Sonics Amerigo Speaker System
German Brew, U.S. Bottle
Many home theater enthusiasts may be unfamiliar with the name, but among audiophiles during the 1990s, veteran German audio designer Joachim Gerhard achieved near-legend status throughout the world for his extensive and remarkably varied line of high-performance loudspeakers marketed under the Audio Physic brand.
Gerhard was equally adept at designing compact, two-way speakers and narrow-baffled, conventional, coned three-way speakers that incorporated side-firing woofers. He also designed more exotic products, including one that used the unusual flat, star-shaped, “bending motion” Manger driver.
Regardless of their design concept, Gerhard’s speakers excelled at creating an enormous, free-floating, three-dimensional soundstage that seemed to exist independently of the physical enclosures that produced the sound. A pair of relatively small Audio Physic Virgo IIs I once owned had an almost supernatural ability to simply disappear, leaving a room-sized, three-dimensional picture populated by reach-out-and-touch-you solid images. One visitor exclaimed that it was “like looking at a Viewmaster.” (Younger readers: Google “Viewmaster.”)
Unfortunately, a serious illness forced Gerhard to the designing sidelines, and he eventually sold his company. A few years ago, he returned to designing and marketing loudspeakers through his new company, Sonics by Joachim Gerhard. Again, the designs are varied in shape, size, and technology, as you’ll see if you visit the Website of his longtime American distributor Immedia (immediasound.com).
As the dollar slid relative to the Euro and domestic prices soared, Gerhard and Allen Perkins, owner of partner company Spiral Groove, decided to move worldwide production to America. The drivers are made in Scandinavia, the crossovers in Germany, and the plugs in Australia. The Chinese-manufactured cabinets are assembled in the U.S. This saves shipping costs—at least for American dealers and buyers—and reduces exchange-rate disadvantages. However, it remained to be seen if the high quality and workmanship of the European cabinetry could be maintained.
Do You Need “Audiophile Quality” Loudspeakers in a Home Theater?
During the days of compressed audio, you didn’t necessarily need expensive speakers designed for high-performance audio use. Unless you were setting up a home theater that would also serve as a serious music-listening venue, you wouldn’t need speakers that were capable of ultra-high resolution, timbral accuracy, pinpoint imaging, and microdynamic excellence. Once the compressed audio glaze is applied to the picture, who cares? These days, we have uncompressed high-resolution audio formats on Blu-ray, both movies and music discs like the192-kHz/24-bit Neil Young Archives Vol. 1. These can rival the sound quality of vinyl, so the more accurate the loudspeaker, the better. Glaze, hardness, and crispy edges are no longer sonic soundtrack givens.
The Sonics Amerigo
The Amerigo was originally designed as a near full-range speaker for use in two-channel systems. The reasonably compact, three-way bass-reflex design appears to be equally attractive in a surround sound system, assuming you don’t place the rear-ported speaker against a wall.
The handsome floorstander is slightly more than 3 feet tall. It’s made of birch plywood that Sonics claims is more expensive and better sounding than MDF. It features a gently angled front baffle that contains the midrange driver and tweeter, which is said to give it a “degree of time alignment.” An integral matte black stand mirrors the cabinet’s shape. And metal posts do away with the usual baffle holes, which gives the speaker a neat look, whether or not you choose to use the grilles that attach to them.
The cabinet is superbly finished, with softly radiused corners. It also features other elegant design details that are intended to produce a furniture-grade aesthetic. However, with its wide front baffles and mostly parallel surfaces, this speaker is on the boxy side compared with some more elegantly turned designs. My review samples were finished in satiny book-matched Zebra-wood. (Other veneer options are also available.)