Sonus faber Venere S Speaker Review

Do you want a little scale in your life?

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

10

Recommended
Sonus faber Venere S Speaker Review
SRP: £3,798.00

What is the Sonus faber Venere S?

The Sonus faber Venere S (short for 'Signature') is the newest and largest member of the Venere series of speakers from Sonus faber. The Venere range has been around for a few years now and is designed to capture the qualities of the Sonus faber brand at a more affordable price point. Why is this a challenge? After all many speaker brands have to capture the qualities of their more expensive models. With Sonus faber however, their products have a reputation for the quality of materials used and the industrial design that few other brands can match. Even an 'affordable' Sonus faber has to feel special and, impressively, the Venere range achieves this.

The S was not part of the original range of speakers and has appeared some years after the rest of the range and doesn't have a numerical value attached to the name. At over £4,000, the Venere S is far from inexpensive but the size of the speaker is noteworthy – even judged by the standards of similarly priced designs, the Sonus faber is a big speaker. What does this mean in terms of performance? The argument for 'full range' speakers that have no need for any augmentation from subwoofers or the like to give a genuine reproduction of the full bandwidth of an audio recording is a compelling one, so the Sonus faber is of considerable interest.

Of course, if it does this while losing the qualities that make it a Sonus faber, that rather defeats the object so the Venere S has to make sure that in growing bigger than any member of the Venere range that came before it, that it hasn't lost the 'feel' of a Sonus faber. This is a significant balancing act – can the Venere S deliver big speaker thrills and Sonus faber style at the same time?

Specifications

Sonus faber Venere S
The Venere S is a 3 way floorstanding loudspeaker. This three way split is between a 29mm soft dome tweeter of Sonus faber's own design – soft domes have been something of a staple of Sonus faber speakers over the years. This hands over to a 150mm polpropylene textile midrange driver that is designed specifically to function in this role. Special attention has been paid to the compression characteristics when the driver is moving to keep the frequencies it is responsible for as clear and free from distortion as possible.

The midrange driver hands over to no less than three 180mm bass drivers. These have been designed with less compression restriction than the midrange to allow them to hit lower frequencies without signs of stress. In turn, the use of three drivers that are large rather than huge, gives a good radiating area without the engineering challenges of accommodating a large bass driver in terms of cabinet size and volume.

The bass drivers themselves are augmented by a large bass port which Sonus faber has placed on the underside of the speaker. This is logical for a few reasons. Due to the Sonus faber's shape, a large port on the rear would be rather visually obtrusive. In turn, putting it on the front would increase the size of what is already a fairly hefty speaker. A downward firing port removes these challenges and in turn helps with placing the speaker so it isn't venting energy directly out into the path of something. The downside to such an arrangement is that any speaker with a downward firing port will always work best on a solid floor.
Sonus faber Venere S
In order for the bass port to have the required clearance between it and the floor, the Venere S comes with a metal foot that attaches to the base of the cabinet to which floorspikes are attached. This also has the advantage of imparting more stability to the speaker as well. With the spikes in place, the gap between the bottom of the plate and the floor is no more than a few centimetres but in use, the port seems completely silent.

The cabinet that the drivers and port are mounted in is a scaled up version of the Venere design. This means that like a number of more expensive Sonus faber models the sides are curved both to aid aesthetics (which we'll come to in a bit) and to reduce the parallel edges in the cabinet. At 1.2 metres tall and with the required volume to contain five drivers, the Venere S is a big speaker. The metal foot further increases the size of the footprint too. The spike arrangement on the feet in turn imparts a rearward lean on the cabinet that reduces the perceived height of the speaker and also assists with the time alignment of the drivers. The cabinet is finished off with a sturdy set of terminals at the lower rear section of the cabinet. Relatively unusually for a speaker in 2016, the Sonus faber can be biwired or biamped.

Design

Sonus faber Venere S
When the Venere range was released, it drew widespread praise for being affordable (at least by the standards to which a Sonus faber product is judged to be affordable) without losing the design ethos that makes their product stand out. The Venere S has pushed this a stage further and is comfortably the largest Venere model yet but the proportions have stayed in keeping with the rest of the range and this is a good thing.

Put simply, the Sonus faber manages to wear its bulk with considerable grace. Design features like the curved sides and upward tilt to the top plate serve to slim the speaker down and further features like the rearward lean once the bass plate and spikes are on help to reduce the perceived height. I won't be so crazy as to say this feels like anything other than a big speaker but it manages to have an elegance to it that is beyond a number of rivals, even when they have less mass to them. Sonus faber accepts that this is never going to be a speaker that hides away in a corner so has ensured it is something you'll want to have on display.

The devil is in the detail too. The gloss black top plate helps break up the mass of the cabinet and has perfect panel fit all the way around. The finishing on the metal footplate is exceptional and little details like every one of the multiple screw holes in both it and the speaker base lining up perfectly is a sign that the quality of construction is more than skin deep in this instance. Another lovely touch is that if you have the speaker inverted while attaching the metal foot and you happen to drop a tiny screw down that gaping bass port... Sonus faber has had the presence of mind to put a protective gauze in there to stop the screw disappearing into the middle of nowhere.

For its role as flagship, the S gains some features unique to this model. If you order it in white, is has no black panel at the front which is used on the other Venere models and the drivers are given brightwork in the form of a trim ring. These help clean the lines up a little which given the size of the speaker is no bad thing. The review samples came in the optional wood finish which adds to the price. I can't pretend I have been blown away by this in pictures but in the flesh, it looks excellent. The Venere S is not inexpensive but it looks more expensive than it actually is. The fit and finish is absolutely top notch and helps create a pride of ownership that many speakers can struggle with.

MORE: Sound Advice – Choosing HiFi Speakers


Sonus faber Venere S
The Venere S is not inexpensive but it looks more expensive than it actually is

How was the Venere S Tested?

The Sonus fabers turned up with supporting electronics from Audio Research in the form of a GSi75 Valve amp and CD6 CD player and a goodly proportion of listening was carried out with these in situ. As a more real world point of comparison, the resident Naim Supernait 2 integrated amp and ND5 XS network streamer with XP5 XS power supply were also used. Some additional testing was carried out with an Avid Ingenium Twin turntable and a Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage. All equipment was connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Sigmas mains conditioner. Material used has included lossless and high res FLAC, Tidal and vinyl.

MORE: Sound Advice – Getting the most out of your HiFi system


Sound Quality

Sonus faber Venere S
The more diligent amongst you might have already had a look at the specifications of the Venere S and be momentarily surprised to find that it has a listed frequency response of 40Hz- 25kHz which is actually a lower quoted bass response than Neat quotes for the tiny IOTA Alpha tested at the same time. It is important to stress that it is at times like this that figures don't tell the whole story. For starters, no roll off is quoted in the Sonus faber figures and neither is any information on whether this is an in-room figure or one taken in a chamber. In my reasonably well behaved room, the Venere S has useful output well below 30Hz with the roll off from the speakers being compensated by room output.

What this means in practise is that the Venere S has effortless scale. Listening to the vast recording of Every Day by the Cinematic Orchestra is an effortless demonstration of the appeal of a speaker that delivers a performance that has the chance to get close to the scale of the track as recorded. There is weight, presence and space in a way that smaller speakers don't easily manage to reproduce. Pile on the volume and the Venere S simply responds to the gain and without the slightest sign of strain ramps up the volume. If you habitually listen to material that has orchestral sequences, the effortless way that the Sonus faber makes them sound right is extremely lovely.

Neither is this the sole reason to regard the Venere S as something a little special. The Sonus faber has a tonal accuracy that balances refinement with enough bite to be realistic. The period recording of Duke's Place with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington is rich and refined but enough of the slight sibillance that is naturally present on the recording makes the journey to sound like it should. Under provocation, the Venere S will show up the flaws in a recording but only once it has exhausted the other options open to it. The presence of a dedicated midrange driver pays dividends though – the way in which the Sonus faber is able to unpick dense recordings and make all the information readily available is deeply impressive. This is further aided by the integration between the drivers being slick and effectively seamless.
Sonus faber Venere S
When you really lean on the Sonus faber and ask it to play something uncouth like Daniel Avery's Drone Logic there is a sense that while the Venere S is composed and impressively fleet of foot, it would rather be delivering something slightly more civilised. This is speaker that finds joy in delivering scale and realism rather than being repeatedly kicked in the ribs and asked to produce the sound of a club system. While more capable specialised offerings exist, few can deliver the same effortless scale with less frenetic material.

A final welcome attribute of the Venere S is that while it is unquestionably rather large, it is an unexpectedly capable partner for use at low levels. In part because it has so little difficulty moving air, the Sonus faber retains pretty much everything that makes it special when used at very low levels which is no mean feat from any speaker. If you are in a position where high volumes are going to be something you rarely achieve, it might seem counter intuitive to pick such a big speaker but there is method in the madness.
Sonus faber Venere S
There is weight, presence and space that smaller speakers don't easily manage to reproduce

Conclusion

Pros

  • Supremely accomplished and involving sound
  • Superb build
  • Handsome appearance

Cons

  • Require a reasonable amount of floor space
  • Not the most ballistic speaker going

Sonus faber Venere S Speaker Review

Spending time with the Sonus faber Venere S has been an experience. The advantages of a big speaker are ones that leave a lasting impression and it is easy to become captivated by the scale, impact and sheer effortlessness that the Sonus faber brings to music.

If this were 'all' the Venere S did, it would be worthy of note but there is rather more to this speaker than the ability to sound big. It's ability to deliver tonal honesty with just the last twist of refinement and the effortless detail retrieval are seriously impressive. When you throw in room friendly placement and the truly lovely build and appearance, I'm left with a slightly unusual conclusion. This is far from a cheap speaker but when the sheer ability it offers is combined with the build, appearance and general execution, I have to consider it something of a bargain. If you are shopping at this rarefied price point, you need to consider the Venere S.

MORE: Speaker Reviews


Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
9

Ease of Use

.
.
8

Features

.
.
8

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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