Chris at Overture Audio (Wilmington, DE) was kind enough to host Will Kline (North American Board Manager for Sonus Faber) and me for a comparison of the Sonus Faber Amati Tradition (the latest version of this speaker) and Il Cremonese speakers.

I currently am fortunate to have owned over the last three years,  SF Amati Tradition speakers.  My system consists of a dCS Rossini DAC connected by XLR to a Rogue Audio RP9 preamp and then Rogue Audio Apollo Dark mono amps.  My cabling is Nordost Valhalla 2 throughout. I send digital music files to the DAC from my Mac Pro using an ethernet connection (through a router) and Audirvana. My ethernet cables are Cat 5 unshielded per dCS’s recommendation. My network router is a standard one, not specifically designed for music. I do use a Puritan filter on the AC. (For purposes of this review, I am not including my analog components.)

I am considering moving upward within the Sonus Faber (SF)  line to the Il Cremonese and hence wondered whether I could discern a sufficiently significant difference between these two models to justify a “trade.”  Hence the purpose of the audition.

Will tuned the position of both pairs of speakers such that the listening position did not change. The room was moderately large, rectangular, and had appropriate “damping.” I provided FLAC and DSD files played from my MacBook via Audirvana through the USB DAC of an Esoteric K-03XD.  The preamp and mono block amps were McIntosh, the latter being the larger 1.2KW models. Settings, cables, etc. were maintained the same for both speakers.  Importantly, I provided Nordost Valhalla 2 jumper cables that I switched between speakers in lieu of the metal plate that comes standard with the speakers.  Experience with my own speakers had taught that the use of a jumper cable was critical in achieving the best bass and detail and articulation.

A caveat: because the Il Cremonese use side firing woofers, I could not immediately switch (A/B) between the models.  I listened to the Amati Traditions and then Will substituted the Il Cremonese.  This arrangement, of course, challenges the “accuracy” of the comparison because it relies upon auditory memory.  To try and minimize this issue, I took careful, explicit notes, marking by the seconds into the track, certain specific passages to be compared. It isn’t scientifically ideal, but the best that could be afforded given the situation.

Important note: I listened to only classical and jazz during the audition.  NO rock, heavy metal or pop music. My comments are thus potentially genre limited.

SF has a “house sound” which is often described or characterized as “warm”.  This term is misleading as it generally has a somewhat negative connotation.  SF’s “warmth” does NOT come from a lack of detail or articulation; the speakers are definitely not “syrupy.” Rather they are coherent, cohesive, tonally and timbre accurate in such a way that they are “musical.” They are especially tuned to the sound of strings and voices, and even after three hours of intense, concentrated listening, there was no fatigue; I wanted to continue listening, wanting “one more track”.  A comparison might clarify the house sound: Wilson Audio is renown for their coherency, their accuracy and detail. But their sound is clinical, analytical and, at least for me having spent an equivalent time with a Wilson XVX, less musically, emotionally engaging compared to the SF.

That said, the Il Cremonese is not merely a larger Amati.  They may have the same parents, but they are siblings . Visibly and with respect to their auditory character, they have resemblances but you can readily distinguish the two.

Both are “three and a half” way speakers.  Will explained that this means that the signal from the amp is first passed through a filter such that the low frequency signal is forwarded directly to the woofers.  The signal subsequently enters the crossover circuits to be separated and presented to the tweeter and midrange drivers.  Both speakers have the same tweeter. Both use the same material for the midrange and woofer drivers. But, unlike the Amati’s the Il Cremonese has “infra woofers” placed in their side panels.  The midrange and woofer in the Il Cremonese are slightly larger.  The Il Cremonese has 5 unequal “panels” vs the hull shape Amati.  The stats provided by SF suggest that the Il Cremonese can reach  3 Hz lower in frequency. However, the auditory presentation (as detailed below) provides the illusion of a much deeper range and this is a significant difference between the two speakers.

Compared to the Amati Traditions, the Il Cremonese:

  1. Is perceived to have an extended bass range.
  2. Its base is more articulate, more resonant, and has a greater “impact.”  An organ’s pedal notes have that pulsating, vibrato, energy that you feel and hear, but are NOT blurry, thick or “thumping.”  The actual musical notes are discernible and a chord of pedal notes can be dissected if the listener so desires. The infra woofers do NOT sound like “subwoofers” booming and vibrating without true tonal quality.  The Amati’s have a more polite bass, but are also articulate and tonally accurate; their bass does not seem to extend as far.  The Amait’s seem to be perpetually more “laid back” (not to the extent that this is a significant negative) whereas the Il Cremonese can exhibit “enthusiasm” when asked.  Siblings, not twins.
  3. Its treble is articulate, light (in the positive sense).  Cymbals can shimmer with proper decay.  Flutes, piccolos are appropriately tonally “bright” and treble notes can “dance” in the air when so scored. There is no harshness, stringency.  The Amati sounds nearly equivalent, very little difference, and this is not unexpected since they share the same tweeter.
  4. Its midrange is more precise, more defined, not that the Amati’s are poor in this respect; the Il Cremonese is just a little more refined (a dress suit rather than country club casual). This should NOT be interpreted as meaning that the Il Cremonese cannot be “exciting”, it is not always “laid back.”  The Amati tends to have a narrower range of emotions, it is more consistent, less variable in its presentation.
  5. Its overall sound seems fuller, more coherent.  It is NOT thick and most importantly this density of sound is not secondary to increased noise filling in the spaces between the notes or unfocused initiation and ending of notes. Indeed, despite this “fullness” there may be more space between the notes and between musicians. The Amati is also coherent and its presentation is full, just not quite to the same degree. Perhaps this reflects the slightly larger midrange and bass drivers in the Il Cremonese.  Once again, siblings with the same parents.
  6. It is overall more dynamic than the Amati, there is more “punch” on notes that are so recorded.  Rapid piano passages can literally “sparkle” bringing meaning to the phrase “tickling the ivories.”  There is slightly more acknowledgement and presentation of the venue, such as a church or concert hall.
  7. Its soundstage is slightly deeper and wider than the Amati’s (which is actually already quite large).

I suspect that the differences in character and personality relate mostly to the presence of infra-woofers, the slightly larger midrange and woofer and perhaps the crossover in the Il Cremonese.  Of course, SF claims the cabinet shape, feet, etc all are contributory.

The Amati is an excellent speaker with impressive clarity, articulation, coherency and musical presentation. As the expression goes, “It does its parents proud.”   The Il Cremonese is humbly authoritative in each aspect, respectful of its sibling, but clearly more accomplished.  How much difference?  In terms of base, 30-50%.  In terms of midrange and treble, 20%.  Overall (and no the “math” doesn’t “add up”) 20 - 30%.

I thank both Chris and Will for their hospitality and generous exchange of knowledge and experience.

For those interested in the actual tracks used for the comparison…

Being track 1

Holst Planets with Buzz Brass and Organ, track 4.

Lazzio Marosi Tuba Concerto. Tract 1

Janoska Track 2

Color Music  track 6

Hovhavness symphony 22 track 3

For Beauty of Earth track 10

Bach Cello Suite volume 1 track 18

The Trumpet Player track 21



Thank you Craig. Great review and comparison. I own Amati Traditional. I love them. What you observe is the kind of differences I am used to observing between the model levels. Such listening sessions are fantastic to calibrate one to sound / cost levels. I had discussed perhaps moving to Lilium with my audio guy. He had felt that the Amati were perfectly right sized for my space and therefore optimal.

I have occasionally done exactly what you did and critically analyzed a couple of speakers. You may do this as well. I now typically spend at least half the time not critical listening, but let the music move me… turn off my internal conversation. This allows the music to register in my subconscious and seduce my emotions. For me, this helps register the rhythm and pace. With a truly high end company like SF I would expect rhythm and pace to improve with model level. For me these days this is a really important characteristic… and that is my way of sensing it. If I can fall into the music and get turned over and over in three dimensional space, or get brought to tears… those are the ones.

Thanks for all the effort you put into this write up, great job. 👏

Craig, excellent write up!. When i listened to the Il Cremonese I was very impressed with their SQ. Although we did not do an AB with the Amati's that day, I would expect the results to eb as you posted.


@ghdprentice Looking at your system room size, I am surprised that your dealer would not suggest a move up to the Lilium, or even the Il Cremonese, if funds allow. BTW, I hear there will be a new Strad model coming out, could be a total game changer!


Thanks and I agree with your perspective.  The Il Cremonese certainly allow one to "experience" the music (and the venue when so recorded).  In complex orchestral arrangements/compositions, you can readily follow (if so desired) individual sections of the orchestra and thereby more readily appreciate the composition. I believe the composer often wanted the listener to not only hear the sum, but also be able to perceive the individual parts. Having been a french horn player,  I appreciate the individual talents of the musicians (especially noticeable in small ensembles and in jazz) as well as how they blend into the whole.  I also enjoy hearing little nuances the composer and/or conductor/musician applies/incorporates to/in the composition.  In these respects, the Il Cremonese clearly improves on the already excellent Amatis.