Indeed, the sound of instruments and voices is absolutely palpable on all types of music on One: Open Reel Selections of Opus 3 Analogue Recordings—from Duke Ellington to Eric Bibb to George Bizet. And if you want to be aurally seduced, listen to LPs of Shelby Lynne’s “reach-out-and-touch-you” voice on Just A Little Lovin’ [Lost Highway] or the lovely tenor sax on The Genius of Coleman Hawkins [Verve]. With the Amati Futura, it’s easy to listen far longer than planned.
The Futura has several other formidable strengths besides being among the very best at reproducing the sound of massed strings and voices. You’ll not only hear instruments with air and body arrayed with focus across a broad stage, but more ambient cues from the hall itself (These effects can be enhanced still further with the addition of a REL G-1—see sidebar). The depth of image goes right to the back wall, and the speaker disappears like a great mini-monitor.
While not at all bloated, there’s a lot of sonic meat on the Futura’s bones, aided by its extended bass, which goes down to the mid-20Hz range with considerable authority, dynamic punch, and control—more than one might expect given the modest size of the cabinet. It offers a full, rich sound with a very solid foundation on all kinds of music, particularly power orchestral and jazz, as well as solo piano. I was amazed at its deep-bass extension, weight, and dynamic explosiveness on a fun new HDCD from Reference Recordings entitled Horns for the Holidays with the Dallas Wind Symphony. The percussion sections on Stravinsky’s Song of the Nightingale [Chesky Records RC10] and Debussy’s Iberia [RCA] were quite thrilling, with real snap and force and no blurring of the leading edges of transients—similar to what you’ll find in the concert hall. These attributes also extended to jazz and rock recordings, where you’ll notice the Futura’s transient speed and subtle detail with brushes on snare drums, sticks on high-hats, and strikes on kick drums.
While the Amati Futura has a relatively high sensitivity (90dB) and performed admirably with the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Sevens, I preferred using those amplifiers in ultra-linear mode instead of triode mode, as the Futura benefited from the additional power and perked up even more when mated to the Audio Research DS450M power amplifiers which produces 650 watts into the Futura’s 4-ohm load. The biggest difference was in macrodynamics and bass authority and control, which were terrific with the Audio Research amplifiers. Since the Futura’s recommended power-handling tops out at 300W, I was careful not to overdrive them, but this beauty can play very loud without losing control or hitting a dynamic ceiling.
As good as the Amati Futura is, and its combination of stunning looks and gorgeous sound is hard to beat, it falls short of the state of the art in a few areas, but I admit that I like its design tradeoffs. Although far better in this respect than previous Sonus fabers, the Futura’s tonal balance remains slightly on the dark side of neutral, giving the sound a touch of added richness and warmth, which can be very appealing. The Futura’s top end is slightly rolled-off and some may want a little more sparkle and extension, but this benefits many digital recordings and complements the rise in most moving-coil cartridges very nicely, preventing aural fatigue. Its microdynamic performance is very good, but some electrostatic speakers like the Quad ESL- 2905 and ESL-2805, are slightly better than the Futura (and many other, more costly dynamic-driver loudspeakers), and come alive more readily at low volumes. However, the Amati significantly outdistances the Quads when it comes to macrodynamics, bass weight, and power, as it should at about three-times the price. As with many high-performance loudspeakers, careful setup is required to get the most from this loudspeaker.
The Futura is up against some fierce competition in its price segment, with some others also offering inert cabinets, high-performance drivers, advanced crossovers, and effective approaches to decoupling the speaker from the floor. However, the Amati Futura more than holds its own against them in soundstage width and depth, ambience retrieval, bass power and articulation, and natural timbre. For many, its ravishing sound on massed strings, woodwinds, and vocals combined with its delivery of subtle details may tip the scales in its favor.
The Amati Futura is a breakthrough product for Sonus faber—a stunning loudspeaker in both form and function. It not only skillfully applies principles developed by the most influential of the Cremona violin craftsman, but also fuses them with proprietary technological innovations and know-how migrated from the company’s flagship loudspeaker to a more compact package at a much more accessible price. While not inexpensive, the Futura offers a level of refinement and performance that bodes well for the company’s future direction. Bravo!