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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, OSX 10.8.2, PureMusic 1.89a in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192; Audirvana 2.4 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright LS-100 with Psvane tubes, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, TruLife Audio Athena, Bakoon AMP-11R
: First Watt SIT1, FirstWatt SIT2, ModWright KWA100SE
Speakers: Aries Cerat Gladius, Boenicke Aud
io B10, Zu Audio Druid V, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with TT glass shelf, Rajasthani solid hardwood console for amps
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF2
on amps,GigaWatt PC-3 SE Evo on front-end components

Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail: €3.498/pr

When Sonus faber changed ownership, onlookers wondered. Would it mean Krell without Dan D'Agostino? Cary Audio without Dennis Had? Martin Logan without Gayle Sanders? After all, Sonus faber without Franco Serblin at the helm predicted something quite diluted at least on paper. Yet having also acquired Audio Research Corp., Wadia Digital and Sumiko—to which the same Quadrivio SGR private equity firm* managing $300 million in funds would subsequently add McIntosh Labs—there already was an enviable track record of restraint in brand diluting.

* By late November 2012, news spread that US speaker maker Thiel Audio of Lexington/KY had been acquired by a privately held Nashville-based equity firm to continue this theme. One hopes their new owners take a cue from Quadrivio.

In fact Mauro Grange, CEO of the associated holding company Fine Sounds SpA situated in Milan with $70 million in annual revenues, had strengthened all of these makes in his luxury brand portfolio. Not only were there welcome cash and tech infusions but many well-received new products. If anything, their reviews lauded sonic advances, not sorry misfires or gross deviations from expectations.

So rather than apply alter-beyond-recognition tactics which mar so many venture capitalist takeovers, the more enlightened management of Fine Sounds appeared to be acting as benign benefactors. They seemed truly committed to carefully shepherding their illustrious brands through the economically challenging second decade of the 21st century. Real partners then, not Gordon Gecko-type corporate takeover tyrants.

(Taking a page from Devialet's book, the Wadia Intuition 01 introduced at CES 2013 is a 350wpc 1.536MHz upsampling power DAC with 24/192 coax/optical and 32/384 USB inputs, 9018 Sabre engine and two analog inputs.)

But what about the sound? Surely a new team of younger engineers taking over where the older Serblin had left off—one might be surprised that non-compete restrictions didn't prevent him from launching his new Italian loudspeaker company quite so soon—had to change the established sonic recipe? And what about outsourcing production to China as is the case for the Venere range which is named not for veneration but the goddess Venus? What if anything did that have to do with the handcrafter's tradition upon which Sonus faber had been built?

Sonus faber Aida front
Invading price ranges which the previous EU labor rates could not. Anyone assuming some form of associated sell-out should feel assuaged by a quick glance at the Venere range. Cosmetic flair remains prototypical Sonus faber. It borrows directly from the flagship Aida which admittedly was quite the departure for the brand. But that's the challenge and crux in a nutshell. Renewal means respect for the past and change to negotiate the future. It's a task which presently also faces Nagra Audio from which the massive Kudelski Group divested itself in early 2012 to see the division relaunched as Swiss Audio Technology and operated by a new management.

Nagra Jazz
Aida back

What makes a legacy Nagra a Nagra to become required carryover like a three-pointed star on a Merc? Is the true Sonus spirit defined by just leather and wood? What mandates overhauling for either company to become relevant to today's audiences including younger folks?

Starting with its white and black high-gloss finishes
—no leather, Walnut optional—the Venere range by Sonus faber would seem particularly relevant to the latter rather than the pipe'n'slippers or Bentley crowd. Continuing with stickers that make for an easier point of entry into the brand than ever before, the previously reviewed Model 1.5 as the smaller of the two monitors demands €1.250/pr yet looks as though it should cost a lot more. The obvious enabler is designed in Italy/made in China. Here Sonus faber's Hong Kong branch maintains not only a standing presence of Italian woodworkers and designers to assure quality standards, core Sino personnel previously spent time at the Italian Arcugnagno headquarters to absorb company culture, procedures and expectations.

Architectural elements common to the Venere range are 'lute'-shaped cross sections with front baffles broader than their far narrower spines and bulbously curved cheeks; rakish tops with tempered glass inserts which rise upward to the rear; tempered glass plinths for the floorstanders; and slot-loaded front-facing horizontal ports. Another shared element is a deeply inset ovoid waveguide 29mm soft-dome tweeter sourced from Germany's Dr. Kurt Müller aka DKM. The mid/woofers obviously change from smaller to bigger models or double up. In the Model 2.5 floorstander there are two deeply inset 7" units to form a 2.5-way array. The Model 3.0 under review is a 4-driver 3.5-way and the line's top model to set the price ceiling at €3.498. Its lower 7" woofer only partially augments the upper woofer which must run up higher to meet the dedicated 5" midrange which the somewhat shorter Model 2.5 lacks.

For the Venere range, the Sonus faber design team around Paolo Tezzon and Livio Cucuzza has clearly exploited their new resources under Mauro Grange's stewartship to the hilt. The true beneficiary is the end user whose hard-earned money here buys more than is the norm for 2013 standards.