This flagship design will be limited to 30 pairs. It stands 1.7m tall and weighs a staggering 305kg. There are five main drive units: a 15in subwoofer with a sandwich cone made by Audio Technology of Denmark. It handles only the frequencies below 80Hz, and is reflex loaded by a rectangular port at the foot of the front baffle; output is adjustable.
Next we have two front-mounted 10in woofers, the lower one slightly uptilted towards the listener. Also from Audio Technology these have paper skins and a syntactic foam core. Again they are reflex loaded but this time by twin, rear-firing ports. They cross over at 250Hz to a SEAS 6.5in midrange unit.
Immediately below the midrange unit is a Scanspeak 25mm ring tweeter, manufactured by Scanspeak of Denmark. Both are mounted on a sub-baffle compliantly isolated from the rest of the cabinet and equipped with a mass-damper to quell vibration. There’s a surprise in store round the back, with a little reflex-loaded two-way speaker recessed into the back panel. It can be rotated horizontally and has its output adjusted via two rotary controls: ‘soundstage depth’ which varies output level in five steps or ‘off’; the second ‘soundstage azimuth’.
Sonus faber uses a clamshell method for a complex cabinet, which is clamped between the huge, machined-from-solid aluminium cap and the two-piece aluminium base by a tensioned steel bar that runs top to bottom. The curved cabinet sides are in Okoumé (an African tropical hardwood) ply. A leather-covered front baffle is CNC-machined from high density fibreboard. In fact the cabinet is really two, arranged Russian doll-like but with a viscoelastic damping layer between them.
With Neil Diamond’s covers album, Dreams – a lean performance with minimalist backing – the Sonus faber reproduced his deep, gravelly tones with precise aplomb. We were spellbound. With a selection of hi-res recordings, we heard majestic scale, a recording by NHK of Berlioz’s Fantastique sounding vivid and open.
Similarly a BD of Pat Metheney in concert was opulent and creamy with sumptuous bass. What’s more, the acoustic space of a concert hall was rendered with truly lifelike scale. Given adequate space in which to ‘disappear’ they sound sensational. Even harder-edged recordings played at SPLs bordering on the dangerous – such as Massive Attack’s trip-hop ‘Karmacoma (Portishead Experience)’ remained uncommonly civilised. Me’Shell Ndegéocello’s seismic bass guitar in ‘Mary Magdalene’ [Peace Beyond Passion, Maverick 46033] had the listening room’s suspended floor almost jumping!
‘Are these the best big boxes we’ve encountered?’, we hear you ask. The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. In a venue of matching proportion, these being the province of hi-fi millionaires, we can only wonder at the lifelike scale and soundstaging waiting to be realised.
Originally published in the Yearbook 2011
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