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Replacing the well-regarded Cremona M line, Sonus faber started with a clean sheet of paper when designing the Olympica series.

While retaining the stunning build quality and design that has made Sonus faber famous, the engineering of the speakers has taken a decidedly different path. While still managing to maintain the sweet musicality inherent in Sonus faber models of the past, the Olympicas manage to combine that smooth sound with a huge advance in articulation and detail. The end result is a speaker line that can resonate as strongly with accuracy-obsessed audiophiles as it does with those who just want to sit back and enjoy every minute of their music and movie time.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

Highlights

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

  • Top-tier audio performance
  • Looks and finishes that won’t offend your interior designer
  • Full range of models for either two-channel or surround system use
  • Make nearly any source sound gorgeous
  • Expensive, but quality like this doesn’t come cheap

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

Introduction

Many years ago, at a branch of the now defunct Harvey Electronics chain I had one of my first true audiophile moments. While I was at the shop to listen a certain pair of Austrian-made towers, I was given a demo of the at-the-time $30,000 Sonus faber Amati Anniversarios. Driven by a stack of McIntosh electronics, the sound was unlike anything I had ever heard: perfectly sweet yet nicely defined with rich, powerful bass.

Not only was I completely entranced by the sound coming from them, I couldn’t stop staring at their stunning physical beauty. While my meager, recently graduated from college budget couldn’t possibly afford the Amatis, I also listened to the original Cremonas that afternoon. While they certainly weren’t up to the same astounding level (sound wise or beauty wise) as the Amatis, the $7,000 per pair price tag was at least something I could aspire towards. One day, I vowed, you will be mine…

SONUS FABER SPEAKER SYSTEM REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS

Sonus faber Olympica III

Design:

3-way Paralaminar-Vented Floor-Standing Loudspeaker

Drivers:

1 x 29mm (1.14”) Arrow Point Tweeter, 1 x 150mm (5.9”) Mid-Range, 2 x 180mm (7.1”) Woofer

Crossover:

Non-resonant progressive slope design @ 250 Hz and 2.5 kHz

MFR:

35 Hz – 30 kHz, Tuning Port Included

Sensitivity:

90 dB SPL (2.83 V/1m) Nominal

Nominal Impedance:

4 Ohms

Recommended Amplifier Power:

50W – 300W, Without Clipping

Dimensions:

44″ H x 16″ W x 20″ D

Weight:

97 Pounds/each

Finishes:

Walnut, Piano Gloss

MSRP:

$13,500/pair USD

Sonus faber Olympica Center

Design:

3-way Paralaminar-Vented Center Channel Loudspeaker

Drivers:

1 X 29mm (1.14”) Arrow Point Tweeter, 1 X 80mm (3.15”) Mid-range, 2 X 150mm (5.9”) Woofers

Crossover:

Non-resonant Progressive Slope Design @ 250 Hz And 2.5 kHz

MFR:

50 Hz – 30 kHz, Tuning Port Included

Sensitivity:

88 dB SPL (2.83 V/1m) Nominal

Nominal Impedance:

4 Ohms

Recommended Amplifier Power:

50w – 300w, Without Clipping

Dimensions:

9.1″ H x 25.6″ W x 13.9″ D

Weight:

37.5 Pounds

Finishes:

Walnut, Piano Gloss

MSRP:

$5,500 (dedicated stand $700) USD

Sonus faber Olympica I

Design:

2-way Paralaminar-vented Stand Mount Loudspeaker

Drivers:

1 X 29mm (1.14”) Arrow Point Tweeter, 1 X 150mm (5.9”) Mid-woofer

Crossover:

Non-resonant Progressive Slope Design @ 2.5 kHz

MFR:

50 Hz – 30 kHz, Tuning Port Included

Sensitivity:

87 Db Spl (2.83 V/1m) Nominal

Nominal Impedance:

4 Ohms

Recommended Amplifier Power:

40W – 150W, without clipping

Dimensions:

14″ H x 8.7″ W x 14.5″ D

Weight:

33 Pounds/each

Finishes:

Walnut, Piano Gloss

MSRP:

$6,500/pair (Dedicated Stands $1200/pair) USD

Company:

Sonus Faber

SECRETS Tags:

Sonus Faber, Speakers, Speaker System Reviews

That listening session was about 15 years ago now. I have followed the evolution of the Cremona line that whole time, from the original Cremona to the updated Cremona M. While I really liked the sound of both speakers, there was always something that kept me from plunking down the serious coin required to own a pair of these. To my ears, there was always just a bit of a presence-region “bite” to both of these speakers that could only be heard on certain piano or guitar notes (between 1-2 kHz) and occasionally on female vocals. The Cremona M toned it down a bit compared to the original Cremona but it was still there.

Considering how rich both of these speakers sounded throughout the rest of the frequency range, I was always a bit perplexed by this one chink in the Cremona’s armor. Late in 2013, Sonus faber announced the successor to the Cremona M line: the Olympica series. The Olympica line was born of the new Sonus faber and would employ different engineering and design attributes than the prior Cremona speakers. The drivers would be entirely designed in-house as well – a first for Sonus faber. I was intrigued.

Even though it took a while, I was finally able to get a review pair of the flagship Olympica III towers into my home. Sonus faber was also open to my request to build a full-bore surround system and kindly sent along the matching Olympica Center for center-channel duty and a pair of the Olympica I bookshelf speakers to use as surrounds. Being a reviewer for Secrets is a tough job, but someone has to do it ☺

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

Design

While I will let the pictures of the Olympica speakers do the talking, I can pretty much sum up the overall design of the Olympica line in two words: absolutely gorgeous. These are not words I would typically use to describe a mechanical object but they are appropriate here. I’ve seen a lot of speakers over the years, but to my eyes there is nothing like a Sonus faber design. Assembled entirely by hand in Sonus faber’s Italian factory, the overall construction quality is beyond reproach and is quite frankly the best I have ever seen on a speaker or pretty much any other product.

Starting with an interpretation of the classic Sonus faber lyre shape, the cabinets of the Olympicas are further refined with their new Triple Curvature profile. The sides are constructed of HDF, walnut veneer, and other woods of varying thickness and curvature. All of this aids in reducing internal resonance. The four sides are then clamped by solid walnut top and bottom caps. At the back of the speaker is the new Stealth Ultraflex port. This is a cabinet length strip of perforated metal used to control the airflow of bass energy, which in turn is able to control the Q of each loudspeaker.

The perforations in the metal are precisely designed to optimize airflow and there is also a special acoustically resistive/absorptive wadding used behind the panel for additional tuning. Due to their side-facing location, the Stealth Ultraflex ports can be positioned either to the inside or outside of each speaker (on the upside only on the Olympica Center), which offers an additional option when mating the speakers to your room.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

Sonus faber has traditionally turned to outside vendors for their drivers, but has chosen to engineer the drivers for the Olympica line entirely in-house. The tweeter has moved on from the ring-radiator design on the Cremonas to an all-new DAD 29XTR2 Arrow Point tweeter, which is said to combine the advantages of a ring-radiator with the timbre and great dispersion of a traditional soft-domed tweeter. A neodymium magnet, rear decompression chamber, and mechanical anti-resonator round out the tweeter design. The mid-range drivers each use a proprietary cellulose blend.

While paper has been used for speaker drivers for many years, Sonus faber still feels that it is one of the best materials available – particularly when mixed with other natural materials like kapok (considered to be the lightest natural material in the world) and kenaf (a hemp-like fiber). A clear viscous surface damping coating is then applied by hand to prevent any decay/discoloration of the finished cone. Woofers are a sandwich design featuring a core of rigid syntactic foam between two layers of treated cellulose pulp. Cast baskets and 1.5” voice coils are used for both the mid-range and woofer/mid-woofer modules.

The non-resonant, progressive slope crossovers were designed with a combination of advanced computer simulation as well as many hours of critical listening. The amplitude and phase response has been optimized in terms of space/time performance as well. Paracross Topology is in use for both the tweeter high-pass and midrange/mid-woofer networks. Finally, Sonus faber chose to higher-quality components in the crossovers, including Mundorf Evo Oil capacitors and Jantzen inductors. All speakers are 4 ohm designs, so be sure that your amplifier can handle the lower resistance load.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

While all of the parts on the inside of the Olympicas are impressive, it is the exterior that really grabs your attention. The side panels are covered in beautiful veneers with stripes of contrasting veneer every three inches or so. The Olympica IIIs and Olympica Center I received were finished in walnut, while the Olympica Is were of the graphite finish. The walnut is stunning in person and is likely to be the most popular finish choice with its classic looks. The graphite is much darker than the graphite on prior Sonus faber speakers and is more of a dark charcoal grey (almost black) with contrasting black stripes in the veneer.

The graphite lends a more modern look to the Olympicas that I personally loved. Both finishes are coated in an ecologically-sensitive satin finish. While a gloss finish may richen the appearance of the veneers, I personally prefer a more matte look for my speakers as it prevents reflections in my darkened media room. If you really like the graphite act quickly since the finish was recently discontinued in favor of Piano Gloss black. There is some remaining graphite stock available for the US, but no more will be imported.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

The front and rear baffles (22mm-thick HDF for the front, and even thicker HDF at the rear) are covered in supple black leather on all models. On the Olympica III, II, and I there is additional leather on the top of each speaker, framed by a beautifully machined and inset piece of aluminum trim. In a bit of a change for Sonus faber, all models except the Olympica Center now sport impressively crafted dual 5-way speaker binding posts on the back panel to accommodate bi-amping or bi-wiring. The two sets of binding posts give a customer the choice of using different wires for the bass and mid-range/treble in order to optimize performance.

The Olympica III has a solid black anodized aluminum plate with feet extensions permanently installed between the bottom cap and side panels. Some very nicely machined carpet spikes screw into the bottom of these extensions for increased stability and are then locked down by matching caps on the top. While I loved how well made the carpet spikes were, they were a bit short for my fairly thick carpet and padding.

Even when adjusted as much as possible, the bottom rear of the speakers was still pushing into my carpet. A slightly longer carpet spike would solve this problem and further decouple the speaker from the floor. For those of you with wood or tile flooring, Sonus faber also provides protective discs to place under the spikes. The Olympica Is have two threaded inserts in the bottom cap for mating to the complementary stand mounts.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

The Oympica Center is mounted to a black anodized aluminum stand which can be used for table top mounting (as I did) or attached to a dedicated stand for those of you with projection screen setups. If you are planning on mounting the Olympica Is or Olympica Center to a stand, I highly recommend the matching stands. Not only are they a great match aesthetically, but the mounting method (screws) is incredibly secure as well.

Rounding out the overall design are Sonus faber’s traditional stringed grilles. While I typically despise speaker grilles, I found that I preferred the look of the Olympicas with the grilles on – a first for me. I would be remiss not to mention that the stringed grilles don’t offer much in the way of protection though. My toddler, who is currently obsessed with anything remotely resembling a guitar, was constantly tempted to “strum” the grilles on the Olympicas. To prevent breakage, I quickly removed them.

Setup

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

If you recall from my recent review of the Sumiko Subwoofers S.9 I had two Fine Sounds Group employees out to my home to assist in the setup of the Olympica system. Starting with the Sumiko MASTERS 2-channel setup methodology, Allan Hagger, Brand Manager for Sumiko Subwoofers, fine-tuned the placement of first the left-front Olympica III and then the right front tower while Mike Russo, Regional Sales Manager for Fine Sounds Group, moved the speakers in minute increments at Allan’s direction. While far too detailed to go into here (it requires a two-day class to learn), the MASTERS setup methodology has some real merit.

Expressly carried out with real music (in this case “I Forgive You” from Rachelle Ferrell’s “Individuality”), the process helps lock in speaker positioning, toe-in, and rake to deliver the best possible sound in a given room. Particularly when carried out by someone of Allan’s skill (and excellent ear), the results are fantastic and I highly recommend having this setup performed by your dealer if possible. It is pretty amazing to hear the difference that even a ¼” of movement can make to the overall sound.

The Olympica IIIs ended up in a similar location to where other floor standing speakers have been placed in my room, with the rear of the cabinets about two feet from the front wall and 2.5 feet from either side wall. After experimenting it was decided that it was best to leave the Olympica IIIs Stealth Ultraflex ports facing towards the center of the room. This delivered a more even response in the bass and mid-bass with my centrally located listening position. Once the positioning was set, Allan and Mike fine-tuned toe-in and rake.

The Olympica IIIs sounded best aimed almost directly at the primary listening position, with their convergence being just slightly behind my head. Rake was set so that the tweeter shot directly upwards toward ear level. The end result delivered a great combination of imaging and driver coherence and was significantly better-sounding than the (admittedly cursory) setup I had performed. We also all agreed that the speakers sounded ever-so-slightly better with the grilles removed. The mid-range was slightly cleaner and treble detail was slightly more resolved with the drivers completely uncovered.

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I’ve attached a frequency response graph at my listening position. The green line shows the “grilled” result versus the “naked”. As you can see, the grilles do very little to the overall presentation. If you look at the bass frequencies, you will see they were nearly flat down to about 25 Hz. While my room does amplify bass energy (evidenced by the spike in output around centered around 50 Hz), this is still very good for a speaker with 7.1” woofers and noticeably better than the 35 Hz rating. The suck-out around 400Hz is a result of my seating position, as moving back about two feet in my room eliminates that trough. The rest of the chart is very smooth and a testament to what can be done with proper speaker setup.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

With the front mains firmly spiked into place, Allan and Mike moved onto setup of the center and surround channels using Sumiko’s STAR process. While similar in nature to the MASTERS setup methodology, the STAR process focuses more on surround sound/home theater setup. Due to my TV stand, there wasn’t much choice in setting up the Olympica Center. It was set on top of my Salamander Triple-20 rack, and plugged in. Do your best to ensure that the front baffle of the Olympica Center hangs over any stand/furniture to prevent any diffraction artifacts. The Olympica Is were placed on some 30” sand-filled Dynaudio stands I keep on hand and placed behind and to the sides (at the recommended 120-degree angle) of my primary seat. Again deferring to the MASTERS setup technique, Allan and Mike then proceeded to setup the Olympica Is like another pair of stereo speakers, just at the back of the room.

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We only ran into one issue during setup. When we first plugged the Olympica Is in and fired up I Forgive You, the sound was very brash and completely lacking in bass response. The Olympica Is sounded nothing like the Olympica III towers. Thinking something was wrong with the back channels on my Wyred 4 Sound amplifier, Allan and Mike moved the Is to the front of my room and plugged in the speaker cables (bi-wired Kimber 4VS pairs) from my main left and right channels. Now the Olympica Is sounded glorious. Clearly the speakers weren’t the issue. Switching the Kimber cables to the outputs on my amplifier’s surround channels still sounded great, so that ruled out the amplifier.

That left the speaker cables. Since this was a temporary setup, I had run some 12-gauge Tributaries in-wall wires to the locations for the Olympica Is. Allan and Mike asked if I had anything else long enough to make the run to the surround locations. I had some old Monster XP wire that was long enough so we quickly made the swap. The harsh, tinny treble was gone and now we had some solid bass from the Olympica Is. Numerous sarcastic comments about “cables not mattering” were uttered by all. Allan and Mike now setup the two Sumiko Subwoofers S.9s (see my Sumiko Subwoofers S.9 review for the in-depth process) to integrate properly with the Olympica system.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

With all the speakers set, we moved onto manually setting up the system for surround playback. Yup, you heard that right – manual setup. After disabling all the EQ/Audyssey settings on my Marantz AV8801 pre-amp, Allan and Mike dialed in the speaker distances/delay, crossovers (everything run full-range since the S.9s would be augmenting the front channels and surround channels), and volume levels by ear. As I’ve become accustomed to using Audyssey Pro or XTZ’s Room Analyzer II Pro to assist in my setups, I was very interested to hear how this would turn out. Allan explained that since the MASTERS/STAR setup does such a good job of ameliorating the negative effects of the room, room EQ systems like Audyssey will typically do more harm than good to a proper setup.

Using some test scenes from U-571 on Blu-ray, the proof was in the pudding. The manual setup was fantastic. Even after Allan and Mike left, the only change I made in my weeks of listening was to bump up the surround channels by .5dB for movie sources, which was strictly a personal-preference thing. I did perform a full blown Audyssey Pro calibration on the system as well. Switching between the manual configuration (in Pure Direct mode on the AV8801, which bypasses all EQ and processing) and Audyssey Pro correction I quickly found myself preferring the manual calibration.

While the Audyssey Pro calibration did smooth out the bass and mid-bass response better, the decrease in mid-range and treble quality was too large to ignore. Compared to the manual setup, Audyssey simply sucked the life out of the treble and midrange. Imaging and sound staging suffered noticeably as well. I listened to the system almost exclusively with no Audyssey calibration for the remainder of the review. Besides the Marantz AV8801 pre-amp and Wyred 4 Sound multi-channel amp, associated equipment was my trusty Oppo BDP-83SE NuForce edition player (2-channel analog output for all stereo sources, HDMI for all multi-channel) and a Comcast X1 cable box. Cabling was a mix of Kimber 4VS for the front channels (bi-wired for the Olympica IIIs) and Blue Jeans Cable 12-guage in-wall for the surrounds. I ran the two Sumiko Subwoofers S.9s for about one month before removing them and putting my Hsu Research VTF3-MkII sub back into the mix.

The Sonus faber Olympica system for music:

While I had gotten a pretty good feel for the overall sound of the Olympicas during Allan and Mike’s setup visit, I had to wait about another week before settling in for some critical listening, at least in multi-channel. While the Olympica IIIs arrived fully broken-in, the Olympica Center and Is were brand new when I received them. As such, I let the system run in multi-channel stereo mode for an additional 150 hours (I had gotten about 150 hours on them prior to Allan and Mike’s visit). While the differences were not major, the treble and mid-range opened up a bit and bass response definitely improved once the speakers broke the 250-hour mark. I took this time to run through some of my favorite 2-channel material on the Olympica IIIs.

Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff “Symphonic Dances”

I started with my standard speaker benchmark, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances (CD: Reference Recordings RR-96CD). In short, the sound I heard from the Olympica IIIs was some of the best I’ve ever heard with this track. Powerful dynamics, gorgeous tone from the woodwind and stringed instruments, and incredibly tight bass hits from the timpani. The chimes that ring about halfway into the first track sent chills down my spine. There was so much air and sparkle to each little tinkle without any hint of harshness. I wound up listening to the first half hour of the disc before moving on as the overall sonic signature was absolutely beautiful.

Patricia Barber

Patricia Barber “Modern Cool”

Next into the Oppo went some Patricia Barber. Every track on Modern Cool is perfectly recorded, but Barber’s take on the Doors Light My Fire really stood out for me. The Olympicas placed her breathy voice firmly center stage, even with the speakers’ front baffle in place. Besides doing justice to the subtleties of her vocal abilities, the natural bass line in this track really showed how articulate the low end of the Olympicas was.

The bass groove just resonates so sweetly. You can even hear some string buzz towards the end of the bass solo near the end of the song. The trumpets that kick in mid-way into the track sounded fantastic as well. While they were properly bright in tone, they did not cross over into harshness.

Joe Bonnamassa

Joe Bonnamassa “Different Shades of Blue”

The Olympica IIIs were adept at everything else I threw at them as well. Joe Bonnamassa’s Different Shades of Blue was a real pleasure through the IIIs. Oh Beautiful and Get Back My Tomorrow are my two favorites on this disc and the IIIs really showed off Joe’s clean vocals and incredible guitar playing. Even better, I was able to appreciate some of the more subtle background effects in these tracks, like the conga drums used in Oh Beautiful. The Olympicas seem to do exceptionally well reproducing wood-bodied instruments, probably because the cabinets of the Olympicas closely resemble musical instruments themselves.

Tiesto

Tiesto “Adagio for Strings”

As a final two-channel challenge, I put an old trance favorite into the Oppo: DJ Tiesto’s rendition of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. While I have always thought that Tiesto put an unexpected amount of production work into his tracks (particularly his earlier works before becoming so commercial), I developed a newfound respect for this song. This was the first time I had ever been able to distinguish just how much panning and stereo separation was done. The surging synth lines initially rise up in the space between speakers but then echo back from the left and right in an alternating fashion. It really adds to the ethereal quality of the song and I’m glad I finally got to hear it. The filtered bass lines were also incredibly tight and punchy. I know my Wyred 4 Sound amp has great bass control, but the bass hits started and stopped on a dime. Equal credit has to go to the Olympicas on this.

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet “LAGQ Latin”

After such a great 2-channel experience I was anxious to start evaluating the Olympica system as whole with some high-resolution multi-channel sources. I grabbed one of my favorite classical guitar works, the 4-channel SACD of Los Angeles Guitar Quartet’s LAGQ Latin. This is an interesting recording, where each of the 4 guitars are placed in their own channel and the listener is centered in the mix. Track 2, Hasta Alicia Baila, starts out with some simple notes in each channel but there is also a knuckle thunk against a guitar body in the left surround channel. As someone who has played guitar his whole life, I can tell you that the thunk was perfectly captured.

What really surprised me was that the little Olympica I was able to capture the tone and body of the guitar so well. It did not sound any different than the much larger Olympica IIIs. The similarities between the Olympica IIIs and Is were further highlighted by Cuban Landscape With Rain. This track starts out with just a single note or two by each guitar, in a sequence from one channel to the next. The notes and channel movement quickly speed up until you have a cacophony of sound.

The tone from speaker to speaker was perfect, with the pans happening seamlessly. Even better, I never heard the extra presence-region bite that I recall hearing on acoustic guitar works through the older Cremonas. On the Cremonas or Cremona Ms you could hear it on the initial pluck of a second or third-string note. No such issues with the Olympicas. Overall, this was the most impressive rendering of classical guitar I have ever heard – shy of some significantly more expensive speakers.

The Beatles

The Beatles “Love”

Wanting to test out the Olympica Center, I moved to two of my benchmark surround sound mixes: The Beatles’ Love and the Talking Heads’ Burning Down the House, both on DVD-Audio. These are probably the best examples of surround music I’ve yet run across and can fully exercise any surround system. While My Guitar Gently Weeps from Love sounded absolutely incredible. While this track sounds great on any decent system it really soared on the Olympicas.

The front sound field was the best I’ve ever experienced in my room. The Olympica Center blended in perfectly with the big towers and matched the smooth tonal nature of towers flawlessly. George Harrison’s voice was just so beautifully pure across the front three speakers. With the orchestral swells blossoming out of the surround channels it was a completely mesmerizing aural experience.

Talking Heads

Talking Heads “Burning Down the House”

The same could be said of Burning Down the House. Pretty much any song on this disc shows just how good the Olympica system is as a whole. I Get Wild/Wild Gravity displays some of the less aggressive effects on this disc but the overall effect was almost more impressive than the more ping-pongy mixes like Burning Down the House. It makes you work just a bit to pick up the many different nuanced effects placed among the five channels. However, the raw power of the alternative mix of Burning Down the House is still my favorite track here.

I cranked this one up and reveled at the sounds bouncing all around the room. This is a flat-out fun song that is done even greater justice with the amazing surround mix. When played through a system with the Olympica’s abilities, it just gets even better.

Linkin Park

Linkin Park “Reanimation”

I finished up my music evaluations with the DVD-Audio disc of Linkin Park’s Reanimation. While I have used this surround mix with every speaker system I’ve ever had in my home, I heard sounds on PTS.OF.ATHRTY that I have never noticed before, particularly in the surround channels. The level of clarity on this recording was astounding. While there are some intentionally harsh-sounding moments on this disc, the Olympica system held them in check better than any speaker system I’ve yet heard.

Amazingly, this didn’t impact the speakers’ ability to relay they many subtle bits of this incredibly complex mix. Also, as a very active surround mix, this disc really showed off the overall coherence between each of the speakers. The intro to P5HNG ME A*WY, has a beeping sound that circles through the sound field, one speaker at a time. There was NO change in timbre that I could notice as the sound moved from speaker to speaker. This is the first time I can remember experiencing such a perfect transition from speaker to speaker.

Since I was enjoying this disc so much, I found myself continually upping the volume level to see how the Olympicas handled high volume levels. Frankly, I think they heard me down at the end of my block but even when pushed ridiculously hard, I didn’t hear any break-up or added harshness to the sound. I had to throttle down the volume after a bit to keep my hearing intact. If you have the amp power, you can safely drive these speakers to insane levels.

The Sonus faber Olympica system for movies:

Master and Commander

Master and Commander

As I’ve found from prior experience, if a set of speakers can sound great on demanding 2-channel and multi-channel music, movie soundtracks are a breeze. This was definitely the case with the Olympicas. To prove that point, I put in some of my favorite Blu-ray discs and played some demo-worthy scenes. The intro scene from Master and Commander starts out within the hull of the HMS Surprise. While this is a relatively quiet moment, the surround mix is full of amazing little ambient effects.

There are the creaks of the ship’s wooden hull, muffled coughs from the crew, and the background sounds of waves and wind hitting the ship. It all creates one of the most immersive sound experiences I have ever heard. When the quiet is pierced by the crack of a surprise cannon shot, all hell breaks loose. I wound up playing this scene back three times, reveling at all the little details embedded in the mix. Also, as a very dialogue heavy mix the Olympica Center really shone with this soundtrack. Even on some of the more difficult to understand English accents I had no issues hearing each word loud and clear. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

Skyfall

Skyfall

The opening scene of Skyfall is a classic James Bond intro. There is the desperate chase, an awesome motorcycle stunt sequence, and a great fight atop a moving train. The sound through all of this was dynamic, punchy, and immersive. When Bond lands in the water after his fall, the sound of rapids filled the room. Adele’s Skyfall then begins as the opening credits roll.

While the sound of this song on all the CDs/downloads I’ve heard is highly compressed, the mix on the Blu-ray is far more rich and dynamic, cementing itself as one of the best Bond theme songs ever. Adele’s vocals were solidly placed in the center and front channels, with the Olympica Center really showing its chops once again.

Metallica

Metallica “Through the Never”

I finished up my movie watching with Metallica’s Through the Never. During the end credits, the band plays their instrumental piece Orion to an empty stadium. Orion is quite possibly my favorite song by Metallica. It is almost symphonic in nature and really shows just how musically talented this group is. Through the Oympica system, I fell in love with this piece all over again. The tone of James Hetfield’s and Kirk Hammett’s ESP guitars was perfectly reproduced.

Robert Trujillo’s very nimble bassline and solo sections held the perfect combination of growl and depth. Lars Ulrich’s drums were tight and deep, with the cymbal crashes displaying a surprising amount of shimmer and air. I wound up blasting this pretty loud and there was no evidence of additional distortion or breakup. While there were no discrete surround effects in this DTS-Master 5.1 track, the Olympica Is in the back did a wonderful job of capturing the stadium’s sonic ambiance that had been nicely mixed in.

There is really only one nit that I have to pick with the Olympica system for theater use. For those of you interested in setting up a system with height or ceiling speakers (Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, etc) do bear in mind that Sonus faber does not currently offer an in-ceiling or wall-mount speaker in the Olympica line. They did offer a wall-mount speaker in the prior Cremona M line (the Auditor Elipsa) but unfortunately demand was not high enough to justify creating an equivalent product in the Olympica line. I can only hope that Sonus faber decides to create a matching ceiling speaker and possibly a wall-mountable surround sometime soon. You could use the Venere Wall speaker from the less expensive Venere series but the tonal match will not be perfect as the two lines use significantly different drivers.

Conclusions

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

THE SONUS FABER OLYMPICA SPEAKER SYSTEM Delivers a High Level of Performance.

Likes
  • Impeccable build quality
  • Absolutely beautiful design
  • Sweet, yet highly detailed treble
  • Very smooth midrange
  • Forceful, yet accurate bass/mid-bass
  • Excellent driver integration
  • Pinpoint imaging
  • Expansive soundstage
  • Rare combination of smooth but detailed sound
  • Seamless transition between speakers
  • Truly exceptional dialogue from the Oympica Center
  • Olympica Is offer an excellent match to the Olympica IIIs for surround music
Would Like To See
  • Slightly longer spikes for those with thicker carpet/padding
  • Deeper bass extension

While the Sonus faber Olympica speakers are by no means cheap, I cannot think of another speaker line near this price point that delivers as high a level of performance while being housed in such impeccably designed and finished cabinetry. For those of you who want to enjoy incredible sound without sacrificing your home’s decor, the Olympicas should be at the top of a very short list.

I have been searching for a new reference speaker system for my main media room since I started writing for Secrets over five years ago. My current system is very enjoyable for listening to music and movies, but was not really analytical enough to reveal the subtle differences between different components I had in for review. With that in mind, I started looking at components that excelled in some of the more traditional aspects of an audiophile product, i.e. retrieval of detail and outright neutrality. But every time I listened to speakers like that for an extended period of time, I realized there was no way I could live with them long-term. I don’t love speakers like that.

While they could sound great on a perfectly-produced source, those are few and far between. What I really needed was a speaker that was analytical enough for my reviewing job but still retained the sense of musicality and ease that I demand of components for my personal use. Above all, I had to experience an emotional connection to the source when listening to them. I was starting to feel like this couldn’t happen. Then the Sonus faber Olympica system showed up at my doorstep.

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

The Olympicas really are of two natures. First, their incredible resolution allows a listener to hear every detail in a recording. Combined with their excellent imaging, pinpoint sound-staging, neutral tone and timbre, and tight bass response, this is an audiophile speaker in every right of the word. On the flip side, the Olympicas have that rare ability to enhance one’s enjoyment of music and movies by simply making almost any recording sound beautiful. I LOVED listening to just about any source through the Olympicas.

As an added bonus, the overall sound field was the most coherent I have ever experienced in any of my listening rooms or dealer demos. The Olympica Center is one of the best center-channel speakers I have ever heard and the Olympica Is made for excellent surround speakers (or dedicated 2-channel speakers in their own right). Topping off this amazing performance was the stunning design and construction of the Olympica system. True, you pay for this combination of looks and talent, but if you are going to place large speakers all over your room don’t you want them to look great?

Sonus Faber Olympica Speaker System

In the end, I wasn’t able to resist temptation. I bought a complete set of Olympicas for myself (IIIs, Center, and Is in Graphite). I justified my purchase like this: I didn’t buy just one speaker system, I bought two. One for the equipment reviewer and one for the music and movie lover. The fact that the two systems reside in one set of absolutely gorgeous cabinets is just icing on the cake. If you have the chance, give the Olympica line a listen. Much more than just an audiophile product, the Sonus faber Olympica speakers appeal to the emotional as well as the analytical part of your brain.

  • Alex Mantovani

    Nice review for this speaker system, I liked right away when I saw them on the site Sonus Faber, but I have the same problem as you have observed, Sonus Faber does not have a ceiling line, I ask that you have seen me as a speaker it would be more suitable with those currently on the market? I have ceiling series of Paradigm CI-Pro, it can be different?

  • Tyler Stripko

    Alex, glad you enjoyed the review. The Paradigm CI-Pros should work well with an Olympica system. The Paradigms are neutral speakers, so they will blend in well with Olympicas. While the blend won’t be as seamless as having actual “Olympica Ceilings” I don’t think the sound field would be severely degraded.

  • Bradley

    Tyler – excellent review. One correction: You have SONOS listed as the company in the Specifications area near the top of the review.

  • Alex Mantovani

    Thanks Tyler…
    Do you can confirm of Olympica Center have a normal not bi-wiring connection?
    I have a extra channel on my amplifiers, and i would bi-amp the center…

  • Tyler Stripko

    Bradley, good catch. I’ve requested a correction to the link.

  • Tyler Stripko

    The Olympica Center only has a single set of binding posts. While I have my Olympica IIIs bi-wired, I did experiment with a single set of wire and the difference was minimal. The crossovers in these speakers are top-notch, which eliminates most of the need for bi-wiring/bi-amping. The main reason Sonos faber put two sets of binding posts on the IIIs, IIs, and Is was so that you could use different amplifiers for the midrange and treble as opposed to the mid-bass/bass. While primarily targeted towards 2-channel users, this would let you “voice” the speakers differently if you wish. For example, using a high-powered Class D or solid-state amp to tightly control the woofers while using a separate tube amp for the mid-range/treble to create a richer/warmer sound for the upper registers. Or use a a brighter, more analytical amp for the uppers if you are a “detail hound.” In my case, the tonal balance with the Center being single-wired and the IIIs being bi-wired is so impeccable that I am not even worried about bi-wiring the center. I am feeding about a kilowatt (1000 watts) to the Olympica Center though 🙂

  • Alex Mantovani

    I want to use two nad m27 to amp the 11 channel required with Dolby Atmos, and the spare channel I would use for vertical bi-amp the olympica III …

    Every amp have a side of room, for a best separation…

    You use 1kw on center channel? you don’t have scary of blowing out midwoofers?

  • Tyler Stripko

    While I haven’t heard the nCore-based M27’s I would imagine that they would be a good fit for the Olympicas. I’d like to try those amps out myself as I hear that they are much more Class A/B sounding then the B+O based IcePower modules in my current multi-channel amp – which still sounded excellent with the Olympicas.

    Let us know your thoughts on the Olympica NAD M27 combo.

    As for the 1Kw of power – remember that it is usually too little power that damages speakers when the amplifier clips from too much draw. While you definitely could melt the voice coils with 1Kw of power to the Center, it would be an insane SPL level before you’d even draw close to that much juice from the amp. The added power leaves plenty of spare headroom.

  • Milind

    Now that you have reviewed the Olympica III and the PSB Imagine T3s, can you please compare nd contrast these 2 loudspeakers? What does the Olympica III do better than the T3, and vice versa?