Overview -- Featuring gorgeous dimension, range, and fidelity, the new Sonus faber Olympica Nova speaker collection blends high-end audio technology with similarly refined external aesthetics. Likewise, the lineup does a great job of maintaining a cohesive sound throughout its speaker range, gradually expanding performance from the comparatively entry-level Nova I bookshelf option to the flagship floorstanding Nova V. And though the collection seems to be primarily geared toward music playback, the roster also includes center channel and on-wall speakers, enabling users to group multiple models together into a surround sound or even a Dolby Atmos immersive audio system. The premium pricing won't suit all users, but based on our listening demo, the new Olympica Nova speakers deliver appropriately premium audio performance. Recommended.
Part of the McIntosh Group of high-end audio brands, Italian manufacturer Sonus faber has a history of developing premium speakers well known for their beautiful wood work, elegant designs, and sophisticated sonics.
And last month, High-Def Digest was invited to attend a special preview demo of the company's latest speaker collection: the newly updated Olympica Nova lineup. Consisting of the upgraded Nova I, Nova II, Nova III, and Nova Center I, along with the entirely new Nova V, Nova Center II, and Nova Wall, the collection builds upon the original Olympica models, adding updated tech, new drivers and crossovers, and refreshed cabinet designs with Wenge matte and Walnut matte finish options.
Here's a full rundown of pricing and availability for the Olympica Nova collection:
Held at the historic 5-story World of McIntosh Townhouse in New York City, the demo event allowed us to get up close and personal with four speakers from the lineup -- the Nova I, II, III, and V -- for an intimate listening session fueled by specially curated hi-res track selections and powered by an assortment of high-end audio components from sister brands McIntosh and Audio Research.
But while the Olympica Nova collection does include center channel and even on-wall speaker models for surround sound and Dolby Atmos immersive audio configurations, the preview demo was entirely geared toward the lineup's music playback, offering an absolutely stellar listening experience that has only left us wanting more.
A full judgement on home theater performance will have to wait, but based on our initial impressions of the collection's 2-channel music experience, the Olympica Nova speakers appear to fully earn their fairly hefty price tags.
To kick off the listening session, we actually started with the Olympica Nova II model, which serves as the lineup's entry-level floorstanding loudspeaker. Here's a full rundown of key specs:
For demo purposes, the speakers were connected to two McIntosh MC275 power amps, a McIntosh C2600 tube Preamp, and a Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra (Roon End Point). During the session we listened to two high resolution tracks -- "Who Will Comfort Me" by Melody Gardot and "Gravity" by Jamie Woon -- and honestly, they couldn't have offered a better introduction to the new lineup.
From the moment Gardot's vocals hit my ears, I was immediately impressed by the rich texture layered behind each word and the Nova II's effortlessly natural imaging, creating a wonderful sense of separation between various elements of the track. Vocals seemed to hover slightly above the listening space perfectly in the center of the soundstage, while instruments carried nice separation to the left and right. The song's bassline also came through with a deep and clean thud while mids remained crisp and highs clean, giving the music an intimate studio quality with wide, spacious range.
Meanwhile, the atmospheric slow build of Woon's "Gravity" further highlighted the speaker's sense of space, depth, and range, spreading stereo effects all around the front soundstage. Likewise, Woon's vocals came through with a pleasing timbre and slight air of reverb, creating a warm presence and overall sonic quality akin to a small concert hall.
One of the first things I'm always impressed by when I listen to a genuinely good pair of premium speakers, is just how seamlessly the speakers themselves seem to disappear, leaving a wall of sound where listeners can actually pick out different audio elements coming from different heights and positions along the sound stage. The Nova II was able to create this effect with ease, producing an impressive sense of space, height, and separation that allowed me to hear every aspect of each track in a way that an average pair of more budget-friendly speakers simply can't.
For the next demo, we relocated to a more closed off bedroom environment to give the brand new Olympica Nova V speakers a listen. Serving as the largest, most powerful, and most expensive floor-standing loudspeakers in the lineup, the Nova V is now poised to become the collection's flagship offering. Here's a breakdown of key specs:
During the listening session, the Nova V speakers were hooked up to two Audio Research REF160M Tube Power amps, an Audio Research REF6 Preamp, a McIntosh D1100 DAC, and a Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra (Roon End Point). High-res tracks sampled included Meshell Ndegeocello's "Nite and Day" and Gregory Porter's "God Bless The Child."
Expanding upon a similar audio profile and tonal quality as the Nova II speakers, the flagship Nova V speakers brought a bit more oomph and impact to the low-end with deep, steady bass notes in "Nite and Day" that I could feel in my seat -- all without sacrificing balance with Ndegeocello's vocals and smooth harmonies. Likewise, I was again impressed by just how precisely the vocals were centered while maintaining convincing stereo imaging for the instruments with differing degrees of height. Instead of sound emitting from two fixed speakers, it really did seem as if there were multiple sources all across the wall in front of me.
Offering a more stripped down, no-frills demonstration, Gregory Porter's a cappella rendition of "God Bless The Child" simply soared. With no instruments to hide behind, the speaker's pure vocal performance proved to be stellar, rendering a full, warm timbre that was at times startlingly realistic, as if Porter was right there in the room.
Shifting gears to highlight the lineup's mid-range floorstanding model, the third listening session made use of the Olympica Nova III speakers. Here's a full rundown of key specs:
For this demo, the Nova III speakers were connected to two McIntosh MC1.25KW Power Amps, a McIntosh C1100 Tube Preamp, a McIntosh D1100 DAC, and a Roon Nucleus. Sample high-res tracks included "Man in the Long Black Coat" by Bob Dylan and Darkside's "Paper Trails."
To be honest, while it was easier to hear an upgrade with the Nova V, outside of the more robust bass output, it has a bit harder to pinpoint clear performance differences between the Nova III and II without listening to the same tracks in the same room. That said, however, I came away similarly impressed by what I got to hear.
The opening guitar notes in Dylan's track demonstrated nice stereo imaging while the drums and harmonica kicked in nicely toward the center of the room with a steady bass beat behind the vocals. Darkside's Paper Trails, meanwhile, further exemplified the system's excellent and spacious imaging while rendering the track's artificially deepened vocals with commanding presence. With that said, there were some isolated moments on both tracks when the low-end could sound just a tad harsh.
Finally, for the last demo we took a step back from the lineup's floorstanding models to sample the Olympica Nova I bookshelf speakers. Designed to evoke similar performance qualities found in the collection's more expensive models within a more affordable and more compact form factor, the Nova I's serve as an excellent entry-level option for the series. Here's a full rundown of specs:
During the listening session, the Nova I speakers were hooked up to an Audio Research VT80SE Tube Power Amp, an Audio Research DAC9 Tube DAC, an Audio Research LS28 Tube Preamp, and a Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra (Roon End Point). High-res track used to demo the speakers included Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Tin Pan Alley" and Jose James' "Ain't No Sunshine."
In general, I was quite pleased by just how close the Nova I bookshelf speakers came to mimicking the level of performance found on the step-up models. To be clear, there were still limitations apparent, but the overall tonal quality and sense of space and range were quite similar considering the reduced size.
Vocals and various instruments once again came through with wonderful depth and varied separation, bringing guitar notes a bit more forward in the soundstage during "Tin Pan Alley" while Vaughan's vocals rested a little further back in the center. Likewise, Jose James' vocals carried a rich velvety texture in the midrange during "Ain't No Sunshine" with some solid bassline extension to the low-end.
With that said, the bookshelf speakers could produce a comparatively cluttered sound at times, lacking some of the fine distinctions between audio elements that the floorstanding speakers could provide. Still, placed against many other similarly sized speakers I've heard, the Nova I pair remained undeniably impressive.
While they were not present for the preview demo, the new Olympica Nova collection is also set to include two center channel speaker models and an on-wall speaker model, enabling users to configure a premium surround sound or Dolby Atmos immersive audio system. Here's a full rundown of specs and pricing for the center and on-wall speakers:
Olympica Nova Center I
Olympica Nova Center II
Olympica Nova Wall