LISTENING IMPRESSIONS: Some Quality Time With the Fritz Carrera Monitors

Following on the heels of my Fritz Carbon 7 SE review, I got another phone call from Fritz Heiler (always a good thing). He wanted to know how his upmarket monitor, the Fritz Carrera Rev 7 BE, would sound paired with my Audio Note Kits Kit 1 300B amp. Having throughly enjoyed getting to know the Carbon 7 SE, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to spend quality time with the Carrera.

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Carrera Rev 7 BE Design Elements

As with most of the speakers Fritz is offering these days, the Carrera Rev 7 BE is a two-way, vented, stand-mount model. Like all Fritz’s offerings, the Carrera Rev 7 BE features premium quality drivers, integrated by a minimalist, series crossover.

As I mentioned in the Carbon 7 SE review, Fritz builds one heck of a dense, solid monitor cabinet. I can see someone throwing out their back picking up a Carbon 7 or Carrera as a result of underestimating just how much – 30 pounds! – that diminutive box actually weighs. As icing on the cake, the ebony veneer on my sample pair was very handsome.

So, where were we?

Ah, yes, “quality drivers.” The mid-woofer is a 7-inch paper cone unit from ScanSpeak’s “Revelator” line. As you can see in the photo, above, it’s an interesting looking unit, with lines scored into the cone and the dust cap in a distinctive, radial pattern.

The tweeter is the N28BER, a beryllium dome unit from Transducer Lab. It certainly looks swanky, with a machined metal faceplate and a protective grill over the dome.

Just a word here about beryllium dome tweeters. Several years ago, when Reference 3A replaced the fabric dome tweeters of their entire line with beryllium tweeters, I hesitated to upgrade the tweeters because of the reputation of metal dome tweeters for sounding harsh, metallic and so forth. At that time, Tash Goka of Reference 3A reassured me that

… opinions about the “harsh sound” [that] metal domes propagate may generally be true although some loudspeakers have used them successfully in the past. They were usually made with aluminum, magnesium or titanium, etc… This ringing metallic sound was also our finding whenever we have tried them for a project. Metallurgy of Beryllium is different however. It is significantly lighter, stronger and definitely more inert.  Sonically it is very well balanced, detailed, and spacious due to extended higher frequencies well in to 40 kHz range.

When I upgraded my Reference 3A De Capo’s to the BE tweeter, I found Tash Goka’s words to reflect my listening experiences. There wasn’t a whit of harshness in that tweeter. On the contrary, the highs were sweet, extended and airy. It was an unquestionable improvement over the fabric dome tweeter.

This experience with beryllium dome tweeters made me particularly eager to hear the Carrera Rev 7 BE.

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Fancy-pants beryllium tweeter

 

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Fancy pants ScanSpeak “Revelator” mid-woofer

The Sound

The Carrera Rev 7 BE manifests the same even, suave sonic DNA that makes its less expensive sibling, the Carbon 7 SE, so appealing. It is smooth, refined and utterly easy to listen to. Other speakers may jump up and down shouting, “Hey, big spender, check out my highs, my lows, my imaging, my slam, my irresistible way with Diana Krall!!” But, like the Carbon 7 SE, the Carrera Rev 7 BE coos, “Are you ready for a long term relationship? Someone you can spend hour after hour with and never lose interest? Then look no further, my friend.”

So, yes, Fritz Heiler has great ears and really knows how to voice a speaker with the potential to keep you happy for the long haul. But what does the substantially more expensive Carrera add to the Carbon 7 SE experience?

In a word, “sophistication.” While never calling attention to itself, there’s a smoothness, “air” and goes-on-forever-but-never-gets-harsh extension to that BE tweeter that is quite extraordinary. You wouldn’t miss these qualities in the Carbon 7 SE, but you can easily hear what the fancier drivers add to the equation when you move up to the Carrera’s.

Speaking of fancier drivers, what about that 7-inch Revelator mid-woofer? Again, the drivers are very well integrated and it’s not as if you’re going to be sitting there thinking, “Dude, that’s a killer woofer!” (Well, some of you might think that, but what can I do?) But voices do sound just that extra measure fleshed out with the Revelator mid-woofer, and the sheer, room energizing, low end STOMP that the Carrera’s can pump out is grin-inducing. Orchestral tympani in the last section of Pictures At An Exhibition? No problem. Electro-pop synth bass in the music of Annie Lennox, Aaliyah or Lorde? Heck yeah!

But, with a SET amp?

Last year, when Fritz suggested I test the Carbon 7 SE with my 8 watt per channel ANK Kit 1 SET amp, I was skeptical. Could the Kit 1 provide enough power to effectively drive 88 db sensitive Carbon 7 SE? To my great surprise, the combo sounded great: dynamic, unstrained and smooth, without any sense that the Kit 1 was bottoming out or clipping.

Although the Kit 1 and Carrera made some great music together with every genre of music I threw at them, the fit didn’t seem quite as comfortable. Whether it was the overall less sensitive package (87 db for the Carrera vs. 88 for the Carbon 7) or, as Fritz himself speculated, the power requirements of the BE tweeter, the Kit 1 seemed to have to work harder to power the Carrera. For a concrete example of what I mean: “9 o’clock” to “10 o’clock” on the Kit 1 volume dial would drive the Carbon 7 SE’s to satisfying volume levels in my moderately small listening room. For the Carrera, it often took “10 o’clock” to “11 o’clock” to get the speakers to really wake up. On the theory that SET’s sound best (e.g., generate the least amount of distortion) with speakers that allow them to operate well within their “first watt” or so of power, you’d want a speaker that didn’t make a SET amp work quite that hard.

Additionally, with allowances for the unreliability of aural memory, I think that the Kit 1 maintained a smidgen more “grip” on the Carbon 7 SE’s low end than it did with the Carrera. While bass energy was powerful with both speakers, pitch definition seemed more sure and bass more tight with the Carbon 7 SE.

I am sorry that I didn’t have another amp to try, like my old Manley Mahi mono blocks. I would bet that the Carrera’s would really light up with those puppies in 20 watt triode mode. Alas, the Mahi’s are long sold (but to a good friend, so I’m fine with it).

Final Thoughts

The Fritz Carrera Rev 7 BE is another winner from Fritz Heiler. It retains the balanced, easy to listen to Fritz “house sound,” while adding a heightened level of refinement.

I just don’t think you can go wrong with Fritz Speakers. You are getting a handmade, artisan product backed by passion and friendly customer service. Fritz loves everything about high-end speakers and it shows in what he sells. Unreservedly recommended!

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6 thoughts on “LISTENING IMPRESSIONS: Some Quality Time With the Fritz Carrera Monitors

    1. It’s been quite some time since I’ve listened to them, but my memory is that the Carbon 7 sounded fine at lower volumes, but that the Carrera needed a little more volume to “wake it up.” That said, remember that I was only running these speakers with an 8 W, single ended tube amplifier. So it may be that the Carrera just needed more power. Again, I haven’t heard them in months, so take my opinion lightly.
      Still, I don’t think you can go far wrong with any speakers from Fritz – he’s one of the good guys.
      Thanks for the post!

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