Music ‘Apple’ Style: The Ferguson Hill FH007 Mini System

Music ‘Apple’ Style: The Ferguson Hill FH007 Mini System

June 15, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Specifications:

  • 2 Horn speaker 8 Ohms
  • 2 Bass speakers 8 Ohms
  • Integrated Amplifier – Bi-amped Class AB 16W
  • x 4 channels
  • Frequency response: 75Hz-20kHz ± 5 dB
  • 1195$ MSRP

Let me first tell you that I love style. When I was younger, I wanted to be a designer, a good one, with exotic cars or space shuttle stuff. Well, very few people are lucky enough to do that. But things changes, we move on. Fast forward 2006, browsing the web, I came across a quite striking piece of gear consisting of four speakers that blew me away. I was very intrigued to know more, especially in the context of a hi-fi system. Let me tell you that if Apple would build Hi-Fi components to complement their iPods, this would probably be their speaker system. Enter the Ferguson Hill FH-007 system.

The company took a different direction from what, we audiophiles, tend to acknowledge. They took the integration route a step further than most. By the way, I’ve spoken to a lot of manufacturers that considers powered speakers the route to go. It can be easily understandable, they control the synergy between speakers, cables and amplifiers to maximise their potential. The downside is notably a lack of understanding by the typical customers (most of us like to upgrade piece by piece) so it can be a poor business plan.

Ferguson Hill FH007 review

The FH007 system is something out of the ordinary in a lot of points. For example the amplifier has four 16W channels (4 speaker cables are connected using 1/8’’ mini-jacks) with active crossovers (set at 330Hz) with front volume control. It has one RCA input, a mini (1/8’’) stereo jack (hello iPod), a detachable power cord and a rear faceplate bass volume control complete the small package. It runs fairly hot (class A up to 1.5W) and is quite heavy for such ‘lifestyle component’. So 16W goes for each horn and bass sphere containing a 4’’ mid-bass cone. The enclosures are made of transparent acrylic and can be cleaned with plastic or acrylic cleaner to keep their beautiful finish. 3 spikes support the low mass bass cabinet with no internal damping. The horn is also supported by 3 smaller spikes and all wires are fixed to their enclosures (sorry tweakers). Speaking of cables, this system can be flexible, another set of 1/8’’ speakers cables are provided with female RCA jack that can be connected to a subwoofer. I think this is a great way to provide a fuller range system (the bass spheres are 5 dB down at 75Hz). A short word on packaging: it’s first rate.

1-2-3-4 The Set-Up

The set-up is fairly easy but a great deal of time is required to extract the potential of this combo. This is where things get tricky because at least four things can go wrong if you’re not attentive.

The Ferguson Hill FH007 side view

First, the distance between the horn and the bass sphere needs to be the same. The importer suggested that the distance between listener and the voice coil of both enclosures should be the same. This is absolutely imperative to get it right, this timealign the sound coming to your ears without screwing the phase relationship of a sound coming from both speakers at the same time (ex: a guitar string). I’ve found that moving the bass sphere just a bit forward makes the sound more coherent (this length can vary depending on listening distance). You should also try to keep both speakers as close as possible to simulate point source.

The Ferguson Hill FH007 front

Second thing you can screw up is the bass level. This setting change a lot depending on the kind of environment the system is asked to perform. Near-field, the bass volume is low, my listening room of 22’x 15’ required almost full volume to have punch. In order to set it up right, take percussions tracks. Too little bass volume will result in a diminished impact and life of the music. Too much and things get blurred and boomy. Be careful, it’s easy to ask too much of a 4’’ woofer in a light cabinet, especially in big rooms.

Third thing to set-up is you. Yep, you read that right. Listening position is crucial; it can go from atrocious sound to vocalist heaven in such a small window. You see horns are very directional, at the same time you want to hear the driver, not the material around. Toe-in is important, at your listening position the horizontal lower tube of the horn should point directly at you. To avoid the coloration in the vertical plane, the tweeter is required to aim at ear level (halfinch movements introduces colorations). I’ve never listened to a speaker so demanding on sweet spot.

Fourth thing to remember is that a 4’’ woofer has limited extension. Doh. If you listen to a lot of music relying on bass drums or low pitched percussions to drive the rhythm, you’ll need a subwoofer, a near-field listening position or a small room can help a lot. I was very surprised by the way the FH007 presented music in my big (for small speakers) stereo room. I was pretty sure it would lack the power to pressurize it. I was wrong. I’ve never put the volume past 10 o’clock. Even if I wanted to, the spheres boxes began to overload. Remember, this fits a smaller room way better. Near-field listening will also provide bass reinforcement if the sound can bounce on a desk before reaching your ears. Most of my reviewing was done in my big room with two KEF 8’’ subs to provide a relatively even tonal balance.

Some purity

Was it all worth the effort? In some aspects, it’s a resounding YES! If you love vocals, check it out. As very few speakers (except full range drivers which pose another set of problem especially at both ends of the spectrum) do without crossover between 2 to 4 kHz, the vocal range is left fairly pure. The serenity of Holly Cole voice latest Holly Cole is inviting. The brass section sounded also great with just the right bite. From 400Hz to 15kHz is where this system shines. If you love folk, blues, chamber music and jazz, you’ll probably fall for the FH007. Les Chiens, La Nuit Dérobée sounded phenomenal. It’s a blues-folk band singing in french. Their music is emotional charged and the Ferguson Hill system rendered that with great panache.

The Ferguson Hill FH007

This system is also good for folks with single sound source as an iPod or a computer feeding it but the better the sound source, the better the sound. I know that a lot of people will buy the system to listen to compressed mp3 on their computer. I think it’s a fairly good piece of gear to do this. And with a -5dB at 75Hz, close listening gives the system a fuller perspective. If you still insist on tighter bass, Ferguson Hill will gladly sell you the matching white FH008 subwoofer (8’’, 100W self powered, down to 45Hz).

Even with Herculean efforts to optimize the system, a few bugs remains. Soundstage is good but stays around the speakers in any axis. Compression is also present on macrodynamics (a bit expected from a 4’’ woofer). This is why the fabulous Nine Inch Nails Year Zero album didn’t deliver the punch it should possess to really appreciate Reznor signature sound. He’s still the king of sounds when he’s in the zone, some tracks like the ‘Great Destroyer’ plays with your head big time. He works the sound to the extreme: panning, distortion, phase effect and reverberation to name only a few on applied on a drum and synthesizer pattern create the illusion that the room you’re listening in changes shape (and I wasn’t on LSD…) Furthermore; even in the sweet spot, some horn colorations remain. This can cause discontinuity in an instrument register. It could be violins, voices, xylophone is especially affected; it’s seem that some notes are louder than other, which is not the case with my reference system. The excellent Beck album Sea Changeshows this: Beck voice on ‘The Golden Age’ sometimes changes resonance (frequencies are accentuated in the high-mids). There is violins on track 2 ‘Paper Tiger’ that seem to get the same treatment but in this case some notes harden up.

Does it pass the test? (Conclusions about Ferguson Hill FH007)

The question remains, how good is the FH007? A big part of this answer depends on your point of view. If you love to listen to smooth music at your computer or loves good design, go ahead, please yourself. On the other hand, if you like high energy music this probably won’t be your cup of tea. It’s also good for a set-up (carefully please…) and forget component. No hassles, wire choices, tweaks and other audiophile stuff, just add a source. The style is superb, everyone will notice them, big wife acceptance factor here. What your style?

from affordableaudio, By Charles Painchaud

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