Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Piano loudspeaker Page 3

The speaker's only easily identifiable tonal flavor was a gradual and mild high-frequency rise (or did it just sound that way because of a dip in the midrange?) that gave the speaker a slightly forward presence—one that imparted detail without sounding etched or bright. I've heard tweeters that were more transparent and resolved greater amounts of detail, with more transient "snap." Still, the Grand Piano's upper octaves gave me enough of what I like to make them musically satisfying and convincing.

Imaging, staging, dynamics, & inner detailing
Properly set up, the Grand Piano let the music out of the box with ease. While not quite as "invisible" as the Virgo, it nonetheless never made me work to not hear the speakers. With great live recordings like Sinatra at The Sands (LP, Reprise 2FS 1019), I was convincingly stageside with a wide, extremely well-focused spread before me: Basie's big band arrayed behind center-stage Frank. There was no suggestion that the picture was being brought to me courtesy of the two black boxes sitting on either side of the room. Center image focus and stability were outstanding, and remained so even off when I was seated off-center.

While the Virgos, which are among the finest-imaging speakers I've heard at any price, create a wider and (especially) deeper and somewhat more transparent soundstage, and provide a greater sense of air, venue volume, and instrumental layering, the Grand Pianos offered enough in every aspect of imaging and staging that I never felt less than satisfied with the picture.

Some would say the Virgos provide the excellent stage picture and transparency at the expense of midrange richness and instrumental "palpability." I didn't hear it that way, but clearly the Grand Pianos offered a slightly richer overall tonality and a superb sense of instrumental texture. As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two at the Blackhawk from the Analogue Productions boxed set. On "'Round Midnight," Billy Higgins hits some kickdrum accents that sound "live in the room," timbrally, texturally, and dynamically. Same with Charlie Rouse's tenor—a convincing blend of brass and reed.

The Grand Piano played reasonably loud—and without strain—in small- to medium-sized rooms, and provided realistically wide dynamics at both ends of the scale, reproducing both orchestral and small ensemble groupings with convincing realism and very low distortion. And while some speakers go to sleep when you lower the volume, the Grand Piano remained rhythmically agile and harmonically detailed.

So where did the Grand Piano hit a sour note? No place I could find. The key to building a great speaker constrained to a price point is balance, and while, of course, the Sonus Faber Grand Piano is not the best speaker I've ever heard without regard to price, it is among the best balanced, and is quite affordable by "high-end" audio standards.

With its combination of black leatherette, black lacquer, sculpted side panels, and brass trim, the Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Piano is a distinctively styled loudspeaker that many will find sleek and seductive-looking. Count me in.

But the real magic comes when you listen. This is among the more musically satisfying loudspeakers I've heard at any price—with an outstanding combination of strengths and few weaknesses I could detect. I kept the Grand Pianos in my system for about four months and enjoyed every listening minute.

While the Audio Physic Virgos, which cost $2000/pair more than the Grand Pianos, offer greater resolution of inner detail, greater transparency, a deeper, more dramatic soundstage, a somewhat more vibrant and airy midrange, and deeper bass, they're also somewhat more colored in the midbass, and their top end might be a bit much for some listeners (not me—I'm still enthralled). I can't imagine many audiophiles who wouldn't enjoy listening to the Grand Pianos regardless of how much their current speakers cost—that's how good they are. At $3500/pair the Grand Pianos are an outstanding value. I recommend you audition them even if you'd planned on spending far more on new speakers.

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