You know the value trend is not a fad when names like Sonus faber, which in the past only produced lines at the very pinnacle of high-end performance and price, begin to launch more affordable lines. Sonus faber has a long history of designing and manufacturing premium speakers in Italy. The speaker designs often take cues from classical stringed instruments, and the speaker lines and product names often honor the greatest classical composers and operas. Currently, the company's flagship Aida speakers weigh in at $120,000 per pair and compete with the most elite products from the likes of Wilson, Magico, Rockport, and MBL.
A few years, Sonus faber took the audio world by storm when the company launched its first foray into more affordable speakers with the Venere line, manufactured in China and featuring floorstanding speakers ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 per pair. The Venere line had the flexibility to accommodate home theater fans with a matching center channel and a variety bookshelf options, also at much more affordable prices. While some feared the move in manufacturing location would impact quality, the Venere line proved to be worthy of the Sonus faber brand name.
Fast-forward to today. Sonus faber has introduced a new entry-level line called Chameleon that is manufactured once again in Italy. The line features one floorstanding model called the Chameleon T (priced at $1,999 per pair), as well as the center-channel Chameleon C ($549 each) and the subject of this review: the Chameleon B bookshelf speaker ($899 per pair). If someone had told me five years ago that you could get a full five-channel Sonus faber home theater speaker set for under $5,000, I would have laughed in their face, but it is a good time indeed to be an audiophile.
In traditional Sonus faber fashion, the aesthetic design of the Chameleon speakers is as much a part of the value proposition as their performance. As the name Chameleon suggests, the whole line comes with multiple aesthetic options, in the form of interchangeable, colored side panels. My samples came with four red side panels, two for each speaker. Slipping them in place required no effort at all. You can buy two extra pairs of side panels for the Chameleon B in multiple colors (black, orange, red, white, metal grey, or metal blue) for $199.
As far as bookshelf speakers go, the Chameleons are fairly lightweight and compact, weighing in at 14.8 pounds and measuring 12.4 inches tall, 7.3 inches wide, and 11.1 inches deep. The B is a two-way bookshelf with a 1.1-inch tweeter and 5.9-inch midrange/woofer. Around back, two pairs of standard speaker inputs are housed in a slightly recessed well, with the inputs tilted upward to allow for easy access and flexibility to connect with banana plugs, spade plugs, bare wire, or just about any speaker wire connection you prefer. I connected them using my reference WireWorld Silver Eclipse 7 speaker cables to the recently reviewed Outlaw Model 5000 amplifier. Other associated equipment included the Outlaw Model 975 preamp and a Sony Playstation 3 game console.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...