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Sonus faber Duetto

For almost exactly 40 years now, Sonus faber has been communicating from Veneto, Italy to the world. In that time it’s been acquired by Fine Sounds and seen Fine Sounds become McIntosh Group - but these upheavals seem to have affected it not in the slightest. Through a simple, but extremely difficult-to-achieve, policy of delivering beautifully crafted and finished passive loudspeakers that compete hard at their given price-point, the company has watched its reputation grow exponentially.

2022’s ‘Omnia’ represented a slight, though overdue, departure for the brand. It’s an expensive wireless speaker, and it demonstrated that Sonus faber’s ability to compete (in every respect) with the established class-leaders was very much intact. So much so, in fact, that the company is breaking further new ground with this, the ‘Duetto’ all-in-one stereo audio system. 

‘New ground’ is a relative term, of course. There are plenty of brands familiar to readers that have had very similar products in their line-up for several years. Still, better late than never…

To be absolutely honest, I’m not expecting the Duetto to be anything other than deeply impressive Sonus faber business as usual. But equally, I can’t deny that this will be a much more interesting review to write if the company has somehow taken its eye off the ball… 

Sound quality

If you’re familiar with the broad sonic signature of Sonus faber’s passive loudspeaker line-up, you’ll need to recalibrate your expectations just a little. The sort of insight and eloquence you’re expecting is present and correct, you’ll be pleased to hear - but it’s accompanied by a rather less predictable attitude of energy and entertainment. ‘Unexpected’ is not the same as ‘unwelcome’, though…

There’s an overall vibrancy to the Duetto’s delivery that makes every listen an engrossing and enthralling event. From the deep, substantial and lavishly detailed low frequencies to the bright, crisply attacking top end, there’s a well-judged perkiness to the presentation that is nicely in keeping with the system’s ‘can do’ specification. And in between those two extremes, the midrange communicates in a manner easily described as ‘torrential’. There isn’t a singer yet committed to vinyl (or any other music storage format) that the Sonus faber can’t make sound purposeful, characterful and entirely present. If you want to combine insight into the constituent parts of a recording with a vivid sensation of unity and ‘performance’, the Duetto could be just the ticket.

And this is the case no matter the source of the music you’re listening to. Even with a turntable plugged into the ‘master’ speaker’s stereo RCA inputs (which means some of the information must undergo an analogue-to-digital conversion, wireless transmission to the ‘secondary’ speaker and digital-to-analogue conversion before its delivery), the Duetto is a composed and entirely convincing listen. Despite an unpromising crossover point of 1900Hz, it integrates the entirety of the frequency range with real confidence, and unifies its presentation to the point that ‘timing’ and commonality are unquestionable. 

Dynamic headroom is considerable, as you might expect given the amount of power that’s on tap here - but less of a given is just how attentive to low-level dynamic variations the Duetto is. Even the most minor, fleeting harmonic discrepancies are identified and put into appropriate context - not in a prissy or especially analytical way, you understand, but simply because the Sonus faber wants you to be acquainted with all the facts.

The fact that it’s capable of creating a big, organised and convincing soundstage doesn’t do any harm, either. Spare, open recordings have dark, quiet spaces around each element, while busier, more complex stuff is laid out coherently - there’s no crowding, even if you’re listening to a fully stocked symphony orchestra plus choir. There’s a genuine sense of ‘staging’ in the way the Duetto presents music, and consequently it’s pretty straightforward to identify the position of element ‘A’ as it relates to every other element on the stage.

If you decide you want to listen at properly anti-social volumes, it’s worth noting that the Sonus faber can give up some of that positivity as regards staging and become just a little two-dimensional. It doesn’t alter its winningly neutral tonality, and neither does it lose its overall composure - but there’s no denying that each part of a recording does rush to the front of the stage somewhat, and some of that definition can go astray as a result.     

Living with Duetto

Duetto is just the latest example of Sonus faber’s excellence where cabinet construction and finish is concerned - but just because we’ve all become accustomed to it, that’s no reason to not be impressed. 

At 342 x 210 x 272mm (HxWxD) each speaker is of fairly standard standmounting dimensions - but these are no square-cornered boxes. Instead, each speaker is (according to its manufacturer) lute-shaped - a shape that’s inspired by musical instruments. Each top panel and driver surround is smoothly finished in faux leather, and at the rear of each cabinet a finned heat sink and bass reflex port is seamlessly integrated. Sonus faber suggests this arrangement helps reject internal resonance and to enhance the timbre of the speaker - so I have to assume the almost instinctively correct appearance is just a happy coincidence. The cabinets themselves are available in either walnut or graphite finishes - no matter your preference, the standard of build and finish is absolutely impeccable.

As with almost every system of this type, one speaker is very much the boss and the other the subordinate. You can tell which is which as far as Duetto is concerned without looking too hard - the top of the ‘master’ speaker has an arrangement of brightly lit strips that put the user in control of input selection and volume control. It’s called ‘Senso’, and as design flourishes go, it’s pretty assertive. 

Control will also be available via a control app soon - it’s not quite ready at the time of writing, though, so a QR code-accessed web page has to do in the meantime. The page allows me to let the ‘master’ speaker know if it’s the left or right channel, to let it know its broad position in my room, to fiddle with both high- and low-frequency response, to inform it as to whether or not I’ve attached a subwoofer, and to check for software and firmware updates.    

Sonus faber also provides a small remote control handset, which is functional - but so humdrum and unremarkable in its look and feel that it's hard to imagine how it could be less appropriate to accompany a system as nicely designed as this one.

The ‘master’ speaker also takes care of all physical and wireless connectivity. The wireless stuff is dealt with using Bluetooth (with aptX HD codec compatibility) and dual-band wi-fi - and so Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Roon, Spotify Connect and TIDAL Connect are all available. The physical sockets are all in a fiddly little recess on the bottom of the cabinet - they run to an Ethernet input, pre-out for a subwoofer, stereo RCAs (switchable between phono- and line-level), a digital optical output and an HDMI eARC socket. 

Communication between the two speakers happens using UWB (ultra wide band) wireless connectivity, which ought to ensure super-low latency and interference. Each speaker is tricked out with a 25mm silk-dome tweeter (with a ferrite magnet system and copper cap) and a 133mm long-excursion mid/bass driver (with a Neodymium magnet system with copper cap and aluminium ring, and suspended in an ‘organic’ basket to help regulate airflow) - each driver has a dedicated DAC (supplied by AKM and Sabre) ankle to deal with pretty much any digital audio file type up to 32bit/192kHz resolution. Power amounts to 250 watts of Class D stuff for each mid/bass driver and 100 watts of Class A/B for each tweeter.  


It’s fair to say that you can achieve similarly impressive and enjoyable results by spending very similar money on a pair of passive speakers, an amplifier to drive them, a streamer to take care of digital-to-analogue conversion duties, and the cables to join them all together.

But it’s a measure of just how well-realised the Duetto is that ‘convenience’ is only a part of its charm - going down the long-established ‘separates’ route is no guarantee (in this instance, at least) of a superior end product. 

Listening notes

Grace Jones Pull Up to the Bumper
Yes, it’s an opportunity for the Duetto to demonstrate its powers of organisation, the articulacy of its midrange and its ability to keep a rhythm on the front foot - but it’s also quite possibly the rudest song ever committed to tape.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo Nansi Imali
The Devil is sometimes in the finest details - and the amount of information the Sonus faber can tease out of the unearthly harmonies here makes for what is surely the complete picture. No matter if you understand the language or not, there’s no denying the Duetto’s ability to communicate emotion…

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Welfare Mothers
Tonality of the ‘filthy’ kind, one of the most ramshackle rhythm section performances you’ll ever hear, a guitar that’s almost microphonic in its timbre, and a tangible sense of imminent collapse… the Duetto hands it all over in a winningly non-judgemental manner 

What the press say

Why you should buy it

You buy the Sonus faber Duetto because you want to have your cake and eat it too, basically - the compromises involved in Duetto ownership are more minor than you might have imagined.

Video review

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