Jonny Wilson & his Sonist Audio high-efficiency speakers.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Steve Hoffman, Jul 16, 2014.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    sonist one.jpg My marketing director Bill Leebens introduced me to Jonny at the Newport Audio Show a few months ago. I wanted Bill to guide me to some speakers that would work with my nifty low powered single-ended tube amps that I have but can't really use because of the low watts. He steered me right to the Sonist Audio suite. I'd like to say we had a nice chat but basically we listened to music in the room. I liked what I heard and was impressed that the late Randy Bankert's Sonist Audio brand was in such good hands.

    So, three boxes arrived yesterday for a long-term loan from Sonist Audio and Snake River Audio (both now run by Jonny Wilson).

    In the Snake River box was a beautiful 3 meter long pair of hand made, cryo'd COTTONMOUTH bi-wire speaker cables. In the two big boxes, the flagship speaker of Sonist Audio, the CONCERTO 4 speakers. Frequency response 27hz-40khz, impedance, a nice 8 ohms and, most importantly, sensitivity: 97db, dudes! That's right. My dinky amps can drive these speakers (so I was told).

    Since I had only heard the baby Concerto 2's at the show, I had no idea what these were going to do for me but I had faith and was hoping against hope that I would luck out with good sound (not too etched, not too this, not too that). Was I rewarded? Read on.

    The speakers have SOLID Poplar baffles and cabinet tuning that prevents bass bloat, a problem with this type of speaker design. Hard-wired first order crossovers, time-aligned ribbon tweeters, and so on. A good design.

    Now that Snake River Audio has the company, the design has been upgraded with cryo'd gold/silver/oxygen-free copper internal wiring.

    The Concerto 4's are 40" high, 12" wide and 15" deep. Not too big, just right for almost any room. The list price for these speakers is $5,895.00.

    So, how do they sound? Well, the pair I was sent were nicely broken in and since I have a nifty Audio Note UK system upstairs, I decided to make a system in the living room where there is a lot of room, very high ceiling and a chance to put these through their paces.

    Since I didn't (read: couldn't) carry the 85 lb Audio Note JINRO amp downstairs, I used my WOO AUDIO WA5 single-ended 300b integrated. I put it with an Audio Refinement CD player that Jeff Dorgay of Tone Audio gave me, cabled with my Stereolab Master Reference 838 interconnects and a Kubala-Sosna EMOTION power cord and I was ready to go.

    Warmed it up for like 3 minutes and couldn't wait anymore. What WAS this going to sound like? 8 watts to fill that gigantic room? Would it sound like most speakers of this type that I've heard? Boomy bass, too much midband honk, etc.? Or would it sound more like the smooth Audio Note AN-E/LX-HE's that I have upstairs?

    I played first some of my Nat King Cole stuff I mastered, to get a feel for how the speaker actually sounded with a lifelike human voice, then I blasted out some Matthew Sweet (just had it handy).

    Great sound! Lifelike, sensitive, punchy when needed, natural, dynamic, realistic, Chameleon-like (a good thing). Whatever I played on the system sounded like it was supposed to (I know how it should sound very well) but it had even more. It had that holographic 3-D sound that comes from a pure single-ended low powered directly-heated triode amplifier, being faithfully reproduced by a speaker designed to do just that. The soundstage was tremendous. I felt I could reach out and touch the performers. A speaker that works with my Audio Note Jinro, WAVAC EC300b and Woo Audio low powered amps. A dream come true.

    I am impressed and happy.

    If YOU have a low powered single-ended amp and have been stuck with "horny" sounding speakers, try the CONCERTO 4. You will be quite impressed as to what it can do. Trust Steve.
     
  2. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    Of all these, Chameleon-like is #1, as far as I'm concerned. I've heard speakers that were GREAT on one or two types of music but sadly lacking on some other type. I remember once being really, really impressed with jazz on a set of speakers (that I decline to name) but rock music just didn't cut it.

    Impressive! Very interesting review!
     
    tmsorosk likes this.
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Chameleon-like is very important if one listens to many different types of music. The truly exciting thing is that even with a simple DIY single-ended kit triode amp that one assembles at home, these speakers will shine without breaking your bank.
     
  4. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    Tempting. I need a bigger house! :D
     
    stereoptic likes this.
  5. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I'm a fan of ribbon tweeters but I've found most to have a narrow sweet spot. How are these speakers in that respect?
     
  6. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC USA
    They look beautiful! There is some magic in the simplicity of SET amps and high efficiency speakers with simple crossovers. When it is done right it does get you closer to the performance. Sweet.
     
  7. Kkfan

    Kkfan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Music City, USA
    Steve,

    Thanks for the great review!

    Got a few of questions:

    1. Does the bass actually go as low as they claim (27 Hz)?
    2. And, are you thoroughly satisfied with their performance on vocals?
    3. Can they be listened to from about 8-9 ft away or do they need more room?

    Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2014
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    I haven't done a tone sweep on the low end, sorry. Lowest bass note on a bass guitar is 40 cycles so I don't much care.. Haven't played any organ music.

    Vocals are wonderful, of course. If they weren't I wouldn't have bothered writing the review. Remember, no two vocals sound alike on these speakers. They give back what you put in.

    Near or farfield seems to make no difference. Sweet spot is nice and wide as well but not as wide as my Ventures. However, the Ventures don't have the magic mids of these (and the sweet triode amps that drive them).
     
    scorp997, Kkfan and GuildX700 like this.
  9. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Thanks for the reply.

    I can and do happily live with a smaller sweet spot due to the ribbon tweeters in one of my Elite speaker sets. Heck, it's in my smaller dedicated listening room which has great seating for 4 people, so that's works fine in practice for listening sessions anyhow. I love the top end air ribbons can give.
     
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    My old ESP speakers were so twitchy that if you moved your head the tone changed. Smallest sweet spot ever. Great sounding speakers though. Had to keep your head in a vice though.
     
    GuildX700 and showtaper like this.
  11. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Man, I remember hearing those somewhere. Same exact feeling, I felt like I needed to put my head in a vise to keep in line with the darn sweet spot, LOL! Quite irritating for long listening, almost get a sore neck.
     
  12. ServingTheMusic

    ServingTheMusic Forum Resident

    Location:
    SoCal
    Wholly crap, Steve, what a great read. You have me jacked! I need to a pair of Sonist something to review. Would be a great match for my Carver 20 watt EL84 amp.
     
  13. DaveC113

    DaveC113 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Front Range CO
    I really like that design... I will check them out if they are at the next RMAF.
     
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Didn't mean to imply that these speakers will only work with 8 watt amps. They will work fine with anything under 200 watts a channel. A Fisher 500B might sound amazing through them as well, who knows? Or any good stereo amp.
     
    Kkfan likes this.
  15. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    So is it front ported? Transmission line? Also, do you like first-order crossovers in general? Do find the added distortion OK, non existent, a good trade off?
     
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

  17. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    Extended bass shelf? :shrug:
     
  18. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
  19. triple

    triple Forum Resident

    Location:
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Auricaps, yikes.
     
    tmsorosk likes this.
  20. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    $$$$$$$$$$
     
    triple likes this.
  21. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    Seems like lots of speakers with very simple crossovers are limited in what they can use to get the results. I wish I understood more about caps, time delay and some of the parameters that make them task specific and not interchangeable.
     
  22. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Beautiful speakers, I would love to hear them. SET amps seem to be the thing these days and it reads as if these speakers are made specifically for them. 97db! 180 lbs each!!!!
     
  23. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Gonna need a dolly to move em. :uhhuh: I thought my TZ9's were bad at 145 lbs.
     
  24. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Perhaps it's time to revisit the Stereophile test disc with tones - "Thank you, Ralph..."
     
  25. Kkfan

    Kkfan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Music City, USA
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