High end Italian speaker specialist Sonus Faber is rightly considered hi-fi aristocracy. Since it was founded in 1983, the company has delivered an impressive array of talented products, a few of which have become part of hi-fi legend.
Invariably, these have been 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 (short for Signature) floorstanders are the range toppers.
These are undeniably big, standing a touch over 1.2m high. They are imposing, but stylish with it.
The two standard finishes are gloss white and gloss black, but pay a £200 premium on the price we’ve quoted and you can have the walnut option as used on our review sample.
The build quality is pleasing, though equal to most of the serious contenders we see at this price.
Still, we’re impressed with the elegant way the company has engineered the heavily contoured side panels, and the neatness of the finish.
It would have been nice if the metal plinth was attached to the speaker’s base with proper bolts rather than the wood screws, but the result is secure enough. We’re not sure how it’d cope with multiple reassemblies, though.
There’s no shortage of drive units here. Alongside the unusually large 29mm soft dome 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 evidence of interesting engineering. That dome tweeter is isolated from the front panel to prevent any vibrations generated by the larger drivers spoiling its sound, while the midrange uses a Curv cone topped off with a phase plug.
Curv is a mix of polypropylene and textile, and is used for its combination of rigidity, low weight and damping properties.
The trio of bass drivers are all aluminium coned for rigidity and, like the midrange unit, benefit from a die-cast chassis designed to be sturdy and as 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-firing port is used to tune the bass. This makes the Venere S less fussy over placement than rivals with rear-firing designs.
Positioning of the speakers is straightforward. Simply keep them 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 the results are dependent on the type of floor and covering you have.
The Veneres are big speakers, capable of an impressive quantity of bass, so those with smaller rooms would do better looking further down the range or to one of Sonus Faber’s highly regarded standmounters.
Any speakers at this level demand talented partnering equipment and these towers are no different.
While their relatively high sensitivity of 90dB/W/m means that you don’t necessarily need a muscular amplifier to get room-filling volume levels, the 4ohm nominal impedance and a transparent nature means they’ll reward quality electronics.
We use our reference Naim NDS/555 PS streamer and Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power combination for much of the test, with the likes of Linn’s outstanding Klimax DS 3 streamer, Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood turntable and the soon to be reviewed Audio Research GSi75 integrated amp helping out.
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Once up and running these are immensely 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.
We listen to A Seat At The Table by Solange Knowles and like what we hear. The Venere S delivers a firmly anchored sonic picture – stable and solid. Solange’s passionate but low-key vocals are rendered with fluidity.
They’re full-bodied 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, and volume levels rise. 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 even when the music becomes busy.
It’s certainly worth spending some time getting the speaker positioning just right, as this aspect of the performance is strongly dependant 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 here coupled to a surefooted sense of rhythm.
This is a pleasant surprise as this is an area that Sonus Faber hasn’t always nailed over recent years.
This is an exciting and entertaining performance – one that gets us past the mechanics of hi-fi and takes us into the realms of just having fun.
The more we listen, the more it strikes us that these speakers are much more about enjoying music than they are about 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 or the flaws in the system being played.
That’s a rare talent indeed.
See all our Sonus Faber reviews