Penaudio Sonata Review: A serious and expensive speaker
Tech Week score:
For large acoustics, the shape and proportions are matched perfectly – everything is strict and laconic. The color and finish of our test sample are very basic: plywood end cuts and Karelian birch on the sides. I do not argue that the option is strictly for lovers of Scandinavian design and aesthetics of natural materials, but it all looks very confident. However, there are other finishes in the catalog: white and black lacquer, just birch, black ash, oak and even zebrano.
The constructive solutions used in this model quite fall under the definition of “classic”: the bass reflex design, the body hidden under the trim (plywood end cuts – a purely decorative solution) is made partly from MDF and partly from plywood. The podium base and adjustable spike legs also fit into the concept: you won’t be able to find something innovative here – it’s just high-quality work. For its dimensions, 59 kg the weight of one speaker is a convincing figure, but far from prohibitive. At the same time, I did not notice anything that would allow me to find fault with the damping and performance of the body during listening.
The set of speakers and components is quite predictable for modern Penaudio. A pair of 22 cm woofers is responsible for the low-frequency range – custom-made custom based on SEAS Excel. There are also two mid-frequencies: these are 146-mm speakers, also based on the SEAS model of the Excel line. Both the midrange and woofer have aluminum-magnesium diffusers and recognizable fixed center bullets. The midrange is located above and below the tweeter. Tweeter – SEAS Crescendo fabric dome with 29mm diameter dome. In addition, it is noted that the filters used the components of the older line of Audio Core. Plus a pair of silver-plated WBT terminals and internal wiring with a silver-plated cable (assuming Cold Ray cable seen in other models).
Here, perhaps, is all the initial data. We will not count a modest plate with the signature of the founder of the company Sami Penttila as a component or component. I also need to say a few words about the protective grills: they are of high quality, on neat frames and with a magnetic mount. Made well and neatly – however, like everything that is accessible to visual and tactile study in this acoustics.
I have no exact data about the production of Penaudio, but it’s not a secret for anyone that Penaudio has been owned by Audiomania for several years, and the same facilities in Riga where Arslab are produced are involved in the production. Although something falls on Finland, and according to my information, Sami Penttila is not leaving the business, and acoustics is also his job. Despite some ambiguities in the manufacturing process, there is more information available here anyway than many other manufacturers provide.
In practice, the quality of workmanship and assembly is important, but it is visible – and you can touch it with your hands. In this vein, it is also important that the acoustics are low-circulation, but this did not affect the quality in any way. As for the production in Riga – soon I plan to go there, find out everything and tell you.
The senior Plinius RM-10 preamplifier and Plinius RA-300 power amplifier were used as amplification . Source – Merging + NADAC PL8 + PWR network player. Cable tie – Analysis-Plus, Cold Ray and Van den Hul. Test material from Tidal streaming, controlled by Roon. Of course, I turned off all DSP settings and upsampling.
First I listened to the Chet Baker Quartet recording “Live in France 1978”. There is a very good hall feel and excellent resolution. All details, nuances are heard, but flaws are also noticeable. However, the presence effect compensates for this. The scene is rendered accurately, realistically, with good depth and width, with three-dimensional and well-defined images.
By its nature, the presentation is emphatically neutral, transparent and clean. There is not a hint of twisting the “emotional equalizer” knobs here. And his own character is distinguished by neutrality – maybe even aloofness. The overall sound is slightly light, very detailed, but not sharp.
In terms of the set of components and approaches of this speaker, you can find similarities with the Penaudio Alba Signature , which I once tested, but there are more differences here than I expected. Of course, different models and systems, but I rather expected the same handwriting, but on a scale, but everything turned out differently: more delicate, neutral and without noticeable sharpness.
An even delivery is felt here in everything – in the tonal balance, in the nature of the dynamics, in high, but not sharp detail, in general emotionality. The balance between the main tones and the after-sounds is very evenly maintained, the plans and images of the scene are well proportioned. And everything is very well balanced, although due to this there is a certain monitor and a sense of restraint. Analytical, but not corrosive – emotional, but not intrusive. All parts can be heard in detail, but the music remains integral and cannot be disassembled into components. There is no pronounced involvement in listening, but also no boredom.
What happens to fullness and bass can be found on the example of the disc “Thought Gang”. Excellent dynamics, very good bass. And yet it must be clarified: those who need a bloated bass, beating in the chest and stomach, will not find what they want here. However, from the point of view of exactly correct reproduction, everything is great. Excellent control (however, here we still have to give credit to the amplifier), scale, speed, and the bass is very detailed and detailed. There is no pronounced power supply, everything is fair – no more and no less. Quantitatively, the bass is enough even for a very large room. However, the scale of the acoustics does not play out separately in terms of bass and mids, but in general.
The sound is textured, detailed and dynamic, but the emphasized neutrality and transparency completely deprive the sound of any obsession. In other words, if there is emotion in music and recording, there will be emotion. If suddenly the music or recording is boring – that’s how they sound.
Extreme accuracy – the more interesting
Everything becomes clear in the delivery of midrange and treble: excellent detail and dynamics, no stinging or holographic – a natural, slightly light presentation with good volume and correct scene layout. There is air, although I would not say that there is a lot of it. On the example of vocals from Joe Barbieri’s album “Dear Billie”, one can note good clean delivery and legible articulation. At the same time, I did not notice any special emphasis, emphasis or imbalances in the vocal parts against the general background.
Certainly, such a sound will seem too correct to someone. Although the recording itself was made exactly as I heard it here. The scene can be separately mentioned. The peculiarity is that with the correct drawing and a large scale, there is absolutely no feeling of a heavy emphasized dense sound. Everything remains transparent, fluid, and with good resolution. And in this system, it still happened that you can listen at a low volume, but the scene remained correct.
For a change, staged a reissue of Led Zeppelin’s “III” album, available in highrez. And everything that is typical in this case for a highrez digit can be heard in the path. Good game readability, attack, saturation, but not excessive density – everything is conveyed.
Moreover, it is the detail that draws out a lot – it is much easier to count emotions or to hear that there are nuances here that are interesting to listen to. It sounds quite different from the original first press on vinyl, which is perhaps a good thing – it’s so much more noticeable that this music is more complex and multifaceted than it seems. True, the bass dominant in the usual “rocker” sense is not audible – there is no accent in the lower middle.
From old to mono I listened to a recording of 1955 – a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould. Based on the previous examples, it is already clear that there will be no problems with detail and dynamics, the timbre variety was also quite enough. But besides, I liked the scene – more precisely, its monophonic version with a depth layout. Even after adjusting for record and age, the scale turned out to be almost full-sized – as much as possible.
I listened and spent much more time than was necessary just for the test, then I listened to a few more piano recordings not from the test list, but just like that. With a visible genre omnivorousness, the piano works are somehow especially good here – also due to the fact that emotions in their case were created by the works and performances themselves, and not by technique and its own interpretations. From remarks: in some works, for example, by Rachmaninov or Bach, the dynamics and attack seemed to be enough, but the drama was conveyed a little more restrained and smoothed out.
Finally, some Shostakovich String Quartets. The recording by Artemis Quartett is recent, and I have not yet fully determined the position of this performance in my own hierarchy. It is listened to in full and in full, there are all conditions in order to carefully study a difficult piece and its reading by the performers. But the process does not distract from perception as a whole. Switching in this way is easy – the system does not impose anything and leaves freedom for choice. As a result, I also listened longer than it was necessary for the test.
Then I skimmed over a number of very different works – including choral things. Note that usually I try to spend the right amount of time on the test – no more than objectively necessary. It was immediately interesting to keep trying – even when all the nominal qualities of the acoustics were already clear. I must say, almost everything played very well. On complex fragments for a large choir, the scene was slightly simplified in places, but only at a low volume.
Otherwise, I spent much more time listening to various classical music on this system than on all other recordings. And this is rarely the case, because raising the level of complexity, when the limit of possibilities is already visible, implies that it is time to finish listening. Here, it turned out to be difficult to reach the limit of possibilities.
The Penaudio Sonata Signature is a very neutral acoustics in and of itself and is definitely the most neutral speaker this manufacturer has ever produced. This handwriting is beneficial if you need a genre omnivorous, suitable for long listening. However, it can be said with the same confidence that someone will inevitably find the character boring.
Perhaps this is a good example of a technique that is not suitable for listening to technique, but even very suitable for music. And everything here will depend on the music, so if you want to listen to music with the added technique (but not prescribed in the music) with enthusiasm and fire, it is better to look for something else. Conversely, those who value precision, detail and clarity of sound combined with scale should be advised to pay attention to this really interesting acoustics.
True, there is one big “but” left: for all the advantages of Sonata Signature, the price of the acoustics is very, very high.