The Signum's familiarly exotic
cabinet, constructed from struts of solid walnut with internal
copper and lead bracing, is pure bred Sonus faber. I'm still getting
used to the leather-wrapped front and rear baffles, but they're
not as offensive--with the black cloth grille off--as I used to
think they were a decade ago.
A two-way reflex design and
ported at the rear, the Signum sports a 20mm silk-dome tweeter
and 150mm fibre-glass multi-coated mid-bass driver, crossing over
at 2.5kHz. Both transducer units are customised ScanSpeak designs,
and the tweeter is physically protected by a raised, three-spoke
Sensitivity is 87dB, but the
4ohm load the Signum presents should not drain modestly-powered
but well-designed amplifiers--power handling is quoted at between
30 to 150 watts.
Significantly, the manufacturer
claims frequency response down to 40Hz (and 22kHz at the other
extreme), surprising for this eight-litre box which weighs in
at 21kg for a packed pair (yes, they come in a single box). In
the Signum's case, the speaker appears to be actually approaching
this frequency floor, if not actually nudging it.
Recommended placement is well
away from side and rear walls, toed inwards for optimum results.
Bi-wiring facilities are provided, but the gold-plated terminals
also come with metal jumpers should you opt not to do this. As
for the amplifier, well, you can use a Krell if you've got the
money to spare, or you can go alternative. Away with the norm,
The Signums arrived at a time
when I was making a few changes to the resident system, so my
overall conclusion is reflective of this. But a good speaker is
a good speaker, and this, the Signums turned out to be, whatever
amp I was using to provide the juice.
Are those cries of outrage
from the back of the class, then, as I list, among the driving
amps, a Unison Research Simply Four, an Audiolab 8000S (yes!),
a Cary Audio SLP-50/CAD-50M MkII pre-monoblock combi and a surprise
little package called the Houston Mini-1998, from Hong Kong manufacturer
Top International Electronic? All integrated models and guess
which was the only solid-state unit? Alternating on signal-carrying
duties were van den Hul The Wind and Straightwire Black Silk.
Sources included Theta Data/ProPrime
transport-DAC combi, a Philips CDR 765 CD recorder and Michell
Gyro Dec/Morch DP-6/vdH MM1 vinyl set-up, run variously through
Ensemble Digiflux, Straightwire Virtuoso, Nordost Blue Heaven
and Audio Note connects.
A word about stands--although
the Signums work more than reasonably well sited on conventional
stands, one of Sonus faber's two dedicated units is strongly recommended.
Having used the speakers both on my wooden stands and Sonus faber's
fixed height model, I must report that the latter considerably
tightens lower end performance. On the downside, these stands
add almost two grand to the Signum's already not-so-modest price
Right, to cut to the chase
without further ado ....
Bass response on the Signum
suggests a healthy dose of steroid injections. And yet, despite
the generous depths--for such a compact bookshelf design--into
which the low frequencies delve, there's no loss in control, articulation
or dynamics. A suggestion of warmth here does add some character
to the Signums, although I suspect this quality may have been
slightly exaggerated because all the amps I used possess such
Acoustic bass recordings were
reproduced with faithful adherence to the performing nuances;
even on complex percussion recordings, the Signums didn't show
signs of losing their grip over the lower extremeties.
This complemented the somewhat
startling vocal presentation, the singer being finely and delicately
etched out of the instrumental backdrop and made to seem as if
standing up front on the soundstage. This worked superbly with
vocal-driven jazz, folk and pop (even rock!) recordings, especially
also because the amps allowed a certain degree of mellowness to
seep into the midrange. I suspect the less forgiving Krell KAV-300i,
while driving the Signums to their extreme capabilities, would
render mediocre recordings unplayable.
Yet, despite the transparent
nature of the Signums--amp and other ancillary changes were duly
obvious during delivery--and their bold staging and layering abilities,
the Signums are hardly fatiguing ... unless, of course, you do
a Hardy and max the amp's volume knob.
No, these are speakers with
all the poise of thorough-breds, and the trappings of High End
monitors--they communicate with the listener on both cerebral
and emotional planes. There's no additive distraction from the
upper registers--it's just that the rasp of a trumpet in higher
octaves is merely sonic art imitating life.
The Signums empathise with
the inherent nature of the recordings, reflective tunes being
imbued with the right level of intimacy, and more urgent pieces
reproduced in all their dynamic glory ... you certainly won't
find these speakers lagging in rhythm or timing.
These strongly individualistic
speakers make very good sense, appealing to the soul of the listener
without in any way infringing upon his sense of objectivity. And
the bass performance is quite the complete works.
The only drawback is that
a pair of Signums will set you back a shade under seven grand
and the dedicated stands, another two. Serious money ... but for
speakers that can only sound better as you upgrade the rest of
Well, this one could be staying
home for a while ....
faber Signum loudspeaker
per pair (plus RM1,900 for dedicated fixed-height stands)
Review sample courtesy
of AUDIO IMAGE (03-756-3077), 7 Jalan 19/29, 46300 Petaling Jaya,
bass, given its size; subliminally communicative; unrestrained
presentation; superb midrange focus.
You'll spend too much time with it ....