Sonus Faber Amati Homage loudspeaker Page 2

What's inside
Serblin's goal was to design a high-efficiency, low-compression loudspeaker that would be fast and detailed yet dynamic and full-bodied. The high-compliance, low-compression drivers, custom-built to Sonus Faber's specs by Scan-Speak, consist of two extra-rigid, lightweight, 8" paper/carbon-fiber cone woofers, with the cone material "hand-thrown" to randomize the fibers (and break up resonances) and individually damped; a high-compliance, 7" multiple-coated paper/carbon-fiber midrange cone with a hyperbolic titanium phase plug (to break up high-frequency beaming); and a 28mm, non-ferrofluid, multiple coated soft-dome tweeter protected by a grate.

The crossover operates at 200Hz and 2.5kHz, features first-order slopes, and is impedance shunt-loaded. Judging by the photos, Sonus Faber uses high-quality capacitors and inductors. In fact, importer Sumiko told me that the parts cost for the Amati's crossovers totals around $800. By the time you get to retail, that's more than $6000/pair for crossover parts alone! The internally mounted network is set in a box and potted with resin to control the effects of vibration. Van den Hul supplies the internal wiring, WBT the large, substantial binding posts.

You pays yer twenty grand and that's what you get. You also get the speaker up off the floor on four beefy, beautifully machined spiked feet. These attach to heavy crossbars screwed into the Amati's bottom, and allow you to level the speaker and adjust the baffle's rake angle. You also get the "black pasta" grillecloth—a messy mass of stringy, stretchable stuff that attaches to two pegged metal plates that affix to the speaker front. When stretched, the black strings magically align, creating the sexiest, most transparent (visually and sonically) grille covering ever (though I left them off most of the time).

Get down! Set up!
When I spotted this beauty at CES, I asked to review it—once I'd moved to my new, larger listening room. Sumiko's Stirling Trayle responded, "Why not review it in your room now?"

Trayle knew my room, having set up Sonus Faber's Concerto Grand Pianos there for my review in May '98. After the difficulty I'd had with the large Aerial 8s in my room, I was a bit hesitant, but lust won out over reason. (What else is new?) If he didn't think the room was too small for so large a speaker, who was I to argue?

What a thrill it was carrying these rounded, tapered, slippery, 150-lb speakers down my steep, narrow basement stairs! With the help of a friend, I placed them precisely where my reference Audio Physic Virgos had been, as that location—about a quarter of the way into the room, wide apart, and toed-in to the listening position—seemed to work best with every other speaker I've had in the room, give or take an inch.

After a few weeks, Trayle paid a visit. He and an assistant spent the better part of a day fiddling with the speaker positions, playing the same CD track (Jennifer Warnes singing Leonard Cohen's "Joan of Arc") over and over and over and over and over and over again.

By the time he was finished all that moving and regrooving, I never wanted to hear Jenny sings Lenny again—not that I'd ever liked it that much in the first place. And the Amatis were within an inch or two of where I'd had them to begin with! Better sound? Maybe slightly. Enough to change a word of this review? No. Did the importer feel much better? Yes. That counts for a lot in this world. If he was happy that the speakers were sounding as they should in my room, my comments on their sound would have a firm foundation.

Oh, my!
The Amati is rated at 92dB sensitivity, so I probably could have driven them with a Fisher 500B receiver or a Scott 299D. But I had three better choices: The Conrad-Johnson Premier 12s, the Ayre V-1, and the KR Enterprise VT8000—three very different-sounding amplifiers that I'm glad I had on hand. I spent the first week listening with the C-Js; I'd recently reviewed them, and was most familiar with their sound. Later I drove the Amatis with both the KR and Ayre amps.

The Amati is the most effortless-sounding large loudspeaker I've ever heard. It was as if my favorite recordings had been performing shackled all these years, and suddenly were free to move unhindered—physically and emotionally. The feeling of listening to the Amatis was similar to my first exposure to electrostats, with a difference: this time, the experience was not followed by the distinctive sound of what was actually moving the air, or the "ghostly" sensation of literal transparency.

Sonus Faber
36057 Arcugnano (Vi), Italy
Importer: Sumiko, 2431 Fifth Street,
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 843-4500 (Sumiko)