Sonus Faber Electa Amator loudspeaker Page 2

With the general exception of deep-bass limitation, such generalizations are nonsense: above the missing bass foundation, minimonitors like the Wilson WATT and ProAc Super Tablette are near ruler-flat. These two excellent speakers also tend to sound analytical, with superb resolution of detail and state-of-the-art soundstaging. Conversely, minis like the Celestion SL600Si and Ensemble PA-1 are more musical overall, but equally adroit at soundstaging. Still others may have a forward midrange balance (JA's oft-praised Acoustic Energy AE-1), or even achieve a psychoacoustically balanced sound by attenuating both frequency extremes (the superb-bang-for-the-buck Spica TC-50). All minimonitors are not created equal.

E dunque, pensi di poterli istallare in qualunque posto?
Speakers in general, and minimonitors in particular, cannot be placed just anywhere in a listening room. Proper placement is critical. With the Amators, placement proved even more critical than usual, and significantly more so than with the Extremas (as reported by MC). Sumiko suggested placing the speakers well into the listening room, at least 5' from the rear wall. Side-wall distance was not as critical. I ended up with the speakers approximately 8' out from the rear wall and 3' in from each side wall to the front centers of the cabinets. I adjusted the stands so that the centers of the woofers were approximately 36" off the floor (the height of my ears while seated). Sumiko went on to suggest that the speakers should be toed-in toward, but not directly at, the listening position.

The setup suggestions were right on the money. With the speakers too close to the rear wall, soundstaging and bass clarity suffered in favor of bass volume. Too close to the sidewalls and overall clarity dropped a few notches, with the same bass anomalies. When the Amators weren't high enough (eg, tweeters at ear height), or were aimed directly at the listening position, the sound was just a bit too bright and aggressive. Firing the speakers straight ahead slightly attenuated the trebles and pulled the image apart, leaving greater depth at center stage and more shallow presentations to the left and right, in addition to lack of focus within the stage. The Amators did have a slight nasal or hollow coloration (footnote 1). Placing Navcom sheets between the bottoms of the speakers and the stands' top plates minimized but did not entirely eliminate this coloration.

I found the Amators to be extremely interactive with my listening room. There were audible tonal-balance shifts with different placements. In positions where I've had success with other speakers, the Amators yielded a very uneven response. This characteristic of the speaker was significantly different from the Extrema's performance as reported by MC. Based on my own experience, anyone buying the Amators should expect to spend a great deal of time getting the speakers properly set up. The following setup guidelines, though essential, define only a starting point. It took a great deal of experimentation to minimize reinforcement and cancellation effects in my listening room. Without proper setup, the Amators' overall performance suffered greatly.

The rest of this review should be taken in the following speaker-placement context: I found that, in my listening room, the Amators needed to be: placed away from side walls, well into the room; well up off the floor so my ears were on the level of the centers of the woofers; toed-in toward but not directly at the listening position; and with the Navcom sheets between the speaker cabinets and the stands.

Ah, ma loro possono maneggiare i bassi?
Once optimally positioned, the Amators had a very extended, relatively neutral tonal balance to well up beyond the limits of my hearing. Using The Ultimate Test CD (Woodford Music WM 1112) and a Radio Shack SPL meter, the frequency performance appeared to be very flat to 18kHz, and only slightly attenuated above that. The exact nature of the frequency performance varied dramatically with different placements. In most positions, the overall frequency balance sounded uneven. Getting it to sound relatively flat or neutral required an unusual amount of effort. My effort was rewarded: Properly positioned, the Amators' tonal performance was very good, with the exception of the attenuated deepest bass.

When I see any small box speaker, I just don't expect to hear much in the way of bass performance. One of the first things I did was try to find out what kind of limbo dancers the Amators were—just how low could they go? In my room, I was able to obtain very strong and flat performance down to 60Hz using the Woodford CD. At that point there was a slight rolloff, but, consistent with the stated frequency response, the bass remained reasonably strong through the mid-40s, with steadily diminished performance below that point. Again, different room positioning did little to alter bass extension without introducing other problems.

Footnote 1: Michael Gindi also commented on this in his review in The Abso!ute Sound, Issue 73.
Sonus Faber
US distributor: Sumiko
2431 Fifth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 843-4500
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