We can dance around this, but the Sonus faber Olympica II represents the right answer to an increasingly important question in audio: Can we have style AND substance? The usual answer is to dismiss anything that looks good with a wave of the hand, mumbling something about ‘style over substance’ in the process. The Olympica range makes a strong case for the importance of both.
Let’s face it. In the past, it might have been possible for audio enthusiasts to force their hand and install hideous looking loudspeakers in the living room, but we are living in the 21st Century now, and that insistence seems like something from a bygone age. We live in smaller, more design-led homes, and the notion of a pair of big, angular, and often ugly coffins in an otherwise elegant lounge is increasingly unthinkable. However, tastes vary significantly from country to country, and it’s hard to get this kind of elegance ‘right’ on a truly international level.
Unless the company is Sonus faber. Because Sonus faber seems to make pieces of musical furniture with the sort of timeless, trans-national elegance of a chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, or Mies van der Rohe. In most cases, this would be hyperbole on a grand scale. Except that it isn’t; Sonus faber in general and the Olympica range in particular is an exercise in sublime product design, and that now comes down to Livio Cucuzza, Chief Industrial Designer for Fine Sounds Group.
The Olympica II is Sonus faber’s entry floorstander in its Italian made ranges; the Venere models are built in the East to a high standard and sound great, but that outstanding reputation for making gorgeous pieces of fine wood, leather, and chrome comes from – and remains with – its factory amid the Palladian villas of Vicenza, Italy. And it’s that fine wood, leather, and chrome that draws you into these loudspeakers.
I can’t overstate this enough. Loudspeakers share your living space with you. They need to be as elegant as the furniture you choose to put in that living space. We reviewers tend not to pay too much attention to this key aspect of product design, because – by and large – we’re slobs. Put me in a suit and I look like a potato at a funeral, and my interior design skills more than match my sartorial elegance. Also, the wives of reviewers have to learn to love cardboard boxes, for they frequently fill up rooms, and they often complain it’s like living with a hoarder. But, if we put ourselves in the shoes of real people for a moment, not everyone shares our same lack of pride in domestic life, and some would like their neat, stylish home not to be undermined. The Olympica II goes a long way in meeting the needs of the elegant.