Although similar performance may be had for less money, this combination of fit, finish, styling, and performance is unique to the Sonetto VIII. The speakers are manufactured in Italy – a rare thing in this day of “Made in China.” They are also large, heavy, and can be imposing, particularly in smaller rooms. But three available finishes, white, black, and walnut, allow the speakers to fit in almost anywhere, and sound good doing it!
Sonus Faber Sonetto VIII Speaker Review
- One of the best-looking speakers to visit my home
- Excellent sound to match the handsome looks
- Needs care to avoid scratching hard floors
- Effective and invisible downward-firing port
- Balanced and detailed sound from top to bottom
One of my (much wealthier) neighbors collects cool cars. One of his prizes is an Italian Maserati Quattroporte sports sedan. The car impresses me not only for its high performance but also its high level of luxury. If the Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speaker were a car, it’d be that Maserati. These speakers are both high luxury and high performance!
3-way floor-standing speaker system
Vented box with bottom-firing port
Tweeter – High Definition DAD driver. DKM dome diaphragm 29mm
Custom diaphragm made with cellulose pulp and other natural fibers. 150mm
Ultra-free compression basket, aluminum cone for maximum speed. 180mm cone drivers
270Hz and 3000Hz
4 ohms, nominal
50-300 watts without clipping (suggested amplifier power)
22 volts RMS (IEC 268-5) Max. input voltage
1188 x 283 x 427mm (H x W x D)
47 x 11 x 17 inches
36 – 25,000Hz Frequency Response
90dB SPL (2.83V / 1m)
White, Black, or Walnut
$6,499 / Pair (U.S.)
2018, floor-standing, speakers, review, Sonus Faber, three-way, Glenn Young, Loudspeaker Review 2018
- Sonus faber introduces the Sonetto series
- The Sonus faber Principia 3 bookshelf speaker review
- The Sonus faber Olympica speaker review
Let’s discuss the performance first, since that’s honestly what most are interested in. The Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speakers are the very definition of “balanced.” They have no specific emphasis or lack thereof in any frequency range. Were you to close your eyes, you might think, from audition alone, that these were some of the very best British speakers or American “New England” style speakers. But three things argue with that simple assessment – the dynamics, the treble, and the bass.
Unlike some popular and very pricey metal-domed British speakers (that shall remain nameless), the Sonetto VIIIs add no “sparkle” to the treble, a hi-fi affectation that ultimately detracts from the music. Instead the Sonus fabers sound extended without sounding bright, clean without sounding harsh, and delicate when the music demands it.
The bass, somewhat reticent initially, fleshes itself out within a day or two of service, and the three woofers per side provide a more extended bottom than the 38Hz, -3dB down-point specification would lead one to believe. I listened to them both with and without subwoofers, and ultimately preferred them without. Make of that what you will.
The dynamics of the Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speakers are dependent on the amplifier used. But with a good amp (my favorites were the Emotiva PA-1 Class-D amplifiers), the dynamics could be startling.
Looking at the Sonetto VIII speakers once they’re set up, one could be forgiven for thinking that they were a sealed box design. But that isn’t the case. The port on these speakers is on the bottom, given room to breathe by the outrigger feet. I heard no chuffing or any other port noise at all during the review, and the bass response, in my room seemed to stretch all the way to the low 30s. The three aluminum cone drivers are more than sufficient to play in a LARGE room without breakup.
Peering into that cavernous port, coils of large-diameter wire are visible, indicating that Sonus-faber didn’t skimp on the crossovers.
The midrange cone is made from paper pulp with some stiffeners. I was initially worried that the paper cone would announce its presence audibly but was pleasantly surprised that the midrange blended very well with both the woofers and the tweeter. The midrange, obviously, is in its own sub-compartment to prevent interference with the woofers’ back-pressure waves.
The tweeter may be the most surprising driver in the Sonus faber Sonetto VIII. Looking at the large-ish size of the tweeter, I had expected severe beaming at its upper ranges, but I heard no such thing. The tiny diffuser in front of the tweeter works a treat and the treble was clean and clear whether on axis or off.
The binding posts are high-quality, five-way connectors with jumpers, allowing for conventional hook-ups with a single hot and ground wire. By removing the jumpers, bi-wiring or bi-amplification are possible, should the owner choose. I did try bi-wiring the speakers but heard no audible difference.
The speaker terminals use high-quality nickel-plated nuts with plastic backing-ferrules. The backings are made of black or red plastic to identify polarity. While crawling about at floor level, behind the speakers, the colored ferrules can sometimes be hard to see. I wish that Sonus faber had used wide, solid red and black plastic bands around the nickel-plated nuts to ensure easy and positive identification. But regardless of markings, the terminals are beefy and have a very pleasant knurled surface for good grip.
The cabinet of the Sonus faber Sonetto VIII also bears mentioning. The mounting board for the drivers is as narrow as possible, with the cabinet swelling at each side and then tapering to a narrow rear. The entire cabinet is veneered in elegant-looking walnut. Although white and black are both available, unless you’re looking for “stark,” walnut is definitely the way to go! In addition to looking sensuous, the Sonetto VIII cabinets are some of the most inert I’ve encountered. The knuckle-rap test results in nothing but sore knuckles.
The tops have a black leather pad with the Sonus faber logo & name embossed.
The Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speakers arrived in not one, not two, but three layers of boxing. Apparently, the shipping services in Italy are no gentler with large, heavy packages than are the U.S. services. And so, despite some damage to the outer boxes, the speakers arrived safe and sound.
But when I went to set up the speakers, I encountered some disappointments. First, Sonus faber provides spikes to better couple the speakers to the floor in rooms with carpet. The spikes and outriggers are absolutely necessary to elevate the speakers a specific distance, providing adequate clearance for the bottom-firing port. But the Sonus faber solution for hard floors is to supply some 1.5-inch diameter metal discs with a tiny center indentation on one side, where the spikes are supposed to fit. The other (floor) side of each disc has a rubber coating.
I found out after the review that Sonus faber recommends using some newspaper or napkins under the discs until the proper position is found (being the best compromise between smooth bass response and best imaging). Once the proper position is determined, Sonus faber then recommends removing the paper and letting their disc coating “lock” the speakers in place. Once locked, the threaded spikes can be used to level the speaker or to tilt it so that the tweeter fires at the ear-level of the listener(s). The only improvement I can think of to this process would be to use waxed paper under the discs for easier sliding.
The initial positioning of these discs, however, can be problematic. First, trying to position the disc so that the outrigger spike hits the exact center of its disc while trying to hold up the heavy corner of the speaker with the fingers of your other hand is not a simple task. If lighting is insufficient, the task becomes much harder.
Positioning the speakers can also be difficult if your floors have the least bit of unevenness (my older house does). I would have liked for Sonus faber to provide screw-in Teflon or rubber feet to use on hard floors. To find the proper position for the speakers I put larger, furniture-moving Teflon glides beneath each spike. The big discs aren’t attractive, but my floors are still intact.
Sonus faber provides magnetically-attached grills for the Sonetto VIII speakers, and anyone with children or pets should probably use them.
This music should test the dynamic range of your loudspeakers. The brass fortissimos are LOUD and the piano solos can be significantly softer. The Sonetto VIIIs managed to convey both without any need to touch the volume control. With lesser speakers, I have to turn down the climaxes to avoid clipping and turn up the solos to hear the detail.
With the Sonus fabers, I can leave the volume high enough to enjoy the quiet piano solos without fear of clipping when the brass and kettledrums kick in.
The version by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Seiji Ozawa conducting, Krystian Zimerman, piano) on Deutsche Grammophon label is recorded in a more contemporary manner, but the actual performance isn’t nearly as good as that of Fritz Reiner & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Byron Janis, piano from “The Reiner Sound” CD) on RCA Victor Living Stereo label. This is an amazing piece of music that will let you know the dynamic range limits of your system. Turn up the soft passages if you must – they’re eloquent. This is one of my favorite pieces of music. If I ever get the chance to hear it performed live, I’ll die happy.
Not only should the classical guitar sound as if it’s in the room with you, but a good recording should also reveal the acoustic of the performance. Was the guitarist in a booth or on an open stage? Was this a closed recording session, or was there an audience present?
Can the squeak of the windings on the three lowest strings be heard when the guitarist’s fingers slide over them? This detail is often lost on lesser speakers, but the Sonetto VIIIs played every single nuance.
This is why I consider the Sonus fabers to be “high-performance” speakers. I didn’t expect so much detail, considering their drivers – there are no exotic materials (a paper midrange driver instead of one made of ceramic or metals and a “soft-dome” tweeter of larger than expected diameter instead of a ribbon tweeter), but Whoot! Dere it is! (pardon me, I’m a New Orleans Saints fan…).
The detail that the Sonetto VIIIs can produce is absolutely stunning. Are the speakers as fast as, say, an electrostatic panel? Well, no – but no electrostat I’ve ever heard can deliver the uncompressed dynamic range and slam of the Sonus fabers, either. And despite the slight speed edge of the electrostatic speakers, the Sonettos are still far faster sounding than most cone-and-dome-in-a-box offerings.
The speed you’ll hear depends heavily on the amplification used, though. When I hooked up the Sonetto VIII speakers to my AVR, much of the thrill was gone. They still sounded very good, but the speed and dynamics that make the Sonus fabers sound so much like real music were significantly diminished. I got the best of the speakers by using my Emotiva PA-1 monoblock amplifiers. Those amps truly revealed the full potential of the Sonetto VIIIs.
And to add to the enjoyment, the tube section of my Schiit Audio Freya preamplifier was a great match for this particular acoustic guitar cut. It provided extra air and bloom to the sound (but with a slight reduction in detail). No preamp is perfect…
The remastered recordings of the Dave Brubeck Quartet are a joy. In particular, I have a soft spot for “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Some speakers blur the fast piano notes. Some speakers fail to reproduce the acoustic bass notes evenly. Some speakers fail to catch the sheen of the cymbals. But the Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speakers get every one of those nuances right. Every. Single. One.
I’ve enjoyed listening to this track more on the Sonus fabers than on any other loudspeaker I’ve tried. In fact, my wife came into the living room and sat down to listen with me – a rare occurrence, and one that happens only when the music is both exceptionally good and the reproduction system is exceptionally real-sounding.
To get the best from this recording, I used the volume-controlled output from my Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC/Preamplifier directly into the power amplifiers in balanced differential mode.
And once on a jazz roll, it’s hard to get out! I next played the late Alan Toussaint’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” I like the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s version too, but “The Saint of New Orleans” throws in a bit more soul. And if you haven’t heard it, may I also recommend Toussaint’s rendition of “St. James Infirmary.” But I digress…
I wanted to listen carefully for bass lines and piano verisimilitude on this cut, but just got so carried away listening to the music that I neglected to focus on analytical listening. That’s what music is for – and the Sonus fabers seduced me, again and again, into neglecting analysis and just enjoying the music. That’s a good thing and a real tribute to the Sonetto VIIIs.
Love it or hate it, there’s a LOT going on in this “Un Fiesta Anima” track by Padú Del Caribe. Some people take to this music immediately while others demand it be shut off after the first few seconds. So, consider it an “acquired taste.” But this recording sounds GOOD through the Sonetto VIIIs.
The detail of the percussion and background rhythm is amazing, and the piano sounds realistic. Listen to this on a less-resolving set of speakers, and it’ll give you a headache!
This is an oldie. I like this recording for its otherworldly vocals and its deep (DEEP) percussion. When the drums are struck, the bass waves should propagate from the center of the soundstage outward into the room like an ocean wave hitting a beach. Speakers without true deep bass response just won’t do it right.
Despite the Sonus faber’s stated -3dB point of 38Hz, the speakers seemed to extend closer to 30Hz. Playing the Sonetto VIIIs without subwoofers, the bass of the Spirit Dance was nearly as good as any I’ve heard in my room.
And since I’m sure that someone will ask, the one pair of speakers that has bested the Sonus faber Sonetto VIIIs for bass performance (in my room) was the pair of Emotiva T2 loudspeakers. But the Sonus fabers are certainly no slouches…
If you want the Sonettos as part of a surround system, Sonus faber also offers companion centers, subs, and surrounds.
The Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speakers measure as smoothly as they sound. Kudos to the Sonus faber engineers for coaxing out such great performance from this design.
The SONUS FABER SONETTO VIII SPEAKERS are not inexpensive, but I know of no other speaker that provides their luxurious appearance and their splendid performance.
Some of the most beautiful speakers to have wandered through my door
Smooth, dynamic, extended, and powerful sound with surprising delicacy
Luxurious leather top pads that prevent scratching the finish
Attention to visual appeal provides a welcome spousal-acceptance rating
Better than usual packing to prevent shipping damage
Included soft feet for hard floors
More clearly marked speaker terminals for easier polarity identification
I can’t afford my neighbor’s Maserati automobile, but for many, the “economy line” Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speakers might be (eventually) somewhere in the realm of financial possibility. If you’re in that fortunate gruppo, then I believe these $6,499 speakers challenge every other speaker I’ve heard even up to the $10,000 per pair price level.
I’d have to throw in the caveat, though, that these Sonus faber speakers are revealing enough to starkly highlight any shortcomings of your upstream electronics. The Sonetto VIIIs won’t “make everything sound great,” but will, instead, present the unvarnished audio truth. The speakers are accurate as opposed to euphonic.
Don’t think that you’ll “get by” playing these speakers with your AV Receiver, either – you won’t hear what they’re capable of, and will have wasted your money on them. Give them the front-end they deserve and be amazed at what the combination can deliver.
A high-quality front end need not be prohibitively expensive. Improvements in audio electronics have brought prices down from the stratosphere, and electronics that cost an arm and a leg as little as five years ago can now be had for near-everyman’s prices.