Sonus Faber Extrema

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Whoaa!!!! Many, MANY congratulations! How do the Mephistos compare with the Trinity amps? I owned the Mephisto for a number of years (and before that the Colosseum...and before that the Antileon original). So know it pretty well.
 

Extrema

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Feb 20, 2013
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Whoaa!!!! Many, MANY congratulations! How do the Mephistos compare with the Trinity amps? I owned the Mephisto for a number of years (and before that the Colosseum...and before that the Antileon original). So know it pretty well.
The Mephisto is darker sounding and doesn’t do much wrong but its weight is back breaking and the heat it produces is something else.
The Trinity amps are supremely clean and transparent and match the Extremas perfectly.
 

LL21

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Great to know!
 

Blackmorec

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Here’s a suggestion from left field! Years ago I owned a beautiful pair of Extremas and powered them with BAT Vk500 monoblocks. Sounded wonderful. You may still be able to pick up a pair of the VK500s but if not already done, they’d certainly need a thorough service and all their capacitors replaced. If I were setting up a pair of Extremas today, the first amp i would audition would be Devialet….either the 440 monos or the 1000 monos. Its French and like a lot of designs from that country, uses an unusual topology. Firstly its a ‘one box’ unit with DAC, Preamp and amp. It has by far the lowest distortion spec of any amp and can sound glorious in the right set-up. I spoke about topology….its amplifier is unique….class A for voltage and Class D for current. Its ability to produce GOBs of power in an instant and into low impedances is second to non and this is exactly what the Extrema needs. The Devialet frequency response deviates very little from the ideal, especially the upper frequencies, which are lightening fast and hugely energetic, without sounding in the least bit unnatural, hard or edgy. Again, this is exactly what the Extreme needs to get the best out of its soft dome Esotar tweeter and unique crossover (inductor in parallel instead of the usual in–series capacitor). Versus the latest speakers and drivers, the Extrema will benefit from amps that offer plenty of PR&T (pace, rhythm and timing), so again a Devialet strongpoint.
Given there’s close to 25 years between my hearing Extremas and Devialets, I may be completely wrong, but instinct tells me they could be an almost ideal match, given that the Devialet’s strong points and the Extremas‘ critical requirements are pretty much the same…..both ’iron fists in velvet gloves’.
 

RDSChicago

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Nov 13, 2013
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Here’s a suggestion from left field! Years ago I owned a beautiful pair of Extremas and powered them with BAT Vk500 monoblocks. Sounded wonderful. You may still be able to pick up a pair of the VK500s but if not already done, they’d certainly need a thorough service and all their capacitors replaced. If I were setting up a pair of Extremas today, the first amp i would audition would be Devialet….either the 440 monos or the 1000 monos. Its French and like a lot of designs from that country, uses an unusual topology. Firstly its a ‘one box’ unit with DAC, Preamp and amp. It has by far the lowest distortion spec of any amp and can sound glorious in the right set-up. I spoke about topology….its amplifier is unique….class A for voltage and Class D for current. Its ability to produce GOBs of power in an instant and into low impedances is second to non and this is exactly what the Extrema needs. The Devialet frequency response deviates very little from the ideal, especially the upper frequencies, which are lightening fast and hugely energetic, without sounding in the least bit unnatural, hard or edgy. Again, this is exactly what the Extreme needs to get the best out of its soft dome Esotar tweeter and unique crossover (inductor in parallel instead of the usual in–series capacitor). Versus the latest speakers and drivers, the Extrema will benefit from amps that offer plenty of PR&T (pace, rhythm and timing), so again a Devialet strongpoint.
Given there’s close to 25 years between my hearing Extremas and Devialets, I may be completely wrong, but instinct tells me they could be an almost ideal match, given that the Devialet’s strong points and the Extremas‘ critical requirements are pretty much the same…..both ’iron fists in velvet gloves’.
Hi, were your VK500’s monoblocks as I see one for sale that is a stereo amp, albeit a dual mono amp with two IEC outlets. Thanks.
 

Raker24

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The TAD M700 monos (which I own) should drive the Extremas extremely well, they also drive the TAD CR1 TXs (which are also difficult to drive) very well.

Another opinion is posted below (with respect to the TAD M700S, the stereo version):

According to Patrick 388, a famous Hong Kong hifi reviewer/blogger/Youtuber, the TAD 700S is the best poweramp he has ever listened to
 

Raker24

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Hi, were your VK500’s monoblocks as I see one for sale that is a stereo amp, albeit a dual mono amp with two IEC outlets. Thanks.

Here’s a suggestion from left field! Years ago I owned a beautiful pair of Extremas and powered them with BAT Vk500 monoblocks. Sounded wonderful. You may still be able to pick up a pair of the VK500s but if not already done, they’d certainly need a thorough service and all their capacitors replaced. If I were setting up a pair of Extremas today, the first amp i would audition would be Devialet….either the 440 monos or the 1000 monos. Its French and like a lot of designs from that country, uses an unusual topology. Firstly its a ‘one box’ unit with DAC, Preamp and amp. It has by far the lowest distortion spec of any amp and can sound glorious in the right set-up. I spoke about topology….its amplifier is unique….class A for voltage and Class D for current. Its ability to produce GOBs of power in an instant and into low impedances is second to non and this is exactly what the Extrema needs. The Devialet frequency response deviates very little from the ideal, especially the upper frequencies, which are lightening fast and hugely energetic, without sounding in the least bit unnatural, hard or edgy. Again, this is exactly what the Extreme needs to get the best out of its soft dome Esotar tweeter and unique crossover (inductor in parallel instead of the usual in–series capacitor). Versus the latest speakers and drivers, the Extrema will benefit from amps that offer plenty of PR&T (pace, rhythm and timing), so again a Devialet strongpoint.
Given there’s close to 25 years between my hearing Extremas and Devialets, I may be completely wrong, but instinct tells me they could be an almost ideal match, given that the Devialet’s strong points and the Extremas‘ critical requirements are pretty much the same…..both ’iron fists in velvet gloves’.
I owned the Devialet special edition Original d'Atelier monos (the core is essentially the same as the current Devialet 1000 monos) for four years, driving the second generation TAD CR1 Mk IIs. Yes, in many ways, good, but four years and my current system (the TAD M700 monos driving the third generation TAD CR1 TXs) have shown me that the Devialets are not as good as they look on paper. Edgy with classical music, and the bass (while superficially impressive, especially with the SAM (speaker active matching) system) doesn't have the real massive current behind it (like the TADs produce). There's no subsitute for cubic inches and V12s. The Devialets are like cheap little four cylinder engines with a turbo stuck on them. I'd take a Ferrari V-12 any day by way of comparison. The Extremas, like the TADs, need true bi-wiring (two single wired pairs in shotgun mode) to really perform (not to speak of bi-amping). Good luck trying to bi-wire with the Devialet and and their cheap single pair plastic speaker posts, you'll end up cursing the day you were born.
 
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Blackmorec

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I owned the Devialet special edition Original d'Atelier monos (the core is essentially the same as the current Devialet 1000 monos) for four years, driving the second generation TAD CR1 Mk IIs. Yes, in many ways, good, but four years and my current system (the TAD M700 monos driving the third generation TAD CR1 TXs) have shown me that the Devialets are not as good as they look on paper. Edgy with classical music, and the bass (while superficially impressive, especially with the SAM (speaker active matching) system) doesn't have the real massive current behind it (like the TADs produce). There's no subsitute for cubic inches and V12s. The Devialets are like cheap little four cylinder engines with a turbo stuck on them. I'd take a Ferrari V-12 any day by way of comparison. The Extremas, like the TADs, need true bi-wiring (two single wired pairs in shotgun mode) to really perform (not to speak of bi-amping). Good luck trying to bi-wire with the Devialet and and their cheap single pair plastic speaker posts, you'll end up cursing the day you were born.
Hmmmm, sound like you could have used a little help with getting your system set-up closer to perfect. The Devialets are incredibly transparent and will play exactly what they’re fed. I do however agree that spending 2 or 3 times the amount will, generally speaking, get even better results. There’;s no doubt that TAD M700s will do a bang-up job of driving the Extremas, but looked at the other way, I’m not sure a pair of Extremas are what you need for the M700s?
Regarding my experience with bi-wire, i actually found that when the same money used to buy 2 sets of cables was instead used to buy a higher quality single run cable plus jumpers made with the same cable, I got better results. In my own experience bi-wiring the Extremas worked because it got rid of those funky little jumpers that connected the binding posts when single wired. Get rid of those connectors, apply your double cable budget to a single run of higher quality wire + jumpers and you’ll likely get the best results.
 
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Raker24

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Results are clearly system dependent. That said, I've tried single wiring with high quality jumpers (Cardas Clear) with the TAD CR1 Mk IIs, and bi-wring was clearly superior (night and day difference).
 

Raker24

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Regarding the Devialets, when I owned them, I fed them with an Esoteric K-01X (the previous generation) SACD player used as a transport, digital out with Wireworld Platinum 8 AES/EBU digital cable. Good on jazz and popular music, grated on classical music. Getting much better results with the Taiko SGM Extreme into Nagra DAC & preamp into TAD M700 monos driving the latest TAD CR1 TXs. Fantastic on jazz, popular, and classical music. No comparison by any stretch of the imagination, at least in my respective systems (Devialet in Tokyo and Taiko/Nagra/TAD in Singapore).
 

Blackmorec

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Regarding the Devialets, when I owned them, I fed them with an Esoteric K-01X (the previous generation) SACD player used as a transport, digital out with Wireworld Platinum 8 AES/EBU digital cable. Good on jazz and popular music, grated on classical music. Getting much better results with the Taiko SGM Extreme into Nagra DAC & preamp into TAD M700 monos driving the latest TAD CR1 TXs. Fantastic on jazz, popular, and classical music. No comparison by any stretch of the imagination, at least in my respective systems (Devialet in Tokyo and Taiko/Nagra/TAD in Singapore).
Hi Raker,
I’m actually not talking about the components used but rather the set-up of those components. Things like support racks, mains supply, network feed, cabling, environmental EMi/RFI etc. etc.

When your Devialet ‘grated on classical music’ then its amplifying some form of distortion…. which could be self generated or present in the incoming signal. The distortion could be as simple as incorrect mains polarity somewhere, poor quality mains supply, a support structure that is itself resonating or conducting external vibration into the component or a host of other set-up related reasons. A single and not necessarily cheap cable can transform a system from good to bad.

The paper spec of Devialet translates into an effortlessly powerful, pure, atmospheric, airy and natural sound for all genres of music. If your system has difficulty with classical music but not with jazz or pop, then one wonders what was causing that. My guess, based purely on location and this is purely a guess is mains power. That would rob your system of its ability to sound effortless and natural and would have a major impact on bass performance.

Another observation regarding SACD. I bought, listened to, then resold a number of SACD players, because while they sounded great with the limited number of SACDs I owned, they were nothing like SoTA with regular CD, generally sounding quite boring and uninvolving with standard Redbook material.

But let’s get back on topic….SF Extremas. While they are exceptional speakers, they are no longer SoTA. Partnering them with TAD M700s will no doubt sound fantastic, but you would be paying for a lot of performance that will remain frustratingly unrealised, much like owning a Ferrari in Singapore I imagine
 
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Raker24

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My respective systems in Tokyo (Devialet) and Singapore (Taiko/Nagra/TAD) were very similar, speakers were as close to the same as possible (second generatioin TAD CR1 Mk IIs in Tokyo and third generation TAD CR1 TXs in Singapore), the speaker cables were the same (Cardas Clear Beyond), other cables were all top quality, power conditioning in both locations performed by very large (3 x 3 kVA) balanced isolation transformers (which make mains polarity irrelevant), the stands of top quality (for example, in Singapore the top of the line Finite Elementes with carbon fiber shelves). So the comparison is as fair as possible. I also spent close to nine months in Paris with the Devialets as well, in a completely different (softer) acoustic, in a traditional Parisian apartment. They still grated there with classical music.

As I've mentioned, I lived with the Devialets for a total of four years (Paris & Tokyo). With top quality cables, stands, and power conditioning (and acoustic treatment as well) they still grated, at least with my TADs and classical music. And I have compared the Devialets with TAD amplifiers (nine months now), Accuphase Class A amplifiers (different models over a period of 10 years), and the Norwegian Adyton Cordis 3B amplifier (10 years as well). The TADs, Accuphases, and Adyton did not, and do not, grate. The Devialets did, consistently.

You seem to rely very (too) much on "paper specifications". I would suggest you rather take a listen to the Devialets in several top class systems, preferably over a number of years, instead of simply drawing theoretical conclusions. Since you are so taken with specifications, however, could I point out that the Devialets are Class D, with a switching power supply? I suspect these were what I was hearing in my systems in Paris and Tokyo. Based on my experiences described above, I will not be getting any Class D amplifiers with switching power supplies anytime in the future, even if they are called "Class D/Class A hybrids" like the Devialet.

It seems you are not the only Devialet fan obsessed with "specifications". I remember talking to a senior Devialet representative at their headquarters in Paris some five years ago, where I commented that the Audioquest Carbon digital cable which came with the special edition fifth anniversary Original d'Atelier Devialets (after software upgrade 1,000 W into 6 ohms, or 750 W into 8 ohms, according to my calculations) I purchased could be improved, and that I was thinking of upgrading to the Wireworld Platinum silver digital cables. His reply was that since we were talking about digital cables (ones and zeros, mind you), the quality of the digital cable was irrelevant. I don't know about you, but I believe most audiophiles do hear significant differences when changing digital cables, regardless of what the specifications say. For example, when I owned the Accuphase top of line SACD tansport/DAC combination, I changed from the stock Accuphase RJ45 copper ethernet cable (between the transport and DAC) to the Audioquest Diamond siliver RJ45 cable, the improvement was blatant for all to see (and hear). At the time, I was living in Abuja in Nigeria, and my cook from Benin (who was definitely not an audiophile) immediately exclaimed that the sound quality of my system had clearly changed for the better, and demanded to know what I had done!

As for the Extremas, I loved them during the eight years I owned them. But I agree with you that they are no longer "state of the art", although my heart still loves them. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), my head ruled my pocket book, and I bought the TADs instead of going back to the Extremas by getting an used pair.

Could we put this discussion to rest? I think we'll just have to agree to disagree.
 

Blackmorec

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Happy to kill this OT deviation, but before I do, just a couple of points in reply.

Firstly regarding SMPSs. Turns out that not all SMPSs are bad. In fact a really well designed one is actually highly desirable, but as you’ll read, designing a really good SMPS is not at all easy and costs very similar $$$ to a good linear design.


I would suspect that what you were hearing was an incompatibility between the Devialets‘ SMPS and your balanced isolation transformers. SMPSs generally prefer single ended power. Symptoms of that incompatibility apparently include slightly anemic bass and threadbare top end, which seems to fit your description. In situations where you can’t easily run dedicated mains supplies, then balanced isolation transformers are generally a good way to go, but using them with SMPSs can be problematic and the combination is best avoided due to the uncertainty of the outcome. .
 

Raker24

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Well, good to know that switch mode power supplies are not compatible with balanced isolation transformers. Not a very useful tip for my future, though, since I won't be purchasing any more equipment with switch mode power supplies (except maybe for Blu-Ray players for my movies, which all seem to be powered by switch mode power supplies).

I should mention that when I was using the Devialets in Paris, I had them connected to the large Accuphase PS-1230 regenerators (one for each mono amplifier, and a third one for the front end components), not to any balanced isolation transformers. The Accuphase regenerators produce single ended power. The Devialets still sounded edgy.

I've heard the newer Devialet 1000s since I sold my Devialet Original d'Atelier monos (they're very similar amplifiers), all in single ended power situations, most recently a month ago at one of my dealers here in Singapore, and they did not sound very good at all, which conclusion was seconded by my audiophile friend who was with me at the time.

Your mileage may vary, as they say, these are of course my own (and my friend's) personal, very subjective impressions.

I've also heard, on numerous occasions without any balanced power conditioners in the equation, several of the newer Jeff Rowland amplifiers with switching mode power supplies. Definitely not my cup of tea, and I've always thought that the older Jeff Rowland amplifiers without switching power supplies sounded better. I once "confronted" and mentioned this to Jeff Rowland himself, at his stand at one of the High End shows in Munich many years ago, and he strongly disagreed with me (as he had to, given the products he was peddling), so you have one supporter there. I have to admit, though, that I may be looking at the past with rose colored glasses (which is a very human tendency to which I am also prone, such as my heart still beating for the thirty year old Sonus Faber Extremas), and that if I listened to the older Jeff Rowland amplifiers today, like the Model 8 for example, I would not be so impressed.

Finally, many more years ago than I care to admit (maybe around twenty years ago, I guess), my dealer in Paris at the time loaned me the first Halcro dm58 mono amplifiers in Paris (with switch mode power supplies) to listen to in my system at home. During this test period, I had invited my mother for lunch at my place on a Saturday. She was definitely not an audiophile, but she had a keen ear for music, and loved opera. She put one step in my apartment (with no line of sight to the Halcros, but music playing), and immediately exclaimed "what have you done? - the sound quality of your system is now atrocious! - I'm not staying for lunch, I'm leaving!" Which she immediately proceeded to do! I was flabbergasted.

I had been blown away by the Halcros on their first day in my apartment, as were my Paris dealer and his buddy, and my dealer clearly sensed that I would soon make a purchase decision regarding the Halcros, which is why he made a very significant mistake - instead of immediately asking for my purchase commitment (which I would have given!), he told me I could keep the Halcros as long as I wanted (which ended up as a two week test run). I've never experienced this before or since, but each day I listened to the Halcros, I perceived the sound quality of the Halcros to steadily deteriorate. Finally, I couldn't stand the sight or sound of them anymore, so I called up my dealer to tell him that I was returning them to him, and would not be purchasing them. He was very, very surprised and disappointed, to say the least.

I had been interested in the Halcros for some time before this incident (because of their looks and their promised performance, I imagine), so I called Halcro in Australia to enquire about the mono amplifiers. By a very strange and improbable coincidence, Halcro told me that the designer Paul Candy was in Paris for a short vacation, and that, if I was interested, I could speak directly to him, so they gave my his contact details. Paul Candy ended up visiting my apartment in Paris to listen to my Adyton Cordis 3b amplifier driving the Sonus Faber Extremas - he was impressed with the sound quality (or so he said at the time, perhaps he was just being polite). All of this happened quite some time before my two week test run. He told me that he had deliberately limited the current output of the dm58s (if I remember correctly, to a level of around 12A). I was very surprised by this piece of information, and stated to him that this could not be very positive for their bass response. Candy answered that he had to do this, since a current level higher than that could be a fire hazard!

I just checked the current output of the revived new Halcro Eclipse monos on their website (https://halcro.com/product/eclipse-mono/), and it looks like they (without Paul Candy this time) still are continuing this "tradition": the cutoff limiter kicks in at 12A! By way of comparison, my current TAD M700 monos probably kick out more than 60A (@ 230 V), which is similar to the FM Acoustics FM 1811.

The Halcro dm58s (I've never heard the Eclipses) put out impressive bass (at first listen), but this performance deteriorated very quickly in bigger listening rooms (not surprising, given the 12A current limitation).

My suspicion is that the top of the line Devialet monos are similar to the Halcros in conception, they're current limited, so the Devialets (like the Halcros) can't keep up with current demands for really good bass in larger listening rooms, and they therefore end up falling flat on their faces in such situations, which they ended up doing on many occasions during my four years with them.

I just confirmed this by checking the Hi-Fi News review (March 2016) of the Devialet Original d'Atelier monos: at 1 ohm, they put out the same power as at 8 ohms - no current!

I'm surprised I ended up keeping the Devialets for four years, but I kept making excuses for them, and blaming the other elements of my system. I could never tweak the system to cater for them, though, so I finally quit, and I'm very happy today that I did! I can't complain, though, they did give me many enjoyable moments as well (no, they were not all bad, they had many good points as well - as you mention, they were incredibly transparent), and, as they say, you can't really appreciate the very, very good components without a point of comparison. It was an interesting ride, and and a very good learning experience.
 
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Raker24

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Of course, apologies for my over long post. Just one summary point before I go silent: current limited amplifiers like the Devialets and the Halcros will definitely not work very well with the Extremas (which are very hungry for current).
 

Raker24

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And neither will tube amplifiers for the same reason (lack of current)
 

RDSChicago

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Raker, thanks so much for all of the insight. I appreciate it. When the Extremas arrive I’ll listen to them with the amps I have and perhaps demo one of the amps you recommend for comparison’s sake. Right now my amplifier options at home are MasterSound PF100’s, Pass Labs Aleph 0 monoblocks and a Purifi 200 wpc amp just to see what all the excitement is about with this new design.
 

DLS

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Raker, thanks so much for all of the insight. I appreciate it. When the Extremas arrive I’ll listen to them with the amps I have and perhaps demo one of the amps you recommend for comparison’s sake. Right now my amplifier options at home are MasterSound PF100’s, Pass Labs Aleph 0 monoblocks and a Purifi 200 wpc amp just to see what all the excitement is about with this new design.
You may be pleasantly surprised with the Aleph 0 monos if you don't play at head banging levels... I never drove my Extrema with them but I did hear them with the original Electa Amators (which I bought on the spot and so began my Sonus Faber path...) and was startled by the match.
 
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