Review: Sonus Faber Guarnieri Homage Speaker

Category: Speakers

This is a review of a very late produced pair of Sonus Faber Guarneri Hommage's, They were ,according to my dealer, the last pair imported into the US prior to the change over to the GM's.
What is immediately noticable is the quality of the packing materials used to ship these speakers. The main speakers come in a wooden crate with cloth covers over the speakers to protect their finish!
Upon opening the crate, you are greeted with an inner box to support the GH's. The stands are in a seperate box as are the stone bases. All are packed with obviously much thought given to their shipping protection, no cheap carboard thin boxes here.
Once up and ready, the speakers sit on the bases protected only by an apparent sheet of velvet between the bases and the speakers themselves. At first sight, I thought this wasn't very effective, but it seems to work well. There is no provision for spikes or height adjustment whatsoever and as a die-hard 'phile, I thought think that maybe some improvement could be had here with the option of outriggers or spikes or? I have not tried these options as the speakers are not set up at all for them, maybe one day.
I bi-wire my pair and I strongly believe that bi-wiring is the way to go, you do need an additional pair of speaker cables though. ( A bi-wired single set is IMHO a no-go).
I have had these in my system for just over 2 years now and from first listen I could tell they were a keeper.
The fit and finish has been mentioned in many other articles over the years, I will only say that every day that I look at them a smile comes across my face.
The sound is what this article will concentrate on.
Since I am a STRONG believer in the superiority of analog, this is my impressions with analog in the front end only.
Listening to the MFSL 200 gram recording of Getz/Gilberto on the track 'Girl from Ipanema' with this speaker you can hear the air escape from the tenor sax of stan Getz as he blows each note. Moreover, when Astrud Gilberto begins to sing, she is literally there in the room with you. I have heard this LP on many systems and what is a true test is how Astrud's voice is handled by the speaker. With the GH's you can almost believe she has a smile on her face as she sings. The imaging on this piece is in my system what I expect of a smaller speaker with phenomenal imaging characteristics, extreemly precise with the players seeming to occupy their respective positions on the stage with perfect depth and precise location of instrument.
Listen to a good LP of a guitar, be it steel string or nylon and you can easily tell that this is how the instrument sounds in real life. The Esotar is able to produce the bloom and the dynamics/harmonics of the strings! I have heard many speakers that utilize metal domes and even electrostatic drivers that simply cannot come close to this level of realism. Most metal domes to me have a certain hardness ( metallic coloration/ringing if you will) and almost all of the electrostatics sound plasticy ( with the possible exception of the new speaker from David Janszen that I recently heard) The silk dome exhibits none of these colorations. IMHO the esotar in this application is superior to the various ring-radiators and all metal domes on the market. ( I'm thinking Wilson here).
The midrange is were music lives, if you don't believe this, then you probably are into RAP or maybe techno, don't buy these speakers if you are. The midrange reproduction is far superior to my previous Hales System 2 Signatures which utilized dual Dynaudio 17W75 drivers ( which are no slouch in this area). Listening to the track Desafinado again from Getz/Gilberto, one can easily hear when Getz moves around on the stage a little bit!
What are the weaknesses of this speaker, well in a small room I believe they may be the best speaker ever made. In a large/ largish room, the bass is lacking. Probably the GH's go down to about 45+- Hz's but anything below that, forget it. Much of music has a foundation below 50Hz's and I think that this is the only weakness of the GH's. This of course applies to all speakers with small drivers that cannot move huge air ( Including the Magico Minis etc.). Adding a sub would be difficult, since the sub would have to be lightning fast and very very accurate. I have heard the Wilson-Benesch Torus sub which would most likely mate well with the SF's. One day I will try this combo, I would expect it to be an absolute SOTA world beater.
If money was no object, then a larger room and the Torus add on would result in audio nirvana I suspect.
With the system the way it is, I cannot think of another speaker that is in the same league as the GH's.
BTW, this is my 26th year as a 'phile and this is my tenth system. The GH's are no longer manufactured, I believe because they were simply too expensive to manufacturer and frankly too difficult to better.

Associated gear
CAT signature with rolled in tubes, Jeff Rowland model 8 with choke power supply, Linn LP 12 with WTA arm modded by Van den Hul and a Benz Ruby 2, EAD 3000 Mk3 DAC, Philips cd80 transport, Pioneer DVD414 DVD transport, Highwire cabling throughout, Harmonix tweeks and PS audio, IVAC and TG audio power cabling.

Similar products
Magico Mini, Harbeth 40.1, SF Guarneri memento, SF Cremona M's, Quad 2905's,
Acoustat 3's, Hales System 2Sig's, Harbeth HLS 7's, Wilson Sophia's.
Nice review Dave - I share almost all of your findings with my experience with the Guarneri's. I have had at least a dozen speakers, including Avalon (Avatar and Eclipses), Magnepan 2.3, Eaglestone Rosas, Gallo Nucleus, Avantgarde UNOs, Totem Mani2 and Tabu to name some of them and no one have had the musicality, tonal rightness and driver integration as the SF guarneri homage.

This is not to say that the other speakers were bad, what keeps me happy owning the SF is the fact that they deliver a balance of virtues that keeps me hooked to my LPs and digital collection and with no rush to look for an upgrade in that department.

Thanks for sharing your expertise with the G's in this review.
Fernando, today I fired up the system and listened to the MFSL Lp of 'Alison Krauss and Union Station Live'. I simply cannot recommend this remarkable LP highly enough.
The GH's are seemingly built for this album and together I experienced the best sound I have ever heard from an
audio system in 30 years!!!
Listening to 'The boy who wouldn't hoe corn' you are literraly able to hear every fingering of Ron Block's banjo and of Jerry Douglas's dobro. Absolutely unbelieveable!
If you have an opportunity to listen to this combo, I think
you will be as amazed as I was.
I see there is some inacuracy on technical data, this speaker do not use dynaudio esotar tweeters or its modifications. its diferent tweeter(esotec) with much smaller magnet and custom made rear wood chamber.
Elviukai, sorry buy you are WRONG.. The GH's use, and are pretty well known for using, the Esotars. The speakers do utilize a custom made rear wood chamber for the tweeter.
Frankly, IMHO they are one of the best examples of any speaker utilizing this driver.
I owned a pair of Cremona's last year and ran them through a pair of Mcintosh 275's. The "feeling" these speakers presented was amazing! I got carried away with this whole "search for perfection" thing and "upgraded" to Revel Ultima Salon 2's and a pair of 501's.......Unbelievable sound but........Lost the feeling I got from my Cremona/tube combo.

My question is.....Do you think the newer Memento's are worth DOUBLE the price of a MINT pair of Homage?

Tube....or .....Trans for power??
Signhere, I have posted my opinions on the GH's vs. GM's in other threads. However, to sum up, having heard both, IMHO the GH's are frankly in a different league to the GM's! The GM's lack the GH's air and realism on top, they are uninvolving and almost seem to have a recessed midrange compared to the GH's. The GM's drop a little lower into the bottom end than the GH's. Are they worth Double the GH's? again IMHO, they aren't even worth half of the GH's. Looking at the construction quality of the GM cabinets, never mind the quality of the drivers, it is apparent to me that SF wanted to refresh the line and at the same time minimize the labor and material cost.
I drive my GH's with a Rowland model 8 with choke and top plate mod ( an excellent match). However, I think tubes, assuming that they are the right tubes, may be a better combo. I like the Tenor 75 watt amps very much( probably not enough power to drive the GH's though) and I like the CAT amps. Have not heard the CAT amps or the Tenor's with the GH's. I have heard the BAT amps with them and while this was a good match,( I heard the BAT 55SE's) I wasn't terribly impressed with how the amp controlled the bass. I love tubes, but in the small room I have and in the summer, tube heat is not pleasant. OTOH, I am planning on adding a tube amp to the mix, just not sure which one yet.
Well the tube amp I have added to the mix is a Audio Research D70 Mk2. The amp is 65 watts per channel and is from the classic ARC tube era.
I am re-tubing it with SED 6550's and NOS GE 6FQ7's. Once up and running I will report back...
After about 100 hrs with the ARC in the system, I think this pairing seems to be the SF's liking. The SF's are singing like never before, my 'phile friends are now anxiously looking for a D-70Mk2 on the 'Gon market!!!!
One is even going to replace his VT100Mk3!

Have you heard the SF Signums, and if so what's your take in comparrison to your GH, and overall by themselves? I'm just looking to see what you think because the upgrade bug has hit and I plan to go up the SF line eventually...
Hi Jd_df, I have not heard the Signums, so cannot really form an opinion on the comparison. What SF's are you using now?
DaveyF, forgive my late response. In being stationed here in Afghanistan, and not having the often times pleasure of being able to listen to my SFs, I in turn am using a pair of Swans D2.1 SE. An in elaboration, having them connected to a Nuforce-P8 preamp, MHDT-Havana DAC, Musical Fidelity -CDP, Kimber Cable interconnects and speaker wire, Pangea power cords, while switching between the use of Nuforce 9 V2 SE and Wyred 4 Sound SX-1000 MK11s. I can say I was then and now pleasantly surprised by the amount of good sound they produce. The first thing I noticed ( straight out the box ) is how they just dissappeared, and brought forth a huge soundstage. I have them seperated in the least by 10' and they place the spectrum of the sound stage fully where evrything should be, and give me timbral balance with bass that is very satisfying. The only fault that I can mention comes in the way of power, over here everything is powered by generators, and one must use a power transformer to get 110 as opposed to 220, along with a power conditioner. So with the understanding of that, I'm quite thrilled with my setup. But for home I am very curious and researching various other SF speaker because I love the musicality they produce along with the wonderful workmanship. Thank you for your reply. All the best to you and all who enjoy this fabulous hobby of ours.
Thank you jd_df.

I would recommend that when you get back home, that you give the SF's that will most likely match your room and budget a listen. Matching to the room is probably the most important aspect in speaker selection. Many times, a smaller speaker will sound better than a larger speaker, due to the synergy with the room it is to be used in.
This is especially true for a smaller speaker in a smaller listening environment.
Replaced the Highwire speaker cables with Nordost Red Dawn 2. These cables are much quicker and allow the GH's to bring more of their immense ability to portray the inner detail of music to its fore. Small details that had previously gone unnoticed pop into relief.
Hi nice review!
I liked them when I used them, but changing my C-J premier eleven to the Berning ZH270 made them sing - incidentally i later changed to the Merlin VSM's and now to my utter joy have found a small speaker that IMO eclipses the Guarneris:
My Merlin Master TSM can most likely hold itself well, when you will listen to it!
Hi Egidius, are you using Merlin TSM's or VSM's? I have listened to TSM's in my room....not VSM's. I must say that the TSM's were extremely good and would have been my 1st choice if it weren't for the GH's. The GH's are a iittle more refined in my system and a little more accurate in their portrayal of female voices.
I am soon going to try a REL T5 in the system, which should be an interesting addition to the GH's. Not sure if the REL will work well with the GH's, but I am hopeful. The bass of the GH's is IMHO, their only minor failing. Not a BIG deal in my small room, BUT still nice to have if playing organ, etc.
Hi Daveyf,

my way was a bit complicated: Coming from Audiostatic speakers i went to sf GH, which I loved, but after a while felt they were simply to shiny ;-) (lookwise)
I then bought VSM's and as an afterthought the TSM MMe for my studio, those were nice but somehow not comparable to the VSM Mxe. So this summer I replaced them with a Master TSM, and those little speakers really compare easily with the bigger VSM's, so i guess in my memory they swing above the GH, fwiw..

But the Guarneri are simply nice, don get rid of them!
Davey, can you comment a bit more about the Torus subs vs. other subs you have heard. The technology makes them seem ideal, and are priced accordingly. I have never had a chance to hear them.
Emailists, I have NOT heard the Torus sub with the GH's. I did hear the Torus with Wilson Sophia 2's. An excellent sound. The Torus is lightning fast with an seemingly endless ability to punch down low into the lowest regions. To my ears, it is the best Sub that I have heard, absolutely disappearing into the mix.
Since I haven't directly AB'ed the Torus against other subs i have heard/used, i can only go from memory...but IMHO the JL F113, as an example ,is not IMO in the same league. The JL was MUCH slower sounding and in the system I heard it in...connected to ML Summits, the JL was almost "plodding" . I am going to try and integrate a REL T5 into my system, which I doubt will compete with the Torus, but in my very small room will most likely be a better choice. ( The Torus would overload my room in no-time at all) So, to me the only question one should ask oneself if you are sub shopping is a) Can I afford the Torus and b) will it work in my particular listening room. ( I am a VERY big believer that the gear has to work in the room that it assigned to, since the room is IMHO the MOST important component of all). If the answer to both questions is 'yes' then again IMHO, the Torus should be your #1 choice. If I ever get a bigger listening room, the Torus would be bringing the SF GH's to an unimaginable level.
I added a REL T5 subwoofer a few months back. This is a great sub to match up with the GH's. The sub is VERY fast and has decent extension. It took a while to get the blend correct, but after some experimentation, the GH's are now far more of a "full-range" speaker. The T5 can move some decent ir in my very small listening room and is very accurate. I would guess my system extends from about 35Hz to 25KHz now with the sub in place..Not for headbangers, but still VERY capable. Adding this sub is difficult, but when dialed in, one can see that the GH's and the T5 are a great match.
Has anyone paired the GH with an ARCAM 600? I need some advice before pulling the trigger on a pair of mint GH. Thanks
Made2trade, I have NOT heard the ARCAM 600, but if it has enough power...100 watts or more, should work with the GH's. I suspect that the GH's will outclass the ARCAM, but you can always upgrade that later to a nice tube amp or ?
Go for the GH's, before they are sold to another enthusiast, would be my advice.
Nice review. How would you compare them to Quad 2905 after replacing them with SF? I love my 2905 and thought that they are almost impossible to top when listening to vocals and jazz. Did you experience any panels issues with you Quad 2905?
I think the Quads are a great speaker. What the GH's bring to the playing field is an ability to reproduce dynamics that seems to slightly escape the Quads. The purity of the silk dome is a revelation, IMO. The Quads don't quite give one that complete lack of strain with the music as it goes up the scale. At least, that was my experience with them. I had no panel issues, BUT it was always in the back of my mind, and really who needs that??
Want to update this thread a little. In the last couple of years, I have ditched the Highwire cable and replaced it with Nordost Tyr and Frey. The SF GH's responded amazingly to this upgrade. The Nordost cables are ultra fast and very revealing. They have brought a large measure of extra detail and finesse to the presentation. I also have added a REL T5 subwoofer to the mix. The GH's sound a LOT more extended and fuller with the sub. This sub is very good at disappearing into the mix. I think it is incredibly nimble and fast and compliments the GH's to a tee.
Now I have reproduction down to a clean 35Hz and with no overhang or bloom. I highly recommend a REL T5 or similar to all SFGH users.
Lastly,I added several room acoustic treatments, including two Real Trap Mondo Traps behind the speakers and a Real Trap Mini trap behind the seating position. Once again, the GH's responded with more depth, a little wider and more precise soundstage and an overall ease of presentation that is bringing a smile to my face and all who have heard them. Is there a small/medium speaker on the market that is more current that I would trade for....Not at the moment-- and I have now extensively heard the Magico Q1's, TAD and the smaller Raidho's.