Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Piano loudspeaker Page 2

The Grand Piano, which stands a little over 3' tall by about 1' deep and almost 10" wide, sits on a triple-spiked adjustable metal support that allows you to tilt the speaker back to optimize driver elevation, depending on your seating position and listening distance. The baffle front is also gently sloped back to help time-align the drivers.

I did not open the box to inspect the crossover, but, judging from Martin Colloms' report on the less expensive Concerto, I assume the network in the Grand piano is equally well protected from vibration and constructed from components of a quality at least as high. Cable connection is via biwirable, gold-plated five-way binding posts of annoyingly wide diameter. Spade lugs on both Cardas Golden Cross and Yamamura 6000 speaker cables would not fit around them, so I was forced to fit one prong into the hole drilled to accommodate bare wire. How frustrating to spend big bucks on cable and not be able to make intimate contact between spades and posts. Too bad these things can't be standardized.

Sonus Faber offers a stone isolation base as a $500 option; I used it in my setup. When Sumiko's Stirling Trayle finished the installation, the speakers ended up approximately 4-5" closer to the back wall than my reference Audio Physic Virgos, and toed-in so the tweeters were firing almost directly at me. That put them about 4' from the back wall, about 7' apart, and 6' from my listening position on the diagonal. I left the grillecovers off to ensure unimpeded high-frequency transmission (and because I like to watch).

My previous experience with passive radiators was with a pair of KEF R104abs—a five-year stint through the late '70s/early '80s. Nice and smooth, but flatulent bass.

No such problem with the Grand Piano. After three months in my system I still can't pin down any serious sonic glitches or easily identifiable character. Instead, I hear music reproduced the way I like it: music liberated from the confines of the box and convincingly sized in three-dimensional space; music that doesn't call attention to its having been frozen in time on vinyl or polycarbonate, to be thawed out later. With the Grand Piano, music sounded the way I like it right out of the box. As the drivers broke in, it only got better.

Not that the Sonus didn't have a "sound"—all speakers do—but the Grand Piano offered an impressively coherent picture, holding together as a musical entity. Unfortunately, when you review a speaker, the job is to pick it apart. So here goes, starting at the bottom:

The Grand Piano was good down to an honest 40Hz, so good that only rarely did I feel the need to fire up the Audio Physic subwoofer—like when the recording venue was a large space and I wanted to be there. What really impressed me about the GP's bass performance was the total lack of boom, overhang, or mechanical tonality. The bottom end was very well damped and tight; pitch definition and control were superb. I'll take those down to 40Hz over limp and bulbous down to 20Hz.

The low-end snap contributed mightily to the speaker's overall rhythmic authority and "swingability," and the assured way in which the Grand Piano delivered 40Hz made me think I was getting 30Hz—in fact, I'm quite sure the in-room response was down only a few dB into the mid-30s. Even with recordings whose bottom octaves I knew I was missing—like Davey Spillane's Atlantic Bridge—sounded musically complete.

While 1/3-octave tones revealed the usual 100Hz room "bump," the speaker was so cannily voiced that I didn't hear it even though I could measure it. So even when you cranked up the Grand Pianos, they coupled perfectly with the room—at least my room—through the midbass and up. I never heard too much bass, and even though you don't get the stomach-socking wallop of a larger, more powerful speaker, I never felt as though I was hearing too little—that's how convincing the illusion thrown by these speakers is.

If you're expecting trouble in the midrange with this two-way first-order crossover design, you'd be wrong. The driver transition is handled with extreme care, yielding a truly rich, musical midrange that, if it suffers at all, does so only by being slightly on the soft and/or recessed side, and lacking in the vibrancy and immediacy I hear on the Virgo, which has a dedicated midrange driver. Nonetheless, male voices sounded appropriately rich, natural, and rounded, rimshots crackled, and the Grand Piano's rendition of the piano (I'm listening to the superb-sounding Analogue Productions Thelonious Monk box as I write this) was tonally on the money, and only slightly soft on the percussive side.

Sonus Faber
US distributor: Sumiko
2431 Fifth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 843-4500