Sonus faber Olympica
All about the new Sonus faber Olympica loudspeaker system at Totally Wired.
It's a pleasure and a privilege to sell Sonus faber speakers but it's even better to own them. There's nothing like the sensual onslaught that comes with unpacking these speakers - the unique aroma of Italian leather and walnut. The sheer quality of design and manufacture is made obvious the first time you handle them. The included literature is inspiring, informative and an intrinsic part of the pride of ownership package that comes with every pair of Sonus fabers.
But most of all, Sonus faber speakers are about making music and there is no other speaker that does exactly what these do - other brands might be compared but at best they may only match an isolated aspect of the sound. Nothing comes close to the all round capabilities of the best of the Sonus faber range.
The new Olympica series is pure Sonus faber. Hand crafted in Italy from the finest materials these are heirlooms rather than consumer goods. It's obvious that not everyone will make the investment in these - even though the Olympica range is effectively the affordable series when compared to their most ambitious projects.
There is a direct line of development from the first Sonus faber model we really fell in love with - the Signum - back in 2000, through the Cremona series and their upgraded M versions, to the new Olympica I.
Yet the Olympica is much more than an upgraded Cremona M - there is not one part in common. The cabinet, while similar in dimensions and capacity, is completely revised. The new porting scheme is radically different and quite probably makes the greatest improvement to performance.
If you know a little about loudspeaker design you'll understand that most designs are ported - they use a tube to vent the cabinet allowing the bass driver to move in a reasonably controlled fashion - the theory being that this will give you more bass and efficiency from a smaller cabinet than a sealed box design would. Many previous Sonus faber models have worked this way and just about every speaker designer will claim that they have got porting down to a fine art, and that their scheme is as good as it gets. Until you start to explore other ways of doing things - this is where it gets interesting.
The Olympica cabinet hides what they call the Stealth Ultraflex which may or may not be a translation from the original Italian - this is a unique venting scheme that tips a hat to some of the classic solutions originally applied to loudspeaker design and then runs further with the aid of better construction techniques, CAD and material technologies. The detail isn't actually on the Sonus faber website but appears in a beautifully produced booklet that accompanies the speakers.
Rather than a port, the Olympica breathes through a narrow folded cabinet - while you can see the vertical slot on the rear side of the speaker, this is just the exit. Careful attention has been paid to the distribution and type of damping used within the cabinet and the actual slot is further damped with a perforated stainless steel grid. Each pair of Olympicas are mirror imaged so it is possible to have these opening facing either inside or outside to further fine tune the sonic performance to any room.
We've seen isolated elements of the Stealth Ultraflex used before (Shahinian being an obvious example) but nothing that remotely approaches the comprehensive and finely executed design that Sonus faber deliver. The actual sonic results are remarkable - the Cremona Auditor is no slouch in terms of proving that small speakers can deliver real bass but the Olympica I betters the Cremona in every part of its performance by a wide margin - the bass is at once faster, deeper, more controlled and detailed.
The differences between the Olympica and Cremona models are magnified as you move up the range from the stand mount to the full floor standing models. As you might imagine, the greater bass capabilities of a larger speaker can be more greatly improved by the unique venting system and drivers. For the moment we'll concentrate on the smallest model as this is where we have the most direct experience.
We've owned and enjoyed Cremona Auditor M for the last 6 years. They replaced Shahinian Arcs - which, while we may have fond memories of, seem hopelessly primitive by comparison. The Auditors were a superb all round speaker - capable of making almost any music or component sound good. Everything we like about them holds true even with the introduction of a replacement model.
So the Olympicas went straight into a situation where we were perfectly happy with what we had. Yet the scale of improvement is nothing short of remarkable - we expected some refinement, but what we got was a revelation.
Franco Serblin founded Sonus faber and his inspiration lives on, but the new owners - the Fine Sounds group - have provided resources and impetus to take Sonus faber places that Franco could only have dreamed of - the Aida and new Extrema models are inspirational and the work involved in producing these has direct benefits to the design and manufacture of the Olympica range - they are built in the same factory by the same people.
The Olympica 1 delivers sound quality that both belies their size and fully justifies their price - most full sized speakers will fall well short of their expansive room filling capabilities - indeed, like all Sonus fabers the Olympica benefits greatly from space and will bloom fully when given ample room to breathe. The sound staging is more like a landscape. You can put the Olympicas on shelves - and they will sound better than any other speaker of the same size. However, if you can get them out from the walls on their dedicated stands you'll find this how they will do all that they promise. The stands are very much part of the package and while you are free to experiment with other types, we'd suggest that Sonus faber have a few clues and the stands are more than just an aesthetic design exercise - they really do contribute to the sound that they would love you to hear.
One thing we do understand is that everyone needs to be comfortable with what they choose to spend - All of the musical goodness of the Olympicas, the handcrafting and premium materials do translate to make this a significant investment. You shouldn't feel shortchanged if the other new Sonus faber range - the Venere series is better suited to your budget - they may be less than one quarter the cost for the similarly proportioned Olympica but are still very much Sonus fabers. And much of what we have written about the Olympica could equally apply to the Venere - likewise we can say that if you like the Veneres you'll be completely smitten with the Olympicas.
Matching the Olympica need not be a challenge - there would be very few systems that won't sound dramatically better with these speakers. Being a comparatively simple two way speaker, the Olympica presents a benign load for most amplifiers and the generous efficiency means high power ratings aren't required. That said we think there are some system qualities that will really play to the Olympica's strengths. Detail is the key - the more information you can throw at these speakers, the greater the advantage they have. The latest generation of digital components deliver layer upon layer of subtleties from recordings that you might well think you know well - the first time we heard Olympicas at home, it was like having a new music collection.
Given this was with the new Quad Vena amplifier makes the Olympica an even more remarkable speaker - the Vena is obviously a very good little amplifier performing well beyond its $1300 price, but as a combination it was better than anything we've every heard at almost any level. There was simply more music in every sense - even when playing from Carolijn's iphone via bluetooth. The Olympica is a unique speaker that makes music of all types, from all sources sound better. Many 'hifi' speakers seem to do the opposite, forcing you into a spiral of constant dissatisfaction. Olympica is the antidote.
How good a system you want to partner the new Sonus fabers is up to you - as we've pointed out, they will deliver amazing sound quality with a well designed modern and modestly priced amplifier. By the same token, if you do choose a better source and amplifier, the Olympicas will allow these to work to their full potential. NuPrime amplifiers sound sublime with any Sonus faber model. The very best of the NZ made amplifiers - Pure Audio - provide a perfect match with a mix of ideal power, zero noise and maximum detail. Analogue or digital, it's all music and outside of even more expensive Sonus faber models, we know of no better sounding speaker. Choice of Walnut or Black finish. For Piano Lacquer Black finish ask us for pricing.
Olympica 1 NZ$ 9,995 the pair
Olympica 1 stands NZ$ 2,495 the pair
Olympica 2 floor standing speakers NZ$ 18,495 the pair
Olympica 3 NZ$ 23,995 the pair
Olympica Center NZ$ 9,695 each
Olympica Center stand NZ$ 1,795 each
Sonus faber catalogue
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