Sonus Faber is an ultra high-end speaker manufacturer that may not be familiar to many in the North American home theatre scene. The Italian company has been designing some of the most unique and frankly, stunning, speakers on the market for decades. They seem to take speaker design as seriously as their fellow countrymen at Ferrari or Lamborghini take sports car design. Drawing inspiration from instruments like grand pianos, lutes, and even the infamous Stradivari violin, the styling of a Sonus Faber isn’t simply extraordinary, it’s something to marvel at. Adding to the appeal, they are now easier to find since they’re available through Best Buy.
Great design is the hallmark of Sonus faber
In the high fidelity market there are merely bonus points for looks; sound is of paramount importance. Sonus faber has long been regarded for both. They historically cater to the audiophile connoisseur looking for their music to be conducted from a piece of art. The Chameleon line is the entry point into today’s Sonus Faber array, with the ‘T’ being its largest floor standing model. It is also a departure from every hi-fi speaker on the market today. The unprecedented approach to the finish should appeal to a much wider, and younger, audience than Sonus faber typically plays to.
Chameleon has customizable panels for ultimate in flexibility
Customization is the key to the Chameleon lineup. At this price point every speaker manufacturer offers a choice between cabinet finishes. Usually that consists of black, another version of black, and maybe a couple of wood veneer finishes. The wood often comes at an additional cost. Chameleon takes that a step further and offers trendy, interchangeable panels to customize your speaker’s look. For my wife, who loves to theme every gathering, this is a game changer. Red at Christmas, purple for Prince night, orange in autumn.
Take that a step further. When you buy a pair of speakers like Sonus Faber, they are going to be in the family for years. With Chameleon, if you change up the paint in your living room or theatre, your beloved speakers can easily be changed to match. Move to a new home, your speakers can become accents to the new environment rather than obstacles.
It’s easy to understand the reason this hasn’t been attempted before. The ability to eliminate resonance and vibration within a speaker cabinet is tantamount to being able to consistently deliver high quality sound. It is counter-intuitive to believe you could have something simply attach to a speaker without it inducing noise and taking away from the sonic purity of your speaker. That is where the Italian engineers have excelled. There is no audible difference to these speakers with the side panels off or on.
Chameleon T are wrapped in leather!
The unique design features of the Chameleon do not stop there. Wrapped in a soft black leather that is pleasing to both eye and touch, these speakers are special. There is no way to convey this without sounding erotic, but every time I walked by, I couldn’t resist touching them, appreciating the smooth curved body of the speaker. Perhaps it was due to the fact we didn’t have much time together.
The drivers are surrounded by a milled aluminum. If you chose to leave the grills off these speakers, which I highly recommend, during the day the reflection can be a little bright; almost distracting. As the evening comes, and lights dim, the reflection becomes a soft glow of whatever colour your room is, further enhancing the Chameleon effect and appeal. This had to be by design.
4 ohm speakers need amplifiers to match
Another strong indicator that you are moving into a true hi-fi speaker is that the Chameleon’s are rated at 4 ohms. Sonus Faber is not your average consumer-grade speaker, and this is a vitally important spec to be aware of. If your amplifier or receiver is not rated to output current that will adequately drive a 4 ohm speaker, you will need to upgrade. In order to fully enjoy these speakers, and not permanently damage your amplifier, the demand from the speaker needs to be satisfied. I explain the relationship between ohms, amps (current), and watts in this post.
Once I had them connected to my Marantz amp, I put my Leonard Cohen Live in London DVD in for a little background music. That lasted all of 30 seconds. I was immediately drawn in by the Sonus Fabers. By the time Cohen and his band broke into “The Future,” the second song, I was hooked. The sound had an undeniable instrument-like quality to it, making the music come alive. I couldn’t wait to put these speakers through their paces and see what else the Chameleons had to offer.
Break in your new speakers!
Speakers hooked up right out of the box are going to prove disappointing to your ears. This is magnified if you came from an audio retailer after hearing the same model in their listening room. The reason is simple: the speakers in the listening room are broken in, and happen to be in an acoustically sound space. You may not be able to recreate the acoustics of that listening room, but breaking them in will make your home experience much closer to that of the audition.
Speaker components need time to flex, breathe, move and get to that natural place where they were designed to be. The difference between hour one and hour twenty will be as noticeable as hour twenty and hour two hundred. Like a fine wine, your speakers will open up after they’ve had time to breathe. All you need to do is leave them running at a low-mid volume for a couple days, looking for a total of 20-200 hours. The resulting sound will remind you of why you decided these were the speakers you needed to have in your life.
I was able to enjoy these right out of the box because I wasn’t the first person to use them. Demo models often travel from reviewer to reviewer, and based on the packaging, I knew I was safe to assume these had ample break-in time.
How did the Sonus Faber Chameleon T perform?
I have a standard playlist that I use when judging speakers, supplemented by the vast library of music that will either confirm my instincts, or cause me to second guess. I listen carefully for weaknesses, particularly in the treble and mid-range. When it comes to bass, it’s either there or not. If it’s there, it’s either tight, or it’s not.
Consider a song like Time by Pink Floyd. The first 30 seconds of alarms will grind your ears with a sub-par tweeter that can’t handle the sustained bells. The following 90 seconds deliver the greatest drum and bass segment in rock history, and will expose any weakness throughout the mid-low range. Once it breaks into Gilmour’s vocals and guitar solos we have a complete test of a speaker.
Then there is Morcheeba’s The Sea. This 90s chill-pop band is one of music’s best-kept secrets. I challenge anyone to not enjoy these artists in their prime. Silky vocals enhance the smooth guitar and unique drum/DJ combo. Great speakers transform great music into an experience, and the Chameleon’s didn’t disappoint
The other songs in my playlist are:
- Fleetwood Mac – The Chain
- Eagles – Hotel California (Hell Freezes Over)
- Genesis – Mama
- Jamiroquai – Canned Heat
Overall thoughts on Sonus Faber Chameleon T
The great thing about listening to a variety of speakers in your home is that you get a real sense for what different manufacturers were trying to achieve. This speaker had some minor shortcomings for me, primarily in the low-end reproduction, but that is easily overcome with a sub. I appreciated the clean, pure sound that emanated from the Sonus Fabers, and grew to really like them.
The legendary tone and clarity that Sonus Faber is known for came through on the Chameleon T. The bass was smooth, although not as present as I expected with dual woofers sharing the low-end responsibility. Perhaps this would be solved by bi-amping the speakers, which is an option. The mid-range was clearly defined, never being overshadowed by the bass, and the treble has a presence that was inviting.
From the unique look that will quickly become a conversation piece in your home to the crisp sound, the Sonus faber Chameleon T is a brilliant speaker. It’s difficult to imagine a living room or home theatre that wouldn’t be immediately impacted by the presence of the Sonus faber Chameleon T, both sonically and visually.