Sonus Faber Amati Homage loudspeaker Page 4

I knew what my friend was feeling. I'd been staying up until two and three in the morning every evening since the Amatis arrived, doing the same thing: pointing and making noises. Seated before them, even the most experienced listeners are confronted by an almost overwhelming sonic presentation—not of brute-force physicality (I've heard speakers with greater slam, impact, and visceral power, but not pure, overwhelming emotional communication.) This speaker sings—in the best sense of the word, as applied to an audio component.

You can have your turgid, "analytical" studio-monitor-type speakers. (I needn't name names.) The Amati imparted the meaning of the music—the soulful, intense truth of music, any music—with greater clarity than any speaker ever has in my listening experience. If that sounds like blathering be it.

If you need a more earthbound sonic description, the Amati's tonal balance was ideally rich: gossamer, airy, lush, and particularly pure on top; warm and highly resolved in the midrange; glowing, tight, and "cabinet-free" in the midbass; and delicate yet weighty and lithe in the lower bass. The Amati combined the bass weight of a large speaker with the stop/start low-frequency abilities of a small one.

Driver integration has been masterfully accomplished, not just in terms of frequency, but in dynamics and texture as well. There was an exceptional sense of "oneness" about the system's components—drivers, crossover, cabinet. Whatever John Atkinson's measurements end up showing, my listening demonstrated a well-behaved, superbly blended, coherent system with very, very low cabinet coloration.

The Amatis projected a lush bloom of sound that radiated evenly and commandingly, presenting a tall, wide, deep soundstage with clearly defined spatial boundaries in all three dimensions. In a bigger room, the soundstage would probably develop further compared to what was possible in my room, but what I got was impressively well proportioned, as were the images within that soundstage. These big speakers worked remarkably well in my small room, never giving away their locations—even in the nearfield listening position in which I was forced to audition them.

I've read reviews that downplay soundstaging and imaging as "hi-fi artifacts" unrelated to the live musical experience. Really? I sat in row 24 of the orchestra section at Avery Fisher Hall the other night, hearing and watching the New York Philharmonic perform a Saint-Saens' Cello Concerto and Holst's The Planets. Believe me, I could hear/see all of the sections of the orchestra: I could pick out precisely where the solo French horn was coming from, and the locations of the other soloists as well. As my nonaudiophile friend who had invited me to the concert remarked later, "What you can't get at home is the layering of the instruments."

Of course you can. The Amatis do it, and so do many other fine speakers. What the Amatis accomplished so well in addition to this was (on good recordings) the convincing balance of layering, individual instrumental focus without "etch," and the presentation of the whole orchestra in the spatial context of the hall. In short, the balance I heard at Avery Fisher.

Fault lines?
Finding fault with the Amati is not an easy task. Its deep-bass attack was perhaps slightly soft, but that might have been my room talking. An oh-so-slight and barely perceptible "hooded" quality in the lower midbass was definitely my room speaking. I thought I noted a slight loss of sparkle at the very top, but when I played ear-bleeder recordings, my ears bled with the Amatis—a good sign.

I'm really grasping to find fault with this speaker. It captured my heart with its harmonic rightness and low coloration, its unrestrained, nimble dynamic performance, its ultra-low distortion, its spatial grip, and its uncanny ability to communicate the emotional content and meaning of music with a vitality and clarity that is, in my experience, unmatched. If the Amati had faults or weaknesses, I couldn't find them. I haven't heard every dynamic loudspeaker in the world, or even most of them, but I can say without hesitation that the Amati is either the best there is today, or one of a handful of the best. Can I shower now?

Franco Serblin's goal was to create a fast, detailed, and dynamic full-range speaker that did not suffer from compression anywhere in the audible bandwidth. With the Amati Homage, he's achieved that and a great deal more. No matter how much science we throw at loudspeaker design, in the end it will remain, like the building of musical instruments, an art. There is no sure recipe for successful loudspeaker design, but Serblin is one of our great craftsmen. In a career of great accomplishments, the Amati Homage is by far his finest.

Love may be blind, but you needn't proceed with caution. Go listen to this speaker. It'll sweep you off your feet with its physical beauty and graceful sonic performance. I'm sorry it costs so much, but this is one expensive speaker whose build quality and performance are worth every penny. In fact, at $20,000/pair, it's probably underpriced.

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