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March 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Superior Audio Equipment Review

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers
These are immensely sexy speakers with the build quality, and attention to detail, that you would expect on an Italian sports car.
Review By Dean Cacioppo

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers Review

 

  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 Floorstanding Speakers Review

 

 

Sonus faber Nova II Design And Specs
The Nova II is the smallest floorstander (they have a III, IV, and V) in the Olympica Nova Collection.  Sonus faber's Nova II is a three-way speaker that uses a 28mm (a little over an inch) silk dome tweeter, a Sonus faber designed 150mm (about 6") midrange driver and a Sonus faber designed 180mm (7") woofer. They go down to all but the last octave, with a frequency response of 40Hz to 35kHz.

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers Review

 

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 Nova II Floorstanding Speakers Review

 

 

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.

 

 

First Impressions
The instant that the Nova II's were connected it was abundantly clear that my unsubstantiated idea of what Sonus faber speakers sounded like was dead wrong. This is a serious speaker. I'm a midrange guy and the Sonus fabers have the midrange right, strikingly noticeable with the first notes of Dianna Krall's "Peel Me a Grape". I was immediately impressed with a very pleasing and listenable tonal balance, large soundstage and a room pressurizing bottom end. The overall tonality of the Nova II speakers were a little laid back but not dark. I was not expecting this level of bass response in such a large room with a 60 Wpc tube amp. At this point, the speakers were only rudimentarily positioned. Over a day or so of moving them around it was easy to notice a great off-axis response, throwing a big fat image with little need to sit in the "sweet spot".

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

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers

 

Positioning Sonus faber's Nova II Loudspeakers
Room interaction is a critical aspect of how a speaker will perform. As previously mentioned, the mirror image floorstanders provide an option of setting the speakers up with the ports facing inward or outward, while keeping the midrange and tweeter perfectly inline. All rooms will have standing waves that affect the bottom end and reversing the speaker's port direction changed that interaction. Although I spent hours trying to find the perfect setup for the Nova II's in my room, I can say that the Sonus fabers provide a lot of flexibility with room placement. Never did I put them in a position where they did not impress. The accurate off-axis response let the speakers keep their tonality even when not directly pointing at the listener. I can see the Nova II's working out well in scenarios where, for whatever reason, proper speaker placement is not available or exact.

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.

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers

 

Running Through The Standards
About the only downside to reviewing audio equipment (it's such a grueling job) is that I have to listen to much of the same music over and over. If I truly want to compare any new piece of gear, I have to compare it to music that I am intimately familiar with and have heard on countless systems. So up until now, I have been forced to run through the standards to get a feel for the Nova II speakers. How they stand up, what are their strengths and weaknesses?

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.

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers

 

Switching Amplification
Up until now, Sonus faber's Nova II speakers have been being powered by an Audio Research Classic 60, which is a 6550 based, push-pull vacuum tube amplifier that operates in triode. At 60 Watts per channel of valve power, I thought it would be nice to try some solid-state amplification with more raw power. I had just received the Kinki Studio EX-M1+ (review forthcoming) which is a solid-state integrated amplifier pushing out a powerful 215 Watts per channel at 8 Ohm and 350 Watts per channel at 4 Ohm. Connecting the substantially more powerful solid-state amp to the Nova II's showed that these speakers just sound good.

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.

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers

 

Look And Feel Of The Sonus Faber Nova II
Considering my previous unsubstantiated opinion of Sonus faber speakers - before talking about the striking beauty of these speakers, I felt it necessary to discuss their impressive sonics. Truth is, the Sonus faber Nova II floorstanders would be a great speaker even if they looked like a turd. The good news being these are immensely sexy Italian speakers, with the build quality and attention to detail to match, this is what you would expect from an Italian sports car. From the beautiful handcrafted woodwork and ergonomically functional speaker terminals to the hand-applied leather, there's no doubt Sonus faber's Nova II speakers are both stylish and sophisticated.

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!

 

Sonus Faber Nova II Floorstanding Speakers

 

Conclusion
The Sonus faber Nova II is a serious audiophile speaker that I would put against anything in the $10,000 per pair price range. Although you may find a comparably priced speaker that outshines the Novas in one particular area, these Italian beauties are very good in all critical aspects. Thus they are a very well rounded speaker system for both music lovers and audiophiles. They get the all-important mid-range right, while also providing a deep and articulate soundstage. Unlike many high-end speakers, these look great within your room and have an abundance of flexibility when it comes to placement. They show off the sonic attributes of your chosen amplification to drive them, while also being a little forgiving. Sonus faber's Nova II floorstanders breathe life into even mediocre recordings too.

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.

 

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Specifications
Type: Three-way, full para-aperiodic vented box "Stealth Ultraflex" floorstanding loudspeaker
Drivers
  Tweeter: H28 XTR3 28mm silk dome
  Midrange: M15 XTR2-04 150mm made of traditional cellulose pulp and natural fibers
  Woofer: W18XTR2-04 180 mm lightweight 'sandwich' cone driver
              High-tech syntactic foam core and two external surface skins of cellulose pulp.
Crossover: Jantzen inductors and Sonus faber capacitor designed in partnership with Clarity Cap. Crossover Frequencies: 250 Hz and 2500 Hz
Frequency Response: 40 Hz to 35 kHz
Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m
Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohm
Suggested Amplifier Power: 50 to 250 Watts without clipping
Dimensions: 40.8" x 14.2" x 16.6" (HxWxD)
Weight: 67.6 lbs each
Available Finishes: WENGE matte or WALNUT matte
Price: $10,000 per pair

 

 

Company Information
Sonus faber S.p.A
Via A. Meucci, 10
36057 Arcugnano (VI)
Italy

Voice: +39 0444 288788
E-mail: info@sonusfaber.com 
Website: www.SonusFaber.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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