Sonus faber Olympica Nova II

Upfront and personal – Let’s take a really close look at what makes this particular model of Sonus faber so special and learn about what it can do for you. The Olympica Nova collection is unashamedly luxurious in every aspect of both appearance and performance; a speaker system like this is very much a carefully considered investment, and having now lived with the Nova II for several months we’re in awe of how good they actually are.

It’s the little things that matter.

The Nova II is the most compact of the three floor standing models in the collection and Sonus faber themselves urge you not to ‘be fooled by its dimensions, its voice is imbued with an amazing character.‘ But make no mistake – the Nova II is a substantial speaker by anyone’s standards, standing well over a metre tall and each weighing in at over 30 kilograms.

Yet it’s the attention to detail that makes all the difference. Quality and quantity are by no means mutually exclusive but there’s a real art to getting both. Sonus faber are all art.

Since introduction in 2019, the Nova collection has garnered numerous awards and reviews. In the last year we been able to deliver new Nova’s to several clients, so it became appropriate to acquire a pair for demonstration. More importantly we wanted something of unarguable pedigree that would show exactly what out best components and systems are capable of, both digital and analogue.

The progress made on both these fronts over the last few years has been significant; on one hand you’re now able to put spectacularly good sound into any speaker which will almost always result in better sound out. Yet this can also reveal the limitations in speakers. And once you understand that the best speaker systems can deliver far more than you have ever heard previously, it’s not hard to take the next logical step.

However logic only gets you so far and anyone who even knows a little about Sonus faber understands that music is all about emotion. What we want to illustrate for you is how some key elements of the Nova design translate into a genuinely thrilling musical experience. Consider this, not so much a review, as a guided tour…

The Nova II is a three way speaker system – this is central to both the design and what you’ll hear. What this means is that there are three drivers: the tweeter handling the high frequencies, a bass driver for low, and in the centre, the star of the show and ‘voice of sonus faber’; the midrange driver.

The Sonus faber Nova II midrange driver in close up detail

It’s here in the midrange that the real magic happens. Vocals, stringed instruments and a lot of percussion. Sure, a little two way system has it’s virtues but a dedicated midrange driver does special things. In the case of the Nova IIs you can immediately hear that this driver is projecting music into the room – there’s a flow and ease to it that’s both seductive and involving.

Now if you look closely at the photo above you’ll see key features; As stated on the central cap, these speakers and drivers are genuinely handcrafted in Italy, and that’s something very few other designers will ever be able to say. Look even more closely and you’ll see that the cap isn’t a dustcover for the cone but is attached to a ‘pole piece’ and the edge of the voice coil former is separate. This immediately solves one of the big problems with driver design being the distortions induced by breakup or resonance of the dust cap when attached to the cone. It also helps ventilate the voice coil for higher power handling and avoids compression at loud volumes.

You can see the cone has a rough finish. This is absolutely intentional. Sonus faber use a unique blend of natural pulp and fibres to form the cone that’s both light and self damping. These natural materials are responsible for maintaining a completely organic sound. And you really can hear this; with any cone material if you tap it you’ll hear a distinctive sound that reflects what it’s made of. Metal and plastics have their own signatures and while these may add a certain bite or immediacy to sound, they are by definition, colourations and distortions. Rather than trying to engineer these out, Sonus faber strive for a natural sound.

In our own listening we’ve been thrilled with the clarity of the Nova’s. You hear lyrics that were previously obscured and they really open out all the individual instruments. As good as all the other speakers we’ve listened to are, the Nova’s have proved to be next level and then some.

The Nova II solid machined aluminium bass with stainless steel spike and floor protector set

The base of the Nova’s is beautifully engineered but again there’s more than meets the eye. The 30Kg weight means spikes have to be robust and the knurled lock nut and spoke itself are easy to adjust by hand ensuring the speaker is both level and stable. It’s absolutely critical that your speakers don’t wobble as this muddies the sound terribly. The floor protectors save both the polished concrete (or wood) and are easy to slide allowing you to refine positioning. This set-up has made it really easy for us to get the most out of the Nova’s. They really do sound better if you angle them in and take care to have them exactly the same distance from the back wall – in our case a full length glass window. On some albums the sound stage extends well outside of the speaker – while this is something we expect, the Nova’s do it with a precision we’ve not heard before in any setting.

The machined base is a structural element of the cabinet imparting strength and widening the footprint so improving overall stability and safety. And protection the lower part of the cabinet from over enthusiastic vacuum cleaning. Again there are lots of cheaper ways to do all these things but inevitably with compromises, both sonic and aesthetic. Sonus faber do it right.

Cabinet work has always been something that makes Sonus faber special and is constantly imitated. Unlike most, Sonus faber’s qualities are far more than just skin deep. The walnut is just the first of 8 layers of wood that are bonded and curved under pressure. Being a natural material the cabinet responds to applications of high quality furniture polish and takes on a deeper lustre with each application – it’s part of the ritual of owning a pair to carefully clean them and enjoy close up the detail of the woodwork.

The Nova’s also come in a darker ‘wenge’ finish which looks great in many settings. There are also black cloth covers with the Sonus faber logo you can slip over them to protect them from sunlight, dust and pets. We routinely use these and wish other speaker designers would do likewise.

The dual input terminals and aluminium extrusion of Stealth UltraFlex port at the rear of the Nova’s illustrate the attention to detail lavished on these speakers. The terminals allow bi-wiring but in our own system we’ve opted for the KLEI bi-wire jumpers and a single run of the best cable we can afford. The transparency of the Nova’s made the improvement between the shorting bars and the KLEI jumpers devastatingly obvious. The crossover network to which the speaker terminals lead makes a big contribution to this transparency – a three way system demands a more complex crossover and so there’s a much greater difference between adequate and exceptional.

The Nova II is specified as being a 4 ohm load and has an efficiency figure of 88dB. In our own living room we’ve found that they are really easy to drive with even NuPrime’s entry level amplifier, bringing them up to speed with no indication of strain. In fact rather than showing up any weakness in the source, the Nova’s seem to make even modest electronics sound far better than they have any right to. Conversely the moment we step up a couple of models to Nuprime’s better AMG series, it’s a whole new world. The Nova II’s magnify the difference and improvements made in a way that lesser speakers just can’t, and paradoxically these speakers make even incremental changes to the rest of your system doubly worthwhile.

The rear facing UltraFlex port runs the entire length of the cabinet and is offset to one side – the speakers come as a matched mirror image pair and you can choose to have port inwards or outwards. Regardless of which way, the system does amazing things with bass. It’s remarkably taunt but also extended, and sounds considerably more substantial than the raw specification suggests.

The combination of this bass and the signature midrange clarity give the Nova’s a real presence in terms of their sound that more than matches the sophisticated and substantial physical appearance.

Clearly there is a lot going on with the Nova’s and you’ll understand that it’s not just the individual design elements that make them so special but the totality of all the choices made and materials used that deliver a unique overall character and utterly distinctive appearance.

Living with the Nova IIs

So how will the Nova IIs (or any of the other models in this collection) sound in your own home? What the attention to detail described above convincingly delivers, is a complete performance. The Nova IIs are a full bodied, detailed and natural sounding speaker that maintains poise and balance over almost all musical genres in a way that we’ve never heard from other models and brands.

Just about every loudspeaker built will have something going for it and you’ll quickly be able to work out both the strong points and what a particular model might not do so well. But with the Nova’s it’s a broad range of superlatives. On a simplistic level you’ll simply be hearing more – a lot more. Lyrics are clearer, there’s more space around the music and each instrument has definition. Yet more striking is the natural tonality – they simply sound ‘right’ and this is testament to Sonus fabers materials selection in the drivers and the cross overs’ ability to create a seamless transition from bass through midrange to treble.

The Nova IIs project sound out into your room. With so many other brands you listen to the speaker whereas with Sonus faber you listen to the music. You’ll understand and appreciate this important difference as soon as you hear it. Every day is a new discovery as you get more out of every album you own and become even more enthused, going out and finding exciting original music.

The tonality of the Nova II’s is undeniably tied to the marque. The ‘voice of Sonus faber’ is in clear evidence with a remarkable midrange clarity and presence. But because so much has gone in to the design and execution of these speakers you not only get this but also extension at both ends of the frequency range. The bass is everything we could want – deep, fast and articulate. The higher frequencies are a continuation of the midrange – there’s a smooth transitions between the organic pulp used in the midrange driver to the natural silk in the dome of the tweeter. Being damped, the dome never lapses into ringing and remains sweet and open.

From new, the Nova IIs evolve and improve as they warm up. The bass becomes deeper and more free flowing and new details are revealed in the upper frequencies. This process can take some month as everything beds in and becomes progressively more coherent, focused and expansive all at the same time. You’ll find that it’s really worthwhile to periodically refine the positioning and check connections as the increasing resolution of these speakers will make even the smallest of adjustments both audible and obvious.

Any of the models in the Nova range represent a significant investment but you are rewarded for making this choice every day. Even when not playing they are an elegant piece of furniture, making a statement as to your aesthetic tastes and appreciation of the finer things in life.

Within the greater Sonus faber universe, the Nova series bring all the best aspects of the more affordable Lumina and Sonnetto collection together then add finesse and detail. They take the romance of the Heritage collection and bring it right up to date with 21st century expectations and technologies. And paradoxically the Nova series have proved to be so good that Sonus faber have been compelled to now update their even more upmarket Homage collection.

Yet the Nova II’s are more than a collection of attributes; they have their own distinct personality. We’ve found them to be quite magnificent, especially when they are the most compact of the 3 floor standing options within this range. They deal with everything from the most subtle vocals and instrumental tracks to some quite fierce Scandi metal. We love what they do with local music (Avantadale Bowling Club’s ‘Trees’ being an absolute highlight). At low levels the Nova IIs remain engaging and balanced – if anything we found that because there was more going on and with greater clarity, there was simply no need to push the system. And yet when we did everything simply got better – you are allowed to have fun!

Living with the Nova IIs has been both a pleasure and an education. Part of me would be more than happy just to play music through them and not try to analyse why and how they do what they do – but by closely looking at the design elements involved we can see that each contributes significantly to the end sound quality; the rigour and attention to detail that has been applied, while contributing to the cost of the system, also delivers an elegant and beautifully finished speaker that genuinely sounds as good as it looks. And nothing looks as good as Sonus faber…

Sonus faber Olympica Nova II speakers NZ$20,000 the pair including GST and delivery.

Nova I stand mount $13,000, matching stands $2,700. Nova III $25,000. Nova V $32,000.

%d bloggers like this: