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Naturally the speaker's good sensitivity makes it a prime candidate for low-power amps. Here most think valves—an 8-watt 300B SET would suit, not so a 45/50 variant of one or two watts—but the genre includes transistors too. I had a full deck of FirstWatt specimens led by the twin aces of 10-watt SIT1 monos. Manolo himself listens to and loves his F5. We'd thus signed off a priori. This meet would happen in the dark without glow (except for those small-signal bottles in my Nagra Jazz preamp which are tucked away to spread zero light). The dedicated Fostex 100dB compression tweeter with response to 33K means that unlike most widebanders the Prime should be quite immune to the add-on charms of super tweeters. Like any other 6" two-way however there'd be room on the other side for some bottom-octave subwoofer assistance if one plays stuff like Mercan Dede's latest Dünya. My disc was en route from After 320kbps Spotify Premium streaming, I looked forward to hearing it non lossy. But first it was time to unpack and bring the new speakers upstairs.
Fostex FT96H

Delivered in a single big wooden crate with hinged lid, the Primes arrived safely packaged in Kraftpaper, outer plastic sleeves and styrofoam spacers. The crate was simply too big to make it through the front door. In a sudden downpour of summer rain the driver kindly circled into our back alley to instead unload into my garage aka the box cemetery. Do account for some storage space. The crate won't easily disassemble. Carrying the speakers horizontally proved easy due to their open bottoms and manageable weight. For most it should be a one-man job even with stairs.

"Setting up close to room boundaries is preferred as this will affect the bass a lot. We recommend within 2 meters from the side and front walls. Adjusting spike height also affects the bass since it changes the downfiring horn's mass loading. Spikes screwed in fully are a good start. Setting up for personal taste, dispersion is not as wide as with 'mainstream' designs. This means toe-in/out is quite critical. My personal taste is to aim them with their axes crossing just behind me. That's how I get better definition of bodies and a more 'play together' kind of performance. You may loose depth but to be blunt, I don't hear vast depth with live music. That's just me. Regarding break-in this is the first pair built—allow for minor faults due to that—with lots of hours on it. But a week before shipping we replaced the tweeters as a faulty amp fried the originals. These may sound out of tune and harsh for some hours."

Unlike a sub-less listener, I was less concerned with the Prime's ultimate bass reach and prior ownership of Zu Druids had me familiar with the correlation between floor gap and bass extension vs. damping (radiation resistance). Naturally I'd have to report on best unassisted effort where the 2.4m horn is claimed good to about 32Hz. To settle in I simply started in the spot where most speakers end up, toed in directly at the seat and closer to the side walls than front. The review system was my usual source stack of quad-core 2TB/256SSD iMac, SOtM's two-box battery-powered super-clocked USB bridge AES/EBU connected to Metrum's Hex with PureMusic in 176.4kHz NOS upsampler mode, Nagra Jazz and SIT-1 monos in high bias.

The deeply swirling burl veneer in its Cherry-type hue looked very classy. It spoke well to their cabinet shop's ability to accommodate various custom finish requests [at right a mockup in Olive Ash as seen on hifiwigwam]. The rear gold decal with model name and the single WBT terminals was proudly tagged with serial number 0001. Time to put some hours on the flush-mounted new tweeters before getting serious on a new model which had been two years in the making to suggest progressive—time-consuming—prototyping of the critical rear horn.

This is likely one reason why rear-horn/transmission-line type speakers aren't too popular with builders. Unlike fully matured computer modeling for sealed and ported alignments, predictive modeling for this type of driver loading is still in its very infancy or non-existent depending on whom you ask. I saw first-hand evidence of it during my time with the long since defunct Meadowlark Audio dedicated to TL speakers. It really came down to endless prototype boxes turning firewood before the frequency response of the loading was usefully linear, free of organ-pipe resonances and produced the desired reach. Any shortcuts during this geometry assessment (line length, flare and bends) equated directly to an only partially finished product - perhaps 85% there but missing the full expression of its potential. And most big design houses simply don't have two years to devote to a new model, never mind one that won't cost harrowing sums.