Social graces. In our tidy 2.0 video system—no center/surround channel nonsense when there's just two watching and speakers with proper off-axis response will glue dialogue smack to the middle of the screen—Fram displaced German Physiks' HRS-120. Those had plugged into Simon Lee's €4'500 SAG All-In-One Player. That's a 100wpc class A/B lateral Mosfet receiver with network DAC, top-loading CD player and (think HifiMan Susvara with mega headroom to spare) ultra-potent ¼" headfi socket. On stands, Midi 150 matched that on price to the penny. But then I booked very considerable €13'500/pr savings for the German omnis; and the AIO box as a physical presence had been rendered obsolete as well. Only the Oppo universal player doubling as TV stand remained in service, delivering a 96khz S/PDIF signal to the right speaker.
As to the main sonic differences versus our passive white octagonal residents, the 360° radiation pattern of an Ohm/Walsh-derivative inverted funnel widebander plus downfiring woofer was obviously wider. Yet that of the Fram was surprisingly broad of their own account. "The upper radiator sits directly on the active mid/woofer's axis and is located very close to it. So it plays not just bass but also midrange energy to create an effect like a dipole which helps with space reproduction." On ultimate bass reach and SPL potential, the Germans would eventually continue once the Poles gave out. Said point was merely academic, however. Our domestic use would never approach much less cross that line; ever! Here the HRS-120 already overkill it like that silly Humvee on a grocery run to the village shoppe. Actually, the small-woofer'd fleetness of Fram's radiator-augmented bass coupled to their internal class D power then linearized by Jarek's global algorithm… that again had the clear advantage on intelligibility and control over now five-figure towers. At the opposite end, active drive of the small SB Acoustics dome tweeters showed higher resolution and decay tracking than the big carbon-fibre membranes of the German 200Hz-20kHz drivers manage. And whilst those stage far more focused than diffuse notions of omnis would have it, the Midi 150 again sorted more assiduously. With the dense multi-tracking of typical soundtracks with their location ambiance, this more holographic precision helped make such scenes with their backdrop din more believable and engaging.
Chai Baba the Bengal finds all the fussing over different hifi quite silly. He prefers it if the fussing is over him.
In short and no surprise to those in the know, active drive trumped far costlier bigger passive drive. The Midi 150 did more with less and unlike flat-lined recording monitor myths, didn't sound antiseptic or boring at all, just very informative. Whilst the stylish IR pen or its receiver had given out by then—three different sets of batteries eliminated spent cells as cause—the three equivalent trigger switches on the back of the active unit assured that our little home cinema stayed open for business. Closing this chapter, the Fram had no issue whatsoever to properly energize this space with its long-wall layout for our needs. It's admittedly weird even for a 20-year hifi veteran to see such small drivers scale up this loud but hearing is believing to know that normal people just don't need more.
Off to the hifi cemetery. That's how I felt surveying all the stuff which had accumulated in the main listening room for a parallel review's comparative purposes. The entire lot against the blue curtains sat idle like five road constructioneers watching one fella work a trench. Ditto the big rack. On it only Soundaware's D300Ref SD card transport was live. No more expensive power conditioner either. This deck runs on super capacitors à la Vinnie Rossi LIO or Nagra Classic PSU. The iMac was only fired up to present a colorful screen. Just minutes earlier I'd read an article on—I kid you not!—acoustically enhanced Swiss cheese. That set my mood contemplating the hardware excess which stared at me in silent accusation. Never mind, I do this for a living. A man needs his tools.
Until he doesn't. If I retired from hifi reviewing, this Fram or perhaps its Maxi 150 sibling would seriously be in the frame for the big rig. What a garage sale that would make.
This sentiment welled up multiple times whilst I deliberately had these little mid/woofers jump through their gilded hoops. Think massive attacks like "Oriental Bass", a Turkish-style e-guitar workout down to the lowest open string over synths. Think Jamshied Sharifi's quasi soundtrack of One like Hans Zimmer's Gladiator music relocated deep into central Africa for mega tribal drums gone ballistic. Think Mercan Dede, Serkan Alkan and TJ Rehmi ambient with infrasonic effects and fat club beats. Nothing came unglued. That surprised even the tall Zu Submission subwoofer looking on. Active drive not only compensates thus delays natural bass roll-off. It can also build in a rev limiter to avoid overdrive for those who stupidly intend on breaking the laws of Physics.
Having previously reviewed Kii's radical Three, I felt the Midi 150 to be more fun. Whatever subtle tailoring Jarek's default setting includes—and I also suspect that his SB Acoustics drivers are superior—the Fram recipe sidesteps Kii's relative dryness where massive 6-channel nCore 1200 power might simply over-damp the mid to upper registers. Whilst the Midi 150 couldn't plumb the 1st octave like the extremist Three, I thought that was a really small price to pay for its easier flow. After my run through the bombastic to ascertain that this speaker was fully up to playing a bigger air volume at happy-hour levels with dense bassy fare, I ticking off the usual monitor suspects of enormous staging and a fleet-of-foot attitude which didn't have to fight the complications of big woofers struggling with a room.
Again I was keenly aware of how even in the midst of thick convolution, faint triangle strikes didn't obscure or blip off prematurely but rendered like clear clean platinum streaks through the half shadows. Vocals had proper weight to not sound monitor precise yet lean and lacking in physical conviction. In short, the Midi 150 scaled from the extreme near-field of the desktop to the 'sonic bubble' setup of the short-but-wide stereo triangle to bracketing a television as A/V speaker to serving a good-sized dedicated listening room with double-high ceiling sans subwoofer. On balance and since I had hardware which could bridge USB, I didn't mind the lack of a dedicated PC port. For those who do nothing but streaming meanwhile, this could be a deal breaker. But as we learned in the intro, the next generation will have USB. On the Gen 2 models, a dedicated bridge to generate a coax output from a USB input does the trick and could actually be superior. After all, would Fram be able to build in something as advanced as Audiobyte/Rockna? The one other item I would mark on Gen 3's list of add-ons is user-assignable channels. That would let you determine whether the master speaker is left or right to accommodate your personal layout relative to digital source and power cables.
With a Maxi 150 review already on the books, possibly even by way of a direct A/B comparison if I get to hang on to these until then, this isn't the last we'll hear of the Polish Frammers in these pages. For today, color me very impressed already. From the earliest active efforts still under the Ancient Audio banner to these stylish now fully aluminated Generation 2 models flying Fram's flag, a resourceful team around Jarek Waszczyszyn—"I have nothing, you have nothing, he has nothing, that's enough to build our factory"—have really moved the execution of the earliest Oslo concept to the big time now. This includes color/finish options, stands, packaging and that Apple-envy pencil remote.
In short, the long wait proved most worthy. Fram. Norwegian for forward. Quite. So catch the Fram tram.
Jarek comments: "Enthusiastic reviews are always nice but for me this also confirmed that my development on how to feel the musical essence is appreciated. My Digital Speaker Processor was the most crazy and risky private business project. Many people dislike the concept because it changes the original signal. I believe that it makes replay much closer to the original. During the final speaker tuning, I used all musical genres. If you can, try Yello's Toy, Deluxe Edition for the best demo of bass, space and dynamics with the Midi 150. For me it was interesting that you would use the speaker exactly like I do: in the true near-field, in a room across a short distance, then in a big room for music and movies. I enjoy listening from an extremely short distance just at the computer desk, mostly to YouTube for their unlimited choices of sometimes very rare music. So now I will announce the next model from our 2nd generation: Midi 120 with a footprint like a CD case and 10cm drivers.
"Your review was a mature and rich description of my story. Thank you so much."
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