Despite the audiophilic loathing of multi-channel and home cinema, the proliferation of small speakers in two-channel use indicates that subwoofers are godsends for those who cannot afford or house big speaker systems. Ironically, given that the Gravis B1 is Sonus Faber's first subwoofer in nearly two decades, we should remember that the first product from the then-nascent brand in the early 1980s was the legendary Snail: a subwoofer with a pair of long wooden arms, at the ends of which were small satellite speakers. (Picture it, and you'll get the snail imagery.) So anyone suggesting that the Italian brand is being opportunistic here, think again: when it comes to subwoofers, they are not arrivistes. Blessedly, the wait was worth it, for the B1 is a honey.
Styled to match the Concerto family rather than its all-wood models, the Gravis boasts grained matte-black leather on every surface; I'd kill to have a flight bag in the same material. To dispel images of some S&M freak's idea of a Fortnum & Mason hamper, the front and sides sport cloth grilles on bevelled frames, while the back contains the requisite controls. Additionally, the front and rear panels slope, and the edges are curved, so the B1 has an almost soft, organic look.
Why three grilles? Because the B1 houses a forward-firing 10in 'active' woofer with hard paper cone, augmented on both sides by 'two passive radiators of the same diameter to obtain the most efficient and extended low frequency response.' Again, lest its detractors wish to suggest that the company is venturing here onto new ground, Sonus Faber's Extrema of a decade ago carried a passive radiator on its rear baffle.
Although the Italians state quite clearly that their first priority was performance worthy of critical two-way systems, the B1 is also magnetically-shielded for positioning near TV monitors; I'm willing to bet that 90 percent end up in home cinema installations. Inside the 14.5x16.5x16.5in (WxDxH), 'decoupled construction for resonance control' enclosure is a MOSFET based amplifier (300W peak) with 2-stage power supply. With the amp, three drivers and solid cabinetry adding up to a hefty 66lb, it feels as substantial as it looks.
Read more about the Gravis on Page 2.