Sonus faber Venere 2.5 Speaker System
Could this sleek, lacquer-finished, curvaceous new Sonus faber Venere loudspeaker have originated anywhere other than in Italy? Well, no and yes. With its soothing, elegant curves and glossy finish, Venere whispers “Italy,” but the scant $2,498/pair price tag of this 43-pound, 3.5-foot floorstander shouts “China.”
In fact, this new Sonus faber speaker is truly an international product. It was designed in-house at Sonus faber’s Arcugnano factory near Venice, Italy—a building as stylish as the designs emanating therefrom—using bespoke drivers designed by Sonus faber.
The midwoofer and woofer cone material is curv, a proprietary self-reinforcing 100-percent polypropylene composite manufactured by Germany-based Propex, while the dome tweeter is of silk over which is applied a multi-layered Sonus-spec’d coating manufactured by DKM in Germany. Final driver production is done in China.
The complex cabinets of gloss-lacquer-coated MDF are also manufactured in China, which is where final speaker assembly takes place.
With a reputation at stake for visually stunning, superb, furniture-grade build quality, and delicate, graceful, high-resolution sonics, Sonus faber treaded cautiously before building a new entry-level speaker line in China. The partnering Chinese company was carefully chosen. Chinese personnel were trained in Italy, and Italian technicians and carpenters were relocated to China to man technical offices established at the various plants that produce the component parts and do the final assembling and testing.
Some purists will grouse that this move dilutes the Sonus faber brand, but they are living in a naive dreamworld. The company will still produce its premium products in Italy, including the $120,000 limited-edition Aida that was the inspiration for this line. The new arrangement allows Sonus faber to compete more effectively in the entry level by bringing to market products at price points inconceivable were they built in Italy.
Everything about these speakers, from the packaging to the elegant design to the attention paid to the smallest detail will be familiar to longtime Sonus faber enthusiasts. For them, nothing will have changed other than the price point. For first-time buyers, especially the younger ones the company hopes to attract, the experience, even before first listen, will remind them of the presentation of another product manufactured in China but designed elsewhere, say in Cupertino, California.
The Venere Line
The Venere line will eventually consist of two floorstanders, two stand-mount speakers, a center, and a wall-mount speaker. The larger 3.0 floorstander and 2.0 stand-mount speakers were not available for review, but the system reviewed here—a pair of 2.5s ($2,498/pair), a pair of 1.5s ($1,198/pair), and the Center ($798)—add up to a total price of just under $4,500 or around $1,500 less than Sonus faber’s Toy tower system I reviewed a few years ago (Home Theater, May 2009).
While the boxy Toy, with its leather side “cheeks” was stylish, the lyre-shaped 2.5 in gloss black is an absolutely gorgeous-looking loudspeaker. Though it’s a few inches shorter than the Toy, the 2.5’s sculpted, curvaceous, seamless cabinet makes it appear both larger and at the same time more room-friendly. To paraphrase John Lennon, it’s so good-looking, it’s so hard to see.
Sonus faber paid great attention to every stylish detail: The glass top plate slopes gently down toward the listener, while the sculpted, curved-arch front baffle angles back thanks to the construction of the bolt-on baseplate. A magnetically attached curved grille braced with a visible honeycomb insert fits within a baffle recess to produce a smooth surface that meets the foam-filled front port surface—the speaker’s only non-glossy accent.
But enough about the aesthetics: As the guy in the Men’s Wearhouse commercials says, you’re gonna like the way these speakers look.
The 2.5 sports three drivers in a 2.5-way configuration: a front-ported 7-inch woofer low-pass-filtered at 250 hertz; a second 7-inch woofer that’s low-pass-filtered at 2.5 kilohertz; and the 1-inch treated, silk-dome tweeter. The stand-mounted two-way 1.5s used here as surrounds (but I bet four of them would make a great surround system, too) feature a 6-inch version of the curv-coned woofer and the 1-inch tweeter. It, too, is front-ported to increase placement flexibility. The Venere Center features a pair of indi- vidually front-ported 6-inch woofers and a 1-inch tweeter in a WTW configuration. Both the 2.5 and 1.5 are equipped with dual sets of high-quality binding posts for either biwiring or biamping.
American Sonus faber importer Sumiko supplied a compact REL T-7 subwoofer ($999) to complete the system.
Big Sound (After Long Break-In)!
Those who don’t believe in break-in, and there are many, will not be happy with what they first hear, and because they don’t believe, they will be done. Cold out of the box, the system was bright. Any dealer putting this system on display before a thorough break-in is making a big mistake. Normally, Sumiko breaks in review speakers, but deadlines prevented it this time. To speed up the break-in, I let the system percolate for a week whenever I wasn’t using it for pleasure (even cold, it brought plenty!).
Over time, the tweeter calmed down and better integrated with the other drivers. I used the same CDs to measure the progress, and the differences over time were not subtle. When it was time to write this, the balance was much improved and easily ready for prime time. Will it improve further? I don’t know. However, this system definitely sounded better with the Marantz AV7005’s Audyssey MultEQ turned off. Anyway, in my opinion, speaker reviews should ideally be carried out with an unequalized signal.