Sonus faber Venere 2.5 Speaker System Page 2
Even after break-in, it’s clear that this new Sonus system has been voiced for a new generation’s sonic tastes; that is, at least if you subscribe to the classic stereotypes. If the big, expensive Sonus speakers veer toward the sweetness and delicacy audiophiles prefer, the Veneres exhibit a smooth but slightly forward tonal balance. In my room, the 2.5s did not produce a great deal of deep bass. Combine that with a slight upper mid/high-frequency projection, and clearly, to fully balance the sound, you need to carefully engage a subwoofer—one like the REL T-7 that allows a direct injection from the amplifier taps along with the LFE line-level signal. The pre/pro’s channel-leveling test tone demonstrates the center’s more forward balance, and I found it better to drop the center level a few decibels from what the SPL meter said.
So configured and carefully balanced, this system sounded both creamy-smooth and quite capable of rocking out! I watched Paul McCartney’s performance of “The End” at last year’s Grammys on D-VHS tape. It’s become a benchmark for me. First off, this system produces a notably big sonic picture, especially the Venere Center. Abe Laboriel’s
kick drum had both forward thrust and texture, and it shook my large living room—as it should in a stadium, while McCartney’s voice was cleanly rendered and the electric guitars (Broooce, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl, and Sir Paul) had appropriately wiry bite. The overall sound on this track compared more than favorably with the far more expensive McIntosh system I recently reviewed (Home Theater, June 2012).
I watched, among other films, the talky, sexually creepy, and critically underappreciated J. Edgar and found that the Venere Center rendered dialogue with great clarity while avoiding overly crispy sibilants. While far more expensive center speakers can deliver more texturally nuanced dialogue with greater in-room believability, the Venere Center avoided the lumpy congestion and nasality that some modestly priced centers exhibit. The Center was good enough to forget.
Back to music, the PBS broadcast of the Carole King/James Taylor special recorded at The Troubadour in Los Angeles again demonstrated the 2.5’s superb clarity, transient cleanliness, and freedom from distracting colorations. The piano’s attack was more or less correct, being only slightly on the hard side, which is preferable to soft and rhythmically mushy, while Taylor’s guitar and the drummer’s rimshots and cymbals were subtly and pleasingly accentuated. While Taylor’s vocals had a slightly accentuated sibilance on this soundtrack, the balance of mouth and body was nearly ideal and produced a believable presentation.
Here, as with the McIntosh system, the designers chose to moderate the lower-frequency extension, but the system’s size means it can produce impressive dynamics no small two-way box can manage. The subwoofer is then used to supplement the lowest octaves. The new, treated, silk-dome tweeter’s subjectively wide, smooth dispersion produces a coherent, room-filling, three-dimensional bubble free of speaker-localizing beaming.
The system can play loud without strain, produces wide dynamics, and as I discovered when my significant other forced me to turn it down late one night, sounds clean and uncongested at very low SPLs. Arguably, it attains even greater transparency, coherence, and tonal balance at low levels—not that it’s anything less than impressive when cranked for sound-effects-heavy movies.
Stunning looks, superb build quality, superior fit and finish, and impressive sonics combine here to produce an affordable speaker line that lives up to Sonus faber’s reputation for stylish industrial design and sophisticated highresolution sound.
If you like sound that’s soft, warm, and on the lush side, the Venere’s balance might not appeal, but if you prefer clean, taut, and detailed—in the same mold as the big McIntosh system as I recall it but for a great deal less money—this is an exciting and musically convincing must-hear system.
The 2.5’s 6-ohm impedance and rated 89-dB efficiency should make it a relatively easy speaker to drive even with a low-powered A/V receiver, but given its revealing balance, driving it with cheap electronics might not produce the desired results. As with many smaller speakers, the stand-mounted 1.5’s rated 85-dB sensitivity means it will require more power to perform at its best. Driven by my Parasound Halo A 51 five-channel amp, the speakers clearly lived up to their full sonic potential. The better the electronics, the better the Venere system will likely sound.
OK, admittedly $4,500 is not chump change (almost $5,500 with the REL subwoofer), but only a chump could look, touch, and listen to this system and conclude it wasn’t a remarkable value. It will be music-listening and movie-watching time and money well spent. Highly recommended.