Like every year, I paid a short visit to the High-End Audio Show in Tokyo.
Pretty much every year, I end up coming back home with more confidence than I am not missing much and saving a lot of money by investing in headphone audio. Well, there's usually only one brand that keeps me dreaming year after year though: Sonus Faber.
For those who've had the opportunity to look at the speakers up close, the finish is simply surreal, and all the other brands of speakers look just fugly or bland in comparison. About the house sound: again here, I feel they're one of the very very few companies out there who seem to be listening to music to tune their speakers rather than shooting for technical excellence and / or impressive albeit unrealistic / fatiguing sound.
Well, this year was a shock... The new flagship of the company is out. In Tokyo today, it was named the "The Sonus Faber" (official name seems to be Fenice though). What an original speaker name, not the least bit pretentious. Bad start. Then the look. Oh my.... ohhhhh ... What happened?? I feel like I am looking at a truck or something. This massive agressive block, this can't be true:
Actually, they don't look as bad in these picture, you have to see for real. Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera today. For comparison, the previous flagship (Stradivari Homage):
Last the sound: of course, we can blame the poor acoustics of the room, but somehow they always managed to make the previous models sound reasonably good in this same room in the previous years so it can't explain all. Well, frankly, I was not impressed with the sound. It wasn't agressive, but very lifeless, muffled. It sound clean, but dead, overly damped, well lifeless is the best term I think. With the additional rear radiating speaker, you'd expect maybe some kind of effect on the image, but nothing positive I could discern. Depth was not there and instrument placement not that precise. I guess even if they sounded alright, the look would make me believe otherwise anyhow.
The good news: apparently, these speakers are a very small production already called for. Hopefully, the reason is that somebody inside the company realized how much a disservice it would be to make this the statement on the price list for years to come!
My concern is for what's to come next from Sonus Faber... From reading this ( http://community.whathifi.com/blogs/shows_and_launches/archive/2010/06/28/sonus-faber-fenice-the-phoenix-rises-in-venice.aspx ), Sonus Faber has felt the heat pretty bad with the recession of the past few years and there's new leadership in place who's trying to rock the boat. From what I saw today, I call it a sabotage, but hopefully I get proven wrong in the future!
End of the rumbling, back to your favorite headphone stories...