New Guarneri Memento vs. Old Guarneri Homage

Few days ago I had a rare opportunity to directly compare side by side new Guarneri Memento and old Guarneri Homage speakers in the same room with the same associated equipment. I have compared both speakers in my own system so I am familiar how different speakers sounded in my room and could eliminate this factor to some degree. I am glad that I was able to compare both Guarneri speakers, because now I have my own opinion and do not have to rely only on reviewers and dealer opinions. There were many debates about performance of these two beautiful and classical speakers, so here are also my thoughts.

Guarneri Homage is an high-end audio icon. It was introduced in 1993 and became a groundbraking product. Guarneri Homage were created in the most exciting years for our hobby. From my point of view these years were a short period in high-end audio industry when less manufactures existed than now, but their products were better thought out and created with full attention in details – sometimes with truly cost no-object approach. Lest see at Sonus Faber Extrema for example. How many technical innovation and handcrafted art is involved in this speaker. Extrema was priced about 14.000 USD with stands – pricy these days – buy now we have many manufactures who offer worse products for significant more price and more importantly the price is not reflected in materials or technical skills used in the products.

Back to the Guarneri. Both Guarneri have their limitations – both are only monitors and we always should remember about that doing any comparison with other speakers. I like monitors. I have limited space and floorstanding speakers have no space needed to fully breath. I definitely prefer to put smaller speakers with limited bass response in a small or medium sized room than pack floorstanders with too large woofers. I prefer less amount of bass but of better quality than opposite to much bass of weak quality. So both Guarneri are limited in their bass response and peak sound pressure level. That does not mean that they can’t play loud. They can play loud but in rooms up to 35 square meters. In larger rooms lack of bass extension and limited SPL can became an important factors.

Drivers comparison:
With exception of cabinet shape both Guarneri are virtually different speakers. The most important are different speakers used in both speakers.

Mid-bass driver used in Guarneri Homage is a 150mm high-resolution unit from Audio Technology (formerly Skanning) with short coil, long air gap and vented back. It is important to point out that the main driver was from Audio Technology, not from Scan Speak as mistakenly wrote Michael Fremer in Stereophile review of Guarneri Memento in August 2007.

Tweeter used in Guarneri Homage is famous 28mm Esotar - silk dome tweeter from Dynaudio with unique wood (walnut or maple) chamber on the back.

In case of Guarneri Homage the multi-strand oxygen free copper wires were used as an internal wiring. The crossover was the first order unit with 6dB slope and crossing point at 2.5 kHz. Nominal impedance is 8 ohms. Sensitivity: 88 dB. Frequency response: 46Hz-20kHz.

It is worth to mention that technical specifications indicated in Martin Colloms review in Stereophile from July 1994 are a little different than above. Nominal impedance is: 6 ohms, sensitivity: 86.5 dB and frequency response: 55Hz-20kHz. It may be valid only for first productions Guarneri Homages or it may indicate that during production period Guarneri had some kind of factory modifications in the drivers resulting for example in bass response improving.

Mid-bass driver used in Guarneri Memento is a 150 mm ultra dynamic linearity driver from Audio Technology, with CCAW/Kapton eddy current free voice coil. According to Sonus Faber it is dynamically linear magnetic field motor incorporating Kellog and Faraday rings with all moving elements ventilated for resonance free response.

Tweeter used in Guarneri Memento is also famous 25 mm Ring-Radiator ultra dynamic linearity driver from Scan Speak with dual toroidal wave-guide. Here internal wire was silver-palladium alloy sourced from Yter audio – the company created by metallurgist Massimiliano Favella the Franco Serblin son-in-law. These cables were specially created for Franko biggest achievement – Stradivarii Homage and also can be found in new Amati Anniversario.

The crossover used in Memento is also the first order unit with 6dB slope and crossing point at 2.5 kHz. Nominal impedance is 4 ohms. Sensitivity: 88 dB. Frequency response: 39Hz – 30kHz.

Cabinets comparison:
Both speakers have the same shape of cabinet – both cabinets have the same internal volume of about 10 liters and the same width, height and deep. Both are made of the same number of solid wood pieces – in both speakers it is 21 pieces (including back panel).

In case of old Guarneri the cabinet was made of solid walnut. All Sonus Faber top of the line speakers starting from the Amati Homage use solid maple. I suppose that in case of first Sonus Faber speaker that used solid maple (Amati Homage) it was the cost savings move. It was the first serious floorstanding speaker and such large cabinet made of solid walnut would be too expensive. Using maple wood instead of walnut allowed to offer fresh and beautiful red violin finish. After creating Amati Homage Sonus Faber continued to use maple in their Stradivarii Homage and new Guarneri Memento what means that no longer Sonus Faber speakers were offered in classic, beautiful natural walnut finish. In my opinion walnut is more sophisticated and more expensive wood than maple – no doubt about that. Also, old Guarneri cabinet interior walls were damped with proprietary sheet copper and lead tuning elements, which is no longer valid with Memento enclosures. Did the change of the wood used for cabinets affect the sound of the speakers? I do not know, but probably in some degree – yes.

Other distinction is a little different shape of front panels. In old Guarneri – straight without slopping with a little beveled edges around tweeter. Also the speakers in old model are placed plain on top of front panel without recessing. Old Guarneri front panel was made of one inch thick baffle consists of 15 layers of birch multi-ply.

In new Guarneri Memento both speakers are recessed in the front panel and the edges around tweeter are also beveled. These panel seems to be made of MDF.

There are also a subtle differences between masking covers. Both are stringed design, but never Memento’s cover has bottom and top metal plates with cut edges instead of rectangular ones in old Guarneri. In Memento the bottom plate is opened allowing the waves from bass driver to radiate with ease. In both Guarneri top plate is solid. I did not found differences in sound with and without covers installed, but top plate of masking cover may affect propagations of tweeter driver.

Stands comparison:
Old Guarneri Homage is positioned on straight stand, new Memento sits on the slanted stand.

The old stand is about three centimeters higher and measure 98 cm with base. First run Guarneri Homage were offered with stands even few inches taller, but it was intended for larger interiors and I am not sure if higher stands are still an option.

Both stands have base made of conglomerate of grinded and mixed together natural marble and some kind of resins. Is it the best material that could be used for this purpose? I do not know. It is the material which is easy to manufacture and costs saving. It was especially important with Memento stand where the base is slanted. Let’s imagine the same base made of metal – how more complicated it would be in processing compared to conglomerate that can be die-casted already in the trapezoidal shape. Original base have small drawback – it cannot accept any kind of spikes or other regulated height support that would allow to position the speakers on uneven floor – for example on the carpet. Other Sonus Faber from their top line like Amati or Stradivari have such functionality.

Functional comparison:
Old Guarneri Homage had binding posts that could accept bi-wiring. Mementos binding posts can accept only single wire speakers. Also the shape of back panel is a little different in both speakers. I prefer the shape of back panel and binding posts from new Mementos. In old Guarneri binding post could be operated with wrench in Mementos only by hand, but the shape of old back panel makes connections harder to operate especially with larger speaker cables. Also the separation of binding posts is too small and in case of speaker cables with large spade connectors it is the risk of short-circuit the spades. Also the bass reflex opening if positioned at different height in both speakers.

Appearance comparison:
It is also a matter of taste. Old Guarneri were one of the most beautiful speakers in the world. Now after many years of use some flaws can be scored easier. In some cases, when speakers were operated in direct sunlight conditions, the color of the walnut became burn off and lacked their intensity. I also seen pairs where clear high gloss finish become foggy in some areas. How it would be in case of new Memento speakers – is the used materials were improved – time will say.

I must say that I like the look of old Guarneri, however it does not fit all interiors. As for new Guarneri I did not seen the Palladio finish – so I cannot comment. I have seen Red Violin and Graphite. I must admit that I prefer Graphite finish, however red Violin is also beautiful and more eye-catching in the first look. Red Violin is more room dependent and a little to “carrotisch” to me. There is also too much contrast between red enclosure, black pedestal and light gray base.

Graphite finish is more subtle, more eye-catching and definitely worse looking on the pictures. But in real word if you have black amplifier, black turntable and other black equipment it may fit easier to the whole system. Graphite is also less room interior dependant and for me is more sophisticated. It looks like a black pearl :-)

Sonic comparison:
I must say it right from the beginning.
As a Guarneri Memento owner, I am really surprised how good the old Guarneri Homage are. If I have had the opportunity to directly compare both speaker before purchase the choice would be very hard. Both speakers are great, but for my ears old Guarneri have better midrange and better top-end than new ones. I am especially impressed by treble performance of the Homage. Trebles were more airy, with more sparkle and timbre. Midrange was more sophisticated and subtle than with Mementos. Also whole presentation was more liquid and homogenous. There is only one weakness for me in old Guarneri. It is a bass performance. As I mentioned on the beginning I am not a bass freak, but Guarneri Homage had a little too less bass for my taste. Some instruments, like a piano for example, needs a adequate weight to be presented properly. In old Guarneri during some piano passages, a little left hand heft was missing. In my case in longer term use it would be disturbing. With this exceptions other instruments like acoustic guitars, violins and metal percussions were simply magical. My review sample was manufactured in 1997. If there was any factory upgrade to the drivers causing bass extensions, the newest productions pairs may sounds fuller. I also found that transparency and clarity of Homage was better compared to Memento. There was also a little more harmonic texture and decay of notes seemed to stay a bit longer and could be heard more clearly. Overall I found the tonal balance in Guarneri Homage was shifted toward midrange and treble compared to Memento. The silky smooth old Esotar seems to be truly hard to beat performer.

Memento in direct comparison in no slouch either. Overall tonal balance is shifted toward low end and the bass performance is much improved compared to the old Guarneri. Memento is also more dynamic speaker. I would describe them as a fuller, full bodied and more complete speaker than Homage and thus they easier may be considered as a contender for floorstanding speakers. Also I think that Memento is more universal speaker, but in my opinion it was not possible to maintain the homogenous and quality of trebles from old Guarneri. Thus I think that no one speaker is a clear winner here. So I cannot agree with some comments that new Guarneri are a trash and only the old ones are good and cannot agree with comments that new ones are better in all aspects.

If someone can find old Guarneri in perfect conditions for about 5-6 grand and have limited room this speaker is a truly bargain and also a classic icon. If someone is looking for more universal speaker and considering small floor standing model – new Guarneri may be a ticket.

If I have to choose today again I think I would pick up Graphite Mementos, but I would miss a little magic from old Guarneri. Definitely both are top-notch speakers.

If sometime the third generation of Guarneri shows up I hope that engineers of Sonus Faber will be able to mix the mid-bass driver from current Mementos and new Esotar2 from Dynaudio. I also hope that a natural walnut finish would be back available as a choice or as a special edition option. That could be extremely interesting speaker.

Great Review! I have been a huge fan of Sonus Faber as i currently own the Concerto in my Home theater and the Amati Homage in my main system which replaced a pair of Extremas that i owned for five years. All speakers have superb build quality and sonics! All have that "magic" that makes listening so enjoyable!
Thanks, Milimetr. One of the most valuable text written. And, imo, a mandatory for every potential buyer of those beautiful ldspeakers.
One question, if you do not mind... Don't you think that Memento should open up a little in a due time (and then their heights will meet your expectations) ?
And congrats on your purchase. I understand that you're driving Memento with Jadis JA-80 Anniv. ?
Interesting observation. I also own Memento and had owned Homage before (as well as many other top Sonus Faber models). I thought Memento was more airy, more detail, and much more extended on top. The new tweeter is a much much better tweeter in speed and definition, one of the reason I stop buying Dynaudio Esotar based speakers was they lack speed and transparency when compared to the very top tweeters out there.
@ Apilaszkiewicz,
Yes, I hope that trebles will became more extender and sparkle in the Memento. I think that Ring Radiator is also a great speaker what confirms Semi observations. In fact the best trebles I have ever heard in my live were from Ring Radiator, but not in Memento. It was from Magico V2 that also utilize Ring Radiator but highly modified.

Yes, both Guarneri I have on test were powered from tube amplification.

@ Semi,
It is interesting that we both have different impressions about the same speakers. That makes our hobby funny.

As you can see above I also appreciate Ring Radiator, but so far in my room conditions I liked better trebles from old Guarneri. Maybe they juts suit my taste better, or maybe my system is not so resolving to show Scan Speak tweeter advantages.

Could you kindly let us know what speaker cables do you use with Mementos?

As a previous Guarneri Homage owner can you confirm or disconfirm information about factory modification in Guarneri Homage that caused change in their technical specifications?
Fantastic review, I had SF guarniere homage, and til today I never listened one speaker that has the sound capacity of violins and cellos of guarnieres. I did not listened the new SF memento, but I think the esotar tweeter of guarniere is the magic combination.I tryed some amplification with DF guarnieres from SET 30wats audiopax, Audio research VT100, and the best was one gamut d200mk2, this speaker needs a lot of watts.
Calling Davef, calling Davef ....
Never fear Pinkus, I'm here..:0)
I have been reading this thread with great interest. Basically, I completely agree with Milimetr's review. Frankly, the only thing I would add is that IMHO neither speaker is a bass champ. The Mementos do dip a little deeper, but if you want true bass from a speaker I don't think any 150mm drive is going to do it for you.
With that in mind, I feel that matching the GH's with an appropriate sub is a much better solution than paying the extra $$'s for the Mementos.
In my small room a sub is not an option and I am happy with the low end reproduction I am getting, albeit realizing that the speakers probably roll off at about 50hz's.
I think the magic that the GH's bring to the table is simply MIA in the Memento's. The reasons are as Milimetr eloquently expounds.
Not trying to start a war, but below is my experience with Esotar after owning EA1, Extrema, Dynaudio C5, Merlin VSM, and Guarneri Homage for 10+ years combined.

Esotar is great at producing inner harmonic, it employs large amount of ferrorfluid to cool the coil because it was invented for professional application 20+ years ago to play at insane volume for long period of time. This results in slower movement that masks out micro dyanmic/detail and extension. However, you do gain a bit more "body" if you will, it tilts the freq spectrum a bit lower and almost sounds like a 1.5" midrange dome that turns violin into viola. It's very pleasant to listen to, I was so in love with the sound I went out of my way to find the best Esotar speakers money can buy. If you like that kind of sound, I suggest Dynaudio Confidence 5, though no longer in production, it produces "body" like no other speakers and I even bought the very last pair of new C5 from Dynaudio. Same goes for ATC, people love ATC midrange dome for the same reason, body and warmth.

But if you compare live music to Esotar, you will notice something is missing. To be specific, air, transparency, "sparkle", and extension. Even the old Revelator has much more inner detail and micro dynamic than Esotar, I was shocked at how much I was missing when I looked outside of Esotar 8 years ago. Ring Radiator is a big step up from the old Revelator and redefines dome tweeter. It took me years to accept the short coming of Estoar and learn to listen to neutrality, I own several pairs of speakers now with tweeter from Ring Radiator, Raven R2, line arrange ribbon, Berrilym dome, and eletrostatic. Any of the above sounds more neutral than old Estoar, technology has really advanced in the past 20+ years Memento simply sounds more "real" than Homage.

Another technical info you might find interesting is the difference between Esotar and Esotar 2. For Dynaudio to stay competitive with many tweeters going well above 20k Hz, they decided to reduce the rear chamber, reduce the coil weight, and reduce ferrorfluid to extend higher. What you get is a faster sounding tweeter that does extend higher (though still not nearly as high as Ring Radiator) at the expense of higher roll-off freq at the low end. This was a compromise Dynaudio could live with since 95% of Esotar 2 were installed in 3-way speakers and tweeter did not have to go very low. As a result, Merlin VSM decided to stay with old Esotar since it's a 2-way design and the Scanspeak woofer simply could not go up that high.

I am also a believer one should enjoy his/her stereo even if the sound is far from neutral. So if Guarneri Homage floats your boat, just close your eyes (and mind) and enjoy your music. On the other hand, if you want neutrality and live music dynamic, you won't find them in Guarneri Homage.
Semi, while I certainly believe that you are entitled to your opinion, I disagree with what you have said. From what I can tell from your prior threads, you once owned the Amati's and now own the Aerial 20t's. In one of your prior posts you actually stated that you were considering upgrading from the Amati's to the GH's.

What ancillary equipment are/were you using to listen to the GH's then and now the Aerial's? What is the size of your room, is it the same now as then?
IMHO, having heard the Ravens, electrostatics, planar drivers, ring radiators and beryllium drivers, I still feel the Esotars are more than competitive. Again IMHO, the various metal based tweets can be heard to ring and the stats are usually found to have a plastic coloration. ( Not all but most).
I doubt that Bobby at Merlin would stick with the Esotar if he felt that it was an inferior driver as you now believe.
I suspect that you haven't really heard the GH's with the right equip and set up correctly, if you have heard them at all.
All speakers were heard in the same room with the same equipments except Extrema and Dyn C5 which were driven with solid state.

I had Amati Homage and during the same period also own Guarneri Homage. Guarneri were so "closed in" in comparison I sold them quickly. I owned Amati for 6 years (and Extrema for 3 years prior to Amati) before changing to Aerial 20T, I think I know Sonus Faber well.

I never like metal tweeter for the same reason, but Usher BE changed my impression of metal tweeter forever.

Bobby of Merlin could not use the Esotar 2 because of his design even though he knows very well Esotar 2 is a significant upgrade in sonic 99% of the freq range. This came from his mouth, I spoke to him in length before buying Merlin VSM.
Semi, what equipment were you using with the GH's and the Amati's?
You say GH's were' closed in', this is odd as the GH's are essentially small monitors and their imaging abilities are well known and are one of their substantial strengths ( Frankly IMHO they image far better than the Amatis or the 20T's if correctly set up). I wander if your room may have been too large for them? What size room were you using them in?
BTW, I find it odd that Bobby feels this way about the Esotar 2, since in another post he was highly complimentary of the Esotar and I would think he could use any driver he wished in his designs.
Thanks for the great analysis Milimetr. I am currently looking at 2007 vintage GM's [$6800] and 1996 vintage GH's [$5,500] for my system in the Boston area. Either will be supported by REL subwoofers. Should I be concerned about the age of the latter?
At0310t, not sure what Milimetr feels about this, but IMHO the main concern that one has when buying older speakers is to make sure that the driver surrounds are not dried out. Also, to check that the speakers haven't been overdriven, thereby damaging the x-overs or the driver excursion capabilities.
One way to check this is to play some low level and then some medium high level sounds through the speakers. See if any obvious stresses can be heard.
I have heard speakers that were new and had been overdriven sound terrible; conversely, I have heard old speakers that have been babied all their lives sound just fine. Age and treatment does affect speakers just like anything else, so keep that in mind with your purchase. The cabinetry condition aspect is going to be obvious upon viewing.
Was looking for info on what to drive Guarneri Memento to set up a 2nd system and came across this old thread.

To answer Daveyf, I was using Sonic Frontiers Line 3SE & BAT 75SE to drive Amati Homage or Guarneri Homage. I have moved up since, but as always the first thing I look for is tonality where I think GM is superior. BTW, BAT 75SE/150SE are amazing amps, they brought out the best of Amati Homage after trying 10+ amps, tube and solid state.
I agree that the BAT amps are very nice..BUT I am still curious as to the size
of the room that you heard the GH's in?
Your prior comment that the GH's sounded 'closed in' would indicate
to me that there was something very amiss in your set-up or room ( or both).
What other equipment did you use with the GH's? cables, front end,
pre-amp etc.?
after reading all of this (the review is quite good btw), i would suggest that if the newer speakers (G.mementos) are not CLEARLY better sounding than the original Guarneri's in just about every area, then something is seriously wrong at sonus faber. of course the originals are going to sound good in any event, but with the added bass in the memento's, there should be a deeper wider stage, and the newer speakers should be more dynamic. the only thing about their cosmetics is that they "seem to me" to have slightly less build quality or are a bit less substantial overall, but that is only from the pictures i have seen posted.
as someone who has large speakers in my main system with -20Hz bass (i too love deep bass performance at times), the guarneris in my smaller room sound complete at all but ridiculous volumes- something which i have never tried since the music would suffer anyway. but some folks are never satisfied with "testing" speakers' limits until, well; there's a story i've heard of a Wilson dealer's employee who somehow managed to blow out the tweeters and crossovers of a pair of new X-1 Grand Slamms (VERY big speakers indeed).
but anyway, i would really be surprised if the newer speakers were not quite a bit better than the older models, altho' i am still pretty content to keep what i have (unless a local pair of mementos in graphite should come up for sale or trade).
French fries, I doubt anything is 'seriously wrong at Sonus Faber'. Instead, I suspect that like many Co's in this economy, they decided to do some cost cutting.
I would suggest that you try and hear for yourself the differences between the GH and the GM as did Milimetr; you may like the GM's better, BUT if you are like me and so many others, i doubt you will.
room size is 14x18 with speakers on short wall, 5' to 6' from back wall and 8' to 9' apart. almost all speakers are placed in that locations, some minor tweaking are done to optimize each.

The room does not have a lot of treatment, sitting close to equal triangle so room boundary effect are secondary. Behind the chain, there are two large doors that open to the next room so effectively opening up the room to something much larger than 18'.

You have to hear the Einstein + modded BAT 150SE combo on Guarneri Memento to appreciate what Guarneri Memento can really do. In a word, mesmorizing!
Great review!.. Enlighting and educational...

I have not heard the GM in my dedicated room, I own GH after having a pair of Avantgarde UNOs... i just needed two listening sessions to become captivated by the musicality, easyness and tone rendering of the GH to take a decision.

I am using my GH with a Viva Solista amp, after confirming that these speakers need some fair good amont of Watts to come alive... The Solista drives them to perfectiob witb "just" 23 Watts... Better than my previous RM200 with 100 Watts... Go figure!