Sonus faber Olympica @ World Of McIntosh NYC
Last year I took a tour of World Of McIntosh, a very impressive five-story luxury townhouse in the Soho neighborhood of downtown New York City. World Of McIntosh is an amazing place, packed with working audio systems featuring gear from McIntosh, Sonus faber, Pro-Ject Audio Systems, Audio Research, and more.
This luxurious space is used as an event space, for invitation only audio tours, and for anything else one who wants to use a space "where music and design are merged in a way that's striking, memorable, and undeniably enjoyable". While I was there last year I didn't take a dip in their heated indoor swimming pool, which is one of only 11 privately owned pools located in NYC, or watch any films on their 160" projection screen, but I did hear some great music on a number of audio systems, and even had time for a latte in their custom-built fully functioning kitchen.
Last month I was again invited to World Of McIntosh townhouse, this month to hear the newest Sonus faber product line, their Olympica Nova, which, according to Sonus faber updates their older models with new crossovers and drivers, new cabinet structures, and internal volume tuning. Of course, these speakers were also redesigned in the cosmetics department, and feature a new look. Besides on Sonus faber's website, you can read about them in Enjoy the Music.com's RMAF 2019 pre-show report, and those who were fortunate enough to attend this audio show were also able to hear them, too!
There are many who will testify to having a great time hearing new audio products at shows. But those who got to hear them at RMAF 2019, for example, had to do so under show conditions, which although are set up to the exacting standards of the audiophiles in charge, there are many advantages to hearing those products in a home setting. I was not only lucky enough to hear them in a home setting but set up in this fine luxury townhouse outfitted with not only amazing associated equipment, but amazing surroundings!
I've been following Sonus faber for years, since the turn of the century, in fact, and even back then I would rhapsodize over their beautiful Italian design. Around that time I even convinced my brother-in-law to purchase the pair of mid-priced Sonus faber speakers that I had just finished reviewing! But these newer speakers in their Olympica Nova are something else completely. Their fit and finish is light years finer than the pair I reviewed so long ago, and even finer than some much more recent samples I've had the pleasure of hearing.
During my audition of the new Sonus faber Olympica Nova line, I didn't get to hear their in-wall speakers or their center speaker, as we only listened to two-channel audio set-ups. Which was fine with me. I was very impressed with all of them, from the smallest model, the Olympica Nova I ($6500 per pair) to the largest in the line, the Olympica Nova V ($16,500 per pair).
While I was there, I asked my host the very cordial and knowledgeable Josh Dillinger what my chances were if I asked (begged?) to receive a review pair of the large Olympica Nova V. I thought it would match the best with my room and my associated equipment. But to tell you the truth, during our audition of the entire Olympica Nova line I was most impressed with the much smaller stand-mounted Olympica Nova I! On them we heard high-resolution digital files via Qobuz, through an all tube, all Audio Research system, other than the Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra as to receive the signal from Josh's tablet. This included the Audio Research DAC digital converter, VT80SE power amp, and the LS28 preamp.
As we streamed the hit written by Bill Withers, "Ain't No Sunshine" form José James' latest album Lean On Me, it was as if his vocals were there. Vocals were magically centered between the two speakers. Yes, these were small speakers, there was no subwoofer in the system, and yet it was as if the extremely well-appointed room we were in disappeared. The vocals possessed a humanity that I've rarely heard in any speaker at any price. And yet there they were, supported by his backup band of acoustic guitar, Hammond B3, percussion, bass and drums, which all sounded amazing through these speakers!
But it was the vocals that captivated me, and as we traveled through the other rooms at McIntosh House. The family resemblance in either color wood finish was startling, as the larger speakers within the line expertly added to the frequency range. Was impressed by the reality of the music that was playing and it how it aurally flowed into the room.
When we reached the room with the largest of the Olympica Nova line, I pulled out of my record bag an LP copy of David Bowie's 1972 masterpiece The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, a Mobile Fidelity pressing that I'm lucky enough to have as my reference for this album. The Olympica Nova V sounded fantastic while playing this album. Even though I've heard this album thousands of times throughout my adult life hearing it played through the large Sonus faber Olympica Nova V, powered by the large, $30,000 Acoustic Research M160 tubed monoblock power amps was a treat I'll not soon forget! The quality that the vocals had through the smaller Olympica Nova I was still there, but this time these vocals were from none other than David Bowie. To say that "they sent shives down my spine" is an understatement.
I've always said that a good high-end system is akin to a time machine, and when they have the quality that I heard from the Olympica Nova V, with an iconic Bowie album playing, in the luxurious surroundings thanks to World Of McIntosh and their very talented designers, this was quite a treat.
When I was assigned this task, was hoping that my report of my
day at World of McIntosh townhouse hearing these newest Sonus faber speakers
wouldn't end up reading as if it were an advertisement for the company. So
please excuse me if it ended up sounding this way. But I feel as if I was a
victim of circumstance. Not many will likely have the privilege hearing the
newest Sonus fabers in a setting like I did. And I appreciate having that
experience. My hopes are that anyone reading this gets to hear these loudspeakers
in any setting, and maybe even one day owning a pair (or two) of the five
Sonus fabers that I had the opportunity of hearing.
Olympica Nova V: $16,500 (pair)
World Of McIntosh
Voice: (212) 364-0219