I’ve got to start this review with an apology. I’ve had the Sonus faber Venere 3.0s in my home in various locations now for over 5 months and should have completed this review three months ago. In fact, I was mostly done with the review back in May. However, one thing led to another, and the 3.0’s have kind of become a permanent fixture in my home. Maybe subconsciously I just didn’t want them to leave, and delaying the review meant I got to hold on to them. Nonetheless, all good things eventually come to an end, and I’ve finally got it done.
I recognize that many of you want to get right to the sound of the Venere 3.0, but I needed to start with basic facts to give you perspective. The Venere 3.0 is 45.6″H x 13.4″W x 17.3″D and weighs 47 pounds. It has four drivers, with each driver mounted in an asymmetrical waveguide. The tweeter is a 1” silk dome tweeter, the midrange a 6” cone, and the bottom end is handled by two 7” woofers. The two woofers operate together, with the woofer crossover operating at 220Hz, resulting in a 3-way design. There is also a bass port below the woofers.
Sonus faber’s specifications list a frequency response of 38Hz-25kHz, sensitivity of 90dB SPL (2.83V/m), and a nominal impedance of 6 ohms. The specs also state that the maximum power handling is 300W (but you can easily drive these speakers with very modest power amps).
The details are often what helps transform a good speaker into something that’s a step above. That is the case here. The speaker’s base has aluminum connectors at the edges, where you install spiked feet and provide some isolation from the floor. There are also two sets of binding posts to allow for bi-wiring or bi-amping – a nice touch if you want to tweak the sound by using two amps. These touches reinforce the impression that the Venere 3.0 is a sophisticated reasonably priced speaker. The punch line is that these are mid-size, attractive tower speakers that provide excellent value. Read on and I’ll tell you more.
I had of course been familiar with Sonus faber speakers for some time. They have had a reputation for being gorgeous both in appearance and in musical presentation. Their speakers have been known to produce a rich, full bodied sound that is emotionally expressive. The other side of this reputation said that their speakers were too languid and were not suited to rock and roll or fast rhythmic music. As is most always the case, this reputation is both true and false, but Sonus faber was more often favored by Classical music aficionados than rock n’ rollers. Enter the Venere series of speakers, which appear to have been designed with neutrality in mind.
It is also well to note that Sonus faber is part of the Fine Sounds Group, which owns not only Sonus faber, but also Mcintosh, Audio Research and Wadia. That’s quite a formidable lineup. Most any audiophile would be thrilled to own a system composed of products made by those companies.
My comparison speakers for this review were various, including the fabulous, and much more expensive, Vivid G-1 Giyas, as well as the extremely modest Polk Audio R50. However, my main reference for this review was my Bowers &Wilkins SCM1 monitor/NHT Sub 2 (a pair) subwoofer combo. This pairing has served me well in my second system, which some have judged to be quite good in its own right. The combined cost of these speakers seven years ago was $5500. That’s a lot more than the present cost of the Sonus faber Venere 3.0’s, which are priced at $3500.
Sources ranged from my reference modded Qsonix server/Empirical Audio reclocker/MBL 1611f DAC setup, an iPad/Wadia PowerDac, Sony EP9ES processor, and Marantz disc players. I also used the Venere3.0’s in a variety of rooms, including some not-so-ideal environments. I can tell you that even though the Venere 3.0s obviously sounded better when used in good rooms with good equipment, they were enjoyable in virtually every environment, which is not the case with all speakers.
My evaluation music was definitely a throwback to my early reviewing days. When you first start doing reviews you tend to play your favorite music for evaluation purposes. In fact, you play it over, and over, and over…until you get sick of your favorite music. As a result, I avoided playing some of my favorite tunes for several years so I could rekindle my love for them. Now seemed an appropriate time to listen to them again, so I pulled out Patricia Barber’s Modern Cool, Steely Dan’s Gaucho, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Robert Lucas’s Luke and the Locomotives to get started, and later morphed into classical and big band jazz.
Listening in Room/System No.1
I decided that the best head-to-head comparison with my B&W/NHT system would be to run the Venere 3.0s in the same location as my second system. The Veneres are simple to set up, but Alan Haggar of Sumiko wanted to show me the setup procedure that he uses to set up speakers that he delivers, as well as demonstrate how getting the setup just right really maximizes the listening experience. However, even before he had completed the setup, it was clear that the Venere 3.0s have excellent dispersion characteristics that provided a very reasonable sweet spot. It was also clear from the soundstage that the speakers’ design minimizes rear wall boundary effects. The soundstage was quite good, but got even better as speaker setup progressed.
( I want to take a moment to commend Alan on the rigorous setup procedure he insists on. I’m pretty anal myself about setup, but not always, and I’m not as systematic as Alan. I highly recommend doing business with someone who has this type of regard for speaker setup.)
After setup was completed Alan spent some time listening to make sure it was correct, and then went on his way. I played several random tracks from a few CDs and then decided to let the system play Direct TV musical material until the next morning, when I expected to do my morning workout in my basement.
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