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Fostex Speaker System NF-1A Reviews
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Comments about Fostex Speaker System:
I've owned my pair for almost 10 years. I am hobby musician but I am also professional audio designer and own my own hi-fi loudspeaker company. I've been A/B comparing them to various top brand models (mostly Genelec) and seriously think they surpass each competitor in sound detail and clarity. For hearing what REALLY happens in mixes, these are the best.
First, the good news. For detail, and stereo imaging, I have not heard anything better sub 10k€ class. Due my work, I've heard some really good speakers, and I am sure there are ones that are on par or better, but you usually pay really really lot for that. (B&W Diamond series top performers come first to my mind, but they cost like 17k€ and are floor standers, common in mastering facilities.)
Also, although a bit tedious (see usability), these speakers have very good settings on back, allowing very detailed tuning of the sound balance. Instead of common dip switches, there actually are separate volume pots for tweeter volume, allowing you really to tune your speakers in great detail. For instance, in my case my studio room is far from perfect, acoustically. Wall on the left side dampens room acoustics significantly more than right. Because of this, I did need to tweak the sound balance a lot, to prevent the stereo image to "escape" to right side. This would not have been possible without volume pots.
On negative end, these are a bit bass light. Especially lowest notes of bass guitar can be hard, or for mixing rock with some proper oomph at low end, these may need a separate sub.
Also, you can see these were designed before GSM phones were popular, they're very prone to interference from mobile devices and suffer from TDMA noise.
I got a pair of Genelec 1031A for free, which I have been listening now for a month or so. They're way much more vague on sound stage, much less pleasant to listen, but pack a well needed punch at low end (at least for my type of music). I did also select between 8030 and NF-1A, and chose Fostex over Genelecs because of better detail.
Fostex NF-1A works in 230V networks and accepts both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (TSR) input. Nowadays, digital input would be cool, but for 2001, this was more than adequate.
Ease of Use
I told that I did fine-tune the sound balance a lot, for my liking. Well, I am sure you can also get lost under all those options, unless you know what you're doing. Also, some of the dip switches and pots are awfully small, with very unclear markings.
Well, you surely should not do gigs with these speakers. Amp section attachment system has it's faults, and it's been suffering over the years. For instance, I did pack the speakers to a cardboard box and moved few thousand kilometers. After the move, we did need to re-solder some connectors to bring the speakers back alive. It may sound unfair to expect that loudspeakers should last 10+ years, but if they cost 1700€ to buy - Yes, they should.
Tweeters you can still get as spare parts, but other modules can be hard to find.
This is not a beauty contest, although they look cool with yellow cones and all. I talk about acoustic design. You see, it is very hard, almost impossible to get all three following on same two-way speaker:
1. Precise and deep low end
2. Detailed mid-end
3. sweet and precise highs.
Most of the manufacturers take 1 and 3, make so called loudness-type speakers. My Genelec 1031A has 1 and 2 (not perfect) and pretty terrible 3. Genelec 1031A sure did sound good on shops, sold well but has not last the time - there are equal amount of lovers and haters for 1031A sound.
What boys at Fostex did, was that they sacrificed a bass performance by using a woofer that could almost perform as full range, with no tweeter helping at high end. This ensured high crossover frequency (above 5kHz), which in turn meant that very important mid-frequency area is free from electrical components. Also, Tweeter can perform on frequency area where it is at it's best, with no risk on distortion (tweeter distortion can be very hard to detect, unless you know what you're looking for. But it sure sounds like shit and is more common than you would expect).
So from technology perspective, this speaker has been a inspiration to me. Even if I would switch to Genelec for mixing, I'll surely keep my Fostex NF-1A as a reference for my work stuff. I will also grab a spare pair if I find one.
Comments about Fostex Speaker System:
When Fostex created the NF-1A's, they attempted to rethink the loudspeaker from scratch and intelligently come up with solutions to some of the flaws inherent in audio reproduction. Fortunately, the succeeded. Unfortunately, their solutions were so unique (read bizarre) that the NF-1A's had a difficult time succeeding in a market flooded with other 2 way biamped active studio monitors.
Featuring a woofer cone produced from the fibers in banana pulp (higher strength to weight ratio than paper), pressed into a unique 'hyperboic parabaloid' geometry, the NF-1A's start off strange from the beginning. However, the cone is light, strong, and nearly eliminates resonance with its design. Add in the up-down roll tangential edge surround, and the woofer features technology that no others can match. The dome tweeter is made from a laminated mesh and reproduces so truely is scary. Revealing is an understatement, and it makes them excellent for the discerning mixing engineer that wants to hunt out every tiny error in their mixes.
Many times I consider upgrading my NF-1A's to a triamped monitor, but to make the upgrade I'll have to sell. That being the case, I may never actually do it, as these speakers may one day be looked back on as the ones that everyone wish they purchased when they could.