My first experience with Selah Audio was at the ’07 AudioKarma Fest last spring. I’ve always been intrigued by this company’s speaker offerings as they have some of the finest finishes I’ve seen and a reputation for equally fine sound quality. Their product line is fairly extensive including several large floor standers that impress the eyes as well as the ears. However, it was their small MF7 monitors that caught my attention with their excellent price-to-performance ratio, so I jumped at the chance to conduct an extended audition of these speakers.
- Design: 2-way ported, coaxial driver Frequency Response: 55-20,000 hz ±3db Bass Extension F10 (-10db): 41 hz Sensitivity: 85 dB (2.83v/1 m)
- Minimum impedance: 6.6 ohms Average impedance: 8 ohms Suggested Power: 30-100 watts
- Dimensions: 15” x 8” x 11” (H x W x D) Shipping Weight: 45 pounds per pair
- Finish: maple, cherry or black ash
- Price per pair: $595 (shipping included to the lower 48 U.S.)
Selah Audio MF7 review
The Selah MF7 is based on a coaxial driver from SEAS of Norway consisting of a 7” midrange/woofer and a coincident 1” fabric dome tweeter in the center. It is dedicated to the memory of jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, thus the “MF7” designation. This 2-way ported speaker design has the port opening on the front of the cabinet to facilitate placement close to rear walls or in cabinets. It has a somewhat low efficiency at 85 db (2.83v/1m) and presents an average 8 ohm load.
Why a coaxial design? In a perfect world, the sound of the various drivers in a speaker would all emanate from the same point to avoid timing and dispersion variances across the frequencies. This is one of the great benefits of a single-driver loudspeaker, along with the lack of a crossover which can be an even greater boon, but it requires a driver that is capable of reproducing the entire frequency range. Coaxial speakers, with a tweeter mounted in the center of a midrange/woofer driver, create a single point source while incorporating separate drivers suited to their respective frequency ranges. Of course, there is no free lunch and a crossover is now required.
The Selah MF7 is on the surface very similar to the Madisound Loki speaker kit as the two share the same drivers and pre-fabricated cabinets. These are nicely finished and solidly built with wood veneers on all surfaces available in Maple, Cherry or Black Ash. If you are a DIY sort, I would highly recommend these solid boxes with 3/4” sides and 1” front baffles for your own project. I also like the knurled binding posts which have a large hole to accept bare wire (my preference). The 10 gauge aggregate size of my DH Labs Q-10 speaker cables easily fit, whereas many other speakers provide impressive-looking binding posts with tiny holes made for cables closer to 14 gauge.
Though the Selah MF7 and Madisound Loki share the same SEAS coax driver, they differ in crossover design. According to Rick Craig, president and designer of Selah Audio, this accounts for an improvement in sound quality from the MF7. He can also customize the crossover to optimize the speaker response for placement close to a wall. Additionally, the MF7 has composite damping sheets on the inside surfaces to reduce box colorations. Given that the Loki kit costs $522 a pair plus shipping and the drivers alone retail for around $140 each, the MF7 is in comparison a no-brainer at $595 with shipping included.
Listening Selah Audio MF7
For starters, I hooked the MF7s up to our AV system consisting of a vintage Pioneer SA-6500II amp and fed them a diet of Squeezebox streamed FLAC files and DVD movies. This system is used primarily for background music and casual TV watching, so I wasn’t expecting to readily notice much of difference from the usual pair of Profiles by Dahlquist PDQ-16 bookshelf speakers I snagged several years ago through a manufacturer’s clearance auction. But right away details became more apparent and it was much easier to hear dialogue on movies. While not set up for ideal imaging, with the speakers positioned low and angled upward on either side of the television, I found that the MF7s delivered a deeper and wider soundstage. In addition, the bass seemed much more controlled and refined. Though the PDQ-16s seem to extend lower, I think this perception is more the result of their some what bloated and overemphasized mid-bass (good for giving movies extra excitement but not necessarily accurate).
Bringing the MF7 into the main listening room (18.5’x16’x8.5’), I placed them onto a pair of 24” tall Skylan stands filled with sand. Because of the even vertical/ horizontal dispersion and smooth off-axis response of the concentric drivers, listening height is not as much of a concern as with other speakers. I could easily adjust the top-end response by changing the toe-in and found that I preferred the speakers firing straight ahead or with only a slight toe-in (aimed directly at my listening position made them too sharp and pushed center performers forward). On the other hand, the distance from the wall behind the speakers greatly affected bass output and I settled on about 27”. This necessitated moving my listening position forward in the room, which is set up for use with Magnepans that require much more space behind the speakers. While it worked during my listening sessions, room aesthetics preclude this arrangement as a permanent solution in my situation.
Compared to the stand-mounted monitors I previously reviewed, the single-driver Role Audio Sampan FTL, the Selah MF7s had a much bigger, room-filling sound if not quite as holographic. The Sampans seemed to envelope me in their sound with an almost headphone-like presentation, but the images were smaller and more distant. The MF7s created a more immediate presence with singers/performers positioned forward in a huge soundstage that extends far out in front of you which gives them greater energy and a larger scale. I also really like the sound of the tweeter in the MF7 which is very detailed and open. It easily revealed the differences in power amps, showing that while my old Adcom GFA-535II sounds good it can’t measure up to the clarity of the newer Class D amps, specifically my modified PS Audio GCC-100 and the Wyred4Sound 200S.
Microdetails are impressive without ever seeming etched or overdone on the MF7 speakers. On “Scarborough Fair/ Norwegian Wood,” a fine collaboration by alto guitarist Joe Beck and alto flutist Ali Ryerson (thus the title of the album Alto), the flute was more prominent and forward through the Selah’s than with my reference Magnepan 1.6QR speakers. Not a bad thing as it allowed me to better hear little details such as Ryerson’s breathes between notes, manipulations of the flute and inflections in his playing. The same could be said of Beck’s fingering and when the percussive stick work comes in on the song, the MF7s kept up with these quick transients and rendered the full character of the instruments rather than just a floating sound or note, thus portraying a greater sense of the performance. They also easily unraveled the cacophony of instruments and sounds at the end of Beck’s “Tropicalia” (Mutations), and you can clearly hear his breath at the end of the song as if to say “thank god I made it through that.” I’ve heard other speakers become confused during this song to where it is difficult to pick out the various sounds, and even my Magnepans do not quite match the MF7s in this regard.
Likewise, through the MF7s I could hear all of the finger movements and creaking from the instruments on V.M. Bhatt and Ry Cooder’s “Ganges Delta Blues,” a great combination of traditional Indian music and southern slide guitar. However, I noticed that the drums in the background just didn’t have the same weight and solidity to them as they do with through the Magnepans with their dipole bass that can reach down lower and get the tones rolling through the room. Switching to a full orchestral piece (Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre” by Jean Fournet, Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra), the MF7s credibly portrayed the orchestra across the large soundstage and made it easy to identify individual instruments, but they were not able to provide the low-end impact on their own to do it complete justice. While the Magnepans are not true bottom feeders reaching the lowest octave, there is a quality and palpable substance to their bass and midrange that is hard to beat.
The Room as a Component
To optimize the bass response and soundstage/imaging of the MF7 speakers in my main room required a balancing act between the space behind the speakers and the listening position which were never quite appropriate for that room. The end result was that the sounded tended toward the cool or lean side of the audio spectrum, perhaps exacerbated by my admittedly analytical and fantastically neutral amp. The PS Audio GCC-100 works well with my Magnepans, but I think the MF7 may prefer a warmer, more romantic sounding amp. Indeed, they were demonstrated with a tube amp at the AK Fest to great effect, but keep in mind that they are on the lower end of efficiency, so you will likely want amp with some guts (single-ended flea-power tube amps are probably not ideal and Sonic Impact T-Amp proved ineffectual).
Moving to a smaller room with a more intimate listening distance transformed my impressions of the MF7s with regards to bass. Using them on the long wall of a narrow (11’6”) room allowed me to place the speakers out about 18” from the wall with my listening position nearly up against the other wall. All the positives I heard in my main room remained true but I found the entire presentation warmed up significantly and had much more impact. In fact, the improved bass/mid-range rendered by the room change made the entire presentation seem smoother and more relaxed. I found myself listening much longer and playing entire recordings before I had any urge to try something different.
I also gave the techno sounds of William Orbit another try on the MF7 speakers in the smaller room. His Strange Cargo series sounded great on these speakers with their layers and layers of expansive effects and unusual dubs clearly portrayed (I also have a dirty little secret in that I’ll often put on Madonna’s Ray of Light album just to hear William Orbit’s writing and production influence). While in my main room, the little 7” midrange/bass driver seemed overtaxed trying to manage the deep bass of these tracks, but they did a much more credible job in the smaller room. While the MF7s are not going to rattle the windows (you will still want a subwoofer if you are a bass freak), they are tight and tuneful with what they do deliver, giving throbbing club music such as that from Orbit a solid foundation. And though I was worried that I might hear port chuffing or noise, especially with the front mounted opening, such was not the case even in a more intimate listening environment. I believe that is more a concern with lesser monitors that are trying to reach beyond their physical limitations.
Conclusion about Selah Audio MF7
In my mind, the hallmark of a great monitor is that it doesn’t try to do more than physics will allow. Too often I’ve heard monitors that bloat the bottom end to give the impression of extended response while mucking up the upper bass and midrange. To its credit, the MF7 sticks to the frequencies it does best and conducts that performance with remarkable capability from top to bottom. They do not impress with dynamic gymnastics but rather in their clarity, finesse and coherence. Coherency is a trait I greatly appreciate in my reference Magnepan 1.6QR speakers, and is just as palpable when listening to the Selah speakers with their ability to create a seamless and smooth presentation across all of the reproduced audio frequencies.
Apartment dwellers and those with smaller listening rooms will likely find the MF7 very appealing and they are excellent performers in more intimate environments. They also excel if your musical tastes tend towards acoustic, vocals and small ensembles. I would venture a guess that the MF7 would sound great actively crossed over with a quality subwoofer or as part of a complete HT system with bass management. I did try them out with a pair of ACI Force subwoofers, running the MF7s full-range and bringing the subs up under them (requiring a somewhat higher low-pass setting than with than with the Magnepans), which greatly enhanced the presentation and turned them into full-range contenders. Additionally, a shielded version is available and their coincident driver orientation with even dispersion makes them ideal for surround and center channel duties where placement typically requires offaxis listening.
Considering that the cost of a pair of drivers alone is about $240, the Selah MF7 speakers represent a great value $595 shipped to your door. Even if you do not give these speakers a try, you may want to check out some of recordings by their namesake, Maynard Ferguson.
- Magnepan 1.6QR speakers
- PS Audio GCC-100 integrated amp
- Cary 306/200 CDP/DAC
- Slim Devices Squeezebox 3 digital music streamer
- Music Hall MMF-5 Turntable
- Monolithic Sound PS-1 phonostage and HC-1 high-current supply
- Wyred4Sound 200S power amp
- Reference Line Preeminence One passive volume control
- Adcom GFA-535II
- Pioneer SX-780 receiver or SA-6500II integrated amp
from aﬀordableaudio, By Craig Johnson