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Sonus faber Guarneri G5

Sonus faber Guarneri G5

If any audio company was to ever make use of the phrase ‘not just a pretty face’ for serious marketing purposes, it would realistically be Sonus faber. The acoustic engineering that I’ve seen in various products from the company over the years would, in almost any other case, have been the main story. With Sonus faber though, that brilliance often subsumed itself by aesthetic discussions. It is taken as a given that anything that the company makes should be beautiful and sonically talented and the more you think about that, the more you realise what a significant burden that is. By the time, you reach the point in the range where the Guarneri G5 sits, you can argue that the budget exists to nail both elements but our expectations of just how visually lovely it should be are incredibly high too.

Happily, as we shall cover, this fifth generation of Sonus faber’s long-running stand-mount is very attractive. Still, the engineering that has gone into it is extremely impressive at the same time. The ‘G5’ reflects that this latest version is the fifth generation Guarneri and the basic layout remains unchanged. It is still a two-way rear ported stand-mount speaker, but the mechanics of how these elements have been implemented is significantly different.

DAD rock

The tweeter is a 28mm soft dome device that makes use of the trademark Sonus faber ‘DAD’ (Damped Apex Dome) structure over the north south axis of the dome. Designed to delay any anti phase behaviour from the dome itself, it has a worthwhile secondary function of providing a degree of protection to the dome itself from fingers and other stray objects that isn’t really provided by the supplied grilles. This crosses over a 2.2kHz to a 150mm mid bass driver that is made of cellulose pulp which gives many of the same qualities as treated paper but with greater stiffness than would be the case from the more traditional material.

Sonus faber Guarneri G5

Where the G5 differs most significantly from its predecessors is what is happening behind this cone. A purpose-built neodymium motor system combined with a new tuning frequency allows for deeper extension without distortion. Sonus faber says that resonances are quelled down to 15Hz (that is to say, with Sonus faber quoting a low-end roll-off of 40Hz, lower than anything that the Guarneri G5 itself can generate). As well as beefing up the motor, Sonus faber has worked to reduce the mass of the entire driver assembly to improve responsiveness.

The crossover between the two drivers follows standard Sonus faber design practice. Designed via a combination of listening tests and computer simulation, it features a shopping list of high-quality components that are hand soldered on custom PCBs. As is tradition, the Guarneri G5 supports bi-wiring thanks to having two sets of terminals. The measurements quoted by Sonus faber are not radically different to the proceeding models. The sensitivity of 86dB/w and 4-ohm impedance point to the Guarneri G5 needing a reasonable amount of power to do its best work.

Significant revision

The cabinet that contains all of this has also seen significant revisions. Sonus faber brought their cabinet manufacture in-house by buying the De Santi woodworking facility in 2021. Not explicitly spelt out in the blurb with the Guarneri G5 but certainly signposted is that certain developments in the design of the G5 are possible thanks to this. The cabinet keeps the lute shape profile when viewed from above, but the internal section is now more heavily braced than before. These are joined by aluminium sections as the top and bottom of the cabinet, slightly unfortunately termed Dampshelves, which further quell resonance and increase the overall rigidity considerably.

More metalwork can be found at the back of the cabinet. The Guarneri G5 is rear ported, but rather than terminating in a visible hole, it uses the (rather more inspiringly named) Stealth Ultraflex system of aluminium fins that run the entire length of the rear of the cabinet. These direct the air that leaves the cabinet and increases rigidity simultaneously. All the visible metalwork is finished in a dark anodized colour that makes a neat judgement between avoiding drawing too much attention to its presence and not seeking to hide it entirely.

The speaker does an excellent job of meeting the expectation of beauty heaped upon it. The Guarneri G5 is well-proportioned and packed with pleasing details. I love the metal sections joining the more traditional wood and leather. The Guarneri G5 has to be designed at least partly on the understanding that if you want the more trad finish of the Guarneris of old, you will avail yourself of a well-looked-after used pair so there is no sense attempting to make no changes. This latest model is still incontestably a Sonus faber but entirely contemporary in its design and execution. The review samples were in ‘Wenge’ finish and look and feel worth their £13,000 asking price. I am to aesthetics discourse what John Candy was to hang gliding, but this is still my favourite Sonus faber speaker to look at.

Standing tall

Of course, for most would-be owners, the Guarneri G5 will not set them back £13,000. While Sonus faber makes at least a token attempt on their website to show the speakers in use on a shelf, the vast majority will go on stands, and the bulk of those stands will be the dedicated unit at a brisk £3,200. Even allowing for the premium that dedicated stands tend to carry over the generic competition, the Guarneri G5 stand is pricey. However, the two units’ visual result is hard to argue with. Something more utilitarian would offer equally satisfactory performance, but the effect would be akin to complementing your Armani suit with a pair of steel toe-capped boots.

Sonus faber Guarneri G5

Regarding equipment review, I tend to regard myself as a ‘glass half full’ person. It’s not my position to set myself as the final arbiter of sonic quality, it’s to listen and determine who might be keen to look at such a product. I mention this because I struggled to gel with the Guarneri G5 for a few intriguing days and was resigned to writing a review that endeavoured to cover this off to whom they might appeal.

This wasn’t to say that positive traits failed to manifest themselves in that time, far from it. The effort expended on the drivers has resulted in a speaker that does many positive things we associate with Sonus faber while banishing some less satisfactory aspects. The 24/96 Qobuz stream of Larkin Poe’s Blood Harmony is opened by the slow build of ‘Deep Stays Down’, and the Sonus faber does a fine job of anchoring the Lovell sisters as the focus of your attention. Vocals are delivered with a richness and body that ensures that they grab and hold your attention without the effect tipping over into sounding enhanced and cartoonish. The simple guitar riff behind them is vibrant and real, combining detail, decay and tonal realism to produce something more than a mere reproduction but never tips over into out-and-out impressionism.

Heft beyond its ancestors

And then, when the bass does appear midway through the track, the newest Guarneri has a heft that would have seemed downright improbable to those familiar with its ancestors. This isn’t ‘plenty of bass for a stand-mount’, it’s a decent helping of low-end shove… full stop. Moreover, the Sonus faber wields it with control and agility, allowing it to process the dense complexity of Penguin Café’s Handfuls of Night [Erased Tapes] without any sense of congestion or overhang. All the effort coaxing more speed and responsiveness out of that mid-bass driver has resulted in a genuinely agile loudspeaker that can deliver its commendable heft with genuine vigour.

I’m still not done with the positives, either. The Penguin Café recording, created in cooperation with Greenpeace to highlight the fragility of the Antarctic wilderness, seeks to capture the vastness of that space and, so long as the most cursory of attention has been paid to where you have placed the Sonus faber, it delivers a soundstage that is both expansive and free of almost any suggestion of where the cabinets themselves are in the space they create. This is a noticeably more inert speaker than Sonus fabers of old. Combined with the air management around that rear port, it results in a potent speaker that is usefully free of coloration. Jam the Guarneri G5 against a wall, and you will get some boundary interaction, but more than 30 centimetres seems to be fine.

So why my reticence? Amongst all the positive qualities on offer was the hard-to-shake feeling that the performance was slightly constrained. For all the low-end weight and commendable airiness, there wasn’t the engagement I was hoping for from a Sonus faber, particularly at this price point. This was especially puzzling as I had attended a launch event for the new Homage line earlier in the year and been impressed at the energy of the Guarneri G5 even when it played music I’d consider a little sedate.

The right level

The answer lay mainly in listening levels. Almost all my early listening to the Guarneri G5 occurred at points where levels were, by necessity, on the lower side. At the same time, the launch event had been conducted at a relatively higher volume. When I finally had the chance to open the taps a little, the results were altogether more compelling. Preparing to go and see Peter Gabriel perform live by revisiting his Live in Athens 1987 album [Real World Music] and the Sonus faber tore into ‘San Jacinto’ with all the energy and sheer joy that had been slightly absent beforehand. The raw passion in Gabriel’s vocals and the palpable joy in the audience are readily apparent in what you hear. Revisiting the earlier test program at higher listening levels saw this increase in joy repeated across the board.

Sonus faber Guarneri G5

At this point, a degree of context is needed. The magic number above which I found the Guarneri G5 came alive is in the region of 75dB sustained at my listening position. For many of you reading this, that figure won’t remotely qualify as ‘loud’, but equally, there will be some of you reading this who won’t be listening at anything like that level. It’s also worth noting that the resident Kudos Titan 505 retains its ability to deliver the desired emotional quotient at relatively lower levels. This is indisputably a speaker who does their best work with the volume opened up.

Like a Lancia

Treat the Guarneri G5 like a stolen Lancia Delta Integrale, though, and it’s a delight. Over the time it was on test here, a Philadelphia band with the rather unprepossessing name of Sweat released their debut album Who Do They Think They Are? [TeePee Records]. With a sound that could easily have broken cover in 1976, the way the Sonus faber rose to the challenge was genuinely joyous. The pipe and slipper perception of the brand has always been overstated, but this latest generation is startlingly dynamic and genuinely exciting.

The result of this mid-testing discovery is that I can summarise the Guarneri G5, having personally enjoyed it rather than sitting here postulating who might in my stead. If you have the means to use the Sonus faber at relatively healthy listening levels, this is a truly exceptional speaker where the physical beauty of its appearance is less of a discussion point than the sheer capability it demonstrates across a vast breadth of music. Everything the brand has done so well for decades is here but joined by a space, scale and genuine engagement resulting in a truly fabulous listening experience.

Technical specifications

Type: Two-way Vented box “Stealth Ultraflex” stand-mount loudspeaker

Drive Units: DAD Arrow Point tweeter, Ø 28 mm, Neodymium Magnet System mid-woofer, Ø 150 mm

Crossover: 2,200Hz

Frequency Response: 40 Hz–35.000 Hz

Sensitivity: 86dB SPL (2.83V/1 m)

Nominal Impedance: 4 ohm

Suggested amplifier power output: 30W–125W

Finishes: Graphite, Red, Wenge

Dimensions: 377 × 239 × 375 mm (loudspeakers), 758 × 300 × 390 mm (stands)

Weight: 4.6 kg ea, stands 13 kg ea 

Price: £13,000/pr, Stands £3,200/pr


Sonus faber


UK distributor

Fine Sounds UK


+44(0)7714 232033

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