Sonus faber Sonetto Loudspeaker Event in Kansas City, Part Two

New Sonetto Speaker Line More Approachable

Solid-state power amplifiers,
Tubed power amplifiers,
Tubed preamplifiers,
Disc players,
Equipment racks and stands,
McIntosh Labs C2600,
McIntosh Labs MC452 stereo amplifier,
McIntosh Labs MCT500 SACD/CD Transport,
McIntosh Labs MPC1500 Controller,
Sonus faber Lilium,
Sonus faber Sonetto II,
Sonus faber Sonetto III,
Sonus faber Sonetto VIII
Sonus faber Sonetto Loudspeaker Event in Kansas City, Part Two

Note: This is Part Two of this Sonus faber listening event coverage. Read Part One here.

New Sonetto Loudspeakers Demo'd at the 1900 Building

The celebration of the new Sonus faber Sonetto loudspeaker collection is noteworthy news for a few reasons, the first of which is fiscal. The eight Sonetto loudspeakers can be purchased for surprisingly less than princely sums (starting at about a grand), especially in comparison to the company’s other high-end speakers, whose prices extend well into the five-figure range (and beyond). Also unexpected is the fact that this lineup, like Sf’s other much more upscale speakers, is still designed and manufactured in the company’s headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. And under the leadership (and attentive ears and eyes) of R&D Manager Paolo Tezzon and Chief Design Officer Livio Cucuzza, the talented Sonus faber design and R&D teams have also focused on making the Sonettos sound good and look good. 

Bringing these Italian-made speakers to a more approachable price point involved some streamlining of the production chain and simplifying of industrial design while still retaining many core Sf elements, such as the lute-inspired shape. The Sonetto line uses Sf’s Damped Apex Dome (DAD) tweeter, which is said to reduce distortion, extend upper frequencies, and offer better off-axis response. The midrange driver is a proprietary natural fiber (air-dried cellulose) cone that is also used in the company’s Olympia, Homage, and Reference speaker lines. Designed “from scratch” for the Sonetto line, the woofer features a die-case basket and an aluminum-alloy diaphragm. Real leather is hand-sewn onto the tops of the speakers. Three finishes are available: a new matte white, shiny piano-black lacquer, and walnut veneer. The Sonetto speakers have down-firing reflex ports that reportedly not only help with bass-output consistency but also allow for more flexible and forgiving room placement, as we later witnessed in a demo setup. 

Ranging in price from $999 to $6499, the eight new models include three three-way floorstanders (Sonetto III, V, and VIII) two two-way bookshelf speakers (Sonetto I and II), two center-channel speakers (Sonetto Center I and II), and the two-way Sonetto Wall speaker, a passive radiator design that can be used as a main stereo, multichannel surround, or LCR solution. The Sonetto speakers will be available starting in August. 

The event’s presentations took place in a midsized multi-functional theater-style room with no windows, where attendees also enjoyed a little listening to Sonus faber Lilium speakers driven by a suite of McIntosh electronics and digital sources. After giving a presentation of the Sonetto speaker collection, the key points of which are highlighted above, Sonus faber Brand Manager Will Kline provided an overview of Stirling Trayle’s MASTERS method for loudspeaker setup. This multi-step listening-based approach was later put into action for some Sonetto demos at the event.

Following a tasty lunch (catered by the 1900 Building's wonderful on-site restaurant), attendees moved into a different well-lit room to check out the Sonetto loudspeakers on active and passive display. Putting the MASTERS speaker placement method into real-world practice, Sonus faber Brand Manager Will Kline directed with McIntosh Group Experience Director Joshua Dellinger (seen in photo above, left) for a rather rapid-fire setup, so we could have a chance to listen to the new lineup’s top-tier Sonetto VIII speakers—here, driven by Audio Research electronics—as quickly as possible. Perhaps those downward-firing woofers do actually play a role in easing setup, for after only 10 minutes the guys had the VIIIs up and playing back tracks from a Tidal playlist to pleasing effect.

A second setup in the same room (pictured above) featured the Sonetto III, the smallest of the three floorstanders, powered by McIntosh gear: MCT500 SACD/CD transport, C2600 tube preamplifier, MC452 quad-balanced power amplifier, and MPC1500 controller—all supported by Italian-made Bassocontinuo Revolution Line 2.0 racks with blue topstitching detail on the leather, no doubt a subtle nod to McIntosh’s glowing blue meters. (Bassocontinuo racks can also be custom-finished with leathers to match the tops of Sonus faber speakers.) Speaking of visuals, the walls in this room were decorated with a mini-exhibit of original framed rock concert promo posters from the psychedelic Sixties, including a couple from Woodstock (seen in photo at the top of this page)—an unexpected, delightful, and colorful touch that further underscored the love of music that fills this midcentury-modern 1900 Building.

So how did the Sonettos sound? No doubt readers are curious, but given that at least that some of these models (including the floorstanders on demo) were very-late-stage prototypes playing under essentially “soft launch” conditions, where setup was not fully optimized (unlike in a showroom or at a trade show), I’ll only comment briefly. My initial impressions were positive on the whole. Clearly these are speakers made to serve a variety of music with gusto and energy—seemingly slanted toward rock, hard-hitting pop, and jazz—while also looking sleek in your home, which wouldn’t need to be the palatial listening space that some audiophiles enjoy (or dream of). In keeping with other more recent Sonus faber speakers I’ve heard, the Sonettos tended to sound less dark and rich in timbre than Sf’s older models. Transparency took a back seat to assertive musicality delivered with a healthy dose of detail and warmth. The DAD tweeter generally eschewed sharpness, and those newly designed woofers know how to belt out the bass on funkier tracks. Built for fun, the Sonettos are.

Attendees also had the chance to check out an array of the line’s other models on passive display (pictured below)—the Sonetto I bookshelf, Sonetto Center I, and Sonetto Wall—and get a closer look at their nice finishing details. Though considerably more basic than Sf’s other products, the Sonettos still reveal a “Made in Italy” quality that belies the lineup’s relatively modest price points. All told, the event offered some sound reasons for music lovers and audiophiles with limited budgets to cry, “Bravo!”

Note: This is Part Two of this Sonus faber listening event coverage. Read Part One here.