February 2, 2013

Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor stand mount

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!

A client of mine has asked me to evaluate a speaker that he isn't completely satisfied with. Is he expecting something it won't provide? Can it be modified to suit better?

The speaker in question is the Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor - a stand mount featuring the Scan Speak revelator woofer and what appears to be an OEM variant of the Vifa ring radiator. There is no question this is a beautiful speaker and very well made.

First, how does it measure?

The sonogram and waterfall plots reveal good design attention to off axis response, within the limitations of a passive two way direct radiator.

The waterfall is probably the most intuitive for most:

Basically this is showing frequency response at all angles out to 90 degrees with a twist - the on axis measurement is normalised so that it's perfectly flat. As a result, this shows the response off axis that you would get if it were perfectly flat on axis. This particular speaker is quite flat on axis, so it's not far from the truth.

At the bottom of the chart, we start with omni lower midrange - seee how off axis there is very little drop in level? At 1k things are still very wide. By the time we reach 2.8k, a little above the crossover point as specified on one website, you can see a little dip, but nothing major. Once we reach about 7k the off axis response drops off rapidly and the tweeter is now beaming. In a typical untreated room this is unfortunate because the tweeter is beaming where the reverb time will usually drop down. As a result, treble energy is lost more rapidly. This speaker would probably suit a treated room much better.

The sonogram below shows the same information, but think of it as an aerial view of the mountain range, with elevation shown via colours. You can see constant directivity from 2 - 7k which is an important region. Then we reach 40 degrees from 10 - 15k.

My initial impression of this speaker is similar to comments from the owner. At moderately loud levels, cymbals become harsh. Well before it reaches its limits, this becomes an issue. It's clear from the beginning that this speaker has been designed for moderate listening.

Not willing to give up quite so soon, I integrated it with a bass bin to alleviate bass below 200 Hz:

I then applied some EQ to voice the speaker in a way more suitable to higher listening levels. I know what some of you are thinking - this is pure sacrilege!  I'm inclined to agree somewhat, but I wanted to see if modification could allow it to extend it's useful output further. The short answer is yes - it does work. I was then able to enjoy it at a louder level, with a bass curve added and the treble response voiced to be a little more laid back, with a lowered shelf. Treble detail was not give up, but instead it became more listenable as the level climbs up. I'm not talking about extreme SPL, but levels of around 90 dB in the listening position. 

The imaging is very good. 

These are my preliminary thoughts, but I'll be spending more time with them to confirm.

Prior to listening to these I was running S3 to evaluate. I think it would be a great surprise to many to find that S3 is inherently more listenable as the volume goes up. Who would have thought this could be true of a compression driver horn loaded? Yes, I'm certainly biased here considering that S3 is my design, but I would be very interested to hear the impressions of others.


  1. That's pretty good for woofer & dome. The directivity of rng radiator helped!

  2. Paul, would an acoustic lens similar to those used in some vintage JBL monitors be useful? One could be fabbed from plastic sheet and attached with tape or something for a quick test.

  3. I'd be more inclined to use a waveguide where better dispersion control is desired.

  4. Very informative Paul. It will be interesting to read your final conclusions of this speaker. This highlights the importance of buying a speaker that suits your individual needs, or better, building one.

  5. What sort of xo is used on the tweeters? It looks to be crossed at 2.8khz?

    Although very flat, ring radiators suffer from high 2nd order distortions which may explain the harshness you are hearing. The tweeter should be crossed using fourth-order filter (or perhaps 3rd order, at least).

    I do like the higher directivity which helped with the polar response of the speakers. Very smooth without waveguides !

  6. I read on one website 1st order @ 2.5k. It would be easy to check if it was a bi-wired speaker!

    The dispersion is about as good as you could expect given constraints, but I'm not convinced about some of the choices, which have proven a bit limiting in output.


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