General Sonic Impressions
For perspective, I drove the Sonetto VIIIs with an assortment of amplifiers. These included: 1), a 40w/ch Assemblage ST-40 EL34 based tube amp; 2), a 150w/ch Classé CA-151 solid-state amp; 3), vertically bi-amped with a pair of 55w/ch Sonic Frontiers Power-1 6550 and KT88 powered tube amps; and 4), a pair of Icon Audio MB-90 Mk#2 KT-150 tube juiced mono-blocks.
With all of these amps, this floorstander created highly transparent and polished sonics. At its price point, the Sonetto VIII has exceptional tactile purity; especially in the midrange. It’s a neutral loudspeaker that allows listeners to hear exactly what’s going on upstream. To my ears, the Sonetto VIIIs sounded their best when driven by Icon Audio’s tube mono-blocks in ultra-linear mode.
The Sonetto VIII is a very revealing loudspeaker. If there’s any sonic pollution upstream at the source, in your components, or in the cabling, these beasts will let you know it immediately. Sometimes hearing how mediocre a stereo system is can be quite deflating. Sonic truth is, after all, a lot like poetry; and most people freakin’ hate poetry.
The Sonetto VIII’s harmonic scale and structure are easy to fall in love with. They have a remarkable sonic purity and honesty across the entire frequency spectrum that consistently created shiver-inducing sonics in my 2-channel systems.
Imaging, 3-dimensionality, and weight in the bass registers were all musical and accurate. A fair bit of Sonus Faber’s house sound that’s created by their reference calibre 6-figure speakers can be heard in the Sonetto VIII. This speaker’s sonic signature is one of warmth, smoothness, and vitality. Inner detail retrieval and transparency was similarly impressive. The advanced technologies developed in SF’s higher priced Olympica and Homage lines has clearly trickled down to the Sonetto family. Driven by the right amps, the Sonetto VIIIs created sublime dynamics and toe-tapping PRaT.
Released in 1996, the Russian Symphony Orchestra (RSO) used a Nagra-D digital open reel recorder and a monitoring system comprised of top-shelf Cello components to record Russian Pops. Not surprisingly, this record has superb sonics. This *Pops* collection of Russian orchestral music features scores from popular films and ballets, operetta overtures, and even a symphonic movement.
Hearing the Sonetto VIIIs recreate 20th century classical music composed by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Gavrilin, and Sviridov with such cohesiveness vividly reminded me of why I love orchestral music so much. Transitioning from whisper quiet passages to building-imploding sonic crescendos always lets a listener hear how effectively any speaker can reproduce transients, dynamics, and soundstaging. The Sonetto VIIIs unearthed countless miniscule sonic details that had previously been buried—or even entirely lost—by lesser loudspeakers.
Written in the early 1940s and excised from his “Cinderella Opus #87” ballet, Prokofiev’s 3:32 minute length waltz is my favourite track on this record. Within this wandering opus, the RSO’s full battalion of stringed instruments, drums, and their brass section all get a healthy workout. The Sonetto VIIIs peeled back several layers of the sonic onion and unveiled far more of the subtle musical details hidden in his free-flowing waltz than I’d previously ever heard.
Recorded in 1992, Peter Gabriel’s US album features ten songs including “Come Talk to Me”, “Steam”, “Only Us”, and “Blood of Eden”.
Gabriel commented in the album’s liner notes: “Much of this record is about relationships. / I am dedicating it to all those who taught me about loving and being loved.”
Daniel Lanois’ production gifted the US album with euphoric sonics. Despite its unique sound, this record should evoke a strong spiritual journey for any listener. I say “should” because, down through the decades, I’ve heard many loudspeakers utterly fail to recreate any of the passion and energy that Gabriel captured in these songs.
The Sonetto VIIIs brought the awesome groove of Tony Levin’s peppered bass lines and the spiritual rhythms of these haunting tracks vividly to life. Levin’s master-class bass playing had palpable dynamics and slam.
Gabriel always understood that music has an extraordinarily emotional component to it. On the track “Digging in the Dirt” for example, the waves of Gabriel’s oscillating anger came surging through the Sonetto VIIIs with a tangible and chilling force. As the song rambled along, it disturbed me to hear Gabriel trying to contain his exasperation. I could feel the palpable knife-edge tension of his testosterone-laced rage almost boil over and result in him strangling someone to death.
The $6,500 USD Sonetto VIII is an articulate floorstander that combines a striking aesthetic beauty with superb sonics. With every type of well-recorded music that I challenged these speakers to play, they delivered goose-bump inducing sound.
The Sonetto VIIIs price versus performance ratio is exceptionally high. Prior to hearing the Sonetto VIII, I didn’t think it was possible to get such a high quality of sound at, relatively speaking, such a low price.
Many speakers in this price range have passable aesthetics but fail to create emotionally involving sonics. Then there are speakers like Quad ESL-63s that reproduce sublime midrange sound, but have less visual appeal than an open-air colonoscopy conducted in a public park.
Under the $10K USD retail mark, I’ve yet to hear any loudspeaker that sounds better than Sonus Faber’s Sonetto VIII. Nor have I ever seen any speaker with such an exquisite Lamborghini level finish anywhere near this price point.
Sonus Faber Sonetto VIII Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Price: $6,500 US / pair