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Observations of FE127 VS. FE126 VS. FE103 and different enclosures
Observations of FE127 VS. FE126 VS. FE103 and different enclosures
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Old 19th November 2006, 09:51 PM   #1
Harderror is offline Harderror  United States
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Default Observations of FE127 VS. FE126 VS. FE103 and different enclosures

Over the past few months I have experimented a great deal with these three drivers. Though they are all different, they possess some similarities that are unmistakable. Recently I designed and built a convertable MLTL for the 103. I designed it with a removable bottom and interchangable ports that together allowed me to run the box either as a transmission-line or as a mass loaded, floor-firing design. Then the experimentation began. Interesting to note is that a good transmission line for one will work more or less well for all three. The 103 sounds better than I have ever heard it. not one to settle though I got the idea to plug the other drivers into the enclosure since they all three use a 4 inch cut out, and thus began a long series of experimentation and simulation for tuning purposes. The TL is tuned at 60 Hz, the port was also tuned to 60 Hz for all three.

Results so far.

Though I find strengths in all three drivers I have to say that making a choice seems to always envolve compromises, as of course is expected. The 103 though a wonderful driver, only has one thing going for it to even keep it in my stable. Its mid range in the male vocal area is exceptional. Other than that it does everything else well but not great. Its bass is tight but not particularly intense, its HF range is good but not as bright as some others and sounds a little confusing at times. This driver also tends to break up, or to the other extreme mud together on extremely complex passages. Don't get me wrong, it still sounds fantastic and at lower levels is one of the better drivers in it class (which I might add for those of you that are not familiar, is not this class).

This driver is the hardest for me to talk about as it possesses some of the worst flaws (in my mind) of the bunch as well as some of the greatest strengths. To begin with, this driver suffers a great deal from "basket ring", this is the resonant frequency of the metal basket come to life audibly. After a good coating of bluetack this is of course remedied. However, the shape of the magnet seems to also cause standing waves or vibration or both so a thick coating of felt is a must. Once these problems are delt with, the driver falls into line (mostly). Oh and don't get me started on baffle difraction. I am not sure why but this driver seems to benefit more than any other driver I have ever used by covering the baffle with felt. Wierd... Anyhow, as I said with those problems delt with, this driver becomes quite civil. It is well balanced and is quite tolerant of box and port tuning flaws. (However, when you get this one tuned right, you know it). in fact, I would have to say that the one thing about this driver is that it sounds the most like a commercial speaker, which, depending on who you are and your tastes can be a good or a bad thing. I lean towards not liking the commercial sound so make your judgment off of that. That being said, it is still one of my favorite drivers for all around use.

Ok this is the one everyone wants to play with. It is also the hardest driver you will ever design for except for perhaps the Lowthers. It sounds shrill for the first 150-200 hours of use and if you get your design right, can sound sweater than anything in its size range. As with the 127 it benefits a great deal from damping and felting. The one area where these high efficiency low moving mass drivers excel is in the quality of the LF range. As stated, if you get the design right, the lows become something like you could only imagine in your dreams. Now, for the problems. A severly rising response mixed with choppy (like a hurricane ocean) 5k-18k range. This is not even that much of a problem once you hear this baby with vocals. Chet Baker no longer sounds like he might be a woman, Cassandra Wilson no longer sounds like she might be a man (slight exageration there on the Cassandra Wilson thing, not on the Chet Baker thing, he definitely tends to sound like a throaty female at times). In fact, this driver is so hard to get right that there have been times during the 5 enclosures I have built for it that I was going to sell them and give up. I still don't have it perfect but it is getting there. So, if you have the time, energy and gumption to work with this driver, you won't be disappointed in the end (whenever that is).


(Sorry Dave) Its a great design but not what I had hoped.
FE126 not bad but not the enclosure for this driver
FE127 not bad
FE103 Really not the right enclosure for this driver.

Frugal Horn
(Sorry again Dave) Did not like this speaker. Not even when I futzed with placing them for months. Put them in the dumpster today. You can say I should have use BB you can say I may have screwed up on the measurment (which I did not as I checked and rechecked them). The difference between MDF and BB is not enough to make them go from sounding bad to good, just from good to better.

TL (no name just number) #1
98 inch folded, not bad. with any of the drivers. I think I tuned it too low. (45Hz) you do the math to see what the taper was. I tore them apart and built shelves with the wood.

This is the first time I see Martin's genius in action. Ah! and realize that any floor standing bass reflex that sounds good is most likely designed with this in mind, either that or just lucky designers (which I doubt at companies like Wilson and Neat (look at the Motive).

MLTL #2 (convertable)
This is the speaker pictured below. I have been extremely happy with this loudspeaker (especialy with the FE127). Still no finish on them yet. I am waiting til I am done experimenting with ports etc. I may even move the port from the bottom to the bottom front. Floor loading can be tricky though I have had good results so far.

TL #2
Small, junked it pretty quickly. Sounded ok for what it was. Straight pipe

Horn #1
Much larger than the Frugal. Sounded very good with all three drivers believe it or not. Sounded best with the 126 (obviously as this was the driver that I designed it for). Not entirely pleased though. Gave them to the garbage man last week.

Horn #2
Still building it. Will update as it is worked out.

Bass Reflex #1
Not good. Tuned too low. Lost efficiency on all drivers.

Double Bass Reflex #1
Not bad. Did some things that are outside of conventional thinking with DBRs. Chamber sizes were the primary thing I messed with. Sounded pretty good. Sounded best with the 127 (as this is the driver it was designed for). Junked them last week.

Good, but as I really started designing my own Tls and Horns, gave them away.

One thing I have to say to the naysayers is, you can definitely get good results with the fe126e in a transmission-line speaker or MLTL. I was told by everyone including Ron and Martin King that this speaker will not work well in a TL. This is simply put, not true.

Music used in evaluation

Soil and Pimp Sessions, Pimp Master. This is truly one of the best session Jazz bands in existence today. They are from japan and introduce a truly revolutionary sound to a well established style of Jazz.

John Coletrane (many albums on both CD and Vinyl) from Giant Steps to Coletrane to Stardust Sessions.

Miles Davis (many albums on both CD and Vinyl) from Sketches of Spain to Miles Ahead to Miles in the Sky to Dark Magus and Files de Kilamanjaro.

Stan Getz (many on CD and Vinyl) happy 50th, Focus, etc.

Stravinski, Firbird Suite etc.

Shostakovich, everything from chamber music to symphony.

Flaming Lips (all on vinyl, old and new)

Rush (Vinyl)

The Who (Vinyl)

Medeski Martin and Wood

Jaga Jazzist

You get the idea. Just a sampling of what I used so that those of you that are curious can see what I run them through. Much of what I listen to is Vinyl. For those of you that think that means I only listen to old stuff, you are wrong. Almost everything that comes out these days is available on vinyl.

Ok, I think I have gone on long enough. Geez and hour and a half since I started. Sorry, this was supposed to be a short post. I hope some of this information is useful to other DIYers out there. I would love to hear some responses as well.
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Old 20th November 2006, 01:34 AM   #2
ronc is offline ronc  United States
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One thing I have to say to the naysayers is, you can definitely get good results with the fe126e in a transmission-line speaker or MLTL. I was told by everyone including Ron and Martin King that this speaker will not work well in a TL. This is simply put, not true.

I see no reason you couldnt get good results using the 126 with a MLTL. It would require the normal BSC and notch filters to perform properly at a loss of efficency.
The major reason i design around BLHs is the added dynamic range that allows you to run without BSC.

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Old 20th November 2006, 03:06 AM   #3
DaveCan is offline DaveCan  Canada
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Interesting observations, the best I've heard the 126 sound was in the A126 horn. The modded 126 that Dave (planet10) mods is by far way better than the stock 126 and it sounded real nice in the A126 horn. Of all these drivers modded or not, to my ears the fe108 is top of the list in the A126,Frugal, Buschorn and is also excellent in the BIB cab... You should give the BIB cab a try with the 126 and see what you think, their an easy build and deliver much in return.... Dave
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Old 20th November 2006, 03:36 AM   #4
leadbelly is offline leadbelly  Canada
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Observations of FE127 VS. FE126 VS. FE103 and different enclosures
Great post! Thanks so much for sharing your work
There are still unbridgeable divisions between cultures. How can two peoples ever come to understand each other when one of them is ignorant of TotÚ? Umberto Eco
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Old 20th November 2006, 03:41 AM   #5
holdent is offline holdent  Canada
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I've been playing a bit with the FE103E, FE126E and FE167E drivers. I agree that the FE103 is a wonderful driver but... loud complex passages, particularly ones containing significant bass make this driver fall apart. The best sound that I've gotten from them is with a MLTL (32" tall 5.5 x 8.5 area, driver down 9" from the top with a 2" dia. port 1.5" long up 4" from bottom and approx. 0.25lbs/ft3 of stuffing). I did get great sound using a BR but these cabs require a subwoofer to really work. I also tried the Fostex recommended BLH with little success - it is a complex cab to build and I could never get rid of the "shoutiness" despite substantial effort playing with the CC.

I was quite frustrated with the FE126E until trying them in the BIB recommended for them at zillaspeak.com. This combination has great sound but probably does not have the flattest SPL response. Still I loved the sound of the chipboard prototypes I made so much that I've in the process of finishing them to look good (not an easy task with chipboard!). The bass response in particular is very good and they have excellent imaging.

I also tried the FE126s in the MLTL I put together for the FE103 with very good results but a small series resistor was necessary to keep them from sounding "boomy" (I got the most success with 3 ohms). I have not tried either Ron's BLH design for the FE126 or the Frugal Horn because they require a significant time commitment to build.

The driver I've had the easiest time working with is the FE167E. I currently have them in a Bob Brines designed BR cab and love them for certain types of music (particularly acoustic). I'm in the design stages for a MLTL using these drivers and believe excellent results are possible. Overall this driver seems to hit the sweet spot in terms of price and performance. I'd try a BIB for this next but I am intimidated by the height of the cab for the FE167E (roughly 69" I think).


Overall I am very attracted to the BIB designs after such a great experience using FE126s - they simple to build, sensitive and produce excellent bass. BIB drawbacks include; they are very tall cabs and must be placed against a wall or preferrably a corner to work. An MLTL seems to have much greater WAF! Note that contrary to recommendations of others I have found the BIB for the FE126E sounds better heavily stuffed from the driver up to the closed end.
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Old 20th November 2006, 04:19 AM   #6
vinylkid58 is offline vinylkid58  Canada
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Thanks for sharing your observations/opinions. Myself and my woodstove wish you lived in this neighbourhood, with all those boxes going to the landfill instead of my stove.

I've recently build a Fonken variant with larger vents for the FE127. They sound great, with really decent bass in my room now that they have over 150 hrs on them. The drivers are well damped with felt/duct-seal/mod podge. As you say, this really helps the 127.

I've also heard the A126 horn, which I really liked, especially with Dave's modded FE126.

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Old 20th November 2006, 05:14 AM   #7
Spasticteapot is offline Spasticteapot  United States
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Location: Wisconsin....what did you expect?
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I have some relatives that live right across the pond from Washington.

Heck...I'd pay to get 'em carted up here!
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Old 20th November 2006, 09:56 AM   #8
blumenco is offline blumenco  United States
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Default yeah...

so I have tried all those drivers as well.

albiet with out as many failed projects. course, maybe I am not all that picky. stuff that is not an immediate keeper I give to friends to play with. stuff I love I sell to pay for future experimentation. the only close screw up was adding 18mm too much to the port of a nagaoka periscope on the 103e. just drilled some holes in the side and called it a day...it is serving constant duty now.

I have to say that when the fe103 is let to break in, it is nice nearfield. low watts, low excursion, little breakup. I actually like the nagaoka bs-10 for them. little baby bass reflex. aww cute...

horn designs? the bib actually looks intriguing. heard of decent results there.

it has by far the flattest perceivable repsonse to my ears, and simply a good tone.

the fe126e bibs I use are very nice. best match from all of the 5-4 inch offerings from fostex including fe108esII and fx120 (not f120a).

the 126e has a sweet spot that seems to be in an awkward place to my ears as far as music goes. having a strange area of focus. don't get me wrong. they are really nice, but I like the focus of the 103e better for my music and my ears. detail is secondary to presentation as far as I am concerned. the 103e is a delicate driver. it is refined in tone in a way I perceive the others not. I find myself relaxing when listening to them. side by side with the larger mega magnet fostex, they have strange tonal similarities in presentation. the 103 describes a longer decay, has far more holographic imaging as well. the only driver that comes close to this balance in the fostex standard range is the 166e, IMO again, I am talkin 'bout music here. not specs or ease of implimentation.

the 126 is more of a single driver, admittalby. I think of it at the 206 of the small driver line. best bass, most dynamics, lacking in tonal refinement.

not to knock it too much. it fills a nice room with good, unobtrusive sound. it gives to decent (but not the best IMO) listening sessions. there were just upper range annoyances in it for me to truely connect. It is a very extremely well broken in pair at that.

I have a pair of 127e laying around. I have yet to build a dedicated cabinet for them. probably dbr to go with the commercial sound.

reading around i seem to notice people praising the 126 in 60 hz tuned BR enclosure...

well, aside from all that,

see yas

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Old 20th November 2006, 10:05 AM   #9
Harderror is offline Harderror  United States
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Ron, I apoligize for misquoting you. The couple of interactions we had lead me to believe that you thought it was a bad idea. I also prefer the BLH as that is the one I continue to try and get right.


I am glad that it is useful. I was hoping as such.


Thanks for the input! I have thought of the BIB and may one day build it. I am stuck on getting a really good horn designed. I would build Ron's horn but as I said in my first post, I am designing my own now and really want to get it right withou the aid of others.

Vinyllkid85 and Spasticteapot

I was torn about throwing so much away. However, my house was becoming filled with speakers. I considered seeing if people wanted them just for the shipping cost but I figured no one would pay to have a speaker they didn't build nor could be sure of its integrity shipped to them. If I had known it was for a good cause I would have sent them to you.
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Old 20th November 2006, 12:08 PM   #10
ronc is offline ronc  United States
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Thanks for the input! I have thought of the BIB and may one day build it. I am stuck on getting a really good horn designed. I would build Ron's horn but as I said in my first post, I am designing my own now and really want to get it right withou the aid of others.

Great! Things to calculate for.
Most designs are a combo of TL and horn action rolling in at a higher frequency. True action IMO would be the TL action and the horn action occuring at the same, however the size of the mouth would be great. So you calculate for the earliest TL action first BW roll off and blend in the horn action at that higher frequency. The more effective the horn action is ,which blends in with the higher harmonics of the TL action, will still produce ripple in the FR curve but to a lesser degree.
The Austin operation basis was designed around the most simple design i could come up with the least wasted volume.

Good luck.

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