|Jim Fosgate --
Fosgate Audionics FAP T1
Price: $2500 USD
Dimensions: 16.61"(W) x 5.67"(H) x 14.76"(D)
Weight: 30 pounds
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro
Logic II, 7.1 Extended Surround, DTS 5.1, DTS-ES 6.1
- Fully programmable user preferences for surround modes,
channel levels, speaker configuration, and time-delay adjust, via onscreen or front-panel
- Analog 5.1-channel input with analog bass management
- Analog stereo bypass (allows bypassing of any DSP processing
of external analog sources)
- Six selectable crossover points (40, 60, 80, 100, 120,
150Hz); each channel independently selectable
- Future software upgrades via replaceable EPROM
- Programmable AM/FM stereo tuner
- Headphone input
- Universal remote
- IR input/output on back panel
- Discrete IR codes (input selection, mode selection, power
- Two DC triggers
Jim Fosgate is a fanatic about sound. He developed one of
the first good-sounding surround-sound systems, the Fosgate Research TATE 101A, which
ended up winning the Consumer Electronics Show Design and Engineering Award back in 1982.
After Harman International bought Fosgate Research, Jim created their Citation 7.0,
another design with great sonics. He left Harman and created Dolby Pro Logic II, a system
that has moved a substantial number of "two-channel" fans into the
surround-sound fold. In 2003, Fosgate won a special Emmy Award for the Development of
Surround Sound for Television. In all, he holds 25 audio patents.
Fosgate is also a self-proclaimed tube freak. He did all of
the development work for Pro Logic II with tubes, then took the design to Dolby Labs to
re-create in solid-state. In fact, well-heeled tube fans can buy an autographed version of
his prototype Pro Logic II design, the FAP V1, for a cool $13,000. All in all, the Fosgate
name is a powerful recommendation in audio. I decided to get a review sample of the $2500
Fosgate Audionics FAP T1 and try it out.
Fire that baby up
The FAP T1 arrived in a sturdy box that provided excellent
cushioning from the tender ministrations of UPS. Its a beautiful piece of equipment,
neatly designed to be casually unobtrusive -- at least until you fire up its
attention-grabbing 5" LCD screen. The screen sits stage center, flanked on the left
by an ingenious navigation system, on the right by an oversized and well-damped volume
control. On the left is something you dont see every day -- a headphone jack. Turns
out that Fosgate likes to work odd hours and is sensitive to waking up his family.
The rear panel has plenty of connections for most
households. On the video side are three component-video inputs with a reported 60MHz
bandwidth (the manual incorrectly lists the bandwidth as 45MHz). There are also five
S-video inputs, five composite inputs, a VCR tape loop, a composite input for your
security camera (!), a composite output for a second zone, and composite, S-video, and
component monitor outputs.
As is no surprise from a sonic adventurer such as Fosgate,
audio options abound on the FAP T1. There are four optical and two coaxial digital inputs,
nine analog stereo inputs (each of which can entirely bypass the digital manipulation and
be sent direct to the volume control and your amplifier; my Rega P-25 says
"Thanks!"), and a six-channel input for your SACD or DVD-Audio player that
remains in the analog realm. Theres also a brilliant little two-way switch on the
back, labeled Analog Bass Management. When it is in its down position, all speakers are
fed the full bandwidth; the subwoofer gets the summed sub-80Hz information. In the
switchs up position, all below-80Hz information is subtracted (in the analog domain)
from the main, center, and surround speakers, and is sent to the sub. This is a neat
solution to providing some management without forcing the signal through an unnecessary
Setting up the FAP T1
required some time reading its manual. Entering the speaker sizes and calibrating the
levels was straightforward -- the addition of six different crossover points helps a lot
-- but setting up the inputs took a bit more work. Youre given 11 inputs, two of
which (for the AM and FM tuners) are fixed. For the other nine sources, you must select
where the audiostream comes from, what kind of surround mode you want, whether you want to
alter the bass (±6dB around 30Hz) or treble balance (±6dB around 10kHz), and whether or
not you want to use the Fosgates Night effect.
"Night" is used for
compression of Dolby Digital-encoded soundtracks. Remember what I said about Jim Fosgate
liking to work odd hours without disturbing anyone? Well, now that hes successful,
hes been able to build an underground lab and not bother anyone. But he knows
that most of us dont have that option, so hes included Dolby's very benign
compressor that lets you drastically lower the volume and still hear everything. For a
long time, I didnt use it. Just before the end of the testing, I finally found a
neat use for it that actually did occur at night -- the Night mode works great for playing
music videos in the background at a party.
Once youve configured all of your inputs, youll
probably notice that you cant change any of their names. That means that you and
your co-users will have to remember that "Video 2" is the TiVo, or
"Auxiliary 1" is your turntable. This may or may not be an issue for you. But
because I have every single input filled, I usually have to scroll through to find whether
I put the DVD recorder on DVD or on Video 1, 2, or 3. A helpful page in the owners
manual, suitable for photocopying, allows you to note where and how everything is set up.
Youd be wise to fill this page in completely and keep it somewhere convenient.
If you wonder how I have managed to fill up all 11 inputs,
let me splain. I love having music on all over the house. For me, a preamp-processor
without a Zone 2 is a nonstarter. The FAP T1 has a Zone 2, but it doesnt work with
digital inputs. Consequently, if you prefer using the digital feed from something that you
also want to use for Zone 2, you have to use both a digital and an analog input.
For instance, if you want to get DirecTVs Dolby Digital 5.1 feed for a movie but
also want to listen to one of their jazz stations in Zone 2, you have to use up an analog
and a digital input. Want to use your DVD player as a music player throughout the house?
Again, youll have to use both a digital and analog input. As you can see, all those
wonderful inputs can get used up very quickly. Theres an easy solution: a slight
redesign to allow the digital signals into Zone 2. It would make a huge difference.
Speaking of Zone 2, getting it going from the front panel
can take up to 18 keystrokes -- and thats before you set the volume! Both the
Lexicon MC-1 and Sunfire Theater Grand III pre-pros can accomplish the same thing with two
or three strokes. Using the remote control makes the process much faster, but I usually
like to switch on Zone 2 from the front panel rather than hunting down the remote. I hope
that, in the future, Fosgate will make accessing Zone 2 from the front panel a little
The 5" LCD screen has a number of great uses. You can
make changes in the setup without having to turn on your monitor. It allows you to check
what youre sending to Zone 2 without having to walk to the other room. For you
survivalists, it even lets you check your security camera to see whos at the front
gate. Most important, for us music lovers, it means we can use DVD-Audio without having to
fire up the monitor.
The FAP T1s remote control appears to be the same one
used by Atlantic Technologies for their P2000, and by Outlaw Audio for their Model 950.
Its nicely backlit, and the main controls -- input selection, volume, and menu
commands -- are easy to see and use. If you want to go deeper, youll have to keep a
magnifying glass next to your seat. The rest of the remote features 16 identically sized
buttons above ten identically sized buttons, many of them labeled in 8-point gold type.
Enough, already. How did it sound?
One of the best-sounding films to come out in quite a while
is Rabbit-Proof Fence. Peter
Gabriels score features all sorts of electronic and acoustic instruments jumbled
into soundstages both real and imagined. On top of that, it pumps out wall-rattling bass.
The sound through the FAP T1 was lively, assertive, and in-your-face. Action films such as
Galaxy Quest, Tears of the Sun, The Quiet American, and Die Another Day shot out of the speakers with
incredible effect. In Dinosaur, during the opening chase with the Carnotaur trying
to eat everyone, I could feel each footstep. Final Fantasy is another "big
sound" film; again, the Fosgate had more oomph than the Lexicon or the
Sunfire. Whether or not its too energetic will depend on your taste, but I found
myself occasionally wishing for the Sunfires more elegant sound.
Next, I decided to try the FAP T1 with music. Using the
coaxial digital input fed by a Tascam pro-audio CD player and using Pro Logic II, the
sound maintained its force, but also was capable of extremely delicate shadings. William
Mathiass Dance Overture [Lyrita 328] goes from pp to fff, all
the while shifting orchestral sections and offering lovely combinations of instruments.
With Pro Logic II, the sound had substantial depth and airiness. I also tried the piece
using the Tascams DACs run direct through the analog bypass. The two-channel sound
was clear and clean, but, as usually happens when you do an instant change from surround
sound to two-channel, the stage depth dropped dramatically.
Just for fun, I tried the Beach Boys Pet Sounds
DVD-A [EMI 77937DVA]. I was able to run the single DVD four ways: 5.1 analog, 2.0 analog,
Pro Logic II, and Dolby Digital 5.1. The FAP T1 offered beautiful sounds in all four
formats. My preferences, in order, were 5.1 analog (the DVD-A track), Dolby Digital 5.1,
DPL II, and 2.0 analog. The surprise to me, after the forward sound of films, was the
smooth and elegant sound of Dolby Digital on music.
The FAP T1s picture was excellent. I generally run my
main DVD player directly to the projector and everything else through the processor. In
this case, I decided to give the FAP T1s video section the toughest test I know:
comparing a bypassed picture to the FAP T1s picture. Through the component
circuitry, I saw no difference whatsoever. Through the S-video and composite, the FAP
T1s picture was just slightly brighter and noticeably less sharp than the bypassed.
Which would I choose?
Heres how I would rank the three
preamplifier-processors I had on hand: Sunfire
Theater Grand III ($3500) first, Fosgate FAP T1 ($2500) second, and Lexicon MC-1
($5999 in 1999) third. The Sunfire has the same explosive transients but a more consistent
and articulate sound, though the difference was slight. The Sunfires user interface
is better, and it comes with the best remote Ive used. It also costs more and
doesnt have the cool and very useful 5" LCD screen. The FAP T1 scores over the
Theater Grand III with SACD or DVD-Audio; the Fosgates bass-management system is
something you dont get, in any form, on the TGIII.
Fosgates FAP T1 handily beat the five-year-old
Lexicon in sonic quality. The FAP T1s ability to work with a 5.1 analog signal from
SACD or DVD-A, especially with its classy analog bass-management system, was something the
Lexicon couldnt match.
If money were no issue, Id choose the Sunfire. If the
extra $1000 were going to hurt, I would happily take the Fosgate and never feel slighted.
In its price range, the Fosgate FAP T1 is the best
processor Ive come in contact with, and a striking bargain at $2500. The sound is
intense and exciting with action films, yet delicate and revealing with music. The 5"
LCD screen is genuinely useful, and the Fosgates component-video switching seems
close to perfect. I havent had the chance to try all of the FAP T1s
competitors in the $2500 range, but other than my personal issue with not being able to
use the digital inputs in Zone 2, the FAP T1 seems unbeatable. If you are in the market
for a processor in the $2500 to $3000 range, the Fosgate FAP T1 belongs on the top of your
|Speakers - ATC SMC 50A
(mains), Sonance Symphony (surrounds), KEF Model 100 (center), Sunfire True Subwoofer
- Lexicon MC-1, Sunfire Theater Grand Processor III
|Amplifier - B&K Video 5
- Pioneer DV-434, Panasonic CP-72, Ayre D-1x DVD players; Panasonic DMR E60S DVD
recorder; JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS recorder; Rega P-25 turntable, Rega Super Elys cartridge,
Musical Fidelity XLPS phono stage; Tascam CD-RW4U CD player-recorder
|Cables - Canare, Straight Wire
- Runco Cinema 750, Boxlight Cinema 20HD, PLUS Piano Avanti HE-3200, InFocus ScreenPlay 7200