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SONUS FABER BOOKSHELF SPEAKER ADVICE: Lumina II; Sonetto I; Sonetto II; Venere 1.5

venessian

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SONUS FABER BOOKSHELF SPEAKER ADVICE: Lumina II; Sonetto I; Sonetto II; Venere 1.5​


I would appreciate advice from readers who have direct experience with any or more of the following Sonus faber bookshelf speaker models:
Lumina II
Sonetto I
and/or Sonetto II
Venere 1.5

NEED:

Bookshelf speakers with great musicality, in a normal living room, especially off-axis (I do not sit in a set position), front-ported.

I have recently heard and really liked a pair of older Sonus faber Cremona M stand-mounts, as well as KEF R3 (the KEF are out of our budget). The speakers I directly compared to which I did not like much were various Bowers & Wilkins (606 S2; 607 S2; 705 S2) models, Monitor Audio Silver 100, and Martin Logan. Focal Chora 806 were recommended by a friend, but we could not listen to them anywhere. Both stores I visited stated that if I preferred the Sonus faber Cremona and the KEF R3 and did not like B&W and Monitor, I would very probably like any of the other Sonus Faber models, and not so much the Focal.

Based on this and other research, inexperience in audio matters, and fatigue from research/etc., I would like to narrow the list down to just the Sonus faber models. The max $1200 budget allows for either new Lumina II or used Sonetto I, Sonetto II, or Venere 1.5. I am trying to gather information between these models as I cannot audition any of those.

The Lumina II seem to garner universal praise, and I have been told I would enjoy them. What appeals to me a bit more about the Sonetto I, Sonetto II, and Venere 1.5 (but only if they are acoustically equal to or better than the Lumina II) are the slightly larger size and the classic Sonus faber "lute" shape.

PURPOSE:
Music almost exclusively. The speakers would connect to the TV but HT is not a requirement at all.

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:
Cambridge Audio AXR100 stereo receiver
Rotel 955 CD player
2 x Rythmik L12 subwoofers

ROOM:
The room is a standard small/medium living room (not a "listening room") of ~240 sf with a 60 sf dining area diagonally away from where the speakers would be. So, ~290 sf total (~2,500 cf). The speakers would have to sit on 16" maximum deep solid shelves, so front-ported is good. Speaker stands are not a viable option, for both space and budget reasons.

Any advice and impressions from those who have experience with any of the Sonus faber models listed above would be welcome.
 
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facefirst

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6C7B353B-FF81-4B50-8D0D-7962BB866057.jpeg
Not overly helpful but…I auditioned SF floor-standers and the Venere sounded pretty average. So much so that I opted for the Olympica range instead. If you can get some Olympica I’d used then you’d be happy I suspect. They are beautifully put together.
 
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venessian

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View attachment 176807Not overly helpful but…I auditioned SF floor-standers and the Venere sounded pretty average. So much so that I opted for the Olympica range instead. If you can get some Olympica I’d used then you’d be happy I suspect. They are beautifully put together.
Thank you. Yes, I bet! Those look stunning, really wonderful in that library context. The Sf design, cabinet-work, "string" grilles are all so beautiful. Unfortunately even Olympica I are way beyond my budget, even used (and very rare on the pre-owned market it seems).

I am trying to understand if the older, discontinued, China-produced Venere line was 1) more HT-oriented; 2) inferior to other Sf at the time; and 3) inferior now compared to the new, still-in-production, Italy-made base model Lumina and Sonetto bookshelvers. The Lumina get superb reviews, the Sonetto generally very good, but the older Venere reviews of 6-10+ years ago all seem pretty positive too.

It is not easy when one cannot hear any of the actual speakers one is considering. The Cremona Aubditor stand-mounts I heard recently sure did sound really wonderful, esp compared with B&W 606/607/705, to me,

I am just nowhere near Olympica/Heritage/Guarneri/etc territory financially.
 
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MarcT

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Venere S was the only model in that line that was made in Italy, seemed to get fairly good reviews. I have not heard the Venere models.

I heard the Lumina V vs the Sonetto VIII on the same system at a dealer and the Lumina V didn't seem to really give up that much to the Sonetto VIII. However, those are floorstanders, so I can't really say about the stand mount models. You're right that the Lumina II has gotten a lot of good reviews. The thing I noticed about the Lumina V was that the mid range and vocals just sounded so good. I heard the Sonetto V at a different dealer and I thought it sounded very good. The only thing about trying to find used Sonetto series is that they so rarely appear on the used market.

Sonus Faber admits "tuning" their speakers a bit, so they might not measure as good as something like Revel. But they sound great to me. They also seem to generate a good degree of bass "slam" for their size. And it's hard to find a better looking speaker in their price range. The Lumina V that I auditioned:

IMG_2209 by MDTshots, on Flickr
 
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venessian

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Venere S was the only model in that line that was made in Italy, seemed to get fairly good reviews. I have not heard the Venere models.

I heard the Lumina V vs the Sonetto VIII on the same system at a dealer and the Lumina V didn't seem to really give up that much to the Sonetto VIII. However, those are floorstanders, so I can't really say about the stand mount models. You're right that the Lumina II has gotten a lot of good reviews. The thing I noticed about the Lumina V was that the mid range and vocals just sounded so good. I heard the Sonetto V at a different dealer and I thought it sounded very good. The only thing about trying to find used Sonetto series is that they so rarely appear on the used market.

Sonus Faber admits "tuning" their speakers a bit, so they might not measure as good as something like Revel. But they sound great to me. They also seem to generate a good degree of bass "slam" for their size. And it's hard to find a better looking speaker in their price range. The Lumina V that I auditioned:

IMG_2209 by MDTshots, on Flickr
Thanks much. That's good to know re: the Venere. I feel that maybe I should forgo the Venere 1.5 (not being able to listen to them ever) and focus on Lumina II or Sonetto I/II as budget allows.

I did just now find a local Sf dealer who has Sonetto II to audition, so I will do that tomorrow (and can verify my KEF R3 like and B&W dislike in the process, which will be very helpful, as they have all 3 brands). The Lumina II are so hard to find (back-ordered + shipping delays) that even he, a Sf AD in a big city, has not heard them yet! The Lumina II do seem great, and are the only model can afford new.

The quandary is that Sf apparently have designed in the Lumina II a really remarkable entry-level Sf speaker at very possibly below what they could charge, a real cost/value/quality bargain according to many. But, otoh, clearly the Lumina II "savings" come partially from the standard orthogonal cabinet rather than the classic Sf "lute" cabinet, and the smaller size relative to Sonetto/Venere. As an architect, if the sound quality were equal, I do prefer both the scale and the beautiful classic Sf cabinet design of the Sonetto or Venere. I can of course buy the Lumina II (or the Sonetto I or II if the sq was equal/better than the Lumina II) and even return in 30 days if at home they do not excite me; that is not possible with any Venere now.
 

facefirst

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Personally, I think the Venere are lovely to look at but from my (admittedly extremely limited) experience, they aren't up there with the best that SF has to offer. If you can find some used Cremona or Cremona M then I'd go for those over the newer ones. I think they'll hold their value better too.
 
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venessian

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Personally, I think the Venere are lovely to look at but from my (admittedly extremely limited) experience, they aren't up there with the best that SF has to offer. If you can find some used Cremona or Cremona M then I'd go for those over the newer ones. I think they'll hold their value better too.
Yes, I am getting that impression too. I cannot listen to any Venere, but the consensus seems to be that they were a weaker, transitional, Sf offering.

I do have direct experience listening to used Sf Cremona Auditor (maybe Cremona Auditor M, I do not know), A/B through a Cambridge Audio (the next model up from the amp I own) amp versus demo B&W 705 S2 just last week. I far preferred the Cremona. The condition is mint (a longtime client of the store traded them in for some far more $$$ speakers, so they are on consignment), and the price seems fair from what I gather (US $1500 including the Cremona stands).

The issues are that I am not a real fan of the aesthetics (these are the "natural maple" finish); the swoopy stands present space issues; and they do not have any grilles. I love the Lumina II or Sonetto with or without grilles, but the Cremona bare face is not that attractive imo: lots of colors, lines, angles, surfaces, exposed screws. Too bad, because the original grilles for these are the beautiful "string" grilles, as on your Olympica above; unfortunately replacement/used Cremona grilles are apparently impossible to find.


These look like the Cremona I heard last week:
Sonus faber Cremona Auditor_Natural Maple_small.jpg

Sonus faber "Cremona Auditor" stand-mount, without and with grilles.
 
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MarcT

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Those look nice enough to me!
 
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venessian

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Those look nice enough to me!
Even with no grilles?
Everything else furniture in my home is very minimal, sparse, monochrome; these are completely "romantic" looking compared.
And the stands are very particular (plus bulky, so they would block off easy access to a lot my books).

But, the speakers did sound great to me.

Sonus faber Cremona Auditor_Natural Maple_with stands_small.jpg
 
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venessian

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I’d want the grills tbh. Can they not source you some?
I completely agree. Having the grilles, especially these which are elegant and clean over the cluttered bare baffle, and especially for a $1500 purchase, makes a night/day difference imo.

I am asking the Sf dealer who is selling these if grilles are available, but he thinks not. The Cremona are discontinued, and he thinks even if available somewhere the grilles would cost a fortune due to rarity. I came across a thread in which someone had asked Sumiko if Sf could re-string the owner's old grilles, as the strings were badly damaged. Apparently Sumilko said, "Yes...for US $500."!!! And the fellow had the fully intact frames!
 
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venessian

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However, that price is extremely reasonable if you ask me.
It sure seems so from internet research. Hard to tell actual sold prices from exorbitant asking prices though. I wonder if I could fabricate my own grilles.
 

MarcT

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There is an older SF tower speaker called the Toy Tower that some people swear by, and used sets, when they come up for sale, have been recently going for around $1500. I noticed that they may have more of that non-romantic appearance you are looking for. Here is a review of them that raves, in particular, about their dynamics:


509sonu.tower.jpg
 
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venessian

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There is an older SF tower speaker called the Toy Tower that some people swear by, and used sets, when they come up for sale, have been recently going for around $1500. I noticed that they may have more of that non-romantic appearance you are looking for. Here is a review of them that raves, in particular, about their dynamics:


509sonu.tower.jpg
Thank you.

Those definitely look more appealing to me than the Cremona. The problem with these is that I absolutely cannot fit towers in the space: I do not have the floor area/real estate from back/side walls; I do not want to block book access that much; and towers would make opening the 2 living room windows very difficult. I need to "live" in the living room, and towers would compromise that aspect far too much.
 

MarcT

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Thank you.

Those definitely look more appealing to me than the Cremona. The problem with these is that I absolutely cannot fit towers in the space: I do not have the floor area/real estate from back/side walls; I do not want to block book access that much; and towers would make opening the 2 living room windows very difficult. I need to "live" in the living room, and towers would compromise that aspect far too much.
Aren't you planning to use stands, anyway? If so, it will still take up as much floor space as small tower speakers.
 

raindance

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The lower priced SF speakers, including the Venere series, sound nothing like the rich and warm sounding older pricier models. They're just bright, in my opinion. So there's not a lot of family resemblance especially within their Chinese made budget ranges.
 
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venessian

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Aren't you planning to use stands, anyway? If so, it will still take up as much floor space as small tower speakers.
No, the opposite. I am hoping to avoid stands if possible. Floor-mounts and/or stands block access to my books, etc. I am really hoping for good, front-ported, sitting on the correct height shelf of the unit I made (very solid mdf, 1.5" thick x 16" deep) to have the most flexibility. I do not have enough space to have the speakers overwhelm the room.
 
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venessian

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The lower priced SF speakers, including the Venere series, sound nothing like the rich and warm sounding older pricier models. They're just bright, in my opinion. So there's not a lot of family resemblance especially within their Chinese made budget ranges.
Thanks much.
That is my rudimentary sensation as well, from more reading today and gut instinct. I think it is time to drop the "Venere 1.5" off the list. and focus on "Lumina II" vs "Sonetto I/II".

I am very torn between the "Lumina II" and the "Sonetto I/II", very much so. If sonically the two models are essentially equal, what I prefer about the Sonetto I/II is all aesthetics, but not minor to me:
1) the "Sonetto" have the classic Sf "lute" shape, not simply the "Lumina II" box. I think that shape is gorgeous.
2) the "Sonetto" cladding is wood veneer, not "Lumina II pleather.
3) the "Sonetto" are taller; I find the scale and presence in my room (I made mock-ups) more special and appealing.
4) the "Sonetto" feel more like "real" Sonus faber...whatever that means...mainly the shape and scale I guess.
5) Sound quality is the number one issue of course, but my room and equipment are basic and limited. Within that context, and my profession and desire to live with these forever essentially, the aesthetic choices are also critical to me.

What I might (very minor point) prefer about the "Lumina II" is
1) the "Lumina II" driver plates are black, more discreet, rather than the silver "Sonetto" driver plates. This preference is really quibbling and in no way a determinant. I would probably leave grilles on in any case.
 
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