The Nova 1 is one of those speakers that you can listen to for hours and hours without fatigue. They took a couple of days to come on song but when they did, they promptly disappeared. Solo piano often exposes all those small speaker traits that can be irritating. Compression, note-pinching and bleached tonality often combines with the cabinet size to leave the piano itself sounding unsatisfying and just plain small. Not so with the Nova 1 where the general scale and tonal qualities are interesting and impressive. There is also the way in which they actually project the music into the room with such ease and smooth rhythmic movement, meaning the instrument just appears with no congested, miniature tinkling pianos to be found. Close your eyes and you’d be hard pushed to point to where the sound is actually coming from. This broad and deep, relaxed view of the musical perspectives soon became one of the most admirable aspects of the Nova 1 for me and gave me that sense of confidence in the system that, if you don’t have, quickly becomes tiresome and a real barrier to relaxed enjoyment.
Listening to Robbie Robertson’s timeless Music For The Native Americans [Capitol] showed how all the design elements that have been incorporated in the Nova 1 come together musically. This is a broad and deep recording, full of the mystery of the American plains and with an atmosphere of tradition and mysticism. It is full of big, slack-skinned drums and background chants. I have to admit that I wondered if the diminutive Sonus faber would make much of it. I wasn’t disappointed. Lovely deep perspectives and rolling bass filled the room and as I drove the amplifier harder the speaker responded quite beautifully. The rear port works so smoothly, with no chuffing that the response, as the frequencies fall and the transients rise, never found the speaker in trouble at all. It unquestionably adds a great deal of refinement to the sound.
Adding power just made it louder and more imposing, even when the really low sub-drums were beating out their rhythmic message the scaling and clarity of the entire soundstage is very good. That tweeter too is a fine driver, made all the better by the brilliant way the twin drivers function as one. Integration is about as good as I have heard from such a small two-way and as the Robbie Robertson album showed, it’s dramatic and emotionally moving too.
‘Cherokee Morning Song’ with its interwoven vocal chants was spacious and articulate again showing the Nova 1’s interesting presentation. This isn’t a speaker that stuns with pinpoint detailing or needlepoint high frequency shimmer. Instead, these Sonus fabers display the music like a painting and invite you to view the whole where you will find the tweeter working with fine resolution and never drawing attention to itself. But the treble performance is embedded and not sitting atop the mid and bass. Where the Nova 1 is concerned transitional smoothness and the whole musical picture take precedent. Once you are used to their balance you can begin to appreciate the sheer range of colour and tonal nuance that they are capable of that are quite surprising.