How do you compare Nova Be to Sonus Strad?

Both are fine speakers,costing similar dollars.Both are full range,and require a good amount of room,with good electronics.That being said,do any of you have any preferences/experience between these?I'd love some feedback!

Hello, Sir Speedy:

A close friend and I recently had the chance to hear both of these speakers, as well as Maxx II's, within a 36-hour period, as he is looking for new speakers and perhaps a new turntable. Unfortunately, each was in a completely different system and room, so what I am about to write is ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS, but that would describe most of what is written on this site, so far be it from me to break the mold. Here goes.

I'll start with the Strads. They were in a friend's apartment. He is the first to admit that the room he has them in does not allow them to be set up ideally. We were nonetheless able to hear them from a distance of about fifteen feet, mostly off-axis. He was driving them with very high-end electronics (VAC Renaissance Signature amps decked out with eight pair of WeCo 300B's and Ren Signature preamp, Verdier La Platine table with Morch arm, Clearaudio Insider cartridge). I thought the Strads had dynamics, a nice, lush voicing (which was partly the triode electronics) and were layering space really well -- you could hear and see into a soundstage even standing right next to them. They are physically larger than I thought they were -- they are big speakers to me.

We made an appointment to hear the Novas at Singer. They were in the big room. Amp was a 80 watt Zanden with 845 output tube (amp is a beautiful beast) with Valhalla cable into the Novas, Zanden pre and Tom Evans the Groove phono stage, and Brinkmann table with Graham arm and Lyra cartridge (maybe Titan -- can't recall). I really liked the Novas, finding them to have perhaps the best bass I have ever heard. This says something, as the amp that was driving them is single-ended. Bass sounded like a live drum kit and live tympani -- I cannot express how fast and defined and weighty it was (lifelike would summarize things). The mids were nicely integrated and I had no particular reaction one way or the other about the treble, which was fine. I thought the speakers were lifelike. I also liked their looks. The salesmen were very knowledgeable and gracious (Greg and Michael -- nice to see that people with manners now work at Singer).

Maxx II's. These we auditioned at Innovative with all Spectral electronics, including the new Spectral CD player, and (of course) MIT cabling. The guys at Innovative were very gracious and set up a system for us quickly in order to accomodate my friend, who had very little time in NYC -- the room was not ideal, but was the best they could do under the circumstances. I have never been able to get used to the high angle from which the mids/highs project from Wilson's big speakers -- it is not natural to me. I also find Spectral gear to be somewhat two-dimensional -- I like the overall voicing and timbre, finding that it has a very credible version of "realness", but like most solid-state, the stuff doesn't layer space. In any event, the system was listenable, but didn't knock my socks off by any stretch. I am sure the Maxx II's are hell on wheels in the right room and with the right tube amplification (synergy between Grand Slamm's and CAT amps was superb). I do not find them to be as hideous in the flesh as they appear in pictures (don't misread me -- they are absurd looking -- but I can see how some people could get them past their wives). What you should take from this paragraph is that the guys at Innovative are very professional and gracious.

I no longer know anyone on the inside at these dealers, so we have no way of knowing whether the equipment we heard was fully broken in. For the record, we listened primarily to symphonic music and small ensemble jazz (all unamplified). We heard some rock on the Strads.

I will alert my friend to this thread and have him provide his impressions (which are quite different than mine). Which reminds me that we have to get back to our three hosts to thank them and provide feedback.
Thanks Raquel.I,too heard the Nova/Zandens,and they were superb.I have never heard the Novas to my satisfaction previously.Yet,and yet the Strads look to be a very distinct and different approach to design.Wilsons never appealed to me.Though I am sure they can be fine,they seem to evoke an MTV aura.Hence my questions!I hope to keep this to the Nova/Strad thread.
Sir Speedy,

I am the "friend" who accompanied Raquel to hear the Strads, the Nova Utopias and the Maxx IIs in the venues he described. We heard the speakers over a two-day period during September. Here are my impressions:

1. Sonus Faber Strads - Excellent speakers in every performance area. I did not hear anything I could not live with. Very musical full-range speakers with excellent timbre, dynamics, imaging and soundstaging.

2. Nova Utopia Be's - As Raquel described, their bass performance is the best I have ever experienced. Fast, tight, dynamic, in short an excellent rendering of the real thing. However, I was very troubled by the treble performance of this speaker. There was just way too much treble energy, and the speakers were bright. I am sure the Nordost Valhalla cables were not helping in this area, but I am very doubtful that the excess treble energy I experienced could be "cured" with different cables. My conclusion, unless I am convinced otherwise by hearing these speakers in a different system, is that the Nova Utopias are simply too bright for my personal liking. It's a shame, as I was smitten with the other performance characteristics of this speaker.

3. Wilson Maxx IIs - These speakers were impressive in certain respects, but, in the system where Raquel and I heard them, I was dissatisfied with their performance with large scale orchestral music - the ultimate test of a system IMO. I found the midrange to be so recessed in character that it was as if the heart of the orchestra - the strings - were playing off stage. I don't know to what extent this performance characteristic was attributable to the Spectral electronics. However, I would have to hear these speakers overcome this recessed midrange characteristic in a different system in order to give them serious consideration. I should note that, with simpler music, the midrange sounded perfectly natural and well balanced. The limitations I am describing only entered into the picture when "the going got tough" with large scale orchestral works. Since this comprises most of my listening, however, this was a serious shortcoming for me personally.

As Raquel notes, it is almost certainly unfair to make judgments about these speakers based on one experience - in one system and in one listening room without first-hand knowledge of the degree of break-in the speakers have seen. As a result, you might take all the above impressions with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, I thought I would pass them along for what they're worth.

If I had to make a decision to buy one of these speakers based on what Raquel and I heard, I would go with the Strads. They exhibited very well rounded performance, and I found them to be a very musical speaker without any obvious shortcomings.