Sonus Faber Amati Homage loudspeaker Page 3

Listening to the Amati, I came to appreciate that "fast" doesn't mean "etched" any more than "slow" has to mean "soft." The Amati was lightning-fast. This translated not into crisp transients, or grandiose gestures designed to bowl you over, but subtle yet explosive microdynamic attacks—those tiny, long-hidden gradations of sound that live at the bottom of the decibel scale suddenly rose to the surface to make their presence so obvious that I wondered how I could have ever missed them. I've heard this feat accomplished by tweeters in some other speakers (like the Alon Circes), but never before had I heard it so convincingly delivered top to bottom.

I'm sick of "Guantanamera." Yo no soy un hombre sincero. But I pulled out the Weavers' Reunion at Carnegie Hall, 1963 (Analogue Productions APF005) to get an immediate handle on the Amatis' soundstaging abilities, transparency, and image focus. Instead, I was jarred by and drawn into Pete Seeger's oh-so-familiar performance. It sounded more emotionally and physically alive than I ever remembered hearing it. The Amati revealed tiny volume modulations, subtle nuances of amplitude phrasing I had never been aware of.

This may sound like picayune stuff, but don't be fooled: since the Amatis did all of this equally well from top to bottom, the immediate effect was to create the most seductively liquid, living, breathing, startlingly subtle, totally believable sonic picture I've ever heard from a loudspeaker—with the Weavers LP, and with every other record and CD I played.

The Amati was equally accomplished at the top end of the dynamic scale. It was able to portray those large-scale gradations starting at very low relative volume, meaning that the speaker didn't need to be played loud to come alive—it breathed music with ease, whether playing quietly or cranked to silly-loud levels. It didn't sound clogged and caged-in at low volume, or squeezed and constricted at high levels.

Could the Amati rock? Yes. I gave the British pressing of the Clash's London Calling a spin, and the title song issued forth with all the throbbing, jackhammer, bone-crunching intensity it requires to communicate its meaning. Paul Simonon's bass was deep, focused, and convincing in both pitch and texture. It never overloaded the room, nor did it ever sound as if "one-note bass" was coming from the speakers. The bass on "Jimmy Jazz," which digs deep, didn't suffer from overhang or bulbousness—in fact, it was as distinct and lithe as I've heard it, and the distant "walla" of the crowd noise behind the song's silliness was laid out in a distinct layer that was clearly audible throughout the song. Have I heard greater bass slam on this tune? Yes—but not greater resolution, tonal authority, or subtlety of fingers on electric bass strings. The Amati could rock and play loud, loud, LOUD with no sense of strain.

I could pick apart the Amati's performance from top to bottom, extol its sonic virtues one by one, and go on about its ability to both exude harmonic richness and resolve fine levels of inner detail. But what's really special about this speaker is its unerring touch and seamless balance—tonally, spatially, dynamically, and, most important, emotionally. Of course, these are things you can't measure.

I invited the owner of my local wine emporium down for a listen. He's a classical music enthusiast, and I'd been asking him for about three years. This time, I insisted. He asked to hear the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, so I played him the Heifetz/Munch/BSO recording (RCA LSC-2314). As Heifetz scaled the upper registers, my friend groaned with pleasure and involuntarily pointed to where Heifetz "stood." The Amati's reproduction of strings was, fittingly, exquisite: searing but never hard or strident, even on the most revealing recordings.

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