Those of you who have read my previous reviews will know that I have quite a liking for the Fostex full range drive units. Clarity and sensitivity are their plus points and they seem to like the combination of the Tripath based amplifiers and Tube pre-amp. From the designs I have made I use the 8” Fostex 206E in a 208 Sigma Back Loaded Horn cabinet as my speaker of choice.
Intrigued to see what the smaller designs would sound like I purchased a pair of the 4” Fostex 126E’s and built the 108 sigma cabinet, the same design as the 208, but about one-third of it’s size.
I suppose it was a case having been spoilt by the larger drive unit and cabinets, but I was fairly disappointed with the sound they made. I had expected that the bass response would be somewhat curtailed in comparison with the much larger 208’s. However not only was the bass disappointing, the openness and “magic” of the larger cabinet was very much missing. Needless to say I couldn’t really get on with them and they were consigned to the spare room fairly swiftly. A few months ago I read a review of a design for a 4” full range driver and cabinet which I could use for the 126’s. The speakers were called Zigmahornets.
There is a commercial business selling the Chinese made drive units (not Fostex) and a set of plans so that you get the wood cut to size and stick all together yourself. The plans for the Zigmahornet can be found here at: T-Linespeakers.org
The recommended material is 12mm plywood. Very little wood is needed as can be seen from the plans. The cabinets are tall and slim and have very little depth apart from that needed to accommodate the speaker chassis. The ply cost about $50 (cut to size).
Build-up is very easy. The only slightly tricky part was the sloping “roof” as I like to call it. I don’t think the slope is absolutely necessary, but it my opinion it makes them look a lot better than if they were just a square box.
The only other things needed are two short lengths of speaker cable, two pairs of binding posts and a small piece of carpet felt to put directly behind the drive unit. Add a based large enough to stop them falling over and that’s it.
Initial listening impressions were that this was more like it, much more to my taste, and what I had hoped for from the 108’s, but didn’t’ get. What struck me was the openness and clarity, oh and the bass, it made me laugh out loud. How were these skinny things making so much bass ? The effective cone area of the 126’s is about two and a half inches!
After an extended listening session and having taken time to really analyse their sound, I cam to the conclusion that where the 108’s had made the speakers sound dull and recessed, the Zigmahornet’s were quite forward. Increasing the volume to get more bass, as is often required depending on the recording, only served to increase the midrange shout. Make no mistake these speakers are great fun and you just want to keep turning them up.
Dave Dlugos at www.planet10.com has done lots of research and development on Fostex drive units and for the 126’s recommends cone treatment to tame certain frequencies. A pattern of artists varnish is applied in a particular pattern to the cone and on the top of that a couple of coats are sealer are put on. The web site details what needs to be done and the products required.
Once you have applied the products there is no going back. So I was very pleased to hear that the claims made were in fact correct. The midrange was much smoother, but with no loss of detail. They sounded as though they had just gone through an accelerated “growing –up” period, they had left their occasional hooligan nature behind.
As you can see from the photograph, the cabinets are still “Au Naturelle”. In fact the eagle eyed amongst you will see that the screws (I screwed and glued the cabs) have not even been countersunk. I had lent my only countersink to my son and even now that I have got it back I could not bothered to take out all the many screws and finish the job off !
I don’t feel that it matters that the cabinets are a little “rough around the edges” in fact it adds to their charm. These are cheeky little fella’s, a bit of a teenager really. They like to tell it as it is. There’s no pretence with the Ziggies, they give it to you straight.
I did not think for one minute that a cabinet that you can knock up in a few hours with one tiny piece of wadding in it would sound as half as good as they do.
If you want something that looks a bit quirky, a bit funky and you can use a saw and a drill and you don’t live in a barn, the Zigmahornet’s should be on your Christmas list (or is it Holiday list over there ?)
Here are the finished Ziggie’s with cone mods