There are few things in audio as sweet as the speed and coherence of an impeccably executed two-way compact speaker. At least that’s my view. The reason? Simplicity. Two-ways apply the bare minimum of parts, from transducers to crossover components. Also their cabinets are small and thus easier to brace and control. Which is why the move to the complexity of a floorstanding three-way is never a slam-dunk. But melding the aforementioned strengths of the two-way with the oomph and dynamism of a three is exactly the aim of the Sonics Amerigo. High-end watchers might recall that Sonics was founded a few years ago by talented former Audio Physic designer Joachim Gerhard, who has more recently joined forces with Spiral Groove (the sister company of Allen Perkins’ Immedia). Sonics, which was manufacturing in Germany, recently moved all production to a new Berkeley, California, facility.
The Amerigo is a three-way floorstander in a bass-reflex enclosure. With a sensitivity of 87dB and a 7-ohm nominal impedance it doesn’t represent a particular challenge to an amplifier’s power but it won’t abide the cheap stuff either. Standing 40 inches tall it’s fairly big and box-like in width and depth—a departure from the ultra-narrow profiles of Gerhard’s earlier days with Audio Physic. The upper third of its front baffle gently angles a few degrees, time-aligning the midrange and tweeter. The transducer positioning also features an offset tweeter—an arrangement that permits greater flexibility with nearby sidewalls. The offset permits a bit wider soundstage when tweeters are placed to the outside or a touch more soundstage depth when they’re positioned inboard.
The Amerigo features predominately birch plywood construction with side panels of expensive HDF rather than the lower cost MDF. The quality of fit and finish is truly furniture-grade—the soft satin patina of the book-matched natural Birdseye maple, ebony, zebra, and black ash veneers and the softly radiussed edges of the cabinet bespeak an almost obsessive attention to detail. Visually it’s a speaker that rewards a discriminating eye. The integrated plinth, for example, has delicately routed strakes along its ebony black sides—an elegant detail. Also there are no unsightly tapped mounting holes for the grilles. Instead magnets are used, making it easy to dispense with the grilles altogether—a nod to audiophiles’ relentless pursuit of acoustic transparency. Internal bracing and damping of the enclosure are robust; performance is further enhanced by a separate internal sealed cabinet for the 22mm ring-radiator tweeter and 5" midrange driver. The aluminum-magnesium dome tweeter is noteworthy for its exceptionally wide textile surround, which allows greater output, deeper extension, and improved damping. Both the woofer and midrange cone employ a light metal ceramic-coated membrane chosen for rigidity and speed. The 8" woofer in a magnesium basket is optimized for its range by virtue of a large magnet, a long voice coil, and a longer-throw cone. Sonics threw a lot of R&D at its latest crossover that now accounts for floor-reflection effects, reduces third-order harmonic distortion, and eliminates several deficiencies of typical designs while using fewer but more select parts than in previous three-way designs. Crossover points are specified as 250Hz at the low end and 2.25kHz at the top. The rear-panel binding posts are designed for single-wiring only, and adjustable spikes are included.
Sonically the Amerigo exemplifies the best in the compact monitor tradition—so much so, in fact, that many recordings had me guessing that I was listening to the Sonics Anima, a small two-way I reviewed in Issue 172. Like that speaker, and virtually every Gerhard design, the Amerigo is hurry-up quick in the mids and the treble—almost ribbon-like. So quick are its transient response and micro-dynamic reflexes that you’d swear the speaker was self-propelled. Its presentation is spacious and suggests a sense of even dispersion on- and off-axis. It certainly doesn’t lock your head in a vise. Dialing in the top end is easy with merely a judicious twist of toe-in or out.
The Amerigo retains elements of Gerhard’s finely tuned elite models but sonically it’s more emotion driven—at the gut level it’s an easier speaker to warm up to. And give it some gas and it is flat out rocking to a different tune. It doesn’t just offer dynamic range in the wheelhouse of the middle octaves; the Amerigo will sustain rock-level energy in the lower mids and upper bass. Bass response is superb with pitch extending virtually flat into the low forty-cycle range and usable response into the mid 30s. Celli, bass viols, tympani are reproduced at nearly full reverberant strength, maintaining their individual voices even as their output decays. On something like Fanfare for the Common Man[Reference] expect to hear orchestral music reproduced with authentic weight and a sense of venue that even the best compact will struggle to compete with. There were moments when I perceived that the woofer could not alwaysmatch the mid/tweet for outright speed, but anomalies weren’t due to port overhang.
Don’t expect the Amerigo to sweeten or candy-coat the music, however. It does convey an analytic bent that some listeners will find more attractive than others. Like the thirteen-inch-tall Anima it tips its hand with added sparkle in the lower treble—an artifact which accounts to some extent for the sense of speed and detail. But not exclusively, because there’s something very special about this tweeter. To its credit there are no metallic or material colorations. To my ear there are a refinement and openness which may be due in some part to the transducer’s over-sized surround, which enhances excursion for the small dome (likely a necessity since it crosses over at a lowish 2.25kHz). Also in spite of its boxy appearance there’s little evidence of an enclosure at work or the presence of the rear port. More importantly, inter-driver coherence, often the bugaboo of moderately priced multiple-driver systems, was excellent. The Amerigo spoke with one focused voice—a voice that seemed to originate everywhere but from the innards of the speaker itself.
During Norah Jones “Sinking Soon” on Not Too Late, [Blue Note] I instantly appreciated the Amerigo’s dynamic liveliness from the lowest levels right through to the most brilliant crescendos. The gradations of plucked acoustic bass notes were highlighted by the subtlest differences in timbre, sustain, and level. Percussion cues—from cymbal crashes to the smallest rolls on the snare drum—were jewel-like in their detail. I’m a vocal nut. If a speaker doesn’t cut it with singers of both genders, then out it goes. Amerigo performs exceedingly well in this regard. So when Tierney Sutton sings “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” [Telarc] her vocal was stunningly clean, the shallow-diaphragm uncolored midrange evincing no “shouting” or “cupped hands” effects. The Amerigo also images with the acrobatic precision of a trapeze artist. It’s a superb soundstager—so superb that there’s no need to spend extra time and words on the subject. It throws a wide, deep, picturesque stage, and orchestral material just naturally seems to spread out like warm butter in three dimensions. I haven’t had a floorstander of this specification that has matched the Amerigo in this regard.
The one “issue” for me is a lingering sense that I’m missing the full resonant weight of a singer’s voice or a piano’s soft expressiveness in the upper mids. This attribute profoundly focuses vocals, giving you the sensation that they are centered within an energy perimeter. The Amerigo works for me at times and with some recordings in this regard, but it can also convey a more sterile, harder character with other recordings. It’s a strong personal bias of mine, but ultimately I’m missing some of the warmth that I expect in this region.
One added listening note: The Amerigo performed equally well with tubes (gorgeous with the Vincent V-60) and transistors, but that’s not to say it liked every amp. With its speed and lack of distortion it will expose any hint of amplifier veiling or sloppiness. And cheap or underpowered electronics will harden the sound, add edge, and truncate the wide dynamic range and resolution that the Amerigo is capable of extracting from a recording. Good amps actually loosen up the Amerigo’s lower octaves, adding authenticity in the form of bloom and timbral complexities.
The list of loudspeakers that successfully “touch all the bases” is a short one. That the reasonably priced Amerigo comes as close as it does is nothing less than an enormous achievement. I found this speaker to be a musically persuasive all-around performer—one that combines compact-loudspeaker virtues with the formidable scale and serious intent of a floorstander. Amerigo, of thee I sing.
SPECS & PRICING
Sonics Amerigo Floorstanding Speaker
Type: Three-way bass reflex
Drivers: 22mm ring radiator with textile surround, 15cm metal cone
Frequency Response: 45Hz–25kHz, -3dB
Impedance: 7 ohms
Dimensions: 12" x 40" x 14"
Weight: 53 lbs.
1516 5th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
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