Neil Gader has posted a review of the Sonus faber Liuto Monitor loudspeakers ($2998/pair; stands $798/pair) at AVGuide. His conclusions:
Every level of a stereo audio chain involves the art of compromise. For the compact speaker it’s the bass octaves and dynamics. Sonus faber is a company that knows the territory like a truffle dog knows a Piedmont forest. Today it’s not enough to make a well-crafted product; to produce a successful small speaker you need to be a little crafty, as well. And the Liuto Monitor is shrewd in the way it finds an authoritative voice. First there’s a persuasive but not over-weighted upper midbass that smoothly rolls off, avoiding major dips and humps. There’s good extension and output into the upper midbass and a distinct lack of the port colorations that muddy images. Lastly, it plays plenty loud but within limits, so as not to unhinge its spectral balance and compress that dynamic envelope. As a result the Liuto Monitor cultivates a sense of even-handed authority, enough to prevent a common malady of small speakers—an overly prominent treble range, which in the absence of low-end balance tends to give the speaker a dry and flinty character.
The Liuto Monitor’s solid mid/upper-bass response makes it an equally good candidate for a subwoofer (see my REL R-218 review this Issue). But then you need to consider that if the total cost with stands and the aforementioned sub places the system within about $700 of the full-blood Liuto, what would the play be? A small listening room would have to be factored into the equation. Also, there’s the form factor—the Liuto Monitor makes for an incredibly small footprint in a room; even with the REL the system is virtually invisible. The Liuto is physically imposing, but it’s also hard to deny the gusto of a true three-way. And then there are listening habits. If small-scale, more intimate music is primary, then a sub could be irrelevant. Mahler and pipe organ lovers? Run, don’t walk, to grab a sub. The other advantage of the Liuto Monitor is that the expenses are more incremental—you’re free to add the sub as your budget permits. Whatever the decision, it’s a nice quandary to find yourself in.
Returning to my original premise, what makes the Sonus faber Liuto Monitor so satisfying is the way the company has preserved the sonic virtues that we take for granted in its larger offerings, like the Liuto, and infused many of those same elements into one of its smaller performers, without losing what makes a compact so special. In my view, these successes, along with premium execution and craftsmanship, make the Liuto Monitor one of the most elegant and versatile small speaker available.
You can read the full review here.