Sonus Faber Chameleon B Bookshelf speakers

There can't be many readers unfamiliar with the work of Sonus faber. This iconic loudspeaker brand from Vicenza, Italy has made distinctive-sounding products for a number of decades - showing outstanding attention to detail in the design and an exceptional finish. It is not entirely unfair to state that classical music has been traditionally better appropriate by its wares used to be called 'a good tone'. More recently, we've started to see Sonus faber modernising itself. Its redoubtable tradition hasn't been thrown out, but - in my opinion at least - there has been a conscious attempt to reach new customers.

You might almost say the marque is intentionally 'going out' to meet with new customers, instead of letting them come to it. These speakers are customisable, using a selection of different coloured side panels to suit preference and decor, which are easily removed or interchanged. There are six distinct finishes available, including white, black, metal blue, metal grey, orange and red; one pair (in the colour of your choice is furnished as standard and additional sets cost GBP145). The key cupboard itself is covered completely in leather, while the driver flanges get aluminium embellishers.

Closer inspection shows the Chameleon is much more than just a pretty face. That distinctive shape was created to stop the cabinet itself is well damped for the cost, and also the propagation of standing waves. The B version analyzed this is a two way reflex ported standmount (the T is a three-way floorstander with reflex port, the C is an infinite baffle center channel with passive radiator). The business says this substance is employed since it is still the most effective compromise between price along with quality. The two drivers cross over at 2.5kHz, pretty typical for a two way.

The Chameleon B is of average sensitivity; 87dB is claimed and this means you have around 50W RMS of power for it to really make an impression in a normal-sized room. There is additionally an attractive discretionary stand, which sits the speaker at a perfect 70cm high - although I discover it seems good on my appearing Atacamas that is less exotic. I use an Exposure 3010 S2-D amplifier and Chord 2Qute DAC with a number of digital sources, and the speakers actually start to sing when run for a couple of hours, and are very slightly toed-in towards the listener in my largish listening room.

Sound quality

On a trivial level, the Chameleon B is a great deal livelier and more animated sounding than traditional Sonus fabers, yet it does retain the clarity and smoothness for which the brand is becoming renowned. As such, I think it has been cleverly expressed, and will interest a wider age range. You get a pleasing, engaging and punchy sound, yet it doesn't seem as opaque

And unsubtle as one might anticipate for some of what are - by the standards of this company - budget boxes.

Kicking off using a track that may be consistently heard in the houses of the fashionable young professionals whom I could see having a pair of Chameleon Bs, and Coldplay's A Sky Full Of Stars seems spacious and strong. The recorded acoustic guitar is expansive, the soundstage pushes back astonishingly much in the room along with the loudspeaker captures the epic, stadium rock feel of the production. Vocals are easy, revealing no awareness of brittleness, and also the keyboard has a fulsome, rich, quality. Hi-hat cymbals, are sharp and sharp along with the steel string guitars strummed in an enjoyably percussive way. All things considered, it sounds right.

Give this speaker something a little more ambitious, and things remain pleasure. Dance On A Volcano by Genesis is a usually dry, mid-seventies rock track that's very well recorded but somewhat impenetrable. The Sonus faber picks its way through, having a gutsy, rendition that is propulsive. Its light, breezy character goes up into a broad, spacious midband that's decently detailed and quite proficient at communicating time and dynamic nuances.

In total terms, this loudspeaker is somewhat congested in the group. This is signposted by Kate Bush's Snowflake, but it's surely no worse than any of its rivals that are similarly priced. You also start to be conscious of its physical limits, when the volume goes north. When playing something like this track, with its strong, close-miked piano cadences the Sonus faber starts to compress things and begins to falter. Again, it is no surprise to get a box of cost as well as its size, but suggests that it is best in smaller-to-moderate-sized rooms and wouldn't be a first choice all night for blaring celebrations.

Find this loudspeaker in a sensibly proportioned room using a great solid-state amplifier plus a decent source and it works a treat. It gets the capacity to make any music which you play through it fun, yet it does not descend into hardness or crudeness at any stage and so will not have you hiding behind your designer leather sofa. Isaacs' voice sounds rich with some timbral detail that is lovely, and also the record is not deconstructed too much - as some price competitors appear to be prone to doing.

Feed it some cleanly recorded jazz as well as the speaker's abilities and foibles are clear in equal measure. It's not a layout that you would just say came from the 'BBC school' of loudspeaker expressing. That is not always a lousy thing of course - my point is the fact that it does not have an ultra midband that is clear, yet makes the music exceptionally engaging and pulls on the listener right in. Miles Davis' classic What Exactly is beguiling, as this speaker appears to tune to the emotion of the players that are great as effortlessly as anything I've heard at or close to the price. There is an ever so slightly soft and hazy quality to the upper group in total terms, but this gives a fairly romantic feel as well as the speaker's innately rhythmic nature carries through you. That soaring trumpet is an uncommon treat through the Chameleon, as is John Coltrane's tenor sax work.


Even when designing small and comparatively cheap loudspeakers, the Italians seem able to do it with a talent that eludes numerous producers from some other states. The Sonus Faber Chameleon B faces stiff competition from several cost competitions that are highly competent, but finally it just oozes charm and character that makes living with it so much enjoyment. This does not simply go for the sound because the packaging, construction and the style is exceptional.

Sonus Faber Chameleon B Bookshelf speakers photo

Review price £700 / $1050