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Sonus Faber Olympica Nova V Loudspeakers

09-01-2020 | By Gary Lea | Issue 111

Greetings faithful readers. It is time to bring you another installment on Sonus Faber Speakers. I initially reviewed the Olympica Nova I stand mounted monitor. I found this speaker to be very neutral and capable of a very consistent presentation throughout its frequency range, and highly recommended it. This was followed by the more upscale Electa Amator III that was a head and shoulders step above the previous iterations, and one of my all time favorite monitors. Now comes a venture back to the Olympica Nova line to bring you the top of that range, the Nova V, a $16,500 floor-stander.

Since 1983, many moments have marked the history of Sonus faber; the launch of the Olympica Collection 6 years ago is one of them. One of the first lines presented as a complete family of products, but above all, the very first one to feature original drivers, entirely designed in house by Sonus Faber. Olympica Nova is the second generation of the iconic family of 2013, improved in its form and substance,

The result is a new Collection that embraces the most advanced technologies that already enhance their most prestigious creations.

As with all of the Olympica Nova line, the lack of flat and parallel walls improves enclosure performance and maintains the typical asymmetrical lute shape of first generation Olympica.

The asymmetrical shape of the cabinet is an original design concept that allows versatile positioning of the speakers to tune the bass response in any room.

Inspired by nature, the lines follow the flow of a circular spiral motion, achieving a more organic cabinet structure. No longer just a functional element added to handle airflow, the reflex duct is now fully integrated into the cabinet, further improving the structure's rigidity, avoiding any resonances.

This line has become very popular for surround sound home theater applications. After reviewing the Nova I and now the Nova V, I can certainly understand why. For this review they are being used purely as a stereo pair.


  • 3 way, full para-aperiodic vented box "Stealth Ultraflex", floorstanding loudspeaker system.
  • Tw: H28 XTR3-04, Neodymium "cup design" motor system with DAD™, Ø 28 mm.
  • Md: M15 XTR2-04, CCAW wire on a "eddy current free" voice coil, Ø 150 mm.
  • W: 3 x W18XTR2-12, Ø 180 mm.
  • Crossover - 250 Hz - 2.500 Hz.
  • Frequency Response - 32 Hz – 35.000 Hz.
  • Sensitivity - 90 dB SPL (2.83V/1 m).
  • Nominal Impedance - 90 dB DPL (2.83V/1 m).
  • Dimensions - 1174.5 x 424 x 529.8 mm.
  • 46.3 x 16.7 x 20.8 in.
  • 44 Kg ea – net weight.
  • 97 Ib ea – net weight.

High frequencies are handled by the 28mm Damped Apex Dome™ tweeter, the entire structure of the DAD™  technology is obtained thanks to a single piece of die-cast aluminum, incorporating the housing of the whole driver and the dampening arch, which creates a stronger foundation for the high-frequency range. The midrange driver is made of cellulose pulp, Kapok, and Kenaf (all-natural fibers), but the driver has been tweaked following what was learned in designing the Homage Tradition line. Both the midrange and woofers have solid die-cast aluminum baskets, a Copper Clad Aluminum Winding (CCAW) voice coil, and an aluminum phase plug that is ringed with copper. The new phase plug is designed to minimize intermodulation distortion and enhance dynamics. The Paracross Topology™ crossovers have also been updated, now sporting Clarity Cap capacitors that have been customized for Sonus Faber.

Available in walnut and wenge finishes, my review pair came in the lighter colored walnut. The cabinet finishes are superb. I think the wenge finish would be the more popular choice as the darker wood looks richer and looks very good with the contrasting aluminum bands, but that is purely a personal preference. The eco friendly matte finish gives a lovely muted luster to the wood on the speakers, and is a statement of itself to Sonus Faber's commitment to sustainability. Regardless of the chosen finish this is one beautiful speaker to be sure. I was impressed with the Nova I finish. In the 46.3 inch Nova V it is even better. The speakers also feature and aluminum bottom plate with integrated outrigger aluminum footers that aid in stability along with stout and exquisitely machined spikes. Sonus Faber knows how to make very striking speakers. I cannot recall a Sonus Faber I have not found extremely attractive, and these are no exception. They also really put serious thought to such details as the binding posts. Just like the other Sonus Faber speakers they mirror the shape of the speaker cabinets, and make tightening the posts child's play. The two sets of five-way binding posts are arranged vertically on the back of the tower, with the two positive terminals at the top and the two negative terminals on the bottom.

The new top and bottom aluminum plates serve as clamps along plate connecting the top and bottom. The Stealth Ultraflex™ port on the rear of the speaker has also been completely redesigned, mirroring Sonus Faber's Homage Tradition models. It is now integrated with the cabinet and is sandwiched between the top and bottom aluminum caps to further strengthen the cabinet. The cabinet side wall construction is a constrained layer damping bent-wood process that uses eight layers of curved wood that are sandwiched together. As I understand it, this now differs from the MDF construction originally employed in the line, and certainly represents a serious upgrade. Combined with revamped internal bracing and the aluminum exoskeleton, the cabinets on the new Olympica Novas are significantly stronger and less resonant than prior versions. Well done Sonus Faber!

The speaker is then finished off with the now standard Sonus Faber stringed grilles. While they do look elegant, they will do nothing to stop little fingers or curious animal noses from damaging the drivers. I left them off the speakers for the duration of the review period.

While the monitors were an easy 27 lbs, the Nova V weighs in at 97 lbs. For some reason I was not expecting that level of heft, but there you go. Never assume things Gary! Paula helped me get them unboxed. For that I, and my back, were very thankful.

Once unboxed I set them 7 feet out from the front wall, 8 feet apart as measure center to center of the tweeters and well away from the side wall. I fired them up and was taken aback at how they sounded right out of the box. Seems they were well broken so I jumped straight into listening since I had time on my hands. I will say they did get better with more play in the following weeks, but the only thing that changed much at all was the bass seemed to loosen up a bit as time went on. The more I listened the more the speakers seem to come alive, and just improve with time. I was not quite expecting that considering they came out of the box so strong.

What was rather apparent to me initially was that the Olympica Nova V is a do it all speaker. That is not hyperbole. It really does check off the all important boxes:

Soundstage - Check! Wide, deep and reasonably high.

Realism - Yep! Like being there in a smaller sized room and very very alive. I can feel the singer's breath.

High frequencies - Check! Sizzle, sparkle, no edge or grain, proper decay and shimmer!

Mid Range - Ditto! Check and double check! Smooth delivery of voices, creamy textures, zero fatigue.

Bass Extension - Double Ditto. Even though stats show low response is 32Hz, it feels and sounds deeper than that for sure. Bass is deep, punchy, proper level of bloom with kick drums and bass guitar notes are sharp, throaty, tuneful and have significant thump and slam.

I used a strong mix of digital source and vinyl during the review as usual. The speaker handled everything thrown at it with great efficiency and vigor. After the first week I started playing around with toe in as I felt the rest of the setup was on the money. I ended up with a very slight toe in of about 2 inches. Once in that position they snapped the center image in with laser like focus without losing any of the rest of the soundstage and they remained in that position till the end.

First up was a bit of a departure for me. Gino Vanelli was easily one of the most popular artists alive in the late 70s and early 80s, and his album Brother to Brother was arguably his best and certainly most popular album in the day. The title track, while like the rest of the album is arguably over processed, it is a roller coaster ride of dynamic shifts and swings.

The title track is a fabulous piece of music and can really test a speaker's ability to deliver it all without muddying any part. The Nova Vs gave me every last bit of the track's energy, soaring crescendos, rhythmic punch and slam, the minute detail of secondary instruments, and seemed to diminish a bit of the over production so etched in my mind. (I never liked Phil Spector "Wall of Sound" production, and that seemed to influence this album a great deal). I was truly engaged with the whole first side of the album, but this track in particular had me chair dancing with the beat. (Bad mental image is duly noted).

What a thrill.

I personally think Mike Portnoy, drummer extraordinaire, is one of the best drummers to ever hold a pair of drumsticks. He is also a very decent singer as he shows in his Morse, Portnoy, George group. This band is comprised of Portnoy on percussion and vocals, Neal Morse on guitars, keyboards and vocals, and Randy George on bass. They have put out some very impressive covers of timeless rock and pop songs. The collection spans three albums. Titled Cover to Cover, Cover 2 Cover and finally Cov3r to Cov3r. Very creative. From Cover 2 Cover released in 2012 (remastered 2020) is the track "Driven to Tears" by the Police. The intro drums snap and the triplets on the hi-hat are as clear as if you were five feet from Mike. Strikes on the bell of the ride cymbal are crystal in timbre in their attack and the decay is right on the spot. No edge or grain just crystal clear delivery. The bass notes from Randy are so rhythmic and tuneful. Great support along with Mike's drumming. Neal's guitar solo is just a searing and soaring delivery. A wonderful cover every bit as engaging as the original, and a bit more to my liking with the additional guitar work. Neal is a great soloist and brings more to the song than Andy did in the original. At the end of the track you hear Mike saying, "Oh Stewart I am not worthy." Hardly true, but a great shout to the Police drummer's talent. Every instrument in the song is given their space and the re-mastering brings it all to the table without the musicians stepping on each other. The delivery is just so properly balanced. The beauty of the Nova V is that all this comes through in a very natural and neutral presentation that allows you to enjoy all the info in direct proportion to how it was laid down in the original recording. Details are there and not buried in a muddy overall presentation. I personally find this trait one of the most important for any component. Assist in the delivery, but don't interfere or get in the way. The Nova Vs just disappear, which is a good hat trick for a tall tower. When listening you just don't get a sense that the speakers are very involved. The soundstage is so convincing I have had people ask if the room tuning panels at the front wall are the speakers producing the music. That is a rather extraordinary statement, and very fitting for an extraordinary speaker, especially when those are 6-7 feet behind the speaker placement!

On Anne Sophie Mutter's recording Carmen-Fantasie with the Weiner Philharmoniker (Deutschland Grammaphon 437544-1), her violin was so intimate it was almost like it entered my veins and ran through my entire body. Her playing is so ethereal and her touch both delicate and precise. She manages to wrench every last bit of emotion out of the violin. When someone of her caliber plays you understand why so many think of the violin as the most emotional instrument made. On the track "Meditation"  she brings you to the edge of your seat. The song uses with swings between softly played notes that invoke deep retrospection and build into serious peaks that are filled with a wanting that is hard to explain. It is the Nova V's ability to render those peaks and valleys of emotion with a relaxed sense of ease that really drove home to me how special they were. There is so much low level detail in the recording and the Nova V brings that all out with exquisite detail and heft. Then as things build the balance is never ruffled and the presentation never wavers. You can sense the flesh of her fingers delicately bringing gentle i ratio on the strings juxtaposed to the smooth draw of her bow across the strings. (Anyone who has ever taken lessons knows the first year of your lessons is more about the proper draw of the bow than anything else). There is good reason she is so well regarded. The ease with which she flows from the soft and delicate approach to an all out attack is stunning. The Nova Vs bring you every single bit of that detail in a proper soundstage and with so much air around the artist. Simply breathtaking.

Steely Dan's Aja (ABC Records AA-1006) is no doubt an album for the ages for so many reasons. Great song crafting, a mix of classical, jazz and rock, the cream of the crop in living musicians that have earned them a well deserved place as one of the greatest bands (in all it's iterations) of all time. I make no excuses for using this recording time and again for review purposes. I can tell subtle differences in the delivery with new pieces of gear. The title track is always my go to. I listen to the whole side of the album when reviewing, but it is the track "Aja" that gets my total focus and attention when reviewing because of the incredible dynamics. Steve Gadd may have cemented his reputation and his place in the musicians hall of the gods with this singular performance above most everything else he has done. Playing that incredible rhythm supporting Wayne Shorter's rhapsodic sax performance and all underpinned by a veritable who's who along with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen who really are "Steely and Dan."

The Nova Vs handed this song to me wrapped in one of the most beautiful and honest presentations I have heard in a while. Compared to my reference VR4s the presentation was a bit sharper. Clarity was the first word that came to mind. Not so much brighter or more up front, but rather each individual instrument came through a bit crisper and clearer than I am used to. Things like Donald Fagen's police whistle seems to be being blown on a city sidewalk rather than in a tightly controlled studio. I think many would agree that the stand out performance on the song is definitely Steve Gadd's drumming. It is stellar and full of incredibly captivating breaks and fills. The punch and slam of his snare, toms, and kick drum just come right out from the background and into your face, while at the same time some of his triplets on hi hat and ride cymbal bell are not overwhelmed by the more bombastic drums but come right through in their own space and are very clear. Their attack and decay take on an otherworldly quality. This makes the performance so much more memorable, and the Nova Vs bring it all in proper proportion and texture. I just don't know how you can ask much more from a speaker.

During all my listening time I varied from low and moderate sound levels to see how much info the speakers would provide without being cranked up. They were stellar at those levels providing much musicality and enjoyment. The information was there and just as clear without being bombastic and in your face. The other end of the spectrum was just as impressive in presenting everything with more slam and impact while not losing the ability to deliver those delicate details and losing them in the melee! I believe this is what we all crave from our speakers. When circumstances rendered louder listening volumes out of the question we can still enjoy all the music in the original recordings at more moderate and family or guest friendly SPLs. When no one is around and neighbors are not of a concern, then knowing that I can create a minor earthquake on my block and not miss the details is certainly one of the holy grails of audiophilia (almost sounds like it should be very, very against the law). This is something that makes the Nova V a relative bargain at even $16,500. To get noticeable improvement of sound would take an investment way beyond this point.

Downsides? Very few if any really. Entry into this game is no small chunk of change. The lack of truly protective grills will cause some to hesitate, especially if they have animals and little humans around. Needing help to set them up could be seen as a concern, but once they are set minor adjustments are not difficult and who doesn't have a friend that can give you a hand? I have truly enjoyed the speakers during their stay here. If and when I am in the market for a new set of speakers these will be on a very, very short list of candidates. (That list is no more than five so that is saying quite a bit). I would opt for the wenge finish, but that is just a visual issue and has nothing to do with the overall elegance and beauty. I could live just as well with these walnut ones. Perhaps one day the speaker fairy will drop a set in my audio room.

If you are in the market for a fairly full range speaker under $20,000 the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova V (can we just say the Nova V?) should be right at the top of the list of speakers to seriously audition! Anyone who loves music and high end two channel reproduction will find it easy to fall in love with these Italian beauties. In essence the Nova V earns a five star rating in my book. Check them out!

Olympica Nova V Floor Standing Speakers

Retail: $16,500

Sonus Faber