Product Review - Infinity FPS-1000 Flat Panel Speakers - April, 1999
J.E. Johnson, Jr.
Infinity FPS-1000 Flat Panel Speakers
One 1" SOft-Dome Tweeter (Rotatable), One 5" Mid/Woofer, One 5" Passive Radiator
Mfr. FR: 70 Hz - 20 kHz ±3 dB
Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m
Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
Power Handling: 15 - 75 Watts
Size: 25 1/4"H x 11 3/4"W x 1 1/2"D
Weight: 10 Pounds Each
MSRP: $599/Pair USA
Infinity Systems, Inc., 250 Crossways Park Drive, Woodbury, New York 11797; Phone 516-496-3400; Fax 516-682-3523; E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web http://www.infinitysystems.com.
If you are a "Star Wars" fan, and who isn't, then you probably know that the next episode, due in theaters this May, will have 6.1 sound instead of 5.1. The additional speaker will be a rear center. Well, it won't end with 6.1. Undoubtedly, we are headed towards having audio channels, with their speakers, all over the place. You think you have problems finding the room for front left/center/right and rear left/right? Wait until you have to place the speakers for front left/center/right, left center, right center, rear left/center/right, ceiling, and floor (9.1)!
A solution that has been around for a long time is the in-wall speaker. Sound quality is not a problem with these speakers, but installing them is. You have to cut holes. They have to fit in between wall studs. I don't know about you, but I don't care for the idea of cutting out part of my wall, and hoping I don't run into something inside the wall that is in the way of where the speaker would go and cannot be removed (pipes, AC wiring, etc.). Also, what happens if you get the speakers in the wall, and they just don't sound right? You really can't tell how they will sound until they are in the wall because they don't usually have their own enclosure (the space inside the wall in between the studs serves that purpose), and the wall itself causes diffraction. Of course, lots of people have used in-wall speakers and are completely happy.
You could always mount bookshelf speakers on the wall, but that will seriously affect the room decor.
What's left? Flat panel speakers.
Several manufacturers have been experimenting with different technologies for flat panel drivers. Infinity has chosen to use conventional speaker drivers that have been modified so that they will fit in a panel only 1.5" thick. The FPS-1000 has a 1" metal dome tweeter. This is the easy part. Tweeters are small anyway. But the mid/bass driver . . . ah, there's the rub. On regular drivers, the magnet sits on the rear, with the voice coil in the pole piece gap, and the cone is in front. So, what Infinity has done is to move the voice coil forward so that it protrudes in front of the base of the cone. Of course, the cone is still very shallow, but at least the whole thing fits in that 1.5" thick panel.
So, we have a 1" tweeter, a 5" active mid/bass driver, and also a 5" passive radiator. The crossover frequency is 3.8 kHz. Since the panel has to mount flat on the wall, the tweeter can be tilted. Click the video button and you will see what I mean. Each driver is protected by its own black metal grille, and there is also a white metal grille that covers the entire panel. Apparently, you can paint on the grille (as in artwork) as long as you are careful not to cover the grille openings (you can also paint the aluminum frame). The idea is that the panels can be on the wall and look like paintings rather than speakers. The panel where the drivers are mounted is also matte black (see photo below left), so that whatever you paint on the front has no distraction from underneath. Frankly, I liked the plain white grille. It blended with my light blue walls just fine.
The rear of the panel has spring clips for the speaker wires. You push the button downward and then slide your speaker wire into the slot (see photo at right). Banana plugs will fit in these slots, but since the clips are mounted so that banana plugs would protrude rearward, the panel would not lie flat against the wall if you used them. So, bare wire terminals on the cables are best for this product, with the cable taking a 900 turn out of the slot to go to the floor. 40 feet of flat speaker cable are included with the speakers (there are lots of flat speaker cable models available), and you can cut a thin slot in the wall, slide the cable in sideways, and then cover the slot with spackle and repaint. Otherwise, a small hole could be cut in the wall behind the speaker, and the cable goes into the wall, and then to your amplifier.
OK, now the sound. I tested the FPS-1000s with our Audio Alchemy CD package, White Audio B-80 Monoblocks, and Nordost Flatline. I put the speakers on the wall behind the componentry cabinet, about five feet high from the floor.
I was afraid there would be considerable loading from the wall, but this turned out not to be the case. Obviously, Infinity took this into account when designing the speakers. The sound was very natural, with voices (singing) having no apparent boost in the areas that are so annoying (120 - 160 Hz). Just like center channel speakers that have a chesty sound from reflections off the face of a TV picture tube, wall mounted speakers can have that problem from reflections off the wall. But the FPS-1000s did not have this, and I was quite pleased. I was able to get 85 dB of loudness before I could hear mushiness (harmonic distortion) set in. But that is to be expected. Infinity has done a great job of desiging a cone less than 1" deep, but the laws of physics cannot be transgressed. There is only so much air that these drivers can move.
Whether the FPS-1000s are used for soft candlelight music, or for home theater, a subwoofer is a must. Without the sub, there is not much sound below 70 Hz. So, I connected a Sunfire Subwoofer at the preamplifier output, and voila, a nice full range sound. The Sunfire, or say, the Velodyne HGS-10, are ideal when combined with the FPS-1000s because the whole idea here is to keep the speakers from dominating the room decor. I put the Sunfire behind the couch next to a large potted plant, and it was virtually unnoticeable. So, with those FPS-1000s on the wall, and the Sunfire, I had a sound that went all the way down to 20 Hz, with almost no space being taken up by speakers. This is what wall mounted speakers can do for a room.
If you wanted, you could mount three of these vertically, for front left/center/right, with a projector screen that comes out of the ceiling, and two on the wall in the rear for the surrounds. For that matter, they could be mounted on the wall all the way around the room when 9.1 sound gets here. And it would work! Remember to add the subwoofer though.
In summary, Infinity has done a very nice job in desiging some amazingly flat speakers that provide high quality sound at a very affordable price. If you have limited space and want to put other things in your listening room besides a bunch of speakers sitting on the floor, the Infinity FPS-1000s should definitely be on your checklist.
John E. Johnson, Jr.
© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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