Review Bentley FS120 - FR100 - FC150 - Movie experience:
I have a decent stereo system and music is my first love.
But dang I also love movies. So as some of you who have visited me before know, I converted a spare single garage into a 7.2.4 Atmos theatre. I did it on an extreme budget at first. Most of the work was done by me and equipment consisted out of end of range, entry level or second hand items sourced from among others RS4, BJ, Vaughan, Achim, Judy, E-piphany and the classifieds on this forum. The setup went through a few iterations from 5.1 to 7.1 to 7.1.4 and eventually 7.2.4 over the course of probably 2 years. Along with equipment and layout changes, the room colour also changed. As WAF has no hold over the happenings in the room I decided on a combination look resembling a cave, movie theatre and cheap brothel; and I recon I succeeded with this endeavour with flying colours.
Since the first day that sound emanated from the room, the source was a 7 set Tannoy Mercury Vi series that I acquired from our favourite German high end dealer and he basically gave it away just to make some room in the passage of 13 Hof to be able to reach the kitchen. A grand collection of awesome high end hifi still occupied nigh every nook and cranny of his city bowl empire.
As my equipment changed to higher powered amplification and larger subwoofers, I always had the urge to test how bigger and bolder speakers will perform in my setup. The Tannoy centre especially is a diminutive little thing that did its best to keep up with the twin ported SVS subs when The Rock single handedly tamed the San Andreas fault.
Demo opportunities in Cape Town are a bit sparse, especially demoing speakers in an Atmos theatre. I'm aware of only E-piphany that can be considered a "walk-in" dealer that has a proper theatre room. The rest of the dealers here in the cape all do spectacular hifi but little home cinema. So an upgrade was in the distant future, I just had no idea what brand of speakers would dethrone the Tannoys. A painting accident during an attempt to elevate the room decor to cheap brothel levels last seen in Voortrekker Road left a Tannoy tweeter in tatters and forced a sooner than planned upgrade.
I considered B&W, Monitor Audio, KEF, Mission, Eltax, Fyne audio, Polk, Klipsch and Dali. I would love to have listened to a set of Fyne audios just to keep the Tannoy heritage going but could not track any down in Cape Town. My options were narrowed down to the KEF Q-series (which I auditioned at Audio Vision here in Durbanville), the B&W series (which I listened to at e-piphany) and the Monitor Audio Bronze (which I could not find a demo set in my area). In none of the auditions could I experience a full set of the speakers in a cinema room, so it was all just plain stereo listening. I like the MA FX on wall di/bi poles due to their wall hugging space saving design, but I already had the Vogel brackets mounted to the wall so I did not want to go the motions of filling in drill holes and repainting again. The B&W's are way overpriced, I'm sorry to say. I've owned them all from the 603S2 to the CM10's and 805's. I know Hein from e-piphany very well and I pop around once every 2 months or so to go and listen to whatever is new on the market. The KEF's were actually my favourite. The Q550 is a very compact floorstander with a powerful sound plus I like the KEF sound signature.
I crunched the numbers for a set of mains, two sets of rears and a centre and weighed up the design pros and cons of my top three marquees. The decision was made and KEF it would be. I was about to give Jannie from Audio Vision a call when I decided to just benchmark the prices against the Bentleys. I've never met Mr Bentley, Bruce in Cape Town or BiZKiT. I obtained last mentioned's number from his website, sent him a WhatsApp, asked for a quote, was shocked when I got it (in a good way) and decided what the hell fortune favours the brave and I bit the bullet. All done over WhatsApp. I still don't know what BizKiT's voice sounds like, I've never spoken to Mr Bentley and I still don't know if Bruce in Cape Town really exists.
So long story short, I read a lot of positive things about Bentley and decided to take a chance. In came a set of FS120, two sets of FR100 and a FC150 courtesy of great service from BiZKiT. After a tough Friday afternoon of unpacking and connecting (packaging is exemplary), I fired up the amps and took the Bentley's through their paces. From the get-go the speakers sounded big, bold and commanding. After about 2 hours of non-stop use the drivers started to loosen up and the bass became more solid, focused and authoritative. The FS120 remind me a lot of the B&W CM10's I had a few years ago in the way that they can take any bass tune and just seem to lock onto it. The four FR100 are probably overkill in their surround duties but look cool none the less. It is however the FC150 that has really stolen the show for me. It is neutral sounding but with a touch of warmth that gives voices a life like tone. It is a handsome bugger that will be a centre piece of any equipment rack/tv stand.
The set is still playing in but so far colour me impressed. Build quality is great and looks are neat and clean with enough muscularity to warn users that they will not take a back seat when the volume is cranked. On the pics I have seen I had my reservations about the copper coloured driver as they looked too Klipsch for my tastes but in real life they are mild salmon colour that should blend in well in any cave/cinema/extreme brothel.
The obvious highlight here is the value for money equation which is simply stellar. Show me another brand of speakers in this same price range that offer as much as the Bentleys.
I think the product and its developers deserve a pat on the back. To be able to develop and commercially produce a "luxury" product in a tough market is remarkable. To make something that can compete favourably and even exceed the performance of established international marquees is really a miracle.
As mentioned before, I know how difficult it is in Cape Town to get a demo. Let me know if any of you folks want to pop around over a weekend. I'll happily demo these for anyone interested in hearing them.