Sonus Faber Venere 2.5 loudspeaker
Sonus Faber is an iconic Italian high-end company whose loudspeakers have always evinced innovative technical design, superb construction, spectacular appearance, and great sound. I was intrigued with the design and performance of their stand-mounted Extrema (reviewed by Martin Colloms in the June 1992 Stereophile, Vol.15 No.6), which combined a proprietary soft-dome tweeter and a mineral-loaded polypropylene-cone woofer with an electrodynamically damped but passive KEF B139 driver that occupied the entire rear panel. I was fascinated by their Homage models, named for the Cremona violin makers Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari; these had, in lieu of a fabric grille, a curtain of heavy rubber strings that was striking in appearance, and allowed me to better appreciate their drivers and curve-sided cabinets, the latter evoking the great instruments they honored. Even Sonus Faber's current flagship model, the Aida, is sculpted and stanced so that its elegant appearance belies its large size. But all of this craftsmanship is accompaniment to excellent soundand high prices.
The new Venere line represents Sonus Faber's effort to bring all of this to a lower-priced segment of the market currently dominated by rectangular boxes with OEM drivers. In what's become common practice, SF does all their design and engineering at their home base in Arcugnano, Italy, but has their new speakers made in China. The result are models that retain SF's traditional Italian styling and technology, but are available at prices that more audiophiles and music lovers can afford.
When I first saw the Veneres, at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, I was willing to accept that they might comprise SF's lower-priced range, but I was still amazed at what the prices actually are. The subject of this review, the Venere 2.5 ($2498/pair), is the first of a line that includes a larger floorstander, the 3.0; the 2.0 and 1.5 stand-mounted models: the Wall, a wall-mounted two-way with a passive radiator; and the Center, a center-channel speaker.
As its name implies, the floorstanding Venere 2.5 is a 2.5-way design with Sonus Faber's own coated-fabric tweeter (which is not cooled with ferrofluid), and two 7" woofers, also by SF, the lower rolled off above 250Hz. The drivers are inset into a gently curved front baffle and protected by a stiff but lightweight black grille, magnetically attached. A cutout at the bottom of the grille reveals the Sonus Faber logo engraved on the baffle; below that, at the bottom, is the semirectangular slot port. The side panels curve gracefully around to meet a very narrow rear panel just wide enough to accommodate a staggered array of four multiway terminals. The cabinet sits on a thick glass base plate that accepts four substantial spikes, the front pair nearly an inch longer than the rear, which tilts the entire cabinet back to align the tweeter with the deeper woofer diaphragms. This rake is continued in the top panel, which has a glass inlay and from the front slopes up toward the rear of the speaker, strikingly tapering to a near point. The effect, in the sleek Black Lacquer finish of the review pair, was of an elegantly dressed gentleman in provocative slouch. Certainly, no one will be tempted to place a cocktail glass on it.
My Connecticut system was channeled through the Marantz AV-8801 A/V pre-pro, which includes Audyssey's MultEQ XT32 room-optimization software. However, I couldn't assume that such equalization would be available to all readers, so I listened to the Venere 2.5s either via a direct analog route or, with multichannel sources, with Audyssey set to bypass the front L/R speakers (the Sonus Fabers). I also spent some time listening to the Veneres via a Trinnov MC Optimizer, in both stereo and multichannel.
I connected the 2.5s with the biwire jumpers in place and proceeded to position them. This was somewhat impeded by the necessity to keep the pads (provided by SF) under the spikes to protect my hardwood floor. I ended up with the Veneres in roughly the same places as my regular speakers, but with a toe-in that aimed their tweeters directly at the main listening position. Not all speakers work well in this orientation; usually, they require less toe-in, to avoid the tinge of HF brightness that often accompanies on-axis listening. I suspect that has to do with such speakers having a mild upper-midrange depression or peak, and that aiming them off axis mitigates the MF/HF imbalance.
Since I used the Venere 2.5s while reviewing the Trinnov Optimizer for my column in the September 2013 issue, I can say that the uncorrected on-axis response in my room did show a mild 12dB emphasis from 300 to 1000Hz, followed by a similarly mild 12dB trough from 1.5 to 8kHz. This wasn't remarkably flat, but the Venere 2.5s matched within 1dB, and gave the subjective impressions of great midrange clarity and ideal balance when listened to on axis. Below 300Hz, room modes dominated the frequency response, as the two speakers' different relations with the room boundaries imposed a much more widely differing response.
Perhaps due to the pair's close match throughout the midrange and treble, I was immediately struck by the spaciousness of the Veneres' rendering of stereo orchestral recordings; despite the notable midrange and treble detail, the overall balance was warm, with a soundstage that began just behind the speaker plane. Bass was adequately extended, but, with no room EQ, I was aware of excessive midbass emphasis. As I said, I don't ascribe this only to the Veneres, but to my room setup as well. Nonetheless, it was a balance that many would find satisfying, and reminded me of the slightly rising bass response and mildly attenuated treble incorporated into many "house curves."