Sonus faber is completely Italian, with speakers that look like they were built by a master craftsman. This includes the Sonus Faber mid-range speakers Sonetto. They have a fine reputation as music readers – but how useful are Sonus Faber Sonetto for surround?
Introduction: Sonus Faber Sonetto
The Sonetto family of Sonus faber is not that old yet. It appeared in 2018, and occupies the position just above the older but still available Venere line. We think that ‘just’ is, because the price difference between Venere and Sonetto is not huge. As is often the case with Sonus faber speakers, the Sonettos are often seen (and tested) as speakers for music lovers. Yet they are also really designed for use in a home cinema. Take a look at the line-up and you are immediately convinced. The Sonetto line really includes everything you need to build a surround setup, including multiple choices for each surround position. Believe us, few speaker families let you choose from three floorstanders, two bookshelf speakers, two centers and an on-wall model! The only thing missing in this series are speakers for the height channels. But you can now use the brand new Palladio recessed series, which is also available in exactly the same veneer as the Sonetto. Very interesting for the home theater builder, because by combining the separate Sonetto and the built-in Palladio you get a lot of options to equip your home theater. In this test we focus on a cheaper configuration, consisting of a set of Sonetto III floor stands (1,749 euro / piece), the Center I (999 euro) and a set of Sonetto Wall speakers (999 euro / piece). For the LFE channel, we received a scoop from importer Savor Audio: the new Gravis I subwoofer (849 euros). For this 5.1 set-up you therefore pay slightly more than € 7,300. That is a hefty amount, but for a premium brand like Sonus faber actually still accessible. And you also get something for it.
We often see loudspeakers in the test room that are nicely finished. Yes, even very affordable products, such as the 3000i series from Q Acoustics or the Paradigm Monitor SEs . But the Sonettos are still a few levels higher compared to those entry products when it comes to appearance and finish. You get that impression especially with the absolutely beautiful walnut version of the Sonetto speakers, where the casing seems to consist of a single piece of wood. If you prefer, you can also get any Sonetto model in a satin white or a black gloss finish, which looks tighter and more modern. The same three color choices are also available with the Gravis subwoofer, because it has been explicitly designed to visually match the Sonetto range perfectly.
Another feature of the Sonetto speakers is its distinctive shape, with a wider curved front which tapers to a narrow back through convex sides. Seen from above, you see a vague trapezoid shape that – according to the manufacturer – refers to a lute. That is typical Sonus faber. The same profile also comes back at the Sonetto Center, but viewed from the side. That makes sense, because in the end a center speaker (shortly round the corner) is a loudspeaker lying on one side. While looking at the Sonetto III from above, you can see something that creates a lot of class: the top is made of a beautiful stitched leather, surrounded by the wood of the housing. The Gravis I also has this elegant design element, so you can leave this subwoofer in a visible place for once.
The Sonettos are also very well finished in all other areas. The drivers are mounted without screws in the speakers, encircled by a ring in aluminum with a second black plastic ring around it. At the dometweeter on the Sonetto III there is a large lute-shaped metal surface. The shiny metal makes the whole thing a little less subtle, that’s true, but the contrast with – in particular – the walnut veneer we find pretty. You also always have the option to cover the drivers with the supplied magnetically attached grilles. All Sonettos are designed for bi-wiring / amping, with high-quality terminals.
The convex shape gives the 3-way Sonetto III a very sleek, elegant look. It is very different from the rectangular speakers that we regularly receive for testing. They are therefore more subtle in space, less dominant. A nice feature for people who want to keep their living room a bit more homely seems to us. The Sonetto III floor stand can also be placed almost anywhere. In contrast to many loudspeakers, there is no reflex output at the rear, so keeping a correct distance from the wall is less critical. But: there is a bass port at the bottom. So you really have to put the Sonetto III’s on spikes or a foot, otherwise they sound baseless. Just parking on a full carpet is not a good idea. That would be a problem especially when playing music in stereo, because then the subwoofer in your surround setup normally does not play along.
The Sonetto Wall also surprisingly holds the lute contours of the Sonetto III and Center, but is more extreme in shape. The front is quite wide compared to the back. Separately, especially because only that back side makes contact with the wall. To hang the Wall, you work with a bracket in two parts that is attached to the Sonetto speaker with four screws. It is quite different from the Dali Rubicon LCR speakers that we have fixed in our test room and which hangs against the wall with a big back. Another technical difference: the Sonetto Wall has no bass port at all, while many wall speakers such as the Rubicon LCR have an opening at the back or bottom.
The sleek appearance of the Sonetto III and Wall is missing the Center I. This may be the ‘small’ center in the Sonetto family, but it is actually a relatively big thing. It is especially high at the front and also relatively deep. This certainly has acoustic benefits; a larger cabinet volume makes a center speaker sound fuller and deeper. And we find that very important, given that the crucial center speaker just serves to play voices – and voices already start at 100 Hz. In short, the large format of the Center I is not such a problem. Unless in terms of placement, if you want to place it in front of a TV with a low setting. If the Center I is in its supplied position (which ensures that the convex speaker does not roll away), you still have to count on a height of about 25 cm. The supplied stand also orientates the Center I slightly upwards, which is ideal for placement on a layer of furniture.
Small subwoofer with a lot of kernel
We initially did not request the Gravis I subwoofer, but at the request of the importer of Sonus faber we took him in our test. We are, afterwards, very happy, because this small subwoofer is quite remarkable. There are four Gravis subwoofers, but the difference is not only in size and power. The Gravis I with its closed cabinet and 12 cm woofer with very long stroke that is directed towards the bottom is a bit of an outsider. Both its modest format and the driver orientation to the ground make it very interesting for smaller rooms or rooms where you do not want to give much space to a massive subwoofer. And the Gravis I looks really nice, especially in the walnut version.
Make no mistake: small subs are often cheap subs, but that is not true here. 849 euros is of course not nothing. But especially: the Gravis I is really meant as a better subwoofer. You can connect it to your receiver via a standard LFE connection, but you can also supply amplified signals via a Neutrik 4-pole plug. There are some manufacturers, such as REL, who just recommend this connection because you would get a better time coherence with your other channels. But your receiver must be able to handle it. In a home context, the chances are that you just have to use LFE. Honestly, that’s okay.
Subtle and musical
While the Sonettos were set up, there were relatively many AV receivers in our test room: the Arcam AVR-850 and the Anthem. MX-1120 (of which the test will soon be published). All receivers were always measured with their calibration systems. For a test, we also round off our evaluations with dust from our fixed AV receiver, the Denon AVR-X6300H. In this case that was a bit regrettable, because the Sonetto setup sounded better with both the Arcam and the Anthem than with the Denon receiver (with Audyssey room correction switched on, on ‘Flat’) switched on. We noticed that for example very well with the race in ‘Ready Player One’ (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos) that is stuck in our test arsenal of film fragments. Hard to say why right; we really felt that Audyssey stripped Sonus’s fabers a bit of their character. Although both the Arcam and the Anthem are very burly high-end amplifiers, we do not think that it is located on the Denon amplifier panel. The X6300 is not particularly bad in that area and the tested Sonettos are easy to control (89-90 dB, 4 Ohm).
What was remarkable about the great RPO-fragment the very good reproduction of the rear channels through the wide-angle Sonetto Wall. Certainly in combination with Dirac on the Arcam AVR850 this provided a very rich and detailed surround image behind / next to us. Sonus faber speakers are a bit fresher, and that gives a sense of detail that is really nice. It is remarkable how often we drew our attention to effects in this setup, while they were less noticeable. The soundtrack of Ready Player One is packed with effects that move through space (such as the many autocrashes, the godzilla that wanders through the city and the honking truck in the racial sequence), which really does the wall-hanging Sonettos well.
Recently The Matrix trilogy re-released in a 4K version on Ultra HD Blu-ray. An excellent opportunity to relive the spectacular firefight in the hall of an office building (on the tones of Propellerheads Spybreak) from the first Matrix part. Unfortunately, the surround mix on disc is not as good as in the cinema and in this case it is rather flat and two-dimensional. The Sonettos put the fine details down well, such as the bullet shells falling on the ground and the pieces of concrete splashing from the wall. It also proves again that solid source material is crucial.
Excellent for music
A strength of the Sonettos is their music reproduction. Sonus faber has a strong predilection for a softer, slightly more detailed reproduction, which gives it a pleasant character to listen to longer music. There is a reason why some audiophiles are really fond of the Italian brand. We continue to find a good musical reproduction an important feature, even if you use your surround setup only for movies. The scene from ‘Ready Player One’, in which Art3mis and Parzival dance in a big, holklinkende club gets its strength from the music that is smoothly put down, just like with similar fragments in films like ‘Atomic Blonde’ and ‘Gravity’. That is why we find this match with Arcam and Anthem so successful; these are both brands that adjust their AV receivers to music reproduction.
Is ‘Roma’ running with lots of oscars? If we write this, it is still coffee, but the film by Alfonso Cuaron certainly deserves one for the soundtrack. Amazing? Not if you know that Cuaron is also the creator of ‘Gravity’, but also a high flyer in terms of surrounde effects. It is surprising that Roma (via Netflix, Dolby Atmos via an Xbox One X) is a very different kind of film, totally stripped of all the action. The beauty of the soundtrack is that it is very subtle, with a very rich landscape of city and house sounds that can be heard around you. That is already there from the title sequence, when the floor in the entrance / garage is being cleaned and your buckets are being filled, water flows over the ground and a plane is high in the sky. This is the kind of surround content that the Sonettos feel good about. In terms of timbre, the Sonetto speakers form a beautiful whole, so that the water flows realistically from the front to the back. Cuaron also regularly rotates the camera 360 ° or follow a character, making sounds like barking dogs, playing radios, calling street vendors or chirping birds move through the room. The transition from the Center to the Sonetto III is completely seamless, the Wall is slightly more abrupt – perhaps because this speaker is slightly brighter and slightly more sensitive, and in our opinion actually performs best when the distance to the seat is a bit bigger. is. Putting the levels for the rear channels lower, in our case brings better integration. In our test setup, the Sonetto III’s are slightly closer than the Center I on a piece of furniture; it is good that you check whether the distances are correctly estimated by the measurement system of your AV receiver. That is always the case, but it seems even more important with the Sonettos.
There is one component from this Sonetto set-up that really comes across as strong: the Sonetto Wall. The little conventional form and top finish are good, but it is mainly the audio performance that makes a big impression. The Gravis I subwoofer has also pleasantly surprised us. It is a compact thing, nicely finished, which is very easy to place and performs well for its price. A general plus with all Sonettos is that you can place them almost anywhere. Ideal for smaller spaces, even if you put the Sonetto Wall at a slightly larger distance from you.
The Sonetto range can, in our opinion, work well for a high-quality surround setup. The emphasis is less on spectacle and bombast, but more on refinement and a sense of detail. This gives great satisfaction to films that do not carry the word ‘Transformers’ in the title, but present rich, subtle surround soundtracks.