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Mid-December 2013
Superior Audio Equipment Review

World Premiere!
Sonus Faber Olympica III Loudspeaker
A glorious speaker that is in itself a musical instrument!
Review By Matej Isak

 

Sonus Faber Olympica III Speakers  I've been following the Sonus Faber story of success from the early beginnings, both as an owner and later on as a reviewer. Franco Serblin started a revolution with his vision and design of speakers. Being based in Italy, Sonus Faber is successfully carrying on the message of tradition in careful handcraftsmanship whilst keeping true to their heritage. There were many design changes over the years and with the growth of the company, yet they always managed to keep the unmistakable aura and true Italian character of company's products. These days Sonus Faber is a part of Fine Sounds Group and along with McIntosh, Audio Research, Sumiko Audio and Wadia. This makes one of the most potent parent companies in the high-end audio world with the brands that resemble classical values and worldwide recognition.

 

Wood, Leather and Paper
Back to the natural elements... Sonus Faber's Olympica III is a mixed shape of lute and arch with use of traditional materials including fine leather and real wood finishes. Both upper and bottom plates are made from solid walnut wood, with the top being covered in the carefully hand stitched leather. A very special engraved Sonus Faber logo and aluminum insert visually compliment the overall visual styling. The front grill is classical Sonus Faber and it covers the diamond like shaped front plate that is covered in leather.  All drivers are mounted on the front plate and between midrange driver and two woofers one finds the classical oval shaped brass logo that gives a clear note of this fine brand.

 

Meet The Designers
Paolo Tezzon and LivioCuccuza are the masterminds behind the new Olympica line of loudspeakers. They tried to bring back Sonus Faber energy to a specific and recognizing appearance and traditional structural elements. Real wood and leather were always key ingredients of Sonus Faber products and most people even beyond audiophile and high-end societies know Sonus Faber for these two key elements working seamlessly with the true Italian DNA design. In total, Sonus Faber products radiate an aura of timeless design and creates a feeling of proud ownership. Both Paolo and Livio know very well the past and present of the high fidelity audio industry. They have put enormous efforts to create something very special with the new Olympica line.

It is not as easy a task as it seems to design such a statement product line. In the world of high-end audio and high style design, each year there are always ever-higher expectations to fulfill the demanding worldwide market and customers. Combining a true standout speaker audibly with the state-of-the-art aesthetics is a must these days. And in the upper echelon people tend to see such products as a work of art equally or more so than the sound it produces. So expectations are very high.

I have enjoyed quite some time getting to know both Paolo and Livio. For this product, there was much to talk about and getting deeper into the whole concept philosophy. They both continually dedicate their passion and know-how to the creation of the Olympica III speakers and it shows both aurally and visually. To understand them better here are the few of their comments from my exclusive interview:

Livio: With Olympica we created a line of loudspeakers in the classic Sonus Faber ideal. The goal was to create something that looks immediately Sonus Faber and nevertheless; innovate. An instant classic. To do this we had to be inspired by something that has his roots in the territory of Vicenza. Andrea Palladio and his architecture was the perfect inspiration.

Paolo: Olympica comes from the challenge of applying some of the best solutions of Aida in a "real world" high-end loudspeaker system. Palladio is rapture to me: his Olympic theatre located in Vicenza is a charming example of a natural acoustics and of a prospective "Trompe l'oeil" stage effect. Visiting it is an influential and fruitful knowledge experience. This was the inspiration for The Olympica's natural and "organic" sound quality and for its soundstage reconstruction ability as well.

 

Sonus Faber Olympica III SpeakerOlympica became a company statement of contemporary high-end loudspeaker design. True to the heritage and with embracing the latest acoustical developments with Olympica you'll get not only highly desirable reproducer of the music, but an object that stand on its own within modern or classical living spaces. Many things were implemented from Sonus Faber's Aida speakers. Aida was Livio first project and it became a statement. It is still my personal favorite high-end speakers, but Aida demands a large environment to show its true potency.

Paolo told me in our correspondence that quite a bit of technical breakthroughs and innovations that were used in their Aida speaker helped in creating the Olympica line such as the internal structure. There is a new innovative side port that helps in ‘tuning' the room positioning for better bass and the shape itself creates very refined and clearly thought-out product. Paolo says that "The Olympica's wooden structure is a synthesis of the experience gained from the flagship Aida Lyra shape and the classic lute shape, adding a ‘new dimension' to the cabinet resonance control: the ‘triple curvature' profile of the sides and the non-homogenous progressive thickness of the cabinet walls help to obtain an extraordinary reduction of internal resonances."

 

Natural Musical Impact
Sonus Faber Olympica III SpeakerFirst thing that may grab you aurally when you hear music through Sonus Faber's Olympica III speakers are the natural feeling and timbral correctness. This has a lot to do with the use of a paper cones, which are in fact a very special mixture of paper and other ingredients. There is just something inherently right about the sound and you can quickly recognize this with vocals, acoustical instruments, etc and the way the sound flows into your home in recreating music.

The most demanding music material and a mainstay reference for any high-end, high fidelity audio speakers is unamplified live acoustical music performed in the natural ambient acoustic environment. Churches and some of the concerts halls create the decay and reverberation whilst also generating the sound atmosphere that stands on its own as a reference and something to be matched in reproduction. We can know the acoustical propensities of certain acoustical space like small jazz clubs, churches, concerts halls and so on, but we as a fact don't know almost nothing about the nature of studio created albums. There is so much unknown and with the processing and post processing of the music the variety of choices and preferable nature of the sound goes beyond imagination. We actually receive sort of an art form rather than some standard with such recordings and albums. It is more an engineers and producers vision of how music should sound. This is ok, but it is hard to use such studio music with unknown propensities as a true reference. This may be especially true with modern age production.

In the 1950's, 60's and 70's of the last century popular music, jazz, blues etc. were recorded more simply than today with highly skilled musicians. They've performed everything mostly at once and you can instantly recognize this in both sound and the energy of music. Some called this magic of the era. Many recordings from that time I do recognize as reference material and use them frequently. There is some hidden consistency among the quality of recording and you simply know what to expect when you listen to something from the specific time. Sound engineers and producers mastered the craft and art of recording and capturing the music.

Let me look into few exemplary records. Muddy Waters Folk Singer is one those remarkable albums. So is Harry Belafonte's Live at Carnegie Hall. Then Charles Mingus Ah Um, Miles Davis's Kind Of Blue, that could be "overused" for some, but it still represent the pinnacle of the era output and wonderful sounding album. The later Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain was recorded between November 1959 and March 1960 at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City. "Concierto de Aranjuez" is the opening song that was by arranged by Gil Evans and Miles Davis from the adagio movement of Concierto de Aranjuez, a concerto for guitar by the contemporary Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo represent for me one of the best intimate moments of music. It is sublime, deep, and intrigues with the lyrical language of the music.

I've known above albums and music by hearth and soul. And I know how they supposed to sound. And it doesn't stop here. In high fidelity, high resolution audio the real challenge of high-performance and reproduction is the ability to recreate an emotional impact. The Sonus Faber Olympica III loudspeakers embraced all the needed attributes of such potency. The sense of music and the magic of energy flow that often happens when things are at the right frequency at the time within a recording. While reviewed the Olympica III they showed avidly the most needed anchor points of music happening. Those are the building blocks of any high resolution audio speaker and urgently needed for the recreation of any musical event. Many so called high-end loudspeakers fails at this task. Creating the state of the art loudspeaker is beyond computer simulated and projected output. It takes a lot more dedication and real world listening, measuring and knowing the materials.

Along so-called acoustical testing I normally tried and conclude the review with variety of musical material. Sonus Faber Olympica III loudspeakers showed the ability to bring life to any genre of music. They are not strictly tight to the acoustical live music, but can embrace all genres. One of my favorite electronic music, more specifically electro album The Other People Place / Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café (Warp Records) is a mythical and mystical album. It brings a pure poetry of electronic music and compositions followed by the legendary sounds of Roland 808 drum machine and classical analog synths. Along with more recognized bands including Kraftwerk, Yello, etc., Warp Records released some of the best electronic music from early 1990's to today. The Other People Place represents one of many hidden treasures of true pioneering and mastering of the electronic music. Sonus Faber's Olympica III performed steadily and with dynamic impact that holds on to what we expect with such musical material. Roland's 808 music machine, with its analog nature, creates unmistakable sounds that have a crisp and clear energy. They smack the air with a unique attack and creates a dynamic presence of their own. The Olympica III never failed to bring their correctness and even with 808 demanding boomy legendary kick the representation was firm and direct. It was most enjoyable experience to recreate a time warp.

Sonus Faber Olympica III SpeakerComing back to the classical music of the past. Toscanini is known for his ardent nature and almost dictatorship like conducting of his orchestra. He demanded the best and pushed the musicians to their limits. This shows in all of his recordings and I'm especially fond of his early 1950's albums. The energy and clarity is remarkable, which is something that also late Kondo-san of Audio Note Japan cherished within his heart. He was after musical purity and recreation of musical event as it happened. In my last few years I'm starting to dig deeper into the classical music with a help of good friend for whom the classical music represent the life and soul. I do know it, yet the exploration of this genre seems like a vast universe of variety and musical journeys.

By each year I'm starting to understand the music more as a whole. Especially with classical and live recorded acoustical music there is a certain way of how we experience it and I'm not talking about typical audiophile jargon. It's beyond pin-pointing the certain instruments and endlessly discussing the soundstage, thunder like dynamic, infra sub bass etc. As written above, music comes and touches us as a whole. Like a large bubble that harmonically moves through the time and space and hits all of our senses. Not only the aural receptors. There is still a lot we don't know about how music enter our perception center and body. What we know and should know is how it sound and should sound. For this again clear references are needed. And those can only be gained by exposing us to the concerts and live performances. This creates an value, that becomes a standard. In past decades it was scientifically proven how our mind creates a dedicated value if we repeat certain things for at least twenty times in a role in a specific time frame. We can experience this with small daily things, but especially with music such as "Ordnung muss sein" is needed for any serious test and review conduction.

This not only set a reference, but enriches us as listeners and more importantly as human beings.

 

Conclusion
Sonus Faber Olympica III SpeakerGreat products come from the vision and culture behind. I see Sonus Faber Olympica III speakers as such. Handcrafted, designed by people that show love for music and craft, with a true respect to heritage and understanding of most important things. We often hear how Italians holds something special regarding the design and incorporating the passion into their products like no others. There is no way you can miss that with these loudspeakers. It is clear and avid. With Sonus Faber Olympica III loudspeakers you're not only a buying product, but a longstanding heritage, deep passion, special design and a story that unveils before you along with your musical journey. Sonus Faber Olympica III are time travelers of a sort that grabs you and invites one to further explore music history. Sonus Faber's Olympica III loudspeakers combines the past, present and future in to shine with a feeling of proud ownership and intimate musical value.

For me, they awoke the passion and sense of music in a most elegant way. We do share our living spaces with people we love. Hopefully the old days of the proverbial ‘man cave' for one's audio system are long gone in this modern world. It's an era of socialization, both virtual and physical. If we want to see the high fidelity audio grow and become a cultural place of friendly sharing the things we loved so much, we need products like Sonus Faber's Olympica III to inspire people to take the needed step into a high-quality, high performance musical experience. They would naturally share their passion further and so on...

Sonus Faber Olympica III SpeakerI see no better ambassador of musical culture as Olympica III. With the direct connection to the legendary "Son of Vicenza" Andrea Palladio and his master creation Teatro Olimpico, Olympica carries the spirit on the past with the clear musical message. And let us not forget that everything, from the card box down to the packaging, is first class. When you open the hard paper sleeves of manual and accompanied booklet you understand the true value of dedication. I really wish all high fidelity audio manufacturers would follow this exemplary approach of high-end audio presentation and first hand experience. For me, it felt like opening the best Hermes silk scarf or Jaeger-LeCoultre watch.

Sonus Faber Olympica III loudspeakers are staying with me as a reference component and my daily tool for testing and reviews. It is obvious that I am fond of the design, materials and sound. But in these times I'm also very demanding regarding design and everything surrounding the overall gestalt when it comes to the objects of high-end and high performance within my home. Products of such class need to embrace so many points to stand on their own. These are not the sole luxury items to be only enjoyed as an eyesight balsam, but akin to a musical instrument that reacts to the music in a most natural and presentable way.

Most highly recommended!!!

 

 

Specifications
Type: Three-way floorstanding, paralaminar stealth flow vented loudspeaker.
Frequency Response: 35 Hz to 30 kHz, tuning port included.
Sensitivity:  90dB/W/m
Impedance: 4 Ohm
Recommended Amplifier Power: 50 to 300 Watt

Tweeter 
Sonus Faber Arrow Point DAD (Damped Apex Dome, synthesis of the classic dome and ring transducer) 29XTR2. A Sonus Faber designed 29 mm moving coil driver. The ultra dynamic linearity is given by the new Neodymium motor system.

Midrange
Sonus Faber M15XTR. A totally Sonus Faber designed 5.9" ultra dynamic linearity midwoofer. CCAW wire is used on a composite former Eddy current free voicecoil. The dynamically linear magnetic field motor incorporates triple Kellog/Goeller rings. A special custom diaphragm is made with a real time air dried non pressed blend of traditional cellulose pulp, kapok, kenaf and other natural fibers, developed according to the most natural sound. To further inhibit any residual cone coloration we are using a transparent viscous surface damping coating. Special coaxial anti-compressors is used, designed to remove cavity resonance and distortions.

Woofers
Sonus Faber SW18XTR woofer is a direct descendants of the 9" speakers used in their Aida model. The salient aspect of the woofers, is to merge high definition, the prerogative of the 'sandwich' cones, and an identity in synergy with the sound of the midrange. This goal was reached by developing a sandwich membrane that combines a 'heart' in hi-tech rigid syntactic foam with external layers in treated cellulose pulp. The 1.5" voice coils controlled Eddy Current, together with the powerful long stroke magnetic motor, are guarantees for excellent performance, both from the dynamic point of view and that of linearity.

Crossover
Non-resonant progressive slope design, optimized amplitude/phase response for optimal space/time performance. "Paracross topology" on both tweeter hi-pass and midrange band pass, crossover points 250 Hz and 2500 Hz.

Cabinet: Enhanced Lyre shape design, progressive thickness triple curvature cabinet walls damped spread resonance spectrum system. Solid walnut vertical clamps.

Finish: Natural walnut or graphite multicoated with medium gloss ecologically sensitive lacquer.
Dimensions: 20" x 15.9" x 49.9" (DxWxH)
Weight: 97 lbs. each
Price: $13,500 per pair in Walnut real wood finish and is also available in dark wood Graphite

 

Company Information
Sonus Faber Spa
Via Antonio Meucci, 10
36057 - Arcugnano (Vicenza) Italy

Website: www.SonusFaber.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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