One of the most hackneyed phrases in audio reviewing is, “My wife, who does not comment on such things, said…”. It’s usually accompanied by a proclamation of how wonderful something sounds. My wife, however, frequently comments on the look – and, perhaps tellingly, almost never the sound – of audio products. And it’s rarely positive. She might not be the world’s most talented interior decorator, but has a keen eye for ‘ugh’. Those positive utterances are rare, especially when it comes to loudspeakers that ‘clutter up the room’. So, when the Sonus faber Olympica I rocked up, the best I could hope for was no comment. Instead, they got a “these look nice.”
It might not sound like much, it might not be the most shining aesthetic praise heaped on a pair of loudspeakers, but this terse comment from Domestic High Command is the equivalent of Royal Warrant (or at least, a Royal Pardon) chez Sircom.
It’s not hard to see why. Sonus faber has long since been the one of the few bringers of Italian elegance and style to the audio world, and this best-dressed standmounted two way is no exception. That medium gloss cabinet finish (in walnut or graphite) with contrasting leather top-plate, gentle backwards tilt and black strung stand is an exercise in restrained elegance in its own right. However, this is topped off by the asymmetric lyre-shape of the cabinet and the chrome-plated vent (more accurately, an aperiodic or as Sonus faber puts it, ‘paralaminar stealth flow’ vent) cover along the rear of one side of the speaker. It’s as elegant beneath the surface with solid walnut bracing internally. It’s a more refined design that fits well into the sort of elegant homes where a high-end loudspeaker should look appropriate, rather than the piano gloss and chrome loudspeaker-as-statement of products like the Guarneri Evolution and the Amati Futura. If these are the shiny new Pagani on display in the driveway, the Olympica I is the understatedly elegant 1960s Maserati you keep under cover in the garage.