The cabinet is a thing of beauty. Standing around 35 cm high with an elegant, sweeping boat back the wood finish mixes with some subtle aluminium elements. They are constructed with a nod towards stringed-instrument making techniques. The eight-piece laminated sides are gently bent towards the rear, a bit like the beginning of a spiral, where they are folded asymmetrically to allow a full length slotted port. This is called Stealth Ultraflex system and is vented through aluminium fins to allow the pressure within the cabinet to be released in a controlled way. Each pair of speakers features a left and right version as the ports are mounted slightly to one side of the cabinet’s natural rear apex. It also allows for an extra degree of latitude when tuning the room installation as the port can be sited to either the inside or the outside of the speaker. Connections at the rear are single or bi-wired should you have pre-configured cabling. The mounting plate on the front baffle that carries the twin drivers has another Sonus faber trademark, a real leather surround while the detachable grill has the immediately recognisable thin rubber strands, held under tension by a pair of aluminium curved bars that slot into the baffle.
The slatted-wooden finish speaks directly to the beautiful Italian Riva speedboats for me. It’s another iconic look and a reference that speaks to luxury and endlessly stylish Italian design. To round off the aesthetics the top and bottom plates of the speaker are rimmed with a quite lovely aluminium insert that completes the look perfectly. Overall it’s a very balanced organic, warm, detailed and elegant design. This is continued with the custom aluminium stands. As if Sonus faber would allow the Nova 1 to end up sitting on a crude open-frame metal design! The speakers bolt to the cabinet via two top-plate outrigger extensions and continue down a slim, fluted central pillar with a rear cut-out to hide cables. It feels as though there is some damping material inside, probably sand. The pillar is fitted to a thin baseplate, rimmed in silver and tuned by some superbly finished spikes with full adjustment through a threaded fitting and locked off by a knurled bolt. Floor protectors are also part of the whole package. Visually I think the Nova 1 is stunning and is quite superbly finished with every small detail being delicately and tastefully executed.
The drivers are interesting. The tweeter is a 28 mm silk soft dome that features the Sonus faber DAD technology. Damped Apex Dome is a self-explanatory technique aimed at increasing both extension and smoothness of response by introducing some selective damping to the apex of the dome. A solid aluminium arch across the face of the dome helps regulate phase behaviour. Internally, the motor is powered by a Neodymium magnet.
The mid/bass driver has a new open cage metal chassis and a much longer throw cone formed from a sandwich construction technique using a twin layer of cellulose pulp with what is described as a synaptic foam between them. A fabric-coated dust cap seals the unit.
One of the nice things about this speaker/stand amalgamation is that it is relatively light in weight which makes siting them within your listening room extremely simple. You can make large or micro adjustment quickly and easily. Also good news is the fact that the Nova 1 is extremely forgiving where positioning is concerned. It’s not a speaker that needs much in the way of tiny locational or toe-in changes. I initially placed them in what looks like their natural positions in my listening room and let them run for a few days before looking more closely at fine-tuning. The excellence of that full-length slotted rear port means that they are very, very tolerant of rear-wall proximity. Even at high listening levels it’s hard to feel much air movement through the Ultraflex port which is very different to the compressed air piston that conventional small-speaker round ports usually produce. You can hear this too. I wouldn’t necessarily sit them hard back against a rear wall but a foot or so out will not be a problem and a metre will give them more breathing room. Likewise, they are very forgiving when it comes to their toe-in or the orientation of the port (inside or out). I reckon these are just about the most versatile stand-mounted high-end design I have heard and that’s just one of their notable qualities.
At 87dB efficiency they are happy with some grippy power in their driving amplifier and depending on your particular tastes, I would personally look for an amplifier of no less than 50 watts that wasn’t over-smooth. That tweeter is more than capable of dealing with large doses of high frequency energy and resolving that with very impressive articulation.