Frazer Wyatt Speakers
Almost every keyboard exhibitor at the British Music Fair was using these British-designed and built speakers to play their products through. Paul White tries to find out why.
The amplification of electronic instruments places specific demands on loudspeaker design, and Frazer Wyatt have met this design challenge head on.
One of the most prominent features of this year's British Music Fair was the way almost everyone seemed to be using Frazer Wyatt speakers to demonstrate their equipment, so we wasted no time in getting hold of a pair to find out what all the fuss was about.
The philosophy behind these speakers is that modern PA and instrument amplification deserve better specifications than conventional designs currently provide. To explain: most instrument speakers are based on designs that have changed little since the sixties; that is, several speakers mounted in a box with the intention of providing as much volume as possible, and with little or no consideration for the quality of reproduction. It's all too easy to hear the consequences of this method if you play a record or tape through a conventional four-by-twelve cabinet: nine times out of ten, it'll sound horrible.
With the advent of synthesisers, which are normally recorded directly into the mixing console, an approach more akin to that of hi-fi design is required, and in fact this is made all the more necessary by the wide frequency spectrum of such instruments - often equal to or exceeding that of human hearing at both ends of the range. Domestic hi-fi designs achieve a reasonably flat frequency response at the expense of power handling and efficiency, but this Frazer Wyatt design changes all that.
Designed and built in Britain, these speakers utilise a new type of ported enclosure, the loading of which actually shifts the system resonance down below that of the bass drive unit, effectively out of harm's way. This makes possible a reasonably flat frequency response which, in the case of the full-range unit, provides a useful response between the limits of 30Hz and 20kHz.
The Frazer Wyatt speakers are neither particularly small nor particularly large, measuring 766x520x490mm. Sturdily constructed from high density 18mm chipboard, the ported cabinet is conventionally covered in vinyl and fitted with bar-type carrying handles.
Two versions are currently available - a full-range and a bass model. The full-range variant contains a specially-built Fane 12" driver and a Fane HF250 tweeter driven via a three-pole crossover operating at around 5kHz. This gives a power handling of 200W with an acoustic efficiency of 103 dB/watt at 1m in the midrange - remarkably high for such a system - the nominal impedance being eight ohms.
Identical in size, the bass unit has the same bass driver but no tweeter, and features a switchable high-frequency roll-off filter that operates above 500Hz, for use as the bass end of a multispeaker system. This version comes as standard with an eight-ohm impedance, but four or 16 ohm alternatives can also be supplied on request. XLR connectors are standard on both models, and a soft transit cover is included in the price.
"Even at high levels, these speakers do not sound particularly loud, but this is due largely to their lack of coloration and rogue resonances."
Initially, and even at high levels, these speakers do not sound particularly loud, but this is largely due to their lack of coloration and rogue resonances, since I am assured that the efficiency figure is correct. Keyboards sound particularly good through the full-range model: the bottom end is full but uncluttered, while the mid and high ends cut through well without being unnecessarily abrasive.
Results are also satisfactory on bass guitar but since both players and audiences are accustomed to hearing this instrument played through highly coloured, resonant cabinets, it may be a while before the advantages of a flat-sounding system are appreciated, though I hope not! Of course, EQ may be applied to make these speakers sound just like a cheap and nasty four-by-twelve cab, but there doesn't seem a lot of point.
Where the Frazer Wyatt scores particularly is in the context of the modern 'slap-and-pull' bass style, where the midrange clarity and low bass give the benefits of both large and small speakers simultaneously.
On vocals, the 'hi-fi' nature of the Frazer Wyatts gives a more natural sound than many alternatives, and there is a slight presence peak at around 3kHz which undoubtedly aids clarity of diction.
At £365 each for the full-range speaker and £320 for the bass version, the Frazer Wyatt may seem a little pricey for what is at first sight a single 12" speaker in a box, but their sonic performance makes them considerably more cost-effective, particularly in the areas of keyboard and vocal amplification. For bass guitar, it's largely up to the individual to decide whether a flat response is likely to be advantageous, but the midrange responsiveness could well prove attractive. Discos, perish the thought, could also dramatically improve their quality of sound by buying a pair of full-range units, though that's probably one market area the manufacturers hadn't previously considered selling to!
To conclude, the Frazer Wyatt is a British development that points the way speaker design must eventually go if the full potential of electronic instruments is to be exploited to the full.
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Review by Paul White
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