Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers
Let's get this started with a hi-fi thought exercise. When does a loudspeaker become something that is considered a luxury item? Is $1000 per pair of speakers a luxury item? How about a $5000 pair? What about those that are priced at $100,000? Although we all may have a different idea of what luxury is, we all know when we are in the presence of something that is truly luxurious. We will come back to this later.
Sonus faber has been around since the early 1980s with worldwide distribution and many well-respected speakers. I don't really know where it came from, but somewhere in my lifetime was told that Sonus fabers looked beautiful but were overpriced. Since I have never spent any intimate time with the brand, as things do, this image has lingered in my brain for decades with no real evidence to back it up. So you can imagine the excitement when I was told that I would be reviewing the Sonus faber Nova II's; one of their new floorstanding speakers in their Olympic Nova Collection.
Although I have been an avid audiophile for 30 years, notwithstanding a couple of very short listening sessions at audio shows and my somewhat already biased mindset, I have not spent much time with the famed Italian speaker manufacturer. The few things that I did know about Sonus faber is that they were beautiful speakers created with an artistic touch and manufactured in Italy.
Sonus faber Nova II Design And Specs
They have a very reasonable sensitivity of 88dB/W/m, and present a nominal 4 Ohm load to your amplifiers. The enclosure is para-aperiodic; which, without boring everyone with a diatribe on speaker design, is basically a "restricted ported" enclosure. I do not mean to downplay this type of design as simple. As a matter of fact, in the case of the Nova II's, the para-aperiodic enclosure was implemented in a very elegant way achieving excellent bass from a relatively small floorstanding speaker.
Sonus faber's Nova II speakers are not your average boxy floorstander. They are mirror image, asymmetrically designed, with the spine of the speaker containing the port. The extremely low-turbulence porting system, is fabricated from a solid piece of extruded aluminum and it is inherited from Sonus faber's Homage Tradition models. This, when paired with the asymmetrical design, gives a unique additional option for speaker-to-room interaction over many other loudspeakers. Swapping the speakers provides an extra variable on how the lowest frequencies interact with your unique listening environment. I found the best speaker placement in my room was with the ports facing toward the center as opposed to outward, but swapping them did make a difference.
After only a few minutes of critical listening, what really struck me with the Nova II floorstanders was the bottom end wasn't fat at all but just had a toe-tappin' sense of rhythm. I think I was recognizing the bass because of a release of endorphins, not because there was simply "more of it". The full, articulate 40Hz to 80Hz range was more noticeable because of how it made me feel. Although these are the smallest of the floorstanders in the Olympica Nova line, the bottom end was always present and kept perfect time giving the music a great sense of grooooove.
Positioning Sonus faber's Nova II Loudspeakers
Within my room, they found their optimal spot on the long wall of my 25' x 30' room, about 40" from the back wall with a little more than a slight toe-in.
Running Through The Standards
Overall, Sonus faber's Nova II have much bigger sound than their size would lend you to believe. The all-important midrange while a little set back, is deeply layered and eerily textured, while the soundstage extending well beyond the enclosures from left to right. The bottom end was outstanding too! Many speakers can produce powerful and accurate bass, but that can seem a little disjointed from the rest of the music. That was not the case with the Sonus fabers. The cohesiveness of the bass with the rest of the music is what gives this speaker a sense of timing that consistently made me want to crank up the Nova II floorstanders louder than I usually play music. Simply more exciting.
The differences were exactly what most would imagine, a larger sense of air and with more control of the bottom end. Although I do not play music as loud as I did as a young lad when playing Mighty Sam McClain's incredibly recorded Sledgehammer Soul & Down Home Blues I found myself bothering the neighbors. I just couldn't help myself. The Nova's never sounded as they were in distress; they took the power in stride.
Look And Feel Of The Sonus Faber Nova II
Getting back to our initial question: At what point does a high-end speaker become a luxury item? Personally, when I think of what constitutes luxury, it needs to have a certain moxie about it. It needs to ooze class and style, with meticulous attention to detail. It takes all of about 12 seconds to be in the room with the Sonus faber Nova II's to recognize you are in the presence of something that defines luxury. From a unique design with a specially-crafted spine that incorporates the port, to the very precise and artistic bending of the wood... all the way down to integrating aluminum within the wood in such tight tolerances that it's actually smooth while sliding your finger over it. Very impressive!
Although I was not in the market for a top tier speaker, I'm very much seriously considering purchasing the Nov II speakers. Unfortunately, I was reminded by the wife that our middle daughter is about to get her driver's license and is in need of a car. Still not sure if I made the right call.