Sonus Faber Concerto Speaker System
Awhile back, I had the opportunity to be treated to what some of the world's most talented engineers have to offer. You see, I was having a drink with my friend Ron Jackson (president of Girard-Perregaux USA, a high-end watch manufacturer that has an affiliation with legendary car manufacturer Ferrari), and he suggested that I join him the following day at the Willow Springs racetrack for the U.S. debut of the new Ferrari 360 Modena. As a huge Ferrari fan, this was clearly an offer I couldn't refuse.
I showed up at around 10 a.m. and saw Ferraris racing around the track at very high speeds. Ferrari Beverly Hills was sponsoring this event, and they were giving customers the opportunity to drive their own cars around the track. Ron's friend Jong had brought his new Ferrari 550 Maranello, which has an amazing V-12 engine and sleek lines, and Ron asked him to take me for a ride around the track. Next thing I knew, I had a helmet on, and we were hurtling around the track at 175 miles per hour! To be sure, this was not exactly a Sunday drive. Jong was one of the best drivers I've ever had the honor of riding with. The experience was exhilarating.
This joyride confirmed my long-held notion that Italians do things a little differently. There's a sense of grace and artistry behind what they do, and their level of engineering is astounding.
When I recently received a shipment of new Sonus Faber loudspeakers, I remembered my amazing Ferrari sojourn. The Italian company sent me a pair of their Concerto loudspeakers, a pair of their Concertino loudspeakers (a little smaller than the Concertos), and the new Piccolo Solo center speaker.
The pair of Concertos came in a stunning walnut/leather finish, with matching walnut/steel stands. The walnut used on the Concertos is a rich-looking grain, like the wood grain on very fine furniture. For the past few years, Sonus has utilized an approach that is both tasteful and classy. Their designers use black leather on the speakers' cabinetry, which gives the speakers a unique and timeless appearance. Needless to say, the Concertos are some of the most beautiful issues from Sonus' amazing stable.
The Concerto is a bookshelf loudspeaker, with a 7-inch woofer and a 0.79-inch tweeter. This shielded speaker also features a port on the front, allowing easy placement in close proximity to a wall or bookcase.
The more-diminutive Concertino came in the alternate (and equally striking) piano-black finish, which is incredible to behold and just reeks of quality craftsmanship. As opposed to the Concerto, the Concertino features a 5.5-inch woofer and the same 0.79-inch tweeter. Since the Concertino was used as the surround speaker in this review, it was irrelevant that the speaker isn't magnetically shielded. If you do want to use this speaker as a front speaker, make sure to place it far enough away from your television so that it doesn't distort the picture.
The Piccolo Solo center speaker is a descendant of the amazing Solo center speaker we reviewed a couple of years ago. The Piccolo Solo also comes with the traditional Sonus leather fitting, which is actually pretty ingenious. You see, if Sonus had just used the piano-black sheen or the walnut finish, there would likely be a reflection coming from the speaker via your TV monitor (or front projector). Since the Piccolo Solo's leather has a flat, grainy look to it, this isn't a problem in the least, so your movie-watching experience won't be negatively affected.
All of the speakers in this system use high-quality gold-plated binding posts. Hooking them up was a cinch, either with banana plugs or bare wire. Positioning the speakers was also easy, and they melded seamlessly with my reference REL Q-201E subwoofer.
After the traditional break-in period of about two days of continuous use, I was ready to do some serious listening. After experimenting a bit with the Concertos' placement, I found it better to position them with their tweeters on the outside. Unlike the conventional loudspeaker, the Concerto uses a staggered design—the woofer, port, and tweeter are off-kilter, which makes positioning extra important. In any event, the soundfield was much richer when the tweeters were positioned to the outside of the soundstage. After discussing this with John Hunter of Sumiko, the U.S. distributor of Sonus Faber, he agreed wholeheartedly, as he had come to the same conclusion in his own listening sessions.