Launched again in 1991, Sonus Faber’s unique Extrema have been seen because the fruits of every part the Italian producer had learnt in its first decade. As much as that time, the model had carved out a helpful area of interest at premium worth ranges, with a restricted vary of compact standmounters that have been lauded as a lot for his or her immaculately crafted cupboards as their artfully judged sound.
The Extrema marked its first assault on the very prime finish of the speaker market and, because the title implies, the engineering staff didn’t maintain again. At £6000 ($12,500), they have been up there with a few of the priciest audio system obtainable, however with hindsight, that worth doesn’t appear unduly extreme – actually not when contemplating the bold engineering, distinctive construct high quality and sensible efficiency.
From the entrance, they appear to be mid-sized standmounters, measuring 46cm tall and 27cm large, however transfer to the aspect and you may see their depth is sort of comically out of proportion at an enormous 55cm. Account for the thickness of the chunky cupboard partitions and that offers a helpful, although not enormous, inside quantity of 20 litres. The whole thing weighs in at a hernia-inducing 40kg.
That is removed from a traditional wood cupboard design, too. The satin black central part contains seven separate sections bolted collectively to type a extremely inflexible, low-resonance construction. You’ll discover a closely sculptured, 32mm-thick slab of strong walnut on both sides, including additional rigidity and damping in addition to an additional dose of visible drama. The mixture of curves, angles and colors offers these Sonus Fabers a glance in contrast to some other; you actually can not mistake them for anything.
Arguably, the drive models are simply as particular because the field. The tweeter is Dynaudio’s Esotar 330T/SF: a 28mm smooth dome that was rightly considered the most effective round on the time. It’s mated to a 19cm Audio Know-how mid/bass unit, which makes use of a magnesium oxide-loaded polypropylene cone, coated with carbonium-acrylate for further damping and resonance management.
Take the mid/bass unit out of the cupboard and also you’ll see that the magnet on the again is big. It’s in regards to the measurement of the cone, suggesting that there’s loads of magnetic drive but additionally that no corners have been lower.
It’s an impression that is solidified with the usage of a big 75mm voice coil and modern trying open chassis design. Total, it’s clear that this can be a correct no-compromise design. It’s a extremely sturdy one, too, if the corporate’s declare that the Extrema will settle for 2kW in brief bursts with out injury is true.
Look across the again of the enclosure and also you’ll discover a thick steel plate standing happy with the rear panel. Peek by means of the hole between the plate and panel and also you’ll spy what seems to be like an oval-shaped drive unit however is, actually, a passive radiator, designed to enhance the speaker’s low-frequency output, centred on 35Hz.
Early Extrema fashions used KEF’s long-running B139 ‘race observe driver’ for the job, however later manufacturing fashions (from mid-1992 onwards) switched to the same TDL 3021GT03 when the B139 went out of manufacturing.
A passive radiator and reflex port usually work in a lot the identical approach. Ports are typically way more frequent, just because a tube (often a plastic moulding) prices lower than what is actually one other drive unit. The radiator within the Extrema is slightly uncommon as a result of its output may be adjusted through a five-way rotary management on the again panel, permitting the speaker’s bass to be fine-tuned for his or her place within the listening room. The adjustment is adequately subtle to be helpful and permits us to dial in efficiency very well.
Subsequent to the radiator’s management is a small heatsink. Why does a passive set of audio system want a heatsink? The Extrema has a sort of crossover design we’ve by no means come throughout earlier than. Whereas its use of a delicate first-order filter is comparatively unusual, it’s the dearth of capacitors that gives the true speaking level right here.
Sonus Faber’s engineers needed to keep away from these parts to enhance readability and transparency, and so, as an alternative, they ended up utilizing an inductor in parallel with the tweeter reasonably than the same old capacitor in sequence. For every part to work correctly, a resistor is required within the circuit too, but it surely wants the heatsink to deal with the facility calls for. We by no means felt the heatsink getting scorching throughout use, even with the audio system pushed laborious.
Naturally, the efficiency of a standmounter relies upon strongly on the sort of help it will get, and Sonus Faber left nothing to probability by making its personal devoted 55cm-tall metal stands. Coated in textured black paint, they use no fewer than six chunky pillars stuffed with lead and sand. These stands are exceptionally heavy, immensely inflexible and do their job brilliantly. Their worth again in 1991 was commensurately substantial, at £799 ($1500).
The Extrema are superbly made and ooze luxurious in a approach few audio system handle. Certainly, those that admire high-end furnishings will discover a lot to admire right here. Whereas the audio system’ barely oddball proportions could break up opinion, there’s no denying the beautiful high quality of workmanship right here.
The adjustable passive radiator provides a certain quantity of freedom, however we nonetheless want these audio system properly out into the listening room and positioned with a little bit of angle to cross simply behind the principle listening place. This manner, we get a large and expansive soundstage coupled with a laser-precise sense of focus.
Any shoot-for-the-stars sort of speaker positively calls for a top-class partnering system, and the truth that the Extrema have been designed over three a long time in the past doesn’t change that. These stay immensely revealing and nuanced performers, so an absence of high quality out of your electronics gained’t be hidden.
We would keep away from utilizing vibrant or aggressive system electronics, because the Extrema’s massively succesful tweeter and strange crossover association can mix to brutal impact, revealing flaws with glee.
Your amp will want an honest quantity of grunt, too, in the event you’re going to make full use of the Extrema’s wonderful dynamic talents and loudness potential. Consider a wholesome 100W-per-channel output as place to begin, although we’ve little doubt there’s sufficient leeway for lower-powered mixtures to work properly. The rated sensitivity of 88dB/W/m and nominal 4ohm impedance isn’t unusually brutal.
Upon launch, the Extrema have been thought of distinctive performers and the most effective audio system cash may purchase. We are able to see why: given a state-of-the-art supply resembling Naim’s ND555/555PS DR music streamer and being pushed by our present reference Burmester 088/911 Mk3 amp, these packing containers nonetheless produce magnificent outcomes.
They sound enormous – a lot larger than their cupboard measurement suggests – and infrequently can we come throughout standmounters that ship such solidity and authority. As soon as the passive radiator is suitably dialled-in, we get taut and agile lows coupled to a formidable diploma of muscularity.
We hearken to Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator OST and the Sonus Fabers appear proper at residence. They ship a demanding observe resembling The Battle with actual verve, browsing the wide-ranging dynamics skilfully and thumping out the vicious crescendos with management. But, regardless of all of the chest-thumping on present, the whole thing is tied along with subtlety and finesse, as proven by the beautiful approach they render instrumental textures and low-level inflections.
There’s a beautiful sense of top-to-bottom cohesion that will disgrace many a present high-end speaker, and that goes in hand with seamless integration between the drive models. This can be a properly balanced presentation with a component of well-judged further richness by means of the midrange and decrease frequencies. Such a presentation provides meat to the bones of the sound, giving devices and voices palpable presence in our listening room.
Element ranges are pleasing, although outright decision and distortion ranges are areas wherein developments in drive models and cupboard designs have resulted in vital enhancements because the Extremas have been made. A superb fashionable high-end speaker will merely sound cleaner and clearer, however is it extra satisfying? Now, that’s open to debate. In a lot the identical approach that many take pleasure in driving a basic automobile greater than a contemporary equal, so it’s right here.
We placed on Bjork’s Vulnicura set and revel within the sonic textures and dynamic shading. There’s loads of punch right here, and the Extrema are very happy to play at excessive quantity. We benefit from the perception and easy fluidity, to not point out their skill to make listening to music actually really feel like an all-enveloping expertise reasonably than only a mere exercise to cross the time. The Extrema appear to have slightly little bit of magic baked into their sonic DNA.
Judged by present requirements, these audio system might be criticised for an absence of rhythmic drive, and we wouldn’t say no to a greater sense of organisation when issues get actually difficult. Even so, the essential factor is that we’re having a lot enjoyable and may’t assist however maintain listening.
The Sonus Faber Extrema are actually, on the time of writing, 30 years previous. There aren’t many good samples knocking about, and people which are nonetheless working aren’t straightforward to listen to. We hope anybody who owns a pair actually cherishes them, as a result of they’re just about unimaginable to exchange.