“The centre cannot hold,” is one of the most widely quoted lines from WB Yeats’ much-pilfered poem, The Second Coming. It is often repeated in times of economic and geopolitical chaos and dread, finding new relevance every time a fresh crisis emerges. But here at What Hi-Fi? it has a different significance, relating instead to the unassuming centre channel speaker.
The centre channel is often the most overlooked speaker in a surround sound system, but we find that it's the component that can make a speaker package coherent, elevating it from a collection of boxes to a fully-fledged immersive home cinema set-up.
Tasked with mainly handling dialogue and typically flanked by much larger, more powerful speakers, a centre speaker needs to be able to hold its own, despite the restrictions of its cabinet shape and position, which is often close to a wall or screen.
With the Fyne Audio F8SP AV surround sound speaker package, the brand brings together two of its most formidable floorstanders from its SP (Special Production) range, which soups up existing products with a wishlist of the company’s high-end innovations.
In this case, the front left and right are a pair of the domineering F502SP, while the rears are the more manageably sized F501SP. These are joined by not one but two of the brand’s F3-12 subwoofers.
For the first time, Fyne has produced two centre channels designed to partner with both its F500SP range and the pricier F700 series. The new centre speakers use F700 internal components within an F500SP MDF cabinet. This package includes the larger model, the F57SP-8, featuring 8-inch (20cm) drivers and an adjustable Auxiliary Bass Radiator to modify its low-frequency performance. It all sounds very impressive, but can it hold this system together?
Individually, the F57SP-8 centre speaker costs £2000 / $2800 / AU$5500, while the front F502SPs are priced at £4800 / $6500 / $10,495 a pair, and the surround F501SPs are £3500 / $5000 / AU$6995.
With the F3-12 subs costing £1000 / $1400 / AU$2195 each, the entire 5.2 system would set you back around £12,300 / $17,100 / AU$25,453 if purchased separately. But Fyne has suggested to its distributors that the F8SP AV bundle retail for approximately £11,000 / $15,000 / AU$24,000), representing a tidy saving on this otherwise pricey package.
As with the rest of Fyne’s premium models, all the full-range speakers in the F8SP AV pack use the company’s IsoFlare drive unit arrays, where the tweeter is positioned in the throat of the mid/bass unit to provide accurate time alignment, consistent dispersion and integration between drive units.
In the F502SP, the array uses a 25mm magnesium dome compression tweeter coupled with a 20cm multi-fibre mid/bass cone and a dedicated 20cm bass driver. The driver surrounds boast a pie-crust style indentation known as FyneFlute, which uses an uneven surface to control unwanted resonances.
This 2½ way system is augmented by a downward-firing port that fires into a double-stacked aluminium plinth housing a highly engineered Tractrix diffuser. This arrangement is designed to ensure even bass performance, making the speakers less fussy about their placement in a room.
Internally, much of the circuitry and crossover architecture was originally developed for the F700s, including silver-plated Van Den Hul wiring, laminated core inductors and high-grade capacitors. Connection is via a rear bi-wire panel with straps and includes an additional terminal for driver chassis grounding.
The cabinets are built from high-density MDF lined with three different damping materials to control resonances and are available in three flashy gloss finishes of walnut, black and white.
Standing 111cm tall with the plinth, these speakers command the attention of the room they’re in, with a slick but unpretentious design and restrained use of silver accents on the driver surround and floor spikes. Physically, the F501SPs are almost identical to their big sibling, with the same configuration and build, but reduced in size and sporting 15cm woofers.
F502SP Front left & right speakers:
Type 2½ way, downwards firing port
Nominal Impedance 8 ohms
Dimensions (hwd) 111 x 33.8 x 38cm
F501SP Rear speakers:
Type 2½ way, downwards firing port
Nominal Impedance 8 ohms
Dimensions (hwd) 98.4 x 28.8 x 32cm
F57SP-8 Centre speaker:
Type 2½ way with adjustably damped ABR
Nominal Impedance 8 ohms
Dimensions (hwd) 27 x 76 x 29cm
Amplifier output 520W
Type Vented, downwards firing
Driver size 30cm
Inputs 2 x Phono L & R stereo, 1 x mono LFE
Dimensions (hwd) 48 x 37.5 x 44.3cm
Built to straddle both the 500SP and 700SP range, the F57SP-8 centre speaker cleverly complements the visual style of the rest of the package without directly mimicking it.
This 2½ way speaker sports the same 25mm tweeter as the rest of the range in an IsoFlare arrangement within a 20cm mid/low driver. Another 20cm woofer supplements the speaker’s low-frequency output below 250Hz, while an additional passive bass radiator further extends the speaker's low-frequency performance, much like the ports on the floorstanding model.
The passive unit's motor system is controlled by a small switch at the rear. This allows users to vary the amount of electromagnetic damping applied depending on how close the centre sits to a wall. This is a useful touch that helps to fine-tune performance.
Bringing the .2 to this 5.2 package is a duo of the brand’s F3-12 subwoofers, each sporting a 30cm woofer and downward firing port. Packing 520 watts, the F3-12 has basic input controls for phase and level, as well as an LFE or normal setting and a Bass Boost option. Reminiscent of Fyne’s standard 500 range, it has a black ash finish and a fairly unremarkable design.
The front three full-range speakers are almost disarming in their precision and speed, adding a tangible layer of excitement to action sequences and making nearly every sudden move in horror films unbearably unnerving.
Watching A Quiet Place on Blu-ray, the Fyne Audio F8SP showcases this snappiness to terrifying effect. From the accidental noises made by the family to the thrashing of the monsters hunting them down, the power and heft that these colossal speakers serve up while remaining agile, precise and textured are remarkable.
The integration across the front is seamless, with a broad soundstage, tremendous dynamic range and a scale that is enveloping and engaging. While the rears integrate tonally with the system, despite our best efforts to tweak our JBL Synthesis SDR-35 AV receiver, they’re noticeably less authoritative, and we can’t help but wish the package came with four of the F502SPs instead.
Switching to The Batman (2022) on Blu-ray gives the centre channel a chance to step out from the shadow of the floorstanders. In a Gotham City where it seems everyone has been gargling with bleach, the F57SP-8’s reproduction of dialogue is effortless, detailed and expressive, punching through the heft of the funereal score and dissonant sound effects and putting the narrative front and centre.
In the car chase sequence, the crescendoing score, guttural gunshots and engine roar all produce a rich tapestry of low frequencies, which the full-range speakers deliver with an incisive punch. However, the subs, both in standard and boost mode, lack the same level of definition and rapidity, which, unfortunately, creates a slight disconnect across the system as a whole.
Switching to music with Romeo And Juliet by Dire Straits, the deft timing of the system’s Isoflare drivers is highlighted by the distinctive finger-picked style of Mark Knopfler. High transients like the snare can verge toward insistent at louder volumes, but overall the system manages to tread a fine line between exciting and irritating.
This is a speaker package that drips with charisma. However, its pizzaz can be a little draining to listen to for long periods and will require careful pairing with an AV receiver to get the best performance.
The Fyne Audio F8SP AV pack is an engaging surround system with a powerful rhythmic sound that, while not the most transparent, is incredibly entertaining for both movies and music, with a centre channel that is equal to its front pair.
Unfortunately, the rear surrounds don’t quite offer the same vigour, and the subwoofers aren’t taut enough to blend with this snappy system. But for those that prefer a dramatic, front-footed sound, there is still plenty to enjoy here.
- Build 5
- Sound 4
- Features 4
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