Sonus Faber Minima FM2 loudspeaker

Imaging, imaging, imaging. That's what I thought when I first heard the Sonus Faber Electa Amators reviewed by Jack English last October. How could such small speakers create such a wide, deep soundfield? John Hunter, president of Sumiko, Ltd. and importer of Sonus Faber products, was amused but not surprised at my reaction. I did the natural thing and begged for a review pair.

Instead, he sent along the $1800/pair Minima FM-2, the Amator's baby brother. These 13-lb minimonitors are the company's smallest model. Of all the Sonus Faber speakers, John predicted that the tiny Minimas would best match my big listening room. I was skeptical, but hooked by what I'd heard in the Amator.

The hook went deeper when I wandered into Sumiko's exhibit at the June 1992 SCES and heard the company's flagship speaker, the $14,000/pair Extrema. Martin Colloms (Vol.15 No.6, p.136) was correct—this is a marvelous speaker, dynamic, fast, detailed, as transparent as Quads, with loads of bass. Even better, the Extremas are rhythmic, explosive, and dynamic on real music (see below). Yet the Extremas were among the smallest loudspeakers making big sound at the show. Perhaps Franco Serblin is right, and "less is more" in a minimonitor (see Sidebar 1).

A ProAc Tablette-sized minimonitor, the Minima was Sonus Faber's first loudspeaker and has been in production for the past eight years. the Minima shares common design elements with other speakers in Sonus Faber's product line: a simple 6dB/octave crossover housed in the finest handcrafted walnut cabinets made.

The Minima is a two-way, 6-liter ported speaker, using a 4.4" (110mm) cellulose-acrylate-cone midrange/woofer, built to spec by Denmark's Skannings Audio Technology, with a "Hexacoil" voice-coil, and a Dynaudio Esotar T330, 1.2" (28mm) silk-dome, ferrofluid-cooled tweeter. The first-order crossover is set at 2kHz. A prominent 1" circular port opening from the back of the cabinet is formed by a tube that stops just short of the tweeter's rear. The Minima physically resembles the more expensive, larger, $4500/pair Electa Amator but does not go as low or as loud.

Sonus Faber cabinetry eschews straight lines and right angles in favor of slopes, curves, and smoothly rounded edges. Though produced long before the Extrema that Martin Colloms praised, the Minima's sculpted cabinet, built of seven slabs of solid Italian walnut, has the same "Italian designer quality." Though much smaller and lighter than the Extrema (the Minima weighs about a seventh as much), the same attention to detail is evident. Different glues are used on the front and back of the enclosure. The leather facing that forms the gasket for the drivers provides a dispersing surface to enhance midrange dispersion. Fourteen-gauge solid copper wire is used for internal wiring, and all connections are soldered. While the Extrema employs finger-jointing to lock-miter the cabinet sections together, the Minima's solid walnut parts are assembled, held in a jig, and glued. The finished cabinet has a smooth, satiny, deep walnut color and delicate grain, all set off by a delicate grid of fine grooves along the top and sides, and a heavily beveled and sculpted front that narrows to frame the driver section.

Sumiko's Stirling Trayle supplied two sets of stands for the Minimas. First he sent Sonus Faber's $950/pair adjustable stands, built originally for the Electa Amators. They are shipped in a small, heavy (55 lbs!) carton. Inside, one finds Torx-headed wood screws, massive cultured-marble bases (footnote 1), two all-steel top plates finished in a black enamel crackle finish, and adjustable solid walnut pillars. Each stand has two inner, moveable pillars and two stationary, outer ones. Speaker height is adjusted by tightening four internal bolts that reach through slots in the walnut posts. Stirling suggested that the Minima would image best if the stands were set at a 30" height. This involved removing the two bottom bolts and sliding the internal sections up so that, when reinserted, the lower bolts would pass entirely beneath the walnut slide. The final assembly is very heavy and rigid, and devoid of any detectable audio resonance.

For someone purchasing $1800 Minimas, however, a $950 pair of stands may be too pricey. For this reason, Sumiko now markets the $350 Franklin and Lowell (F&L) stands. Although they do not have the designer look of sculpted walnut and stone, they do raise the Minimas 30" from the floor, and feature a nonadjustable hollow rectangular metal post, a solid metal top plate, and polished marble bases, all held together by high-quality Torx-head woodscrews. There are no spikes for this stand. Empty, the F&L's column rings faintly when tapped. This can be eliminated by filling it with sand or lead shot. All listening tests were carried out with both the Sonus Faber Adjustable and F&L stands, the latter sand-filled.



Footnote 1: This aggregate stone comes from Arcugnano, Italy, where the Minimas are manufactured.
COMPANY INFO
Sonus Faber
US distributor: Sumiko
2431 Fifth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 843-4500
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