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Sonus Faber Tower Speaker Comparison and Design Overview

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Summary

  • Product Name: Sonus Faber Tower Speakers
  • Manufacturer: Sonus Faber
  • Review Date: September 15, 2015 00:00
  • MSRP: $2,750/ea to $120k/ea
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now

Model Toy Tower Venere 2.5 Venere 3.0 Olympica II Olympica III Elipsa Red Amati Futura Stradivari Lilium Aida
MSRP (each) $2,750.00 $2,498.00 $3,498.00 $10,000.00 $13,500.00 $22,900 $36,000.00 $45,000.00 $70,000.00 $120,000.00
Speaker Design Three way ported 2.5 way ported 3.5 way ported 3 way ported 3 way ported 3 way ported 3.5 way ported 3 way ported 3.5 way ported 3.5 way ported bi-polar
Cabinet Construction Crossgrain layered plywood, resonance control decoupled side panels Crossgrain layered plywood, lyre shaped, tempered glass top and bottom panels Crossgrain layered plywood, lyre shaped, tempered glass top and bottom plates Lyre shaped progressive thickness walls withsolid walnut top and bottom plates Lyre shaped progressive thickness walls withsolid walnut top and bottom plates Elliptical shaped sandwich construction using oriented layer of solid maple Lute shaped multilayered okume plywood cabinet  with avional spine and end plates Elliptical shaped mltilayer oriented wood Lyra shape progressive thickness cabinet with an avional spine and endplates Lyra shape dual layered cross grained okoumè plywood with an avional spine and end plates
Frequency Response 45 Hz - 25 kHz 40 Hz - 25 kHz 38 Hz - 25 kHz 40 Hz - 30 kHz 35 Hz - 30 kHz 35 Hz - 30 kHz 25 Hz - 30 kHz 22 Hz - 40 kHz 20 Hz - 35 kHz 20 Hz - 35 kHz
Sensitivity 89 dB 89 dB 90 dB 88 dB 90 dB 91 dB 90 dB 92 dB 92 dB 92 dB
Nominal Impedance 8 Ohm 6 Ohm 6 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm
Tweeter 25 mm ring radiator 29 mm precoated silk dome 29 mm precoated silk dome 29 mm arrow point damped apex dome ring radiator 29 mm arrow point damped apex dome ring radiator 33 mm chambered ring radiator 29 mm dome with a vibration optimized mechanical interface 33 mm chambered ring radiator driver with dual toroidal wave-guide 28 mm chambered arrow point damped apex dome Front: 29 mm chambered arrow point damped apex dome with adjustable level, Rear: 29 mm dome
Midrange 110 mm coated cellulose cone 180 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cone with free compression basket 150 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cone with a free compression basket and coaxial anti-compressor 150 mm natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment and coaxial anti-compressor 150 mm natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment and coaxial anti-compressor 150 mm surface treated black wood fiber cone with a vented acoustic chamber 179 mm chambered cellulose fiber cone 150 mm cone with vented rear chamber 180 mm chambered natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment  and coaxial anti-compressor Front: 180 mm chambered natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment  and coaxial anti-compressor, Rear: 120 mm paper pulp/natural fiber blend cone
Woofer 180 mm hard Nomex cone 180 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cone with free compression basket 2 x 180 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cones with free compression basket 9" sandwich construction cones with a rigid synaptic foam core and treated cellulose pulp surface skins 2 x 9" sandwich construction cones with a rigid synaptic foam core and treated cellulose pulp surface skins 260 mm aluminium/magnesium alloy cones with coaxial anti-compressor 2 x 220 mm elastomer foam damped aluminium/magnesium alloy cones with coaxial anti-compressor 2 x 260 mm aluminum/magnesium alloy cones with coaxial anti-compressor Forward firing 3 x 180 mm sandwich construction cones, rigid syntactic foam core and cellulose pulp surface skins, Top: 260 mm cone infra woofer, hard papersandwich  composite Front: 2 x 220 mm composite sandwich cones, rigid synaptic foam core with treated cellulose pulp surface, coaxial anti-compressor, Downward: 320 mm honeycombed nanocarbon composite sandwich cone infra woofer, adjustable level
Crossover Frequencies 400 Hz/4000 Hz 250 Hz/2500 Hz 180 Hz/220 Hz/ 2300 Hz 250 Hz/2500 Hz 250 Hz/2500 Hz 250 Hz/2300 Hz 80 Hz/ 220 Hz/ 3200 Hz 300 Hz/ 4000 Hz 80 Hz/250 Hz/ 2500 Hz 55 Hz/180 Hz/250 Hz/3000 Hz
Connections Single set of binding posts Dual binding posts Dual binding posts Dual binding posts Dual binding posts Single set of binding posts Dual binding posts Single set of binding posts Dual binding posts Triple binding posts
Power Handling 35W - 200W 40W - 250W 40W - 300W 50W - 250W 50W - 300W 50W - 300W 30W - 300W 30W - 300W 100W - 800W 100W - 1kW
Cabinet Finish Gloss black/white, stained wood, leather in classic or barred Gloss black/white or stained wood with tempered glass cap and aluminum baffle Gloss black/white or stained wood with tempered glass cap and aluminum baffle Walnut or graphite stained wood with black leather baffle Walnut or graphite stained wood with black leather baffle Red violin or graphite stained wood with black leather baffle and rear panel Red, walnut, or graphite stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickel plated avional Red, walnut, or graphite stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickel plated avional Red or walnut stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickel plated avional Gloss white, red, walnut, or graphite stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickle plated avional
Dimensions (HxWxD, mm) 950 x 270 x 295 1107 x 340 x 437 1157 x 340 x 438 1055 x 370 x 472 1114 x 403 x 508 1250 x 550 x 420 1160 x 405 x 635 1370 x 265 x 560 1600 x 491 x 705 1725 x 482 x 780
Net Weight 35.6 kg/pair 19.45 kg/each 21.30 kg/each 68.0 kg/pair 88.0 kg/pair 97.0 kg/pair 111.0 kg/ pair 115.8 kg/ pair 103.0 kg/ each 330.0 kg/ pair

 


Executive Overview

The Italian love of sculpted forms has long been obvious.  Much like fine Italian sports cars, Sonus Faber has been sculpting fine audio speakers in this tradition for several decades.  Shod in fine lacquers, wood veneers, leather, glass, and aluminum, Sonus Faber speakers are sculptural works of art.  Save a single speaker line, the entry level Toy collection, nothing Sonus Faber manufactures is even remotely based on a boxed cabinet design and even the aforementioned Toy line has sculpted panels and curved edges.

And make no mistake, they are expensive like Italian sports cars, in terms of relative order of magnitude.  This expense is likely a combination of the elaborate construction described for the speakers, their espoused hand manufacturing techniques with attendant low production volume, the extreme level of diminishing returns corresponding to the acoustic problems being solved, and the simple fact that by selling them at a high price that a certain well-heeled segment of the market correlates with quality and that nothing lesser will do.

Sound Engineering or Marketing Hype?

While I have little doubt that Sonus Faber puts in considerable effort to make exquisite sounding speakers, I find the engineer in me questioning the technical explanations about the engineering of these speakers as described in their marketing materials.  Reading the product literature is an exercise of wading through a hyperbole of technical sounding buzzwords that are clearly meant to inundate the reader and overwhelm them into submission with its own self-aggrandized impressiveness.  Just take the following example:

This element was developed thanks to the work carried out on “The Sonus faber”, just through observation this is apparent: the chassis in fact, a master element of the speaker, is similarly made up of special CNC machined avional and gun metal from solid and through long processes to exploit the joint behavior that, when coupled, suppresses mutual resonances and make the structure completely acoustically amorphous.

Sonus Faber speakers are sculptural works of art.

From real time air dried non pressed diaphragms to progressive thickness triple curvature cabinet walls damped spread resonance spectrum system, the literature almost reads as if it was created with an audio version of SCIgen.

In addition to this are numerous unrealistic statements about performance absolutes of the cabinets and electronics such as eddy current free, non-resonant electronics and zero vibration transmission, absolute spurious vibration rejecting, completely acoustically amorphous cabinet components to eliminate all vibrations and spurious noises that damage the integrity of the sound are a theoretical ideal but practical hyperbole.  Such talk is exaggeration as these phenomena cannot be eliminated completely in violation of the laws of physics and are precisely the point where diminishing returns comes into play in audio reproduction.  This is not to say that Sonus Faber has not gone to extreme lengths to minimize these effects; they cannot be eliminated, but they can be made increasingly negligible, which is a more realistic statement.

Perhaps it is just the English translation, which is provided next to all of the original text in Italian, was done by someone without an engineering or technical background.  I will give Sonus Faber the benefit of the doubt, for now, but their claims would carry much more weight if they actually provided research or white papers, but there was nothing I could find to review.

Model Toy Tower Venere 2.5 Venere 3.0 Olympica II Olympica III Elipsa Red Amati Futura Stradivari Lilium Aida
MSRP (each) $2,750.00 $2,498.00 $3,498.00 $10,000.00 $13,500.00 $22,900 $36,000.00 $45,000.00 $70,000.00 $120,000.00
Speaker Design Three way ported 2.5 way ported 3.5 way ported 3 way ported 3 way ported 3 way ported 3.5 way ported 3 way ported 3.5 way ported 3.5 way ported bi-polar
Cabinet Construction Crossgrain layered plywood, resonance control decoupled side panels Crossgrain layered plywood, lyre shaped, tempered glass top and bottom panels Crossgrain layered plywood, lyre shaped, tempered glass top and bottom plates Lyre shaped progressive thickness walls withsolid walnut top and bottom plates Lyre shaped progressive thickness walls withsolid walnut top and bottom plates Elliptical shaped sandwich construction using oriented layer of solid maple Lute shaped multilayered okume plywood cabinet  with avional spine and end plates Elliptical shaped mltilayer oriented wood Lyra shape progressive thickness cabinet with an avional spine and endplates Lyra shape dual layered cross grained okoumè plywood with an avional spine and end plates
Frequency Response 45 Hz - 25 kHz 40 Hz - 25 kHz 38 Hz - 25 kHz 40 Hz - 30 kHz 35 Hz - 30 kHz 35 Hz - 30 kHz 25 Hz - 30 kHz 22 Hz - 40 kHz 20 Hz - 35 kHz 20 Hz - 35 kHz
Sensitivity 89 dB 89 dB 90 dB 88 dB 90 dB 91 dB 90 dB 92 dB 92 dB 92 dB
Nominal Impedance 8 Ohm 6 Ohm 6 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm 4 Ohm
Tweeter 25 mm ring radiator 29 mm precoated silk dome 29 mm precoated silk dome 29 mm arrow point damped apex dome ring radiator 29 mm arrow point damped apex dome ring radiator 33 mm chambered ring radiator 29 mm dome with a vibration optimized mechanical interface 33 mm chambered ring radiator driver with dual toroidal wave-guide 28 mm chambered arrow point damped apex dome Front: 29 mm chambered arrow point damped apex dome with adjustable level, Rear: 29 mm dome
Midrange 110 mm coated cellulose cone 180 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cone with free compression basket 150 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cone with a free compression basket and coaxial anti-compressor 150 mm natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment and coaxial anti-compressor 150 mm natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment and coaxial anti-compressor 150 mm surface treated black wood fiber cone with a vented acoustic chamber 179 mm chambered cellulose fiber cone 150 mm cone with vented rear chamber 180 mm chambered natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment  and coaxial anti-compressor Front: 180 mm chambered natural various fiber cone with viscous surface treatment  and coaxial anti-compressor, Rear: 120 mm paper pulp/natural fiber blend cone
Woofer 180 mm hard Nomex cone 180 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cone with free compression basket 2 x 180 mm thermo-moldered polypropylene textile Curv cones with free compression basket 9" sandwich construction cones with a rigid synaptic foam core and treated cellulose pulp surface skins 2 x 9" sandwich construction cones with a rigid synaptic foam core and treated cellulose pulp surface skins 260 mm aluminium/magnesium alloy cones with coaxial anti-compressor 2 x 220 mm elastomer foam damped aluminium/magnesium alloy cones with coaxial anti-compressor 2 x 260 mm aluminum/magnesium alloy cones with coaxial anti-compressor Forward firing 3 x 180 mm sandwich construction cones, rigid syntactic foam core and cellulose pulp surface skins, Top: 260 mm cone infra woofer, hard papersandwich  composite Front: 2 x 220 mm composite sandwich cones, rigid synaptic foam core with treated cellulose pulp surface, coaxial anti-compressor, Downward: 320 mm honeycombed nanocarbon composite sandwich cone infra woofer, adjustable level
Crossover Frequencies 400 Hz/4000 Hz 250 Hz/2500 Hz 180 Hz/220 Hz/ 2300 Hz 250 Hz/2500 Hz 250 Hz/2500 Hz 250 Hz/2300 Hz 80 Hz/ 220 Hz/ 3200 Hz 300 Hz/ 4000 Hz 80 Hz/250 Hz/ 2500 Hz 55 Hz/180 Hz/250 Hz/3000 Hz
Connections Single set of binding posts Dual binding posts Dual binding posts Dual binding posts Dual binding posts Single set of binding posts Dual binding posts Single set of binding posts Dual binding posts Triple binding posts
Power Handling 35W - 200W 40W - 250W 40W - 300W 50W - 250W 50W - 300W 50W - 300W 30W - 300W 30W - 300W 100W - 800W 100W - 1kW
Cabinet Finish Gloss black/white, stained wood, leather in classic or barred Gloss black/white or stained wood with tempered glass cap and aluminum baffle Gloss black/white or stained wood with tempered glass cap and aluminum baffle Walnut or graphite stained wood with black leather baffle Walnut or graphite stained wood with black leather baffle Red violin or graphite stained wood with black leather baffle and rear panel Red, walnut, or graphite stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickel plated avional Red, walnut, or graphite stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickel plated avional Red or walnut stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickel plated avional Gloss white, red, walnut, or graphite stained lacquered wood with black leather and nickle plated avional
Dimensions (HxWxD, mm) 950 x 270 x 295 1107 x 340 x 437 1157 x 340 x 438 1055 x 370 x 472 1114 x 403 x 508 1250 x 550 x 420 1160 x 405 x 635 1370 x 265 x 560 1600 x 491 x 705 1725 x 482 x 780
Net Weight 35.6 kg/pair 19.45 kg/each 21.30 kg/each 68.0 kg/pair 88.0 kg/pair 97.0 kg/pair 111.0 kg/ pair 115.8 kg/ pair 103.0 kg/ each 330.0 kg/ pair

 

Across their product lines, many of Sonus Faber’s speakers use certain common design philosophies for elements of their cabinets and drivers.

Reading the product literature is an exercise of wading through a hyperbole of technical sounding buzzwords that are clearly meant to inundate the uninitiated.

As the primary design consideration apparent from their literature, to say that Sonus Faber takes controlling cabinet vibration very seriously would be an understatement.  Sonus Faber cabinet designs typically use multiple strategies to generate damping to reduce vibration through complex construction including unusual physical shapes, variable thickness cabinet walls with constrained layer damping, internal stiffening ribs, variable internal and external materials, metal spines connecting damping plates at the top and bottom, elastomer and foam damping pads, base isolation, and tuned mass dampers.  In their literature, there is much said by Sonus Faber about eliminating micro vibrations through all of this damping.  But damping is simply not panacea for all vibration and really only reduces resonant vibrations.  Too much damping can, in fact, increase the amplitudes of vibrations that occur between resonant peaks as well as increase the time it takes to damp out a resonance, a phenomena know as overdamping.

Handcrafted cabinets are standard for Sonus Faber and they are often based on the lyre, lute, and other musical instrument shapes that provide nonparallel sidewalls and are constructed from cross-grained multilayered plywood materials that are arranged to provide constrained layer damping.  The cabinets are then filled with varied materials, which range from open celled thermoplastic foams to fibrous material akin to felt, to provide acoustic damping of driver backpressure within the cabinets, the choice of which are said to be optimized by application and location within the cabinets.  The outer finish of their cabinets is often made of horizontally oriented strips of wood veneer with various sections in leather to produce a unique appearance for each speaker.

Showing up under several different clusters of terminology used by Sonus Fabers in their literature are terms like Dampshell, Dampshelves, and Exo-Squeleton Clamp that typically consists of the top and bottom cabinet end plates connected with a central spine, which is said to reduce cabinet resonance.  Some of these features are said to function as vibration collectors, a sketchy concept because vibration cannot be herded away from one place to another.  Sound is created by a phenomena known as wave propagation, with waves radiating continuously through a medium from the source outward as long as the sound is being emitted.  So inducing vibrations that occur over there to not occur over there but rather over here, at some chosen preferable location, does not make the original area cease to vibrate, both areas now vibrate.

On the higher end speakers, these clamps and spine are made of nickel plated avional, an aluminum alloyed with copper, magnesium, and silicon known for being high strength and low weight, but with poor corrosion resistance, hence the nickel plating, that is frequently used in aerospace applications.  Avional has a high tensile strength that is comparable to structural steels, but like all aluminum alloys, has a modulus of elasticity, i.e. material stiffness, of about one third that of steel.  Note that strength affects only the load bearing capacity of a material, but has little influence on dynamic response, only the stiffness does, so use of a high strength material is irrelevant.

The higher end speakers also incorporate an isolation support system to decouple the speakers from the floor that Sonus Faber alternately calls a Low Vibration System and a Zero Vibration System.  Both make use of elastomer dampers and culminate in what Sonus Faber calls the Bowspring, the version used for the flagship Aida loudspeaker.  Isolation systems are generally difficult to implement without short circuiting through contact between stiff elements across the gap while still trying to provide adequate support of weight.  The devil is, as always, in the details.

LVT base 

As an example, there is an image shown on Sonus Faber’s web site of one such system at the base of an Amati Futura.  There is an upper and lower plate separated by an elastomer pad, but the carpet spike supports passing though the plates appear to be in hard contact with both plates.  Based on what is shown, the elastomer pad may still provide some damping, but without additional elastomer pads between the spike and each of the plates and holes in each plate that are large enough to maintain a gap with the threaded rod passing through, vibration can route around the elastomer pad that is present.

Sonus Faber’s cabinet acoustics are typically based on an aperiodic design, which they refer to as Stealth Reflex Para-Aperiodic.  An aperiodic port design is basically a leaky sealed cabinet which uses ports filled with foam that allows better bass response from a smaller cabinet compared to a sealed design but without the impedance peaks typical of a ported design.  In other words, the behavior is somewhere between a sealed and a ported design.

Sonus Faber speakers also use similar concepts for the driver designs across many of their models.  A number of their speakers use ring radiator tweeters, a variation on a dome tweeter with a central stationary peak that acts as a phase plug while the surrounding ring around the peak is driven to emit sound.  In some speaker models, Sounus Faber uses a variation on the ring radiator that they refer to as a Damped Apex Dome.  This is a dome hybrid where the peak of the dome at the center is restrained from moving by a fixed phase plug looking frame spanning over the dome mounted to the driver flange, forcing a ring like behavior in the driver.  Tweeters and midrange drivers are frequently isolated in acoustically tuned chambers by Sonus Faber in a number of their products.  Sonus Faber’s midrange and woofer drivers are often based on diaphragms made from the aforementioned real time air dried non pressed blend of cellulose pulp, kapok, kenaf and other natural fibers with viscous surface treatment that also frequently make use of a device that Sonus Faber calls a coaxial anti-compressor at the center of the drivers rather than a dust cap or phase plug that they claim will remove cavity resonance and distortion.  A dynamic driver alternates between compression and tension as it is pushed and pulled by the motor to create sound and air, as a gas, can only transmit sound as variable compressive pressure in the air relative to the overall positive compressive pressure of the atmosphere.  So, based on a direct reading of the words used, it is not clear exactly what compression this anti-compressor is against or how eliminating it is beneficial.

DADRing Radiator

a)   Damped Apex Dome tweeter.

b)   Ring radiator tweeter.

Then there is this business of a Tuned Mass Damper (TMD) used by Sonus Faber in some of their higher end speakers.  Tuned mass dampers come in a number of forms, with the type used in formula one cars based on a one dimensional cylindrical mass spring system while those used in skyscrapers are often a two dimensional pendulum type.  These systems are not dampers by a rigorous engineering definition of the word, rather, they work by supporting a mass with springs that are soft enough to decouple it from the rest of the system such that when it does move, it is out of phase with the vibration to be suppressed.  This creates a reactionary inertial force that opposes the primary inertial force of the object to be damped, not by converting motion to thermal energy as suggested by Sonus Faber on a number of occasions in their literature.

 Sonus Faber TMDTMD Cutaway

a)    Image of Sonus Faber’s Tuned Mass Damper from a speaker under construction.

b)    Diagram of the single axis Tuned Mass Damper developed by Renault for racing.

Based on images found in their product documentation, the device indicated to be a TMD by Sonus Faber, aside from some apparent missing parts, like the decoupling spring suspension, looks to be a couple of loose stacked plates with a central bolt to hold them in place laterally.  Sonus Faber claims they are used to erase micro-vibrations, but these masses look a bit too large to be excited into significant motion by vibration at acoustic amplitudes and even then, they would only suppress vibration along a single axis.  Assuming the damper shown is oriented vertically in a cabinet that is set on its side for construction, it could only dampen vertical vibrations.

a lack of specific engineering expertise seems common across much of the audio world.

The efficacy of the particulars of how some of the methods described by Sonus Faber actually work may be suspect, but most of these speakers are pretty massive, which by itself will typically make them more insensitive to a given amount of energy attempting to drive the cabinets into vibration by virtue of inertia.  The complex geometry will also serve to limit the extent of cabinet area that can be excited at any given resonant frequency, thereby limiting the overall amplitude of vibration that can occur.  Coupled with the complex and varied construction materials and methods, any vibration traveling through the cabinet will likely have to traverse many boundaries that will cause reflection and/or refraction of the waves, scattering them to fight and cancel each other out.  Much of what Sonus Faber is attempting with these speakers is ambitious, so perhaps it is a lack of specific engineering expertise that seems common across much of the audio world.  Perhaps a consultant versed in the mechanics of structural dynamics would be in order to put these system concepts to more effective use.

Comparing the Sonus Faber Tower Speaker Product Ranges

Toy Tower

The entry level Toy product line features a single tower model, pragmatically named the Toy Tower.  The three way ported design uses a 1 inch ring radiator tweeter, a 4.33 inch coated cellulose midrange, and a 7.1 inch hard Nomex cone woofer.  The rectangular cabinet features rounded corners and is available in gloss white or black, barred or classic black leather, or stained wood in a medium brown.  The side panels of the cabinet  on the Toy are said to be decoupled form the rest of the cabinet to control resonances and standing waves.  With a respectable 89 dB sensitivity and an 8 ohm nominal impedance, the Toy Tower should also be relatively easy to drive.

Venere 2.5Venere 3.0

Two tower models grace the Venere line, the Venere 2.5 and the 3.0.  Geared towards home theater and ease of placement, the front ported cabinets feature a curved lyre shape derived from the flagship Aida loudspeaker, a sloped baffle, and a peaked top.  The Venere line is available in several finish options: gloss black or white along with a lacquered stained wood finish in a medium brown and feature an anodized aluminum bezel and tempered glass at the top and bottom panels.  The smaller Venere 2.5 uses a 1.15 inch coated fabric dome tweeter along with  a 7.1 inch Curv cone mid-woofer and a 7.1 inch Curv cone woofer on a tapered crossover.  The Curv cones are made from what Sonus Faber refers to as a thermo-mouldered polypropylene fabric and are mounted in a free compression basket.  The Venere 3.0 adds a 5.9 inch free compression basket Curv midrange as well as a coaxial anti-compressor that is said to remove resonances and distortions.  From the limited description provided, it is not entirely clear if the free compression basket and the coaxial anti-compressor would oppose and cancel each other or not.

Olympica IIcrOlympica IIIcr

Next up, is the Olympica series that features two tower models, the Olympica II and III.  The Olympica series are based on an Enhanced Lyre shaped progressive thickness triple curved wall cabinets, available in walnut or graphite stained wood, with solid walnut top and bottom plates used as a vertical clamp that like the baffle are clad in leather.  Cabinet tuning is based on what Sonus Faber calls paralaminar stealth flow venting to minimize port noise.  This system consists of a perforated metal plate along the rear edge, facing either to the left or right in paired speakers, that allow for inward or outward placement of the ports to best match room characteristics.  The smaller tower, the three way Olympica II, uses three drivers.  High frequencies are produced by a 1.15 inch Damped Apex Dome moving coil ring radiator tweeter.  A 5.9 inch midrange cone driver composed of Sonus Faber’s favorite blend of cellulose and other natural fibers with a viscous surface treatment.  This driver uses an eddy current free voice coil and features the coaxial anti-compressor.  Bass output comes from a 9 inch sandwich construction cone composed of a rigid syntactic foam core with treated cellulose pulp surface skins.  This woofer is said to be based on the driver design used in the flagship Aida speakers.  The larger three way Olympica III adds an additional woofer to the driver compliment found in the II.

 Elipsa

Next we have the Elipsa Red, a three way ported model with an elliptical shaped cabinet made of sandwiched layers of solid maple oriented for resonance control.  Here, unlike most of Sonus Faber’s cabinet designs, the curved wide face is oriented for mounting the drivers.  The Elipsa makes use of a 1.3 inch ring radiator tweeter driver mounted in a wood internal acoustic chamber with an anti-resonator and an acoustic ambient.  A 5.9 inch black wood fiber cone driver provides the midrange with a Symmetric Drive Motor System that is mounted in a vented internal chamber.  The woofer is a 10.25 inch cone made of aluminum/magnesium with the coaxial anti-compressor at its center.  The Elipsa Red is available in either lacquered red violin or graphite stained wood finish with the baffle clad in black leather.

The Homage Collection, which are named after Italian violin makers, features two tower models, the Amati Futura and the Stradivari, with the former a narrow tower while the latter is a wide faced elliptical design similar to the Elipsa Red.

 Amati Futura 2

The first Homage tower is the 3.5 way Amati that Sonus Faber describes as a lute shaped progressive curvature cabinet constructed of multilayered cross grained Okoumè plywood, weighing in at 122 pounds each.  The Amati cabinet design incorporates constrained mode damping, an avional Exo-Squeleton formed from a spine and the cabinet end plates, and a tuned mass damper.  The cabinet acoustics are based on Sonus Faber’s Stealth Reflex Para-Aperiodic Port system and the sub chambers formed between the internal stiffening ribs are filled with a variety of acoustic damping materials ranging from open celled thermoplastic foams to fibrous material akin to felt, that are said to be optimized by application and location within the cabinets.  The tower is mounted on an elastomer isolation base that Sonus Faber refers to as a Low Vibration Transmission system to decouple the speaker from the floor.  The driver compliment  of the Amati consists of a 1.15 inch dome with a vibration optimized mechanical interface, a 7 inch real time air dried and non pressed cellulose fiber cone with an acoustic chamber and an eddy current free voice coil, and dual 8.67 inch elastomer foam damped aluminum/magnesium alloy cones with the coaxial anti-compressors.  The woofers use a tapered crossover and also feature a 1.5 inch long throw motor with a voice coil designed to control eddy currents.  Finish options for the Amati include red, walnut and graphite stained wood covered in seven layers of hand polished lacquer with a black leather baffle and the nickel coated avional caps and exposed spine at the rear.

Stradivari 

Homage number two is the three way ported Stradivari, a wide face elliptical cabinet like the Elipsa that is constructed using multilayer wood with constrained-mode damping and weigh in at nearly 128 pounds each.  Sonus Faber describes the elliptical shape as the form of two facing lutes and that the wide face cabinet approach is used to simulate infinite baffle behavior into a 2π space.  Furthering the musical instrument analogy, the wide faces of the cabinet are also joined internally as the plates of a violin are joined.  The tweeter used for the Elipsa is a 1.3 inch ring radiator that is mounted to the cabinet in a dual toroidal waveguide with an anti-resonator.  Internally, the tweeter is housed in a wood acoustic labyrinth chamber with an integrated acoustic ambient.  The midrange driver consists of a 5.9 inch cone said to be optimally vented for resonance free response according to Sonus Faber.  The driver uses an eddy current free voice coil and is mounted in a vented internal chamber. Bass output on the Stradivari is produced by a pair of 10.25 inch aluminum/magnesium alloy cones with the coaxial anti-compressor.  The woofer motors are an eddy current free voice coil design that allows for 2 inches of movement.  The Stradivari cabinet is available in either red, walnut, or graphite lacquer stained wood with black leather front baffle and rear and gloss black side panels.

 Lilium

Moving on, we have the Lilium, a 3.5 way orthogonal non interactive dual enclosure tower speaker, which at 227 pounds, each, over a hundred pounds more than the Stradivari, makes the jump to the truly massive.  Sonus Faber describes the Lilium as a Lyra shaped and having progressive thickness triple curvature cabinet walls damped spread resonance spectrum system.  The top and bottom of the cabinet consists of two double dampshelves of avional connected by a column down the back of the cabinet.  The main enclosure housing the tweeter, midrange and woofers is said to be decoupled from the infra woofer enclosure through a variation of the Zero Vibration Transmission system, which also isolates it from the room as well, and is said to radiate orthogonal to the main enclosure to avoid intermodulation.  The Lilium cabinet also houses a dual frequency TMD said to futher control micro vibrations.  The main portion of the Lilium cabinet is tuned with the Stealth Reflex System while the infra woofer chamber is tuned using a passive radiator.  The Lilium tweeter is a 1.1 inch arrow point Damped Apex Dome mounted in a natural wood acoustic labyrinth rear chamber.  Mid frequencies are provided by a 7.1 inch  driver comprised of a viscous surface treated cone of real time air dried non pressed blend of cellulose pulp, kapok, kenaf and other natural fibers with the coaxial anti-compressor.  This midrange uses an eddy current free voice coil and is mounted in an acoustic chamber.  The triple forward firing 7.1 inch cone woofers use a tapered crossover across the divers which consist of sandwich construction diaphragms made from a rigid syntactic foam core, itself a particle reinforced composite material, with cellulose pulp surface skins.  The woofer motor structure can accommodate 1.5 inch movement and the voice coil is designed to control eddy currents.  The top firing 10.25 inch cone infra woofer is fashioned from a hard paper composite sandwich with a long throw motor that allows for 2.5 inch movement and has a rear mounted level adjustment to tune it to the system and room.  The Lilium comes finished in either red or walnut stained wood with black leather around the drivers in the baffle and the exposed avional of the rear spine and cap plates.

Rounding off the list is the massive flagship Aida tower.  Similar to the smaller Lilium, the nearly 5’-8” tall 364 pound Aida is based on a Lyra shaped cabinet with dual curvature sides formed from layers of cross grained Okoumè plywood that, according to Sonus Faber, provide a constriction layer damped configuration that is vented using the Stealth Reflex Para-Aperiodic Port system.  Also incorporated into the design of the Aida is an avional spine with connected top and bottom plates that are said to function as vibration dampers and again features a dual frequency TMD.

 Adia

elaborate handcrafted hefty construction, fit and finish, and boisterously described technical features makes Sonus Faber speakers a centerpiece of discussion.

The Aida is a bipolar loudspeaker with additional high and mid frequency drivers mounted at the rear of the cabinet.  The Aida uses an adjustable level 1.15 inch arrow pointed Damped Apex Dome mounted in a natural wood acoustic labyrinth rear chamber.  The midrange driver is a 7.1 inch cone comprised of Sonus Faber’s favorite blend of surface treated cellulose and other fibers with the accompanying real time air dried non pressed processing.  The midrange includes the coaxial anti-compressor and is also mounted in its own internal acoustic chamber.  Sonus Faber makes further mention that the midrange has an eddy current free voice coil and that the basket is made of machined avional/gunmetal which is said to be thoroughly optimized to eliminate any resonance.  Both the tweeter and the midrange drivers are mounted with an anti-resonator to decouple them from the cabinet.  The dual 8.67 inch woofers are mounted in an internal Stealth Reflex chamber and comprised of sandwich construction cones made from a rigid syntactic foam core with treated cellulose pulp surface skins and include the coaxial anti-compressor.  The motor structure for the woofers is a long throw design that can accommodate 2 inches of movement with voice coils designed to control eddy currents.  The downward firing infra woofer is housed in the main portion of the cabinet and consists of a 12.6 inch honeycombed nanocarbon composite sandwich cone that has an adjustable level and a long throw motor capable of 3 inches of movement.  At the rear of the Aida are the adjustable level Sound Field Shaper drivers consisting of a 1.15 inch dome tweeter and a 4.75 inch paper pulp/natural fiber blend cone driver.  The finishes available for the Aida are lacquered white, red, walnut, or graphite stained wood with a black leather baffle and avional rear and cap plates.

Conclusion

The Sonus Faber product line covers a very wide range of prices that extends over two orders of magnitude, from what most would merely call expensive to where the products are truly a luxury.  For mortals of ordinary means, the joke of mortgaging ones home to own such speakers is not really a joke, and it would be a first mortgage, not a second.

With such prices, the affluent expect extraordinary effort and quality to be put into the design and construction of these speakers, and by appearances, Sonus Faber accommodates expectations.  Diminishing returns very likely dominates over any performance improvements at the price, but that is not why one would buy such speakers.  Elaborate handcrafted construction, draped in fine woods and leathers, imposing size and weight, and boisterously described technical features, owning Sonus Faber speakers would certainly make for a centerpiece of discussion.

Despite the hyperbole of the literature describing the products, I am sure these gorgeous speakers likely sound equally gorgeous, just probably not for the quasi/pseudo reasons elaborately rambled about in the Sonus Faber literature.  Either way, these beauties are not the kind of speakers one would metaphorically kick out of bed just for eating gibberish flavored crackers.  Metaphorically.

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About the author:

Professionally, David engineers building structures. He is also a musician and audio enthusiast. David gives his perspective about loudspeakers and complex audio topics from his mechanical engineering and HAA Certified Level I training.

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haraldo posts on April 10, 2016 14:53
As I understand, the heart of Franco Serblin, founder of Sonus Faber, was with small bookshelf speakers. That due to their small size, being simple, lack of cabinet resonances, provided a magic that he just couldn't manage to get with larger speakers.

Here's an old intervju with Franco Serblin from Stereophile

Sidebar 1: Franco Serblin: speaker builder or Zen master?
I interviewed Franco Serblin, founder and president of Sonus Faber, one rainy morning at the June 1992 SCES in Chicago. We met at Sumiko's exhibit and conducted our discussion in the back of the room, where his Extrema loudspeakers were winning my vote for “Best Sound at the Show.” Franco spoke mostly in Italian while his administrative assistant, Cesare Bevilacqua, translated. We were joined by Lorenzo Sen, a Vincenza audio dealer. Franco was charming, philosophical, and dressed as elegantly as he had appeared in the January 1992 Stereophile photo (p.83). In that picture, he knelt in front of a Sonus Faber Extrema, his jaw resting on his fist, like Rodin's The Thinker.

Franco grew up with classical music at home, listening to the piano. His father was a master carpenter. When he became interested in audio, Franco found that he changed his equipment every two to three weeks. He began to believe that there had to be a way to make audio components that audiophiles would keep for years.

The result of this thinking was Sonus Faber, founded in 1981 in Arcugnano, the “gold capitol” of Italy and the best place to buy handcrafted jewelry. “Sonus Faber” loosely translates into “handcrafted sound.” That was Franco's dream: to combine, in a small speaker design, superb cabinetry with the finest drivers. He believes that a “big sound” is not necessary in the home. “People want an impressive speaker right away, but they change it the next year. With the Minima, even if you change, you take the Minima with you…I know of no used Minimas on the market.”

Franco explained Sonus Faber's design philosophy. "We like your point of view, for, after all, you started ‘hi-fi’.“ But he suggested that Americans prefer large loudspeakers with high sound levels. He wanted to convey ”the difference between European and American style.“ In Europe, the most important thing is the music; less important than owning a big amplifier or loudspeaker is having ”a small corner to listen to the music you like.“ After all, ”Here is the body, which is very big, and here is the spirit, which is very small but very important. The Minima is like the spirit.“

The Minima's success in Europe over the eight years of its product life has convinced Franco that he should continue with his ”less is more“ design direction. Unlike manufacturers who modify their products yearly, Franco finds that it ”is very important for us to have a product that has no change in the future.“ Therefore, despite reviews, the Minima will remain the same. I asked him if he might violate this principle by fixing the Minima's bass leanness. ”No,“ he said, even though he began his career by designing a satellite/subwoofer system called The Snail (see Vol.11 No.3, p.34). He now designs small speakers only; in Italy, ”there is no culture for subwoofers.“ He found the search for perfect bass futile. ”When you want more bass, you miss it; when you have it, it disturbs you.“ The Extrema is the culmination of Franco Serblin's ideas, for it is the ”extreme representation of the very pure 6dB“ design.

In his best Zen style, Franco ended the interview by reminding me, ”Nothing sounds better than things that aren't."—Larry Greenhill


Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/sonus-faber-minima-fm2-loudspeaker-franco-serblin-interview#Z18scMw2t6UL4J01.99
prk504 posts on January 25, 2016 02:07
I've heard the Olympica 3 and they are some of the best speakers I've heard in replicating the sound of a piano. They didn't really compare to similar priced B&W in general music listening, but in terms of replicating a live piano they are some of the best speakers IMHO


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3db posts on November 02, 2015 09:08
haraldo, post: 1099369, member: 32412
You completely missed the Chameleon T model in the overview
http://www.sonusfaber.com/en-us/products/chameleon-t


Here's a review of this very speaker system..

http://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/equipment-reviews/904-sonus-faber-chameleon-t-loudspeakers

From the review; looks like a boom and sizzle frequency response to me..

DukeL posts on October 11, 2015 13:12
I've never really looked at the Sonus Faber line before, so it's fascinating to me that their top-of-the-line product is a partial bipole. I say “partial” because it doesn't appear to be a bipole below the baffle-step region, and that's a valid design choice. I've worked with “full” bipoles and there are issues that have to be dealt with, but there are room interaction benefits as well. For nerds only:

http://www.hifizine.com/2010/06/the-controlled-pattern-offset-bipole-loudspeaker/

Stereophile has reviewed quite a few Sonus Faber speakers, and my recollection is that their measured behavior is generally quite good. I'm not sure anyone's measured behavior could live up to the expectations set by Sonus Faber's marketing department.

Incidentally, a bipole is probably not going to measure well using Stereophile's techniques, so I think we're unlikely to see them review the Aida.
AcuDefTechGuy posts on October 09, 2015 08:45
herbu, post: 1099485, member: 56644
Let me guess… ummm… bi-amping?
Active bi-amping.

Almost every speaker has PASSIVE bi-amping.

5 identical FULL-RANGE towers without the need for other subwoofers and the ability to control the bass like a regular subwoofer has always been my goal.

Active bi-amping the bass is how I achieve my goal.
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