The specs suggest a more challenging load than average; sensitivity is a relatively normal 87dB, but impedance is low at four Ohms. In the real world, the Sara S will most likely flourish with a powerful amplifier, a fact confirmed by both distributor and manufacturer.
Build and finish are to a high standard; not luxurious, but professional that’s for sure. You do not need to stick with bare plywood baffles, as there are also high gloss paint finishes and alternative veneers, with and without visible ply on front and back. What you will see on the rear is an aluminium reflex port in the business: a nice aesthetic and mechanical touch.
The Sara S proved to be something of a challenge to set‑up. My room is three and a half metres wide but quite long; it’s the ground floor of a late Victorian house with the walls knocked through. Usually, I have no problem with bass and the use of damping has ironed out issues further up the band. The Penaudio, however, proved that there will always be exceptions, because no matter how far from the walls I put them the bass was overblown on certain tracks, essentially those with a lot of low frequency energy. I asked Sami about this and he was also perplexed, stating that, “Usually Sara S’s bass response is pretty flat and in my opinion more less than too much bass overall”.
The bass was only an issue with certain pieces, however; notably Patricia Barber’s ‘A Touch of Trash’ [Modern Cool, Premonition), which has a double bass on it that really kicks off with this speaker. It is probably an unfortunate clash of natural resonances between reflex port (39Hz) and room. The majority of the music I played worked well, very well in fact, and the only hint of the issue was a slight warmth to the mids and lows that worked well with the music, making other speakers seem a bit lean. The first piece to prove as much was Gregory Porter’s ‘No Love Dying’ [Liquid Spirit, Blue Note], where the piano had real body and tonal depth, while the voice was simply superb – the overall effect being truly tactile. It inspired me to play more of the album, which offered up saxophone tone that was equally inspiring. This showed that the amount of space these speakers manage to reveal is quite remarkable.
John Campbell’s ‘Down in the Hole’ [Howlin Mercy, Elektra] is a pretty bass heavy track, yet it didn’t set off the issues encountered above. Instead, it revealed the velvet texture of voice and bass line heard with Gregory Porter with clarity and depth. Further listening also revealed a sparkling treble that did wonders for small bells and other high notes.
Haydn’s piano sonatas as interpreted by Jean‑Efflam Bavouzet [Piano Sonatas Vol 1, Chandos] revealed the almost imperceptible sound of his fingers hitting the surfaces of the keys to an extent that is very rare. It also exposed how fluent a player Bavouzet is in this musical presentation. This recording can sound mean with many speakers, but the Sara S brought it to life and revealed why the CD had appealed so much when I bought it. It’s unusual for a fast speaker to have a warm balance, but that is what Sami has achieved with Sara S.
With a bit more listening it became clear that this is a highly resolute loudspeaker with a relaxed and effortless delivery. It is also rhythmically coherent; not perhaps as fast as the best, but easily the match of rhythmically subtle pieces such as The Legendary Marvin Pontiac’s ‘Small Car’ [Greatest Hits, Strange & Beautiful Music]. This is a piece I’m familiar with, yet one that offered up the contrapuntal nature of its backing in full effect on this occasion. It combines marimba, brass, drums, and bass that don’t usually offer up the tonal colours that they should do, but here all are revealed and played with considerable skill by some great musicians. It’s a fine arrangement, rather better than I had formally appreciated, in truth. Moving on to orchestral material, the Sara S continued to reveal its strengths, this time by revealing the space around the musicians and allowing the music to breath. The Allegretto from the 7th Symphony in John Eliot Gardiner’s Beethoven The Symphonies box set (Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Archiv) was delivered with all the suppressed energy and restraint that gives it its power – the tempo being perfectly revealed and the plucked notes of the double basses standing proud. A baroque chamber piece produced pinpoint, but not etched, imaging; notes are rounded but precise, which means that even the highest have body to them. It’s a great balance and one that clearly suits acoustic recordings well.