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Sonus Faber Omnia Review

Review
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This is a review written by Terry Ellis May 2022.

For my video review please see my YouTube channel link here

Invitation to Review

Sometimes companies approach you to review a product which you think is probably not suited to you. For me, the all-in-one music speaker system or soundbar category is not usually the type of product I am passionate about.  There are many tech channels on YouTube that promote lifestyle gadgets and, here I am, with a dedicated HiFi listening room that has acoustic treatments all over the walls and ceiling, HiFi everywhere and even blue masking tape on the floor marking my favourite spot in the room, this all points to me a pretty extreme audiophile. When Sonus Faber asked me to review their new all in one wireless speaker system the Omnia, I thought they must be confident in its sonic abilities to be asking me and that certainly intrigued me.

I am a sucker for a product that has styling this good, and we already know Sonus Faber create products with a touch of that Italian design ‘flare’ with the Omnia having some lovely angles and curves, plus some quirkiness.

Initially, £1,599 seemed a lot for a product of this type, and it is more expensive than the soundbars from Sonos and Bose, but they are traditional TV sound orientated designs, aka boring rectangle black boxes and by the time you add subwoofers to them, their price is a lot closer.

More obvious competition would be from the Naim Muso 2, which costs a similar amount depending on the finish, or the new JBL L75MS, which again costs about the same. In reality, the Omnia is competitively priced against other premium offerings, but, given its premium price, I think it is only right to have premium expectations.

First Impressions

Those premium expectations start with the consumer buying experience. The Omnia comes in an exceptionally nice but huge box. I particularly liked the outer shell packaging, although it is quite tricky to slide off the main cardboard box and inside is some thick foam padding keeping the Omnia safe in transit.  Included is a box with the remote control, power leads, and a dongle type adaptor for using an external analogue source, such as a turntable. This dongle-type adaptor even has a Sonus Faber logo on it, somewhere no one will ever see, now that’s a nice touch.

Also in the box are User and Safety Manuals and, very important, a three-year warranty document. There is a QR code on the rear of the warranty which you will want so don’t throw that away.  Removing the Omnia from the packaging, or moving it around, is easy enough as it is not overly heavy or cumbersome. It also has a solid integral stand that nicely hides all the connections around the back.  The connections are power, HDMI (arc), network, and one for the dongle – with a switch to select if you want to use the built-in phono stage – yes, it has a built-in phono stage!

Hidden inside are seven speakers, made up of two mid-range drivers and two tweeters at the front, with two full-range drivers, one on each side, and a 6 ½ inch subwoofer in the middle, which Sonus Faber claim will hit as low as 30hz bass in the listening room which is crazy impressive.  These drivers are DSP controlled and driven with 490 watts of amplification, which is a huge amount of power for a one-box system, and you can hear it.

Setup and Technology

Setup can be quick or quicker – I would advise you to go with the quick option.  With my phone I connected to the Omnia via Wi-Fi, and then used the QR reader to zap the code, mentioned earlier, on the rear of the three-year warranty card, which takes you into the Omnia menu system.

From this point you can do important things like update the firmware, you can select wired, or wireless, network connections and do everything else you need to get connected.  More interesting is the advanced sound settings, as these really do matter. Most important, I think, is to select the correct Room Placement option – close to the wall, or away from the wall, as this makes a big difference to the Omnia sound.  You can choose loudness maximiser to be on, if you listen a lot at lower volumes, or off if you listen a lot at loud volumes. You can also toggle, on and off, the Crescendo mode and you will want to toggle this on and off to experience what it does because this is very clever Sonus Faber technology which is intended to create a more expansive sound from the single speaker.

Looking at the technology, Sonus Faber say they use DSP and the side firing drivers to mix bipole and dipole speaker behaviour in order to create a more immersive overall sound field. This is a very clever feature because it works extremely well, and does exactly as advertised.

I must mention the very lovely top plate and the three fancy LED strips that do an impressive dance when the Omnia is turned on.  It is Senso or touch enabled for volume and on and off. The front small LED strip will change colour, depending on the input you have selected.   I would personally like to Sonus Faber do a little more with the LED strips, such as provide different modes where the lights dance to the music. That apart this is a neat design touch and one you can turn off with the remote control if you don’t like it.  There is also a cool LED underneath where the subwoofer is giving a subtle hint to the subwoofer again another nice touch.

Sound Quality

Time to discuss the all-important sound quality but before I do allow me to briefly reminisce. I think I owned what was likely the first of this type of compact digital all in one speaker system the Bose Wave Radio. I bought one not long after leaving University so around twenty years ago.  I recall that I was really excited and told all the guys I was working with how amazing it was going to be.  When it arrived, I plugged it straight in and put music on, turned it up and up and up and was left feeling totally disappointed. Not just with the sound quality, but the overall sound experience. It was miles away from what HiFi speakers and an amplifier could deliver.

Twenty years is a long time in technology development however, essentially the Omnia is the same category of product – a small all-in-one music system, but this time when you hit play and turn the volume up, special things start to happen.  The Omnia to my sincere surprise made me question the gap between a HiFi and this all-in-one music system.

For listening I streamed all the music from Qobuz, using the Qobuz app on my iPad Pro, connecting to the Omnia via Apple Airplay. In my comments I am referring to the sound with the Crescendo mode enabled.

Firstly, I want to talk about the bass. It is unbelievable. The Omnia was able to fill my listening room with solid, full, and quite punchy and deep bass. The bass is not room filling because its boomy, thick and poor quality. It is tight, agile, and tuneful. I have reviewed some entry level stand mount speakers this year and I don’t remember their bass being this full and impactful. The Omnia is really very impressive for its bass delivery, Sonus Faber have done an amazing job with the built-in subwoofer and I am in total admiration to them for this achievement.

I found that the sweet spot for overall sound quality, sound stage, and bass presence, was achieved by selecting the Near-The -Wall room placement setting in the menu, and pushing the Omnia back quite close to my front wall.  I preferred this to placing the Omnia right at the front of the equipment stand giving the speakers more freedom of space and using the away-from-the-wall sound mode. The later mode does provide more bass, but it seemed to also take away some mid-range presence. Your requirements will be different hence my suggestion to take your time with the setup.

Vocals were mostly presented, quite a bit higher or taller, than the Omnia more at my ear height and this really impressive when you think about it. Vocals were presented with a good size, good clarity, and with a good amount of tonality and musical expression. Male vocals had a nice fullness to them, I think largely thanks to the bass from the subwoofer, and female vocals stay mostly composed, even as they start to go up in pitch and more shrieking

The soundstage width, with the right music, such as in the Freya Ridings album, was not quite the full width of my room, but much wider than the physical size of the Omnia. Combining that with the large vocal and solid bass and things are sounding very ‘right’.  Having the Omnia right up against my wall meant its soundstage was more two dimensional and flat across the wall with sounds occasionally coming out more into the room. This was evident with the crowd cheering in some songs on the Melody Gardot Live in Europe album. Some times the music layers were perceived slightly beyond the Omnia but not to the  properly three dimensional, with depth, that good stereo speakers create when they are placed out into my room. In truth, with a single box speaker, I think expecting that kind of sound stage is unrealistic anyway.

The treble I did find to be a little too soft for my liking, and lacking some presence in the overall soundstage.  At times, in some music, there was some clear cymbal shimmery-ness (is that a word), again audibly sounding above the Omnia and presented in quite a holographic way floating in the air. Overall, I found the treble to be perfectly fine, good at times, but just not quite to my liking. Customisation of any of this is not possible beyond changing the near or far from the wall settings.

Overall, the sound from the Omnia is extremely impressive for what it is, and from where it is coming from.  If I were to be very critical, it did sound a little forced out of a small box at louder volumes and didnt have the same rounded smoothness of good HiFi speakers. But what it did do is very impressive because it can create a genuine room filling sound with a good left to right soundstage, with good clarity and organisation, and musical subtleties and details, in that way that sounds fast and nimble. In fact, very good Sonus Faber speaker-like.

I mentioned customisation. I tested the Crescendo mode thoroughly. When you turn it off, the Omnia sound is a little more focused and solid in the centre as a positive. The bass and height of the soundstage stays intact but the width is lost, and you lose the stereo soundstage presence which creates that almost stereo speaker-like sound field. I wonder as Crescendo is a DSP algorithm based technology will Sonus Faber be improving it over time? I don’t know the answer to that, but it is an interesting question.

Is It All Good?

In a HiFi context, there are some negatives. Firstly, the Crescendo mode does make the sound larger and more expansive, but you lose a little focus.  The Omnia doesn’t have the effortlessness to its presentation that you would expect from larger speakers but to be honest, that is about as critical as I can get for its overall sound quality. It really delivers for what it is.

Secondly, I would have liked a little more sound customisation options, such as being able to adjust the treble and bass to suit personal taste and the room.  I say this because I think I preferred the Omnia in away from the wall setting for bass, but close to the wall for everything else. It would be great to be able to choose the best of both.

I must mention the HDMI connection. It is ARC enabled and so you can feed stereo sound back from your TV and use the Omnia instead of a soundbar” to watch movies, Netflix and awesome HiFi YouTube channels like Darko, and mine, of course!  It could be a great soundbar, but ensure you measure the available space first because it is not slim, like a traditional soundbar. If you are considering the Omnia for TV duties, the graphite finish version might work better as its likely less reflective of the TV image.

The other thing to consider with a speaker like this is yes you have the flexibility to place it essentially anywhere in your room but it is important to remember that it is still a speaker and so where you place it, the height you place it at, and what you place it on, will affect its overall sound quality. My advice is to bear that in mind and try and use your room to your advantage to get the most expansive sound you can.

Overall

I think given its excellent performance its apt to ask the question can the Omnia replace your HiFi system? For audiophiles who are used to good traditional HiFi speakers, amplifiers and subwoofers etc they are unlikely to want to replace that with an Omnia.  Although the Omnia could be a great choice for a second or third system elsewhere in the home or as a sound bar that offers more.  I think its important to remember that everyone’s home situation is different, and if where you live is very space limited and you may have to have speakers set very close together wand where a traditional HiFi setup would be very sub-optimal, then maybe in those circumstances the Omnia could replace the HiFi system.

We are talking audiophiles here. For ‘normal’ people, the traditional HiFi being replaced ship sailed long ago, such is the popularity of this type of product, but they are definitely not all created equal. If you are a normal person looking for a high quality, easy to use music system, with Spotify, Tidal, Roon capability, Bluetooth, Apple Airplay and more, which will play your music loud, with emotion and real quality and with lots of good bass, while looking very stylish in the process, then, the Omnia could well be your HiFi system.

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Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price

For the full specification of the Sonus Faber please see their website linked here

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