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By the time my broken-in gloss white samples landed, Sonus faber founder Franco Serblin had passed away to mark the end of an era. And Jeff Fritz's UltraAudio review had published. Given the usually upscale focus which his publication's name demands, a Select Component award for the Venere 3.0 was telling. Even a hardcore listener used to costly Magico and Rockport speakers could appreciate this relatively budget Italian, put it into context and find the math and sound convincing. As Jeff reported, the only visual concession to price here are the 4 wood screws rather than T-nutted bolts the owner uses to mount each tempered glass plinth to the enclosure. For this and the next-up price sector, fit 'n' finish were sans pareil. The inlaid glass top was perfectly edged. The front baffle was smoothly radiused. The lacquer was flawless. The back-happy super manageable low mass was the only other giveaway. This elegantly dimensioned rakish speaker did not belong to hifi's Club Overkill where sheer weight so often masks lack of real engineering.

Complete attention to detail was apparent also in the engineered packaging. It was no stouter than required but had perfect-fit foam cradles, a cloth and plastic sleeve over the speaker, a paper cover between baffle and grill, a secure recess for the plinth and another one for the cardboard box with the footers, floor protectors, fluffy polishing cloth and hex key. In short, all the sex appeal of Sonus faber's expertly lit and fastidiously photoshopped stock photography translated in the flesh. Expectations were met head on. My sole surprise was how compact this tallest of the Venere lot looked in person. On the white bodies, the narrow black baffle and upsloping black top compress true width and height. It's cliché but true. Italians do have a flair for foxy style. The 3.0 oozes it from every sealed pore of its shiny skin. Would sonics follow suit or feel like a faux Rolex from China?

To cater to possible power demands, I'd asked permission to hold on to EJ Sarmento's already reviewed mTrio Wyred4Sound separates. Upfront their price and performance had struck me as a perfect match for the incoming Venere. In tandem with my desktop mINT I could even biamp to explore that route. Audiophiles not biwiring/amping or bypassing the metal bridges with short cables—here we must remember that the Venere range aims at normal folks not obsessive over such stuff—will want to insert spade-terminated speaker cables into the upper posts and behind rather than in front of the stock jumpers. This makes for better signal transfer and reserves the 'direct' feed for the more critical midrange/treble units.

Because that's how it was configured when DHL arrived, I did the first sound check with a front-to-back Blue Moon rig of FirstWatt SIT1 monos, Nagra Jazz and AURALiC Vega streaming at 32/352.8kHz via Audirvana 1.4.6 in integer 1 mode. I heard no overt romanticism as early Sonus faber is remembered for. I did hear surprising bass extension without overripe port contributions. I heard good but not extreme resolution. I heard an attractive balance between warm tone density and good timing for articulated rhythmic impulses that didn't suffer dust or blur. Uptown looks were accompanied by a super friendly demeanor.

Coming off the ultra-responsive, gushing, meaty yet air-enveloped widebander-plus-ribbon soundkaos Wave 40 tonewood speakers, this sound seemed trained for a bit more comfort than race track. I'd first let the speakers settle into my wildly overpriced context for a few days, then reshuffle gear to find both an optimal price and sonic match. I was thinking Eximus DP1 into the mAMP monos via balanced cables; mINT solo with Cambridge Audio iD100 digital iPod dock; the mTRIO; and finally mINT + mAMPs.