One More Trip – The Satellite Speaker System
I had the pleasure of meeting Irving M. (Bud) Fried many years ago. Bud was the original importer of the Quad ESL’s as well as the Decca phono cartridge and SME tonearm. Bud loved music and quality audio reproduction. He eventually started his own company built some very fine loudspeakers.
I was an unknown self publishing audio journalist with a very small readership. Nonetheless, Bud was very gracious to me. He invited me to his home in Philadelphia to audition his Model H satellite speaker system. It was an audacious speaker system, using the same KEF drivers used in the famous LS3/5a mini-monitors. I owned a pair of these speakers which I imported from England, (In fact, I introduced them to the American public, at least to the few readers of my original AUDIOGRAM newsletter.) I wanted to know how the Model H compared with my LS3/5a’s. At the time the little speakers were not yet distributed in the States.
Bud had done his homework on me, and when I arrived at his home he had the Model H queued up to play Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I loved Baroque music and the Model H could easily accommodate. But they could also play as loud as you might want them with any material. They were a wonderful speaker system.
Bud knew how to build speakers and he had a very good ear. You first start with the best drivers, and the KEF drivers were sensational. (KEF was the manufacturer of the drivers, but they were developed by the BBC after extensive R & D.) Bud basically built a reasonable facsimile of the LS3/5a’s and added his famous transmission line woofer technology. How could you miss? Let me say from the outset that Bud came very close.
Here is a drawing of the Model H that Bud put in one of his newsletters. As you can see the bass module is very large. It was too large to ship so Bud sold the speaker as a kit. The bass commode was a dual tunnel arrangement with subwoofers firing out the left and right sides. Bud used the great KEF model drivers.
As you can see, the speaker system used an outboard passive crossover module. Note the very large caps in the crossover. (The system used a first order crossover between the subwoofers and the bass/midrange drivers).
It was a great attempt at reproducing the full frequency spectrum with the finest of a smooth British midrange. But, alas, the midrange was not quite up to the standard of the LS3/5a, but few speakers were in those days.
What was so great bout the Model H is that it proved the concept of mini-moniter speakers coupled with a great subwoofer, in this case two subwoofers. With time aligned and phase aligned drivers the mini-monitors become almost an ideal point source. This makes for superb stereo imaging as well a great flexibility in room placement to minimize unwanted reflections. Of course, you do get room reflections with the bass modules, but since bass module is mostly omnidirectional it has little effect on the midrange sound. In the case of the Model H, however, Bud wanted to some room refection in order to compete with the sound of the original Magnaplanars which were famous for room reflection (but stereo image suffered as a result).
For me the compromise in room reflection worked. The speaker dominated the room because of its size, but the reproduced sound did much to make the speakers disappear. Bud was a genius at experimenting with various speaker designs and formats. With the Model H he managed to bring the best of British and American design together. (I must say that he did have some help on the design from Murray Zeligman, a designer of many famous loudspeakers. In fact, my friend also developed a modification of the DYNACO PAS3x preamp that revivaled Audio Research at the time.)
Fried’s experimentation with the Model H led me to understand that small point source speakers with well designed crossover, little cone breakup, time and phase aligned drivers, and solid cabinets without resonance could offer great transparency and low coloration, provided their inherent lack of bass could be overcome. The answer was to couple these drivers with a speaker module that could reproduce low bass with an exceptional crossover, either passive or active. Fried proved the passive one could be designed to work very nicely. Today’s equivalent, I believe, is the AudioEngine A2+’s, provided it is matched properly with one or more quality subwoofers.
Hats off to one of the great legends of audio. Now deceased, Bud Fried’s speakers are still being produced, and they are still great reproducers!