Sonus faber Omnia wireless loudspeaker

Pop quiz. What does the following verbiage describe? And what does it mean?

"It's about what we love the most. It's about what we hate the most. It's about what we wait for but never happens. Relationships turn on, interrupt, and resume. Or sometimes they just stay still. Floating and suspended. So breathe in. Let go. Let's begin from nothing."

Huh. Any luck yet?

"And suddenly we discover that it's easier than we thought. It's more powerful than we ever imagined. You can see and feel what's around you with an intensity that you never felt before. Just embrace the most pure and authentic connection. Life."

The words are spoken over two minutes of footage showing hyperattractive millennials and Gen Z'ers. There's also a blink-and-you-miss-it cutaway to a grandfather type. The shiny happy people in the video read, swim, dance, lounge, and make love in curated spaces where every book and album sleeve is placed to look like it ended up there by chance. At the end, a young woman draped in flowing white fabric jumps into a pool and, captured by an underwater camera, does her best Weeki Wachee mermaid impression, rotating slowly within a giant letter O.

If you guessed that this is a promo for Sonus faber's new $1999 Omnia wireless speaker—well, then apparently you've already seen the video. The company's copywriters again outdid themselves with the Omnia's digital brochure, describing the new product as "an organic architecture of technological desires" and exulting that "our journey is inspired from connection, the truest relationship of humankind—the link to life."

That last quote, though still pretentious for my taste, isn't wrong.

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Music is a link to life, and the enjoyment of music is a matter of making connections (when it comes to recorded music, both literally and figuratively). We music lovers are seeking the proverbial wavelength that lets us meld our minds and hearts with a favorite performer. When it works, it's one of the most pleasurable and satisfying of human links. How close can the Sonus faber Omnia get us?

Omnia vincit amor
Maybe this is surprising for a diehard audiophile, but I'm enamored of good wireless speakers. High-quality sound in a compact package is nothing to scoff at. This is an area where true innovation and tight, smart engineering redefine the possible, so I keep a keen eye peeled.

In my bedroom, I often listen to a pair of Alexa Studio speakers ($199 each), set up in stereo. I enjoy their spacious audio, although imaging is far less than what's achievable, and timbral accuracy leaves something to be desired. In the TV room, sound comes from an Atmos-equipped Samsung HW-N950 soundbar ($1700) connected to the television via HDMI ARC. It's good for soundtracks and dialog, but not very involving with the musical genres I favor: jazz, pop, and Americana, among others. My kitchen and porch are enlivened by a MartinLogan Crescendo X wireless ($1000, now discontinued) I move from place to place, which puts in a pleasing if workaday performance, falling short in sparkle and midrange crispness.

Sonus faber's Omnia is twice the price and easily twice as good as the MartinLogan, but there are other contenders. Most notably, there's the $1799 Naim Mu-so 2, which Julie Mullins reviewed in 2020. I've listened to both generations of the Mu-so for many hours, and I borrowed the current model during my final two weeks of listening to the Omnia.

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How's it looking?
Sonus faber's new all-in-one streaming solution follows the Italian company's SF16 solo speaker, which was launched in 2017, and which I've unfortunately never heard. The SF16 was notable both for its eye-popping $12,000 price tag and for the two motorized arms that extend from the sides, each holding 2" front- and rear-firing midrange drivers and tweeters the size of a nickel. Both the much lower price and the ad campaign make it clear that the new Sonus faber speaker is meant to appeal to a broader demographic than its robotic predecessor did.

About that demographic: Livio Cucuzza, Sonus faber's chief of design, research, and development, told me that he and his crew actually had two target groups in mind. "Existing Sonus faber owners can use Omnia beyond their listening room, so they can enjoy the same timbre as their loudspeakers in a compact and smart package. For new customers, we aim to meet the needs of a younger audience with a passion for design, home decor, luxurious finishes, film and television viewing, and music on vinyl."

You read right: Cucuzza said vinyl. The Omnia is the only wireless speaker I know of that comes with a phono stage. Its use requires a dongle, with stereo RCA inputs and a ground terminal. This lets you connect a turntable with a moving magnet cartridge, preferably with output between 2.4mV and 5mV. (You can also use those same RCAs to connect a line-level source; just flip a switch inside the Omnia's half-hidden cable-connection nook.)

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This phono add-on is welcome, but a dongle—an untidy doohickey with a tail—clashes with the all-in-one concept of this sleek-looking speaker, even if you hide it behind the speaker while in use. I suspect that's why, in the aforementioned 24-page brochure, chock-full of product photos, there are no photos of the phono dongle (footnote 2).

Besides the dongle, there's also an Ethernet port and an HDMI ARC input (and, of course, an AC power connection). Notable for its absence is a subwoofer output; Cucuzza says that his product is intended to be "a compact package, ready for every occasion. The Omnia has one 6.5" woofer and is capable of 108dB SPL; we didn't feel a need to add an external sub."

At not quite 26", the Omnia is about the same width as the MartinLogan CLX and Naim's Mu-so 2. I've heard visitors say that its curves remind them of Bowers & Wilkins's estimable Zeppelin, cut down the middle lengthwise. Perhaps because my review specimen was finished in walnut veneer (there's also a dark graphite version), for me it evoked a different kind of vintage transportation: a 1950s Chris-Craft wooden boat, all sleekness and classic style, but here with angled-outward, flattened transoms at both ends. The Omnia's 4.5"-tall remote control mimics the speaker's shape—a nice touch.

User interface
Except for a tiny reset switch on the back, there are no buttons on the Omnia—not conventional ones, anyway. To power it on and off, you press and hold a 2"-long top-mounted light strip, which Sonus faber calls the "center control line." Swipe it to select a different source. When it turns blue, that's Bluetooth—easy enough, but good luck remembering that AirPlay is white, HDMI is orange, Chromecast is yellow, Spotify is green, Roon is purple, phono is pink, and Tidal is turquoise.


Footnote 1: Aesthetically, a better comparison might be with the Mu-so Wood Edition, which costs $1999.—Jim Austin

Footnote 2: The extensive promo photography Sonus faber provided also has no shots that show the phono dongle.—Jim Austin

COMPANY INFO
Sonus faber
US distributor: Sumiko
11763 95th Ave. North
Maple Grove, MN 55369
(510) 843-4500
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COMMENTS
JRT's picture

I like to read Sterephile, and have been doing so for a very long while. I recently enjoyed reading Kal's review and John's commentary and measurements of the KEF Blade Two Meta in the September issue.

Your reviewing this audio enabled $2k plant stand from Sonus Faber seems like a waste of your precious resources.

Opinions vary, and I am just expressing mine.

jtshaw's picture

All-in-ones have improved considerably in recent years, and they can serve very well in a smaller space like a home office or bedroom. We have a Technics Ottava SC-C70MK2 and a just-add-speakers T+A CALA CDR at our house.

Both offer fine sound, excel at streaming, play CDs, and include a radio. We listen to all of these formats and appreciate their very favorable quality-to-space-required ratio. The sound does not approach our big-rig stereo, but they are always pleasant and sometimes sound startling good depending on the source.

We run the T+A Cala CDR with a pair of Wharfedale Denton loudspeakers, and I think I could live with it quite contentedly if life were to compel us to downsize into smaller quarters. I've gone through a lot of gear over the past 35 years, and the T+A unit may well be the best overall in maximizing performance per its design brief and intended market.

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