CES Bonus: New From Vienna Acoustics and Sonus Faber

CES Bonus: New From Vienna Acoustics and Sonus Faber

I returned to the Sumiko suite in the Venetian on two different days this year and was rewarded with the opportunity to hear two speakers that this well-regarded distributor/importer will be pinning much of its hopes on in the coming year. On the first visit there was the Vienna Acoustics’ “The Kiss”, an offbeat showstopper if there ever was one. (Last year this same space was easily dominated by VA’s flagship “The Music”)  The smallest member of the new top-rung Klimt Series this is an unconventional  speaker that walks the fine line between outright daring, old world elegance and just a bit odd. It’s a three-way, dual enclosure, pivoting design whose star attraction is the in-house designed Flat-Spider-Cone coincident driver system that covers an astounding seven octaves. The lower cabinet houses a generous spider-cone woofer. Equally unique is the lacquered MDF and metal-reinforced single leg stands. Like a flamingo perched on one leg it might be a look that not everyone will agree with. It’s sonics however quickly confirmed the success of the coax driver, even in this oversize room. I was prepared to hear the customary attributes associated with these point source designs, the impeccable imaging, the soundstage stability, and general, unbroken oneness to the presentation. What I also experienced was a sense of speed and transparency and a lack of box resonances that was almost planar-electrostatic in its openness.  Price: $15,000. (With Sumiko's John Hunter; note the rake and axial adjustments in the center photo)

Upon my return a couple days later Sonus Faber’s new Liuto was doing the demos.  A replacement for the Domus line, Liuto is a three-way vented design that uses all new drivers including a 6-inch carbon fiber midrange, a 9-inch woofer and a return to the large, 1-inch soft dome tweeter of early models. While it maintains certain classic Sonus trappings like the lute shaped side panels, Liuto is a cleaner more contemporary take that should be an easy and more neutral fit into most rooms. At first blush neither of these two speakers would appear to have the drivers to energize a room this large. But they did. The Liuto applied its handiwork with a combination of warmth, low frequency extension that seemed comfortable and unchallenged in the 40-cycle range and balancing a combination of instrumental detail with  enveloping soundstage dimensionality. Bass seemed a little looser  and more conventionally box-like than "The Kiss" but it also had a different kind of energy–heavier handed with the kind of sustained punch that will serve rockers and cinephiles equally well. If the Vienna Acoustics granted to more weight to imaging precision, the Liuto offfered a kind of soundstage saturation that bordered on the immersive. The Sonus was a bit darker and weightier, perhaps not as fast on transients in some measurements but full of the va-va-voom sensuousness that has come to embody Sonus offerings. Frankly at literally half the price of the elegant Cremona M, the Liuto seems like an impossibly good deal. Due in the 2nd quarter of 2009. Estimated pricing: $6000; $3000 for the two-way stand mount monitor. A center channel will also be available. (pictured at the bottom page)