the best place to listen to speakers. I believe I am correct in saying that the speaker you heard was a preproduction effort similar to the one reviewed a while back in Bound for Sound. The current production models reflect some significant changes that have addressed the concerns many heard in the pre-production units and sound considerably different. Not sure if my facts are correct but that is my recollection of the chain of events.
Bottom line is the whatever is currently coming off the production line is a damn nice speaker!

If the speakers Joperfi heard at this year's CES event, they are the production ones. Again, there is continuous improvement, but I believe it has been quite subtle since January. I am sorry that you didn't like the sonics. As you stated, I wasn't there so I have no idea what things sounded like, but I did get a lot of positive feedback. If I may ask, what about the sound was not to your liking? My audiophile mantra is "that's why they make vanilla AND chocolate", and it could be that we just aren't your flavor. In the end, of course, you must go in the direction of your own personal tastes.

Those shown at CES 2004 were a different ball of wax entirely. Drubin heard those, and seems to have potentially liked the sound. Those were taller, with different veneer/finish, used different drivers, crossovers, line damping, etc. I felt they lacked wallop, and indeed testing revealed a midbass dip that was corrected via crossover and line damping. The Vifa drivers further added punch.

I agree that Fried should be at HE2005, but alas, we as a company are not. In my opinion, the NYC HE show is where it's at, as a lot of East Coast audiophiles, including myself attend each year. For those who want this to happen, I suggest e - mails to Dr. Raines, asking Fried be there in 2006.

Joperfi, I will be in NYC next week, on Friday and Saturday. While I attended with two Audiogoners last year, a very old friend of mine asked me to take her this year to see what this whole hobby is about. She just moved into a new townhome, and because of my longtime addiction to this audiophile disease, was interested in checking out potential things for her down the road. Honestly, I told her that the "real world", which she is a part of should stay away from this stuff like the plague. It's really expensive, especially in the eyes of those who are not addicted. The "run, do not walk" statement in the "Advice For a Newbie" was what I provided. There are plenty of good enough sounding $399 systems at Tweeter that normal people should go for. Alas, she is intent on getting together for the show...

I would be more than honored to meet any of the Audiogon members at the show. Believe me, I'm nothing special, just a regular old Joe.

And, Joperfi, I have been hoping that we can arrange something in the Philly area to have people give the speakers a listen. But, more importantly, just get together and say, "Hello!"
Trelja. Thanks for all of your thoughtful commentary. My quest, which began over a year ago, was to find a pair of attractive floorstanders to replace my Harbeth Compact 7s. I very much have enjoyed the Harbeth's. They are so thoroughly "right" in the midrange and are listenable on the widest range of recordings. Nothing really sounds bad through them. They lean toward a warmer sound--a bit of midbass bump, a slightly recessed midrange and gently rolled off treble. I am used to this presentation and enjoy it greatly. However, they are fairly large, ugly boxes that sit on metal stands in our newly decorated living room. In addition, the Harbeth's do not have the dynamics, speed and authority in the bass that this new, larger room requires. They are polite and this is mostly good. However, when I reach for the rock n roll, they sometimes leave me unmoved. Acoustic music, chamber ensembles, small combo jazz are, except for the low end, handled beautifully.
My hope was to find a speaker below 5K that preserved the qualities of the Harbeth's that I like and did not have their shortcomings. I have found this to be much easier said than done. Most of what I have heard in this range (you name it, I've heard it--I've been at this a while now) was very disappointing. I would come home after the audition, put some music on through the Harbeths and say "Overall, these sound better" and cross another one of the list.
As a result, my price point began to rise--and in retrospect, beyond all relation to my budget. I heard a number of speakers that were in the 10-15K range. Some of them sounded good, others did not. In fact, I began to think this was all really going nowhere until I heard the Vandersteen 5A and the Wilson Sophia. I could easily live with either of these. In fact, the Vandy's are the best speaker I have ever heard. I also think that they are the most intelligently designed and the best value for money out there. In the end, once I came down to earth (after discussing with my wife) even the regular 5's were more than we could spend.
Now the task became harder still. After being seduced by the Vandy's how do you go back to the 5K price point? I decided to take a little time off this hamster wheel. Then I saw the ad for the Freid's in the one of the mags and contacted them.
Basically, I listen to all kinds of music--though as I get older it invaribly gets more mellow. I want a speaker that will rock my world on Saturday afternoon AND take the edge off the day with a glass of wine and Karrin Allyson at 11pm on Wednesday night. I'm no soundstaging nut. I am really not into picking out the chair screetching in the back of the orchestra. It is nice to have a pretty good idea of where everyone is but much more important is the tonal integrity of the sound. I want a basson to sound like a basson, a Rickenbacher to sound like a Rickenbacher. I want bass that is deep, tight and most of all tuneful. I cannot tell you how many speakers (including megabuck models) that give you lots of really awful bass. I want to be able to follow the electric bass line--every note, with excellent pitch delineation. I want it to be fast, dynamic and I want to FEEL it. I want all this without overloading the room, boom, mud. Most of the speakers that do this well tend toward slight overdamping. The bass is a little dry rather than full. My old Spendor S100's come to mind. So do the Frieds. This is why I like the Vandy 5's--you can tune it to your liking and to the room. Brilliant. Finally, I want the music to sound real. Inner detail, phrasing, PRAT, everything that makes it seem as if the musicians are playing in your room. This is one thing the Freids did so well--I don't know if it is the first order crossovers or the transmission line or a combo of the two or what. They just sounded like real music to me.
I guess these are my listening priorities and preferences. Sorry if I have bored everyone following this thread--I'm more responding to Trejlas questions than anything. To summarize as to what I heard with the Studio 7s (noting prior comments about the room):
Bass--excellent though slightly too lean in the midbass
Tonality--the cool side of neutral, very accurate
Musicality--one of the best I've heard.

Hope this helps you to help me. I appreciate your thoughts.
I can empathize with what you are looking for, Dodgealum.

I think you also made the very wise proviso that you are used to the Harbeths, and that often seems to color our perceptions of listening to new equipment. As much as I could be called out on the carpet regarding such, I have been as guilty of this as the next guy through the course of my audio journey. Though, I do try to keep the most open of minds. For that, I rely on trying to listen to as much gear as possible, to get my bearings the best that I can.

The Frieds are not built to have the midbass boost so common today. Whether that will appeal to the broad audience remains to be seen, but after hearing a lot of speakers in the past few years, I know that a significant number of people react positively to a speaker that has this characteristic. I'm not going to say much about it, beyond that people should buy what sounds good to them, and think about measurements or being a purist second.

I think you might want to try the Frieds in a more conventional sounding, warmer room. That would probably give you back at least some of what you were missing in the midbass. Again, a more conventional solid state amplifier such as Rowland, Levinson, Parasound, Aragon, etc. will produce that lushness you seem to be craving, at least in my opinon. I believe tubes will sound sunny, shiny, and open. I must be honest and say that the Frieds are meant to jump up and sing, to be musical, fast, dynamic, and, hopefully, real. They do not produce the plodding bass that you did not want, and are not "pipe and slippers" speakers as I find the Quads and the Vandy 2s and 3s (I don't have enough experience with the 5s to really comment on them intelligently). The Studio 7s are going to be lively. Whether or not that is your cup of tea only you can answer, but I think an additional audition, in a different locale, with different equipment might just paint you a different picture.
Joe, it's a bit hard to remember my time in the Fried room back at CES. I just thought they sounded a bit thin. The room had no treatment at all and the speakers seemed lost in a virtually empty room. It was not an ideal set up to say the least. I'm sure they would sound better at a Philly gathering :-) I'll look for your badge this weekend in NY.......JoeP
Thanks for your comments, Joe. I'm going to push for a Philadelphia get together to hear the Frieds.

I'll be there in NYC Friday and Saturday, perhaps we'll run into each other...
I have the FRIED Studio 7 speakers, which I purchased in December, before the price increase.

They are indeed, very musical, they do not have the WOW! effect - that is, the "boom and sizzle" that draws your attention, and eventually leads to listener fatigue.

They do require a minimum of 40 hours of break-in, as recommended by FRIED.

I am using NAD electronics to power the Studio 7. I auditioned the speakers last November, at Bud Fried's apartment, in the Phil. area. BTW, he was using NAD also.

The proof is in the listening, everyone perceives music differently, with the majority, unfortunately, very happy with mass merchandise audio.