Since the announcement at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 of the new range of Olympica speakers from Sonus faber, the Nova, have offered an intriguing glimpse of the future direction of this famous Italian company. Since the brand was founded in 1983 Sonus faber speakers have made their name through their fabulously elegant cabinets, as well as higher-end models being named after great violin makers (like Stradivarius or Guaneri) or Italian locations associated with musical history, such as Cremona.
Franco Serblin, the founder of the company, left in 2006 to explore new loudspeaker designs and sadly passed away in 2013. But Sonus faber continued under new ownership. Sonus faber is an important part of the McIntosh Group and recently seems to have re-committed the brand to the original high-end concept of ultra-stylish Italian design. These new speakers are made in Vicenza in Italy and not in China, as has been the case with some of the brand’s lower-priced designs. There’s certainly a distinct flavour to any Sonus faber speaker. The house sound has always been very smooth, relaxed and detailed with superb driver integration, and of course the allure of those wooden cabinet designs. I couldn’t help but wonder if the new Nova range was going to continue that trend or perhaps evolve into something sharper and tonally challenging. I chose the smallest speaker in the Nova range, the 1, a stand-mounted twin driver design. It’s a classic, simple configuration that I have always admired and reviewed many, many times over the years as most manufacturers have one in their range.
People buy stand-mounted speakers for many reasons but obviously the convenience of size is often the main decider. Also, like me, they love their speed and focussed detail which often brings perspectives and views of the music and the soundstage that are very different to the floor standing alternatives that are more room-dominant and can often sound slow and even ponderous in comparison. Obviously there are always going to be limitations to any small stand-mount but the good ones are always full of surprises and musical delights that can only really succeed if the drivers are of superlative quality, incorporated into a thoughtfully designed cabinet and crossover. They will usually have a port and this too needs to really work with the music and not just be there for a bit of extra bass weight. All of these areas have been addressed in the Nova 1.