If you have some time to spare, go visit Sonner Audio’s Gunawan Surya at a high-end audio show armed with a modicum of music knowledge. It’ll be a highlight of your show. Every time I see Gunny, we get to chatting about music and the next thing you know I’ve spent an hour in his room. I know, this sounds like more than a couple of your audiophile buddies already, but Gunny knows what he’s talking about, especially when it comes to classical, and he’ll use his expertise to curate a private DJ session for you and you will probably learn a ton about music in the meantime. This is what I think about each time I listen to the Sonner Audio Legato Duo loudspeakers, that Gunny’s sitting right next to me, and after this track we’ll hear something else I’ll love.
Up until now, Eric Franklin Shook has been keeping Gunny to himself. Eric reviewed the two-way monitor version of the Duos, the Sonner Audio Legato Unum, and they made a huge impression with him and earned a Reviewers Choice Award. By that time, Eric had already escorted me to Gunny’s room at the 2019 Capital Audiofest, just before the pandemic, so I was suddenly in on the big secret. One hour later, I left that room duly impressed—but with the more upscale Sonner Audio Allegro Unum two-way monitor that costs more than twice the Legato Unum Eric reviewed. The Allegro was yet another small stand-mounted two-way that could fool most audiophiles into thinking they were listening to some monstrous tower, and whenever I hear a speaker like that, I try to review it. You may have noticed this.
I don’t have to remind you of the big plans we had at PTA right before the pandemic. We had a lot of logs in the fire. Then March of 2020 came and much of the industry went quiet. To his credit, however, Gunny maintained contact with me. He had many of the same problems other manufacturers have had over the last few years, namely supply chain issues, but Gunny also had that wonderful problem of selling everything he made. He did stop talking about the Allegro Unum, though, and both he and Eric sold me on the idea of reviewing the Sonner Audio Legato Duo, the 2.5-way floor-standing version of Eric’s beloved Legato Unums.
More time passed, and Gunny made concrete plans to meet with me at the Pacific Audiofest last August. Since I was driving up in my SUV, I agreed to throw the Sonner Audio Legato Duos into the back after the show. There was only one problem—while the Duos are one of those slim and elegant floor-standers, they have quite the backward-raked profile for time alignment of the drivers. Since they are shipped in one piece with the base, they require a surprisingly big box. That makes unboxing a breeze, but it also makes it impossible to fit two boxes in the back of my Mazda.
The solution was to let me take one home, and Gunny would ship the other out to me in a couple of days. That went without a hitch, except for one thing—the second Duo arrived on a pallet with two smaller boxes. Gunny had included the Allegro Unums as well. It was his way of saying sorry it took so long. Here’s both, and at the same time. No rush.
That makes TWO Sonner Audio loudspeaker reviews for me, and ONE for Eric. I’m winning! But let’s with the Sonner Audio Legato Duo, a very intriguing loudspeaker for a very reasonable sum of money—less than most of these two-way bookshelf monitors I’ve been playing with over the last couple of years.
Inside Sonner Audio Legato Duo
I mentioned that Gunny loves music, and that he loves to talk about specific recordings and why he loves them. At the same time, Gunny will maintain an equal enthusiasm about his loudspeaker designs, and he and his electrical engineer are not shy about going into great deal into research and findings and how they influenced the final design. (He might include a quick sidebar on the computer modeling programs for crossover design that he and his engineer use to model frequency response.) They’ll test it out, voice with different brands of capacitors, resistors and inductors, and then they’ll listen. Most audio designers do that to some extent, but these two have that fire, that need to try everything under the sun to draw ever closer to the music.
With the Sonner Audio Legato Duo, much of the challenge was simply building a larger speaker. When I spoke with Gunny in AXPONA, he explained why the Sonner Audio Legato Duo is the lone model that isn’t a two-way stand-mounted monitor. His usual approach to larger speaker designs, however, is to start off with a two-way monitor, and slowly build towards a 2.5-way design that maintains all the Sonner strengths with that new third driver. As Gunny explains, “We choose 2.5 way design because the musicality, pace and rhythm and transient speed of 2.5 way design outweighs the performance of a three way design.” He wanted everything that was special in the bookshelf models to be preserved in the larger speaker.
The Sonner Audio Legato Duo is a 2.5-way bass ported design that uses a ring Radiator tweeter, a 5.5” paper mid-woofer and 6” aluminum mid-woofer. Sensitivity is 90 dB, and Gunny is quick to point out that designing a great loudspeaker with low-powered tube amplifiers has always been a priority for him. “All Sonner’s speakers are designed with flat impedance (low impedance variation) across frequencies spectrum and resistive crossover design (not capacitive/inductive to make the speaker easy to drive),” as Gunny explains. Nominal impedance is 4 ohms with a minimum of 3.8 ohms, frequency response is 37 Hz to 23 kHz, and the crossover frequencies are 200 Hz and 2.5 kHz.
In addition, each of the Sonner Audio Legato Duos weighs just 68 pounds, which makes it easy to maneuver into position. Plus, it’s easy to slide the Duos into the magic spot on their sturdy bases and then install the supplied cones and cups.
Finishes on the Sonner Audio Legato Duo are satin black, satin white and red rosewood. My review samples had the red rosewood, which takes on a faintly purplish glow in the right light. Sonner Audio speakers use baffles with cut-outs for the drivers that use magnets to attach to the front of the enclosure. “This baffle’s cut off is designed to manage/control sound dispersion and is an integral part of crossover design,” Gunny told me. “Without this baffle, the speaker will not perform as intended.” This is where you can get creative with colors and finishes—whenever I visit Gunny at a show, he always displays plenty of these baffles in different patterns and colors. You can even buy several and change them according to your moods. In addition, to protect speaker drivers a grill clothed is supplied and it can be mounted on top of this baffle.
Although the shipping boxes were gloriously huge, they were quite easy to push around during set-up. That’s because the Sonner Audio Legato Duo is a slim, sexy tower that is slender enough to hug. The most dramatic feature is that relatively dramatic backward sweep of the cabinet, which gives them a unique profile that I enjoyed in my listening room.
It’s that rake that will prompt you to spend a little bit of extra time positioning the Duos since the sensitive dimension here is depth. I didn’t need to futz around to dial in the deep bass—the Duos sported tight, deep bass right out of the box and plopped unceremoniously on the floor of my listening room. I found that the rake, however, influenced toe-in considerably. Too much toe-in, and the soundstage width became a little unstable, a little untethered from the world in which we live.
Nothing you can’t handle. Too close to the back walls, and the deep bass immediately detached itself from reality and started to sound downright seismic. Too much toe-in and that massively wide soundstage started to get insecure about its place in the world and would only show up to work sporadically. Move things around, and the bass and the soundstage stabilize and you’re in business.
The Sonner Audio Legato Duo started off its service with a superb, practical match with the Bel Canto e1X integrated amplifier, which has 200wpc and a wealth of connectivity options—not to mention a built-in DAC, phono stage and network streamer. We’re talking about $9,500 for the Duos and $8,500 Bel Canto, outside of a few cables, and you have a simple and great-sounding high-end audio system for not a lot of money.
But then I wound up truly spoiling the Sonner Audio Legato Duos with one of the highest high-end audio systems I’ve assembled for review. We’re talking about the Aavik U-280 integrated amplifier with DAC ($18,000), Aavik S-280 network streamer ($12,000), the Ansuz ethernet switch ($6,600), Mainz8 D-TC3 power distribution block ($26,000) plus another $20,000 worth of Ansuz interconnects, speaker cables, power cords and digital cables. If you followed my factory tour of Audio Group Denmark, you’ll know this is where noise floors go to die. The Duos would be naked on a stage, so to speak, and the only question is whether the impending spotlight will be flattering or not.
Finally, I brought in my Pureaudio Duo2 power amplifier, which delivers 25 wpc pure Class A. I did this for an important reason—the Duos are fairly efficient, and I’d been feeding them a huge diet of unlimited class D wattage. I bet the Lab12 Integre4 tube integrated would be an incredible match, both those two ships passed in the night.
The Sonner Audio Legato Duo Sound
Two things stood out concerning the sound of the Sonner Audio Legato Duo loudspeakers. First, that bass is sublime. I should be jaded after hearing terrific bass from so many otherwise diminutive two-way bookshelf speakers, but for some reason the Duos simply announced that I was now listening to real bass, with real heft and real power, coming from a tower design. In a way, that was still unexpected because of that trim profile. But I always hear completely satisfying bass in all the Sonner Audio two-way designs, so this should not be a surprise. Gunny knows good bass:
“This bass performance is attributed to the geometry and rigidity of curve cabinet shell and 2.5 way design where both 5.5” Mid Woofer and 6” woofer produces bass similar to a single 8 inch woofer. The geometry of curve makes the cabinet much more rigid than that of cabinet made by jointing couple flat panels. Also, the benefit of curve geometry is to reduce standing waves from driver’s back wave force. The curve cabinet is made by molding multilayers of selected wood ply to form a single/continuous oval without any panels joint at the back of cabinet. The cabinet and curve panel are made in USA.”
The second strength of the Sonner Audio Legato Duos is something I haven’t thought about in a while—soundstage width. Remember when that used to be a major thing? Only a great speaker can create 180 degrees of sound, while inferior speakers have a sound that’s anchored sadly between the speakers? Now we know that it’s far more complex than that simple criterion, that width, depth and even height should be interactive to create that ultimate 3-D presentation. It’s all about the whole.
Gunny, once more:
“This is attributed to time aligned cabinet design, phase coherent crossover design and well controlled sound dispersion. The time aligned cabinet is implemented to free up electrical time domain compensation in crossover. The less compensation in crossover, the easier information retrieval from recordings.”
But I did wind up saying wow, the soundstage width is incredible, with lots of ambient information flanking the seating position and creating an enormous space. The Sonner Audio Legato Duo was insistent on reminding me that some of these high-falutin’ bookshelf speakers might sound like a big speaker, but here’s a big speaker, reasonably priced, and it accomplishes the same strengths such as coherence, a mesmerizing talent with imaging, and fireworks when needed.
On Soleima & Live Strings Presents: Reworks of Powerslide is a clumsily named yet spectacular pop album from the DALI Music catalog I received when I visited the factory in Denmark. It consists of a Soleima, a Danish singer with an adorably sweet voice who sounds like she should win an Best Song Oscar for the next James Bond film. She’s backed by a standard pop/rock band and a small but appropriately lush string ensemble, along with pianist Nicolai Kornerup, and if this wasn’t a so-called audiophile recording from a well-known audio company in Denmark, you’d be streaming it on the weekends with your non-audiophile friends and people will ask you who that is and you’ll have to tell them, “Soleima & Live Strings Presents: Reworks of Powerslide” and they’ll tilt their heads like German Shepherd puppies.
It’s a dense mix though, lots of stray elbows here and there, and lesser speakers won’t blend the voice, the strings and the rest into something both seamless and live. The Sonner Audio Legato Duos were so effective at sorting out the spatial issues that I started noticing the superb tonality within the track, a tonality so pure and natural that I could easily hear it from the next room.
While streaming the latest hi-rez version of Neil Young’s Harvest through the Duos, I noticed more of the physical distances Neil creates and how they vary from song to song. Sometimes you’re near the stage and Crazy Horse is right there, almost close enough to touch, but when Neil goes it alone he shrinks back from the microphone a bit as if you’re listening to him from the other side of an empty room. The Duos captured these dynamic swings and truly highlighted how softly everyone plays on this album.
On the controversial remastered version of Pink Floyd’s Animals—some people think too much grit and edge has been removed and I tend to agree—the Sonner Audio Legato Duos expanded the soundstage in all directions. As I mentioned, soundstage width is a particular strength of the Duos, which was really put to the test with “Dogs.” Yes, the song, but also the sounds of dogs barking. At one point it sounded like the barking was coming through the open window to my immediate right and yes, for a split second I thought there was a real dog out there until I realized that no, I know this bark, I’ve heard it a thousand times before.
Sonner Audio Legato Duo Conclusion
You know how the best films seem to come from a singular vision, usually the director? I think the same thing about high-end audio sometimes, how my favorite components seem to be the ones that come from one person putting everything on the line, everything that’s important, and hopefully other people will get it. They will see the connection between a design and its designer.
The Sonner Audio Legato Duo is very much a reflection of Gunny. The attention to detail, the emotional bond with the music, the sitting back and the enjoying and the forgetting of everything else in the world.
When Gunny handed off the Duos to me at the Pacific Audio Fest, he seemed apologetic when he told me that due to supply chain issues, he had to raise his prices. I replied that everyone is dealing with the same thing in this industry, so everyone should understand. Then he told me the new price, $9,500/pair USD. I almost laughed. These speakers, the Sonner Audio Legato Duos, were under ten grand per pair? That simple fact makes these splendid transducers an out-and-out bargain, and they’re worthy of stellar amplification—which I gave ‘em.
It’s funny, though, that now I shift my attention to the Sonner Audio Allegro Unum, a two-way bookshelf monitor that’s still the flagship of the Sonner company. I’ve already compared them to the Sonner Audio Legato Duos quite a bit, and each speaker has slightly different tastes when it comes to matching to an acoustic space, but that spirit is in both, that gentle and music-loving spirit that Gunawan Surya and his team puts into everything they do. Highly recommended.