The loudspeaker features Sonus faber’s 28mm silk fabric dome tweeter that uses the company’s ‘Arrow Point’ Damped Apex Dome technology… but this time connected to the tweeter horn by three points instead of two, to hark back to the originals. This tweeter sits in a wooden rear acoustic chamber of its own, which is just visible from the rear port (bring a torch!). The 180mm mid-woofer is unique to the design, using a cellulose pulp cone with a matching dust cap instead of a phase plug. It uses a cabinet made from 25mm thick sheets of solid walnut, with three constrained damping layers.
As with all modern Sonus faber loudspeakers, the crossover comes in for special treatment. It uses the company’s patented anti-resonant Paracross technology, which is claimed to optimise phase and amplitude response “for optimal space/time performance”. This bristles with high-grade components, such as non-polarising capacitors from Clarity Cap and low-resistance inductors from Jantzen. The two drive units cross over at 2.5kHz.
You are almost immediately aware that you are in the presence of Italianate luxury with the Electa Amator III, arguably even more so than its predecessor from the 1980s. The puffy cheeks of the side panels of the Amator II are now removed to the leather-finished front baffle, and the rear driver is replaced by a rear port, but the basic layout remains almost identical. The additional luxury touch is the 30mm thick Carrara marble base plate (which echoes the marble base plate of the Amator III stand) and this is delineated from the Walnut side and top by a thin sheet of brass (similar in colour to the Sonus faber front logo and the bi-wire rear panel). In less design-capable hands this marbled base could look tacky, but here it just drips elegance. Yes, it means the Amator III isn’t going to fit snugly into some chintzy shag-pile throwback of a home, but if you own an Eames lounge chair and it doesn’t look out of place, the Amator III fits perfectly. A convex grille is also available for those who don’t like the look of drive units.
Like its predecessors, the Electa Amator is designed to be relatively easy to drive, with an 88dB sensitivity and a nominal impedance of four ohms. This is more about quality than quantity and a good amplifier will drive these speakers well, rather than calling on a noted powerhouse. Curiously, Sonus faber recommends the speakers and the listener each sit at the vertices of an equilateral – rather than isosceles – triangle. This makes for a very near-field listening position, but in fairness it works. The more commonplace isosceles triangle (with the listener at the apex and the loudspeakers at each base vertex) works too, but in fairness to Sonus faber I tried the equilateral positioning and it worked better. This does need a room where there can be a good metre or so from the rear and side walls, and similar behind the listener’s head, but the performance is well suited here.
The loudspeaker harks back to past glories in a hint of old-school Sonus faber warmth; there’s a silken refinement to the midrange and upper registers that really brings out the richness and sublime nature of voices and acoustic instruments. Sonus faber was always really good at making a violin sound beautiful and there is no change here; Ruggiero Ricci’s violin playing on Paganiniana [Water Lily LP] is never less than sonorous and precise, but here takes on a masterful quality. In truth, I’m a bit ‘hot and cold’ on this album; it’s beautifully recorded but so close mic’d it rarely lets the musicianship shine through. Here, however, the beauty of the recording, the tonality of the instrument and the quality of the playing all meet in between the loudspeakers. This kind of sound is classic-era Sonus faber, but with more tonal accuracy and modern-day speaker honesty to keep going in today’s world, meaning that violin sounds more like a violin and less like the sonic equivalent of a masterly oil painting of a violin.