Stock FE127E vs. planet10 EnABLed - Results - diyAudio
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Old 20th January 2009, 06:56 PM   #1
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Default Stock FE127E vs. planet10 EnABLed - Results

Hi folks, I wanted to see if I could hear the eNaBLe phenomenon and here are my results of ~6 weeks of non-stop experimentation (my system is in my office so I listen all day, and can swap drivers, boxes, etc. as needed).

I got the FE127eN's second-hand from tubesguy (thanks again!) and picked up various FE127E and FE126E stock. I broke them in at night. Eventually, I got to hear the FE126eN and a non-enabled but planet10-modded FE126e which helped zero in (unscientifically) on what mods do what.

The goal of all this is to give me and anyone interested a simple, reproducible way to pinpoint any audible differences between stock and fully modded, without addressing any theory.

I have on hand lots and lots of Fostex drivers for a broader comparison in MLTL's and horns (FE208-Sigma, FE207E, FE166ES-R's, FE164, FE108-Sigma etc. etc.) But primarily I wanted to determine:

(a) whether I liked the 126 vs. the 127, and
(b) whether the modded versions are really different (and better)

First I compared the FE126E to the FE127E. Initially I was wowed at the imaging in a narrow-baffle BR on stands mated with a sub. There was a tad too much excitement up top but at the time, I liked it. Eventually I realized there was a baffle-step issue (i.e., close to the walls I got good mid-bass, but pulled into the room, there was a big dip). I solved this brute-force style by putting another set of FE126E's into similar-sized cabs, facing backwards toward the wall (and kept the forward-facing cabs on stands pulled out into the room).

Then the problem became one of integrating the sub properly -- I had basically traded one problem for another (but at least I pushed it down). I'm still not 100% satisfied with the sub integration.

I listened to the FE126E's for four days, then switched to the FE127E's and was initially disappointed at the lack of "excitement". But eventually my ears adjusted and as I switched back and forth, I realized that the FE127E is more balanced in a BR, less fatiguing for the long haul.

Over the next couple weeks, I decided I liked the FE127E's overall and then began switching between the FE127E and FE127eN (modded). Right off the bat, the FE127eN's sounded very, very different and I wasn't sure what it was.

Eventually, by listening to enough recordings, I narrowed it down to a couple things. First, the stock driver can sound a bit cheesy, honky, paper-y and a little bit harsh on certain instruments like sax and female vocal.

The modded driver sounds mellower, a tad "meatier" due to the calmed-down high end. There must be some peakiness in the HF that the mods tame. The modded driver can "disappear" more easily, whereas the stock driver sounds more like a speaker and (for me) doesn't disappear too well. The modded driver is less fatiguing and the sweet spot is wider.

I set up a stock and modded driver right and left, and then wheeled my chair back and forth to hear. I also listened to each in mono (courtesy of our friend loninappleton who does all sorts of non-traditional asymmetrical listening -- thank you lon!)

On Jane Monheit's "Cheek to Cheek" the sax sounds airy and fake, like a kazoo, and sounds very "cheap speaker-ish" However, on the modded driver, it sounds mellower, calmer, a tad meatier and isn't popping out as much -- it's in the mix at its proper level.

Also, on Diana Krall, big differences, easy to hear. Her singing style alternates between "breathy" and a "louder" style where she traps the notes in her throat (presumably for pitch control and to make her breath last). This is not a criticism, as she's sitting at the piano whereas Monheit is doing the "from the diaphram" singing which requires standing while holding your chin up at times (to get the air out).

But Krall's "louder" mode makes for some gutteral nastiness on the stock driver which makes me want to get off-axis ASAP. However, on the modded driver, this is mellowed out and on-axis is not as harsh. Case in point: "All or Nothing at All".

All this simply implies that the mods tame some kind of nasty peak. But there's more. The modded driver seems to have a much wider sweet spot, which I don't think would be the result of simply taming a speak.

To put it very subjectively, notes seem to jump out of the modded driver in a very lively fashion, whereas the stock driver has a certain dullness to it. It's not strictly HF (arguably the modded driver is calmer and thus less total HF). It seems like a difference in clarity to me -- the modded driver has "nicer" definition vs. the stock which is good but just not as "clear".

So I definitely liked the modded driver a lot (!) but I was left with no way to separate the eNaBLe from the other mods (and there are at least several, probably more).

But I got lucky and Mssr. Phil Townsend generously set up the Frugel-Horns with an older modded FE126E (mods without eNaBLe) next to his Harveys with the FE126eN (mods + eNaBLe). Stealing a page from serenechaos' playbook, I brought my wife.

Thus I was able to hear modded drivers with and without eNaBLe and the difference was huge. The soundstage was much wider on the eNaBLe'd and that "bell-like clarity" was evident, and sounded almost exactly like the FE127eN's. (My wife also thought it was night and day and preferred the eNaBLe'd drivers).

Afterwards, I went through many of my Fostex drivers and cabs one more time, to make sure I wasn't imagining things. It is my conclusion that the fully modded planet10 FE127eN (and FE126eN) sound very different from stock, and furthermore, I believe the difference is a big improvement. Although my testing was far from scientific, I believe the eNaBLe is the key to the "clarity" they exhibit because a modded FE126e (without eNaBLe) did not exhibit it.

My final conclusion is this: our ears adjust. I can listen to the stock drivers, a bit off-axis as necessary, and I'm still happy. However, the modded drivers do sound better, non-fatiguing and give me the impression that I'm hearing more of the recording. It's roughly equivalent to hearing a recording with, and without, tape hiss -- without the tape hiss, you have the impression of hearing more of what's there, with less distraction.

Lastly, I don't blame folks for being skeptical. I was also skeptical but happily, this is a matter that can be resolved with a simple A/B. I hope other folks have the chance. Thanks for reading this far!
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Old 20th January 2009, 07:04 PM   #2
Aengus is offline Aengus  Canada
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rjbond3rd, a most thorough and interesting post. Thank you for taking the time to do this and for sharing your results.

Regards.

Aengus
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Old 20th January 2009, 08:55 PM   #3
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Yes indeed. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
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Old 20th January 2009, 09:24 PM   #4
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Also from a non-scientific perspective, my findings are very similar to yours. I did not have the same number of listening options but I summed it by saying the EnABL treatment seems to make the speaker sound less like a speaker. Thanks for sharing.

I also changed the capital letters in the title.
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Old 20th January 2009, 09:38 PM   #5
doorman is offline doorman  Canada
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Very interesting post. The "wider sweetspot" with the En driver(s) is intriguing.
Does this apply to vertical imaging as well?
Thanks, Don
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Old 20th January 2009, 09:56 PM   #6
SCD is offline SCD  Canada
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Thanks a well written post.
I too did a brief listenng test. Not so many attributes came to mind for me.

I just concluded they sounded good.
A little crude and perhaps even simplistic. But it gets to the point!

Thanks for the write up and thanks to BudP

Cal get me a beer will yah
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Old 20th January 2009, 10:57 PM   #7
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rjbondjr,

Thanks for the detailed write-up. I am encouraged to pursue Enabl
but would practice on some of my sacrificial subjects yet.


BTW, what does EnAbl stand for?
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Old 21st January 2009, 01:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by loninappleton
rjbondjr,
BTW, what does EnAbl stand for?
EnABL is an acronym for Enhanced Acoustic Boundary Layer - per BudP
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Old 21st January 2009, 01:43 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by SCD
Cal get me a beer will yah
yer welcome to come pull on da tap any day my friend.
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Old 21st January 2009, 01:58 AM   #10
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