One of the great things about hi-fi is that there’s something for everybody. Like in any other industry, the big players care less about pleasing the eccentric fringes, and more about capturing as large a slice of the “average” audiophile base as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s good business. But it doesn’t exactly encourage risk-taking, or flourishes of design and engineering ingenuity, because the goal is less about enticing the most audiophiles, and more about discouraging the least. The older I get, the more mundane that notion seems to me. Life is short. And while affordable hi-fi should be all about performance per dollar, the more boutique nature of the high end demands that a loudspeaker be both performant and provocative.
After spending weeks with Fyne Audio’s F700 loudspeakers ($3995/pair, all prices in USD) as welcome company in my living room, this idea swirled in my head, because the F700 is not exactly a textbook design. It has a unique sense of style, an uncommon architecture, and it most definitely has a sound. Outliers, in audio as in life, are polarizing, and the F700 is no exception. But this Scottish speaker is a lovely little design with serious personality. Let me tell you all about it.
Tannoy is one of the UK’s most recognizable loudspeaker brands and one rich with history—the original company was founded in 1926, almost a century ago. Its big wooden cabinets and signature concentric drivers possess a certain nostalgia. But time marches on, and over the course of several acquisitions the company’s classic hi-fi offerings are no longer the main attraction. Indeed, the focus of their current product stack appears to be custom-install speakers, with powered speakers and mobile products not far behind. The firm’s acquisition by the Music Tribe in 2015 was a natural inflection point, so a coalition of Tannoy leadership secured funding and struck out on their own in 2017 with the launch of Fyne Audio. Rather than simply regurgitate Tannoy’s legacy hi-fi products under a new banner, the new company’s concept was to reimagine the aesthetics and underlying technology while still paying homage to the past.
Fyne offers a range of subwoofers and custom-install products along with four lines of loudspeakers, starting with the entry-level F300, progressing through the midrange F500 and F700 series, and culminating with the flagship F1 range. The F700 series comprises the F700 and F701 two-way speakers, and the two-and-a-half-way F702, F703, and F704 floorstanding models. The F700 collection spoke to me because of its distinctively upscale looks, and the F700 model, in particular, caught my eye. At 13.7″H × 8.8″W × 13.3″D, and weighing 19.8 pounds, it’s a compact high-end standmount, significantly smaller than the F701, which is almost 5″ taller and more than 2″ wider than its little brother.
I was deeply impressed as I unpacked my Piano Gloss Walnut review samples (Piano Gloss White and Piano Gloss Black finishes are also available). The F700 is a seriously handsome design. The cabinet has rounded baffle edges—no hard 90-degree angles in sight—and the top and side panels all taper back to sculpt a beautifully curved design. The high-gloss finish is not quite mirror-perfect, but it’s good for this price point. The walnut veneer is quite dark, providing the F700 with a rich, sophisticated presentation that neatly fit my living room’s décor and color scheme. The wood cabinet is elevated on three brushed-aluminum footers that allow for the inch or two of clearance required to port the bass-reflex design downward. This BassTrax Tractrix system, as Fyne calls it, is an interesting implementation.
In the floorstanding models of the F700 line, bass energy from the upper chamber of the cabinet is funneled to the lower third of the cabinet using a vertically oriented port tube. The bottom chamber, in turn, vents to the underplate of the speaker, on which sits a conical diffuser that radiates bass energy through 360 degrees, promising buyers a less fussy setup than your average rear-ported bookshelf speaker. In the F700 and F701 models, there is only one cabinet chamber, which ports directly onto the diffuser. Neat.
The defining characteristic of the F700 is its IsoFlare driver, a point-source unit comprising a 5.9″ midrange-woofer with a multifiber paper cone and a 1″ magnesium-dome compression tweeter that uses a neodymium magnet. Unlike the more common coaxial drive unit arrangement, like KEF’s Uni-Q, where the tweeter is neatly nestled at the base of the diaphragm, the IsoFlare’s tweeter is positioned further back on the z-axis, near the rear of the midrange-woofer’s motor structure. Conceptually, this is the Tannoy legacy peeking through. But the folks at Fyne promise that these are bespoke drive units, designed and created from the ground up for its products. The 5.9″ midrange-woofer, meanwhile, has a ridged “FyneFlute” surround, a fluted design that Fyne argues reduces coloration.
On the rear of the tapered cabinet are two pairs of high-quality binding posts—biwirers rejoice!—and a grounding terminal. For those, like me, who eschew biwiring, jumpers are included in the box. Fyne offers the matching FS8 loudspeaker stand for $1800 per pair, though it is by no means a required accessory for the F700. I’ll note that the F300 and F500 lines are manufactured in China, while the line-leading F1 series, the F700 line, and the the newer F500SP line are manufactured at Fyne’s production facility in Scotland. Rest assured, my review samples looked flawless in terms of their build quality and tolerances.
The F700 has a sensitivity of 89dB with a nominal 8-ohm impedance; a bit surprising for such a small loudspeaker. This little speaker promises to be an easy load for most amplifiers, as evidenced by Fyne’s power-handling specs of 30–150W, with an outrageously high peak power handling of 300W. The F700’s in-room frequency response is listed at 40Hz–34kHz (-6dB). The IsoFlare crossover occurs at an unusually low 1.7kHz using a second-order (12dB/octave) low-pass filter, and a first-order (6dB/octave) high-pass filter.
One important callout: Fyne warranties the F700 for seven years. Seven! And there’s no registration necessary. It’s nice to see a loudspeaker manufacturer stand behind their products well beyond the usual period of two to five years.
Setup and listening
The Fynes slotted into my system without too much of a hitch. Off came my reference KEF LS50s from their 24″, sand-filled speaker stands, and on went the F700s. The speakers were approximately 7′ apart, and 8′ from my listening position, with their backs 12″ from the front wall of my room. They were wired up with Siltech’s Classic Legend 680L speaker cables—which connected to the F700s’ binding posts with a satisfying snick—that snaked to my Hegel Music Systems H590 integrated amplifier-DAC. My source is an old Intel NUC running Roon and Tidal HiFi. The Hegel was connected to the NUC using a Siltech Classic Legend 380 USB interconnect, and to my Emotiva CMX-2 power conditioner using a Siltech Classic Legend 680P power cord.
I broke in my brand-new review samples with a week’s worth of background music and liked what I heard. When I sat down for more critical listening, however, I realized I needed to experiment with the placement of the Fynes. I normally perch bookshelf speakers on my speaker stands, tilted inward so that I can just see the inside baffle of each speaker from my listening position, and move on. But when I fed the F700s a couple of my favorite soundtracks at high volume, I heard an excess of energy in the lower treble that drew my attention away from the rest of the mix. I hopped up and pointed the speakers straight out into my room, with no toe-in to speak of, and returned to my seat. While the treble prominence wasn’t completely eliminated, it was abbreviated, and I set about exploring the Scottish speaker’s sonic qualities.
Let me be clear up front: Fyne Audio’s F700 is a riot. I queued up Seinabo Sey’s “Younger [Acoustic Version]” from her debut album Pretend (24-bit/44.1kHz MQA, Universal Records/Virgin EMI Records/Tidal) and laughed out loud when I heard the finished product. The Swedish singer’s voice emerged from between these stylish two-ways in commanding fashion. The Fynes were decidedly not shy, propelling Sey’s closely-miked vocal into my room with a forwardness and immediacy that was impossible not to admire. The flanking piano lines were marked by a similar vibrancy; the aforementioned lower treble prominence is quite real, so careful equipment partnering is a must to ensure that this quality doesn’t become too much of a good thing. I need to emphasize that while I was sitting unmistakably front row, center seat for “Younger,” both Sey’s voice and her piano were utterly refined and silky smooth. This is not a bright-sounding loudspeaker, just forward. The F700 is so much more than a quick thrill. Stereo imaging of Sey’s vocal was terrific, with strong spatial definition; not exactly a shock given the Fynes’ coaxial driver arrangement. And detail retrieval was excellent for the price point. I easily picked up Sey’s mouth movements and inhalation of breath before she delivered her opening lines, and the track was as engaging at low volume as it was when I cranked my Hegel’s volume dial. It all sounded so effortless, yet hugely expressive and invigorated.
Interest piqued, I played “Red Alert,” from Jerry Goldsmith’s original soundtrack for Star Trek: First Contact (16/44.1 ALAC, GNP Crescendo Records), from Tidal. It’s a high-energy piece with lots of strings, trumpets, and percussion—making it apparent how the Fyne speaker’s forwardness can be both a blessing and a curse. The trumpet passages in the first 30 seconds of the track exhibited gobs of presence and were squeaky clean, but this was soon overtaken by the cymbal crashes around the 1:05 mark, which briefly overshadowed the rest of the orchestration. The F700s’ tonal balance meant that the soundstage during the quieter passages of “Red Alert” was not particularly deep—remember, these are front-row loudspeakers—but the lateral dispersion and instrument placement therein was very good. I can’t overemphasize how exciting it is to listen to these Fyne speakers.
Consider Phil Collins’s iconic “In the Air Tonight,” from Face Value (Deluxe Edition) (16/44.1 FLAC, Atlantic Records/Tidal). From the growling electric guitar chord that opens the remastered cut, to his opening line—“I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord”—there seemed to be zero lag between the digital musical signal being fed into my Hegel amp and the resulting music hitting my ears. The pace, the bell-like clarity, the ribbon-like effortlessness from the midrange up was delicious, and I found myself eating it up. Then came the track’s signature drum transition at the 3:40 mark. I heard strong emphasis on the leading edges of each drum stroke, with great definition and alacrity, though this came at the expense of bass weight and warmth. Absent was the upper-bass hump that you commonly find in small two-way speakers that makes them sound fuller down low than perhaps they really are; the drum thwacks were not as round or as full as they could have been, but that tuning by Fyne was no doubt intentional. From top to bottom these speakers sound fast. Fatten up the bass and the entire tonal balance changes. In my room, the F700s produced a 50Hz bass tone at full voice, with tones at 45Hz and 40Hz offering progressively less output, so overall extension is about what you’d expect for a loudspeaker this size.
Skipping forward to current-day music, I put on The Weeknd’s monster single “Blinding Lights,” from After Hours (Deluxe) (16/44.1 FLAC, Republic/Tidal), and noted that the F700s sounded remarkably similar despite the 38-year gap between the two recordings. And that, I think, is telling. If you want a neutral sound, there are plenty of other fish in the hi-fi sea. If you want to be thrilled by your system every time you sit down, then these Fyne speakers—pardon the pun—will do you nicely. The simple synth bass at the foundation of the track was light and quick, as were The Weeknd’s lyrics, the defining characteristic of which was less his smooth, refined delivery, which I know to be in the underlying recording, and more the urgency and brilliance that the F700s spotlighted in the mix.
Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line was released in 1998, the same year as Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, and I am one of the half-dozen individuals who actually prefers Malick’s introspective, philosophical take on World War II to Spielberg’s more traditional and accessible perspective. It is a film whose value lies as much in its sensory stimulation as in the meandering plot—or even more so, as evidenced by the fact that it was Oscar-nominated both for Best Cinematography and for Best Original Dramatic Score. Hans Zimmer’s score for the film is, to my thinking, one of his finest and most engrossing. Melanesian Choirs: The Blessed Islands (Chants from The Thin Red Line) (16/44.1 ALAC, RCA Victor) is a companion disc by the Melanesian Brotherhood, Tabalia, and All Saints Choir, Honiara, that was recorded during the filming and released the following year. The lead track, “Jisas Yu Holem Hand Blong Mi,” transported me back 20 years to my parents’ basement, where I first experienced The Thin Red Line. The largely soprano choir was thrust into my narrow listening room, painted in exquisite detail. The voices of the sopranos shone a touch brighter than the supporting tenors, and were punctuated by the collective’s clapping to maintain rhythm. Individual claps proved easily discernable, and the presentation tickled my deep-seated love of expressive loudspeakers that favor dynamics and transient snap over tonal warmth and fullness. If the latter is your cup of tea, well, these aren’t the speakers you’re looking for.
Last year I reviewed Dynaudio’s Contour 20i ($5250/pair), which, when compared to Fyne’s F700, is a study in contrasts. The Dynaudio features a 1.1″ soft-dome tweeter and a 7″ polymer midrange-woofer in a cabinet that is almost 4″ shorter than the Fyne’s—remember, the F700 ports to the bottom and cannot use the lower inch or so of its cabinet for internal volume (which, in turn, would boost maximum output and ultimate bass extension). Accordingly, the Contour 20i loudspeakers were able to remain linear down to 40Hz or so, at which point the F700s’ output was markedly attenuated. The Danish speakers also exhibited greater bass energy, and superb bass control for a two-way design, something that the Scottish speakers just couldn’t match. I suspect the larger F701 is a more like-for-like comparison in that regard. Moving up the frequency range, the Dynaudios proved to be as introverted in the midrange as the Fynes were extroverted. The Contour 20i loudspeakers were all about being smooth and supple, with no emphasis on the leading edges of a drum strike or a guitar chord. They were balanced and supremely easy to listen to. The same could be said for the sublime liquidity of their Esotar 2i tweeters and tapered, polite top end, which lent the speakers the disposition of a golden retriever, i.e., supremely easy to live with. Will they blow your hair back with dynamic fireworks? They sure won’t. But they won’t threaten you with listener fatigue, either.
EgglestonWorks’ Nico Evolution ($4995/pair, including stands) is sonically similar to the Fyne F700, in that its vibrant midrange is the star of the show. This makes vocals pop and gives them “almost unnatural clarity and definition,” as I described in my 2020 review. The Nico Evos thrived on dynamic material, offering deeper bass, and notably more of it, when compared to the F700s. In fact, the Nico Evos, with their 6″ midrange-woofers and big cabinets, were downright punchy-sounding, something that I appreciated with my catalog of bass-heavy electronic music, which revels in the 60–120Hz region. In that respect, the Fynes weren’t as satisfying. The Nico Evos’ 1″ Morel silk-dome tweeters sounded just as smooth as the F700s’ nested magnesium domes, though not quite as extended up top.
Styling-wise, it’s a wholly different proposition. While the Nico Evo’s automotive-level paint job is excellent, and superior to the F700’s, its big-chinned, angular cabinet looks a bit wonky when compared to the more adventurous and contoured Fyne speaker. One benefit of the Nico Evo’s notably larger cabinet is greater output; the EgglestonWorks two-ways could play cleanly up to a very high volume.
Fyne Audio’s F700 is a fine loudspeaker. I very much fancied the color of my Piano Gloss Walnut review samples, and I admired their lovely, swooping cabinets from every angle. They imaged well. They had solid bass extension and definition. They didn’t require lots of current or power. Essentially, they sounded so effervescent and buoyant through the mids that I found it impossible not to be actively engaged during my many late-night listening sessions with these Scottish-made speakers. Yes, careful equipment matching is advisable to ensure you don’t get too much of a good thing—partnering these with a forward- or bright-sounding amp may yield an overly analytical and tetchy sound—but get it right and you will be duly rewarded with sound that will thrill for the long haul. Highly recommended.
. . . Hans Wetzel
- Speakers: KEF LS50 and Reference 3.
- Integrated amplifier: Hegel Music Systems H590.
- Sources: Intel NUC computer running Roon, Tidal HiFi.
- Speaker cables: Siltech Classic Legend 680L.
- Analog interconnects: Dynamique Audio Shadow (RCA), Siltech Classic Legend 680i (XLR).
- Power cords: Siltech Classic Legend 680P.
- Digital interconnect: Siltech Classic Legend 380 USB.
- Power conditioner: Emotiva CMX-2.
Fyne Audio F700 Loudspeakers
Price: $3995 per pair.
Warranty: Seven years, parts and labor.
Fyne Audio Limited
Grovewood Business Centre, Suite 42
Strathclyde Business Park
Lanarkshire ML4 3NQ
Phone: +44 141 428-4008
The Gramophone Inc.
7913 104 St NW
Phone: (780) 428-2356
The Sound Organisation
1009 Oakmead Drive
Arlington, TX 76011
Phone: (972) 234-0182