“A rare talent indeed”
FOR Big, bold sound; refined and agile; good build AGAINST More analytical alternatives for similar price
High-end Italian speaker specialist Sonus Faber is rightly considered hi-fi aristocracy. Since it was founded in 1983, the company has delivered an array of talented products, quite a few of which have become part of hi-fi legend. These are invariably the company’s top-end models, the no-compromise designs that are as much about luxury build and appearance as they are about the sound.
Yet Sonus Faber also makes more affordable offerings – still premium, but without price tags that could hang off a new car. The Venere range is made up of these, and the S (for Signature) floorstanders are the range toppers.
The nuts and bolts
They are undeniably big, standing a touch over 1.2m high, and are imposing but stylish. The two standard finishes are gloss white and gloss black, but for a £200 premium you can have the walnut option as used on our review sample.
Build quality is good, though not outstanding for the price. Still, we’re impressed with the elegance of the heavily contoured side panels, and the neatness of the finish. We’d have liked the metal plinth to be attached to the speaker’s base with bolts rather than wood screws, but it feels secure enough.
There’s no shortage of drive units here. Alongside the unusually large 29mm softdome tweeter there’s a 15cm dedicated midrange unit and a trio of 18cm bass drivers. Take a closer look and you’ll find plenty of interesting engineering. That dome tweeter is isolated from the front panel to prevent vibrations generated by the larger drivers spoiling its sound. The midrange uses a Curv cone, made from a mix of polypropylene and textile, and used for its mix of rigidity, low weight and damping properties.
The trio of bass drivers are aluminium coned for rigidity and, like the midrange unit, benefit from a die-cast chassis designed to be sturdy and open as possible (for improved airflow). The speaker’s crossover network is carefully calibrated to manage the signal handovers at 250Hz and 2.5khz.
A large-diameter downward-venting port is used to tune the bass, making the Venere S less fussy over placement than rivals with rear-facing designs. In our test room, we simply position the speakers well away from all walls and angle them in slightly towards the listening position.
There is scope to play around with the spike height, which changes the distance between the port and the floor, but results are dependent on the type of floor covering. The Veneres are capable of an impressive amount of bass, so those with smaller rooms should look down the range, or to one of Sonus Faber’s other highly regarded standmounters.
Most speakers at this level demand talented partnering kit and, while their relatively high sensitivity (90 db/w/m) means that you don’t need a muscular amplifier to get room-filling volume levels, the Venere S’s 4ohm nominal impedance and transparent nature mean they’ll reward quality electronics.
We use our reference Naim NDS/555PS streamer and Gamut D3i/d200i pre/ power combination for much of the test, with Linn’s outstanding Klimax DS 3 streamer, Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood turntable and Audio Research GSI75 integrated amp helping out.
Once up and running these are likeable performers. They have a forgiving, full-bodied presentation that works well with a wide range of recordings. Streaming services such as Tidal aren’t the last word in sonic quality, but the choice of music and ease of use make them essential for many people.
Enjoy the music
We listen to A Seat At The Table by Solange Knowles and like what we hear. The Venere S deliver a firmly anchored sonic picture – stable and solid. The passionate but low-key vocals are rendered with fluidity. They’re fullbodied and articulate, but most of all, sound natural. Musically there’s plenty of punch and the speakers convey the changing momentum of the album well.
Sensing the speakers are capable of more, we switch to music stored on our NAS drive. We start with Orff’s Carmina
Burana and enjoy the scale and authority of the performance. We hear huge dynamic swings with no shortage of muscularity, impressive refinement thanks to a sweet and rounded top-end and a pleasing degree of agility. The presentation is organised and retains composure even when the recording becomes difficult – while the results aren’t wholly neutral, we like the unfussy, forgiving tonal balance.
The stereo imaging is stable and nicely layered. It isn’t quite as expansive as some rivals, but remains precise. It’s worth spending some time getting the speaker positioning just right, as this aspect of the performance is strongly dependent on getting that optimised.
Playing The Hand That Feeds by Nine Inch Nails shows that the Venere S can party. There’s plenty of attack, coupled to a surefooted sense of rhythm – an area that Sonus Faber hasn’t always nailed over recent years. This is an exciting and
“This is a performance that gets us past the mechanics of hi-fi and takes us into the realms of just having fun”
entertaining performance – one that gets us past the mechanics of hi-fi and takes us into the realms of just having fun.
These speakers are more about enjoying music than analysing the recordings. The Venere S dig up a good, but not outstanding, amount of detail, but it’s the way they arrange and present it that makes them so appealing.
Rather than get annoyed by the almost demo level of production on Bruce Springsteen’s Terry’s Song we’re taken in by the heartfelt lyrics as the Boss mourns the loss of his friend. These towers spotlight the emotion in his voice and arrange the sparse musical backdrop expertly around it. The impressive level of refinement means that the recording’s hard edges never intrude on things.
It wouldn’t be hard to find an alternative pair of similarly priced floorstanders that dig deeper into the recordings and present the sound, particularly at low frequencies, with even greater precision. There are few, however, that manage to deliver the music in such an appealing manner.
These are speakers that are more likely to have you thinking about the music you’re going to play next rather than the shortcomings of the recording you’re hearing. That’s a rare talent indeed.
The Venere S’s transparent nature means it rewards being partnered with talented equipment
The imposing but stylish Venere S’s come in gloss white, gloss black and wrapped walnut finishes