September 29, 2011

The Rock Anthem! Full FM Acoustics Set Up.

I've known this system owner(like many others, he also wishes to remain anonymous!) for a few years now, back then he was the biggest, meanest Naim boy in town. I remembered he had racks full of Naim gear plus ancillaries and that bad ass pair of full active Naim DBL speaker. That Naim system was probably one of the loudest and proudest of hifi systems I've ever heard.

However, with age catching up and the desire for something decidedly more up market, he opted for the whole she bang of FM Acoustic hifi gears! As one may already know, FM Acoustics products are Swiss made, with watch like precision. There's also another incentive to getting FM Acoustics gears. You see, these are not your usual available in stock kind of hifi gears. One has to put down a size able deposit, wait for it to be lovingly hand made to spec, could be anything from 3 to 9 months before your brand spanking new FM Acoustics gear arrives your door step. However, knowing that moneyed audiophiles can't stand the long wait, sometimes people whom had earlier booked an FM Acoustics equipment can opt transfer that booking to another impatient audiophile for a fee. And because there are also so few of these hand made beauties floating in the used market, I've heard some people actually made a profit when they sell their FM Acoustics gear after using them for a few years! It's reputation is that FM Acoustics is one of the best value investments when it comes to hifi equipments(Just like a Rolex!).

Such is the legend of FM Acoustics. Oh! By the way, many famous music industry people uses FM Acoustics hifi gear at home too, one of them includes the famous orchestra conductor Leonard Bernstein!

The full Esoteric/FM Acoustics system is placed in the living quarters of the house, hence the need to have some decor friendly touches to please the other significant members of the family.

Alright, back to this system here, which the Hifi-Unlimited team had a chance to sample. The system starts with a CD/SACD source in the name of top drawer Esoteric X-01D2, with it's internal jitter clock by passed with a G-03X Master Clock which is stable to +/-0.1ppm accuracy, according to the spec sheet on the Esoteric web site.

The signal then goes to a FM 255MKII pre amp, which is a full balance design. I did find it odd that for a pre amp costing the price of an apartment in the city does not come with remote control of any kind! FM Acoustic obviously believes in keeping the audio signal free from unnecessary frills(Big E, get your big fat ass off the couch! That bit of exercises will do you good, my left brain tells me). Now, does the words "Pure Audio" come to mind?

The pre-amplified stereo signals than goes to a pair of active x-overs which comes with the FM Acoustics XS-3 loudspeakers. However, there are no attenuation allowed at this point. The x-over just accepts one XLR line input, and then splits that signal to a hi-freq output and another to lo-freq output, both pairs of output being XLR too, of course. Two pairs of FM 111 power amps are used to vertically bi-amp the pair of XS-3 speakers.

The FM Acoustic XS-3 loudspeakers are the smallest in the range of loudspeakers offered by the company. There's another two bigger boys in the range.

The FM XS-3 speakers continues that pyramid shaped tradition and a special feature of these speakers are the two knobs and a tweeter located at the top of the sloping pyramid, facing towards the back wall. The two knobs allow for volume and bandwidth attenuation of the said back facing tweeter. There's the usual front facing high-mid-low drivers located at the front baffle as well, which strangely do not allow the removal of the speaker cloth grills, much to the common audiophile chagrin! However, this system owner is no ordinary audiophile, who is female vocal obsessed, listening to girl/guitar music, or finely crafted for sound kinda music. He is quite the rockerfella instead!

As per most full FM Acoustics system, all cables are also supplied by the same company, which are optimised to perform as a one. No cable play, plays allowed here!

The FM 111 power amp puts out 230W @ 8ohms and 360W @ 4ohms. It ran very cool through out the night as we pump up the volume. This lucky system owner probably has closet rock music lovers as neighbours or at least, very understanding ones!

As we listened away in to the night, vino in hand, dark Swiss(what else?) chocolate' melting in mouth, sound in ear, but music warming the heart and soul, ahh....... The next most sinful things known to a music lover after perhaps, love making? Make no mistake, the experience of such an encounter is surreal. If there's ever a graceful rock music system, this has gotta be it!

FM Acoustics signature sound is lightning fast transient and dynamically proud, if a little on the cool side of neutral. There is no noise floor in the system to speak off, despite never resorting to the use of power conditioners. There are high levels of analytical prowess at play here, with big scale presentation and the illusion of wide, deep sound stage. The system easily dispenses the recorded music venue's ambient cues if at first the highs appears to be slightly dry, but on closer analysis, it's probably just a little less dark in the back ground. The mids are full bodied with chest and high mids to reproduce the rock guitar which will bite when necessary. The harmonics, texture and tone of the bass and electric guitar with pedal notes well sustained. Bass have slamming quality if doesn't quite go as deep as a speaker this size and ambition should.

Compared to his previous Naim system, which this FM Acoustics set up share many common traits, but with richer, denser mids and more refined highs. Where the Naim system starts to sound strained, the FM Acoustics just coolly strutting it's stuff. The system owner may have grown up in his hifi taste and status, but his penchant for rock/blues based music remains, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Metallica, Megadeath(?, maybe not) but you get the idea. All of those artist mentioned were on rotation during our listening session that night.

The front end consisting of Esoteric X-01D2 CD/SACD player enslaved to G-03X Master Clock. The FM 255MKII pre amp completes the volume control duties. Note that little box on the left, which is the x-over of the XS-3 speaker, which takes a signal from the pre amp and then splits it in to hi-freq out and lo-freq out to facilitate bi-amping by the four FM 111mono blocks.

At this level, it would be churlish to even talk about prices anymore. For a blue collar worker like me, it'll be mission impossible to even dream of having something like this. However, thanks to the system owner's generosity in sharing his musical experience with us, you our dear readers, get to know that such a fine and shining system exist, in Bolehland.


MIKE said...

Hi Sir! Very nice system. I would die just to hear such Amplifers like Fmacoustics.I would like to get a Fm 411mk2 and the 245 preamp.Fm is very difficult to get.I think they are better than all other Amps in the world?.I hope to hear from you.

Kind Regards
Michael Bladt
Denmark tlf 004541428565

Big E said...


Like your goodself, I'd sure like to be able to afford an FM system too!

I am not sure why FM stuff is difficult to get, but that would surely have something to do with simple facts like supply & demand perhaps?

Which is one of the reasons why FM gears do not depreciate much as there's always someone waiting to buy them.

FM equipments have what I'd call a certain sound character which leans towards the slightly cool side of neutral, tonally speaking. If that's what you like, great!

Because they certainly do deserve to be ranked amongst the best sounding equipments out there.

Peter Vishnyakov said...

I have heard Esoteric P-1 with two D-1 mono DACs
and it was weaker on my Naim system, than Naim NDX with XPS. Very sterile, but less PRAT and less music. I never heard FM Acoustics, but Esoteric is not a best choice for ex-Naim fan.