Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2 floorstanding loudspeaker
I was introduced to Blumenhofer Acoustics exactly a year ago when I reviewed their Tempesta 20, a rousing hybrid-horn that lingered so vividly in my memory it was impossible to ignore eleven months later when it was time to nominate The Ear’s Best of 2022. Keen to hear more, I requested some playtime with the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2. This is the smaller of the two models comprising their most affordable series of two-way floorstanders and is one of only three in the German loudspeaker manufacturer’s entire portfolio that uses a soft dome tweeter for the high frequencies rather than a horn loaded compression driver.
Despite being the smallest floorstander in the line-up, the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2’s 111cm tall (44 inch) tall enclosure makes a strong first impression with its crisp monolithic shape. As with the brand’s higher-end offerings, there is a plethora of attractive wood veneers to choose from, and in the unlikely event that none of the eleven available flavours are to taste, a bespoke finish can be requested. The 19mm braced MDF cabinet is surprisingly light for its size at just 14kg and contains a long, tapered horn cavity that provides quarter-wave bass loading and is the reason why the enclosure is so tall. Augmenting the woofer’s output over a wider range of frequencies than a conventional bass-reflex system, this low-Q horn not only increases power handling by reducing woofer excursion at low frequencies but also increases its efficiency all the way into the lower midrange. The result is a transducer with 90dB sensitivity, an extremely impressive figure for a box equipped with only one 130mm (5-inch) mid/bass driver.
Closing the performance gap to Fun 17, this woofer is now made from P2C (Carbon-PEEK) instead of Kevlar and crosses over at 3kHz to an upsized 28mm silk dome tweeter that replaces the previous 19mm unit. The Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2 delivers a 50Hz-20kHz (+/-2dB) system response that apparently gives up only 5Hz in low frequency extension to its bigger brother which benefits from a larger 170mm (6.5-inch) driver. The sloped baffle and close spacing between the drivers helps to compensate for their different path lengths to the listener, apparently this results in better time-alignment and a smoother vertical off-axis response at the crossover frequency. While this means less variation in the speaker’s response with listening height, there is still an audible and potentially useful shift in tonal balance as you move above and below the acoustic axis (more on this below).
Blumenhofer Acoustics prides itself on designing loudspeakers with impedance curves and sensitivities that are compatible with both solid-state and valve amplification. Tempesta includes an ‘impedance linearisation’ filter in the crossover that can be switched in and out, this lowers the tweeter’s impedance to match the woofer’s and avoids a mismatch in sound pressure level between the two drivers when driven by an amp with a high output impedance, including the MasterSound Compact 845 SET I partnered it with. The absence of such a filter in Fun suggests its nominal impedance is constant enough across the two drivers not to pose an issue. I did not, however, have a tube amplifier to hand on this occasion to verify this, all impressions were formed with my Yamaha A-S3000.
Setting up the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2
Loudspeakers with front- or down-firing ports are easier to accommodate in smaller listening spaces as they can be placed closer to the wall without inciting as much boundary reinforcement as a rear-ported design. The Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2’s bass can be fine-tuned by adjusting the height of the spikes, raising the enclosure to its highest position increases the level of mid/bass energy at the expense of a steeper roll-off in the lowest octaves while lowering the enclosure does the opposite, that’s the theory at least. In my carpeted and acoustically-treated space, adjusting the spike height had only a marginal impact on the low frequencies so I prioritised increasing the backward tilt on the baffle by setting the rear spikes lower than the front. This tamed the tweeter’s output level slightly and presented what I perceived to be a more cohesive balance between the two drivers without curtailing this speaker’s insatiable desire to impress.
The Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2’s soft dome tweeter provides broad coverage so the manufacturer’s recommendation to aim it ten to fifteen degrees wide of the listening position is really just a guide. The optimal amount of toe-in depends on the preferred balance between direct and reflected sound, a balance that trades image precision for soundstage width and is of course influenced by the speakers’ distance to the side walls and listening seat as well as the acoustics of the listening space. Fun doesn’t spray the very highest frequencies as widely as the recently reviewed PMC Twenty5.24i but the on-axis lift in the upper treble region means it’s still able to produce focused images with toe-in of just a few degrees from quare to the wall behind.
Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2 sound quality
If you’ve read my Tempesta 20 review you’ll know that Thomas Blumenhofer is all about reproducing the energy experienced during live music performance. This is not a trivial endeavour but his Gioia, Corona and Genuin series show what’s possible when there are minimal constraints on size and cost. The real challenge is engineering this level of immediacy and dynamic impact into a loudspeaker that’s proportioned and priced to appeal to a wider audience and – despite Tempesta royally trouncing all of my expectations – my instincts told me that asking this of a 5-inch main driver and soft dome tweeter would be step too far. I am, however, proved wrong from time to time and – without giving the entire game away – this is another occasion on which some of my preconceptions need recalibrating.
Witnessing Toto for the first time on their 25th anniversary tour was an experience that will never leave me. The sonic landscape constructed by each band member during the show opener, Girl Goodbye, layered with Philips’ thunderous drums, Lukather’s roaring electric, Porcaro’s visceral bass, Paich’s synth power chords, and Kimball’s belting tenor not only stood my hairs on end but also opened my impressionable 17-year-old ears to an audiophile-friendly style of rock and roll that broadened my listening habits in the years that followed. I remember buying the Blu-ray of this tour as soon as it hit the shelves and marvelling at how much of the band’s energy was captured in its multichannel mix. When I later reverted to a 2-channel system it never had the same impact, the stereo track was too soft and polite and lacked attack and separation.
My love for this release was rekindled last year courtesy of Tempesta, the Blumenhofer finally made it as explosive as it had been on my home theatre system. Fortunately I only had to wait another twelve months to experience this level of intensity again, Fun delivers it with just as much aggression. The only thing lacking is the weight and extension required in the lowest registers to do the twin kick drums and 5-string bass justice, something that’s remedied by the addition of a subwoofer or two if you’re that way inclined. Fun’s bass rolls-off below 50Hz pretty steeply on a fourth-order slope, making it possible to integrate subs without the need to high-pass. Above 50Hz, however, it packs a punch unlike any enclosure equipped with a 5-inch woofer I’ve auditioned; the long, quarter-wavelength horn loading is clearly working some magic here. Even bass-driven EDM like Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is surprisingly satisfying to listen to, this speaker’s powerful delivery of mid/bass harmonics convinces you that it’s digging deeper than it is.
Revisiting other albums I’d evaluated Tempesta with confirms that – despite its vastly different implementation – Fun is cut from very similar acoustic cloth. It may not load the room with as much low frequency information nor resolve as many fine details as Blumenhofer’s larger and more expensive bass-reflex floorstander, but it’s every bit as effective at giving you a buzz that doesn’t fade until long after listening has ended. This energy is not only experienced at realistic playback levels, it’s also maintained at more sociable volumes – a quality more often associated with larger horn systems – meaning it’s possible to get your sonic kick without upsetting the neighbours. I found it very difficult to get any meaningful work done while the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2s were on in the background, the urge to down tools and engage with whatever was playing was simply too strong.
Even with stripped-back, solo performances such as Melissa Menago’s Little Crimes, the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2 grabs your attention through the assertiveness with which it projects acoustic instruments, especially the human voice. Its likeness to a compression horn here is uncanny and I suspect is the result of a voicing that highlights the upper midrange frequencies. In some ways it conveys the emotion and power in Menago’s voice to even greater effect than Tempesta, though the latter is unquestionably superior at resolving the subtle tonal variations in her distinctive inflections. Its forwardness in the midband is complimented by an elevation in the higher registers that sharpens the leading edges of notes to deliver a heightened sense of immediacy alongside its bold attack, a quality that’s evident from the strong presence of the artist’s fingers on the fretboard of acoustic guitar as she moves from one chord position to another. In isolation an accentuated top end can produce steely overtones that appear detached from the main note but the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2’s middle registers provide enough substance to maintain cohesion. A great example of this is its reproduction of cymbals which – instead of sounding thin and splashy as you might expect – are fleshed out with a weightier, bell-like harmonic structure.
Front-row listening experience
Blumenhofer sells a front-row listening experience and this is very much the perspective you get with both Tempesta and Fun. However, while Tempesta sits you in the front row of the venue itself, Fun brings the musicians into your listening room for a more intimate performance. Large-scale orchestral movements such as Chabrier’s Espana and Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op.78 Organ are reproduced more convincingly by the larger Blumenhofer. Fun’s presentation of smaller-scale recitals is, however, impressively realistic. Listening to Chasing The Dragon’s Binaural Baroque with the lights dimmed and my eyes closed conjured a clear and well-proportioned image of the ‘band’ playing in front of me.
System matching the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2
Schiit Audio’s flagship Yggdrasil OG D/A converter is revered for its detailed upper registers and while it’s the perfect match for my reference monitors that are voiced on the warmer side of the spectrum, it can be too much of a good thing with zestier transducers. I found this to be the case with the Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2. Swapping the OG for the newer LIM version of this DAC gently nudges this lively floorstander towards a more neutral balance by encouraging slightly thicker fundamentals and less leading edge emphasis. It is, however, still a comparatively dry and brightly-lit speaker when partnered with transparent, solid-state amplification and digital sources. Vacuum tubes are likely the best option if a richer and more relaxed presentation is sought. Even if only a fraction of the glorious synergy I experienced between Tempesta and Mastersound’s Compact 845 SET can be achieved with Fun, it’s definitely a combination worth exploring if lush tonal colours and elongated decay times are your thing.
Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2 verdict
The Fun 13 promises the hair-raising excitement of Blumenhofer Acoustics’ much grander horn systems in a slim, affordable floorstander that’s sure to preserve domestic harmony even in the humblest of listening spaces. The Blumenhofer Fun 13 Mk2 delivers the German manufacturer’s thrilling front-row listening experience with fervour and is the perfect introduction to a brand that boldly voices its loudspeakers to elicit profound and lasting emotional responses.