- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 20 November 2013
The Sonus faber Venere 3.0 Speaker System In Use
My immediate impression of the Venere system was one of a vivid realism. This was not a realism borne from a rigid chromatic truth as one might expect. These speakers are not exactingly flat. But they do offer a vibrant realism via a clean, dynamic, quick and open sound that I found to be most pleasing and addictive.
I also didn't feel that the Venere 3.0's extended as deeply from a subjective standpoint as the bench tests would later reveal, so I gladly bolstered the system's output by dialing in a crossover of around 60 Hz on the REL T9. This gave the best apparent blend and then I was off to the races!
I kicked things off with Junior Wells "Hoodo Man Blues" on vinyl. I listened to this record in 2.1 through a Krell S550i integrated amplifier with the REL sub connected to the speaker terminals. I was hanging out at the house by myself that day and it was sounding so good that I kept turning it up. This record has a little prominence in the lower treble that isn't neutral but added to the excitement while keeping me from really testing the limits of this system.
This album brought out the vivid midrange qualities I discussed above but also highlighted another great strength of these speakers – a rock solid soundstage. With lesser speakers, location cues of instruments sometimes wander aimlessly as the pitch changes. Not with the Venere 3.0's. These speakers rendered some of the most solid imagery I have ever heard, even as the pitch changed. This must be due to excellent component matching.
The Venere 3.0's set the mood on this album through the mournful sound of the harp playing while special mention is due to the fine fabric dome tweeters - cymbals throughout were clean and clear with no "splashy" quality.
The 5-channel Venere system was pretty amazing in its own right with surround music as well. I found the system capable of rendering excellent ambience on live recordings. A great example was the 5.1 DTS HD Master track on John Scoefield "The Paris Concert" Blu Ray. If it weren't for the soft picture quality on this disc, I'd have felt as if I had just strolled into the venue myself; this being due in large part to the excellent on-wall rears.
At the front of the stage, I was at first concerned there would be an apparent miss-match since white noise sounded different between the center and mains during calibration (with the center sounding much brighter). But in practice I never heard any imbalance across the three front speakers during the evaluation period. And the imagery front to back maintained an eerie solidity as well.
Elsewhere on the Paris Concert disc, I particularly enjoyed Bill Stewart's flourishes on drums. The attack was clean but not overly forceful or contrived sounding. Scoefield's guitar work on "Slinky" was mesmerizing - he can make his instrument talk in special ways. And faster tempo songs like "Steeplechase" brought out the best in the Venere system. The notes on lesser systems might smear or bleed together. Not with the Venere's, each note was an individual entity with its own stately province.
Another fun surround disc is the multichannel SACD of Billy Joel's "The Stranger". I used to have the original vinyl of this album, but it is another one that just sort of disappeared when I was in college. So I was delighted when it was rereleased on SACD. On the Venere system, it was quite possibly the best I've heard it in years, epic actually.
The sax was raspy and engaging as it should be. Billy Joel's voice was a tiny bit thin and lacking in weight. On the closing ballad, "Everybody Has a Dream", the bass was full offering a substantial foundation. The other registers were low distortion creating an opportunity where I could pick out every instrument and voice in the chorus.
All in all, there was a solid foundation in the bass, maybe a tad forwardness in the lower treble but the mids were spectacular. The frequency balance was inevitably different from what I remember on the old system I had when this album first came out. But now the dynamics were even more telling with greater bass punch and extension! And I could have just as much fun as ever listening to this classic recording. (Note to self, discretely check brother's vinyl collection the next chance you get.)
Now on to a few Blu Ray movies. I started off with "World War Z". This movie has powerful action sequences right from the start and never really lets up until the closing credits as conveyed via the complex sounds of a sudden and chaotic degradation of society. Even though this movie was bombastic, it was in the details of the quieter moments where the strengths of this system were revealed as a sort of electrostatic transparency.
The little REL T9 never sounded limited so long as the sub's level was in balance with the mains. The low bass effects were felt as well as heard particularly on the plane crash where this system really rocked! I will have more to say about the REL sub in a separate review in the coming weeks.
I closed out my evaluation of the Venere surround and cinema system with the "Secretariat" Blu Ray. This is a high quality production with incredible production values. This includes not only the colorful and dynamic picture but also the amazing, original music and rich sound mix. These qualities are well preserved by a quality transfer to disc.
Once again, my sense of a vivid realism is the calling card of this speaker system. On "Secretariat", this was heard through the dialog channel. But also this 5.1 mix was shown in its best light by the Venere system with strong environmental surround activity including rain, thunder, echoes and every other manner of naturally-occurring sounds. Even the sound of the coin toss (which was definitely "enhanced") had an ethereal quality that I felt on the Veneres.
Two big reasons I picked this movie to review are the music and the pounding hooves of the race sequences. I was not disappointed on either count. And the REL T9 was no fading lily, holding up its end without complaint.
But, once again, this system did not bend sounds with frequency and rendered a rock solid sound field at all times. It was a mesmerizing performance.