The latest generation of reference-quality, multi-driver loudspeakers approaching the state of the art have several things in common: cabinets that go to fanatical lengths to reduce and control resonances; sophisticated crossovers utilizing very expensive high-quality parts; advanced isolation schemes to decouple the speaker from the floor; and more. When skillfully applied, these design elements can lead to loudspeakers that are far less colored and lower in noise than their predecessors. Significantly reducing and controlling the cabinet’s resonances lets the drivers reproduce music with more clarity and inner detail, as well as more truthful timbre and accurate soundstaging. Perhaps because of their seductively warm tonal balance, Sonus faber loudspeakers have always struck me as being designed more for music lovers than audiophiles (not a bad thing). However, when I first heard the Amati Futura at the 2011 RMAF producing one of the best overall sounds of the show, I knew that this was a breakthrough for Sonus faber. Having lived with these beautiful 3.5-way floorstanders since then, I must say that these are speakers that both music lovers and audiophiles can love.
BACKGROUND AND TECHNOLOGY
The Sonus faber Amati Futura pays homage to Andreas Amati, credited with creating the first four-stringed violin, as well as defining its form and proportions and the construction techniques used for over three centuries to produce the most glorious-sounding instruments the world has known. Both Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri apprenticed with Amati’s grandson and believed that every element of the violin had an impact on the sound, from the type of wood used, to its internal structure, lacquer, glue, etc., and so do the designers of the Amati Futura. Every aspect of the Futura’s exquisite form appears to serve some meaningful sonic purpose to reduce or control resonances and let the drivers do their jobs.
The Amati Futura is the third-generation Amati loudspeaker following the original Amati Homage and Amati Homage Anniversario. Like those earlier models, the Futura uses a patented lute-shaped cabinet, inspired by Stradivari, with beautifully curved walls sloping to the back that help limit resonance. In the tradition of world-class Italian furniture-makers, this has to be one of the most drop-dead-gorgeous loudspeakers out there. Strips of beautiful selected woods are optimally arranged in layers to create a constrained-mode enclosure; sub-structural ribs are strategically placed to help reduce spurious vibrations; and even the glue and the seven layers of lacquer finish have been carefully selected for their sonic attributes.
Aside from its lute-like shape, the Futura is a complete stem- to-stern reworking of the Amati, with a larger, higher-volume cabinet, all new drivers, and new technologies. It is the first in a series of Sonus faber loudspeakers to benefit from lessons learned in the development of the company’s flagship loudspeaker, “The Sonus faber” (reviewed by Robert Harley in TAS 216), as well as technology migrated down from it. The Futura is mechanically decoupled from the floor via its ingenious, elastomer-based suspension system. Its Avional exo-skeleton clamping-structure connects the beautiful CNC-machined top and bottom plates via the dual fins at the back, mass-loading and stiffening the enclosure while sending vibrations to the base of the loudspeaker and away from the front baffle. Sonus faber’s patented Stealth Reflex system helps keeps the footprint of the Futura relatively compact, produces more extended low frequencies, and enables the ports to be dead-quiet.
The Amati Futura’s design and build-quality are exemplary, and its drivers are custom units that have been selected for their sonic naturalness. The lovely natural high frequencies are handled by an Evolution 1.1" Ragnar Lian silk dome which is isolated from the enclosure. The midrange unit, mounted in its own internal enclosure, has been created from a new formula of natural fibers. Its powerful magnet system is combined with a 1.7" voice coil and triple Kellog/Goeller copper rings to reduce distortion and make it “eddy-current free.” The elastomer-damped, dual 8.75" aluminum-magnesium alloy woofers combine a long- throw magnet system and an eddy-current-free 1.5" voice coil for enhanced low-frequency dynamics and linearity. To optimize their performance, one woofer rolls-off before the other. The crossover network uses a progressive-slope architecture and the highest-quality parts, including Mundorf Supreme capacitors and Jantzen inductors.
In the quest for better transparency, transient speed, tonal neutrality, and inner detail, some next-generation loudspeaker designs may depart from a company’s “house sound,” crossing the line and drifting into hyper-detail and leanness—essentially losing the sonic recipe that made its earlier models so musically appealing in the first place. Let me assure you that although the Amati Futura (along with The Sonus faber and the Aida) is more detailed, transparent, quick, and tonally neutral than previous generations of Sonus faber loudspeakers I have heard, it is even more musically engaging and mesmerizing, moving one closer to the sonic truth of a live performance. Massed strings, female voices, and woodwinds still have body and richness, but they also have more realistic timbre and transparency.