Review: Silverline Audio Sonata III Speaker

Category: Speakers

Sonata III review

If you ever get the chance to talk with alan Yun of Silverline Audio be prepared for an enlightening event. Alan is a most personable, intelligent, polite, and informed human being. A real world based sort of guy, with tons of experience in his craft.

My continued dealings with Alan over the course of a couple years gave me enough confidence in his products for me to purchase a pair of brand new Sonata IIIs. As no retailer was available in my area the purchase was made with Alan directly after some extensive talks about them and his recommendations, of course with regard to my tastes in music, my room size, budget, and then system make up.

I’ll leave the specifications and numerologists to the Silverline website. I’ve long since left behind the numbers (aside from cost) in making a buying decision on audio gear. I do care about how much a thing weighs, how large or small it is, and occasionally it’s shipping weight. Past that the specified numbers from the maker have little impact upon how it will perform in my home, usually. In fact I’ve seen some quite well regarded devices, that sound great, yet measure not so great.

I usually do not listen regularly to spec sheets. I listen to components.

In fact I had to take a leap of faith regarding the Silverline Sonata IIIs never having heard them prior to my purchase. The ‘leap’ as it turned out was not nearly so big as I had imagined.

The units I bought were according to Alan, about ten hours old, or young, depending on one’s perspective. The immediate (don’t want to wait on another color) choices were either Piano Black or Maple. Piano maple? Well I’m pretty much dead set against black. Piano or otherwise given my lengthy history of other black embodied transducers being the seeming norm for me. Time for something different, but Maple? Well, why not?

Receiving the Sonata IIIs was an event. They were shipped by Global Bax and arrived with some issues (exceptions) to the outer cardboard coverings. Holes, to be exact. The driver spoke not one word of English. Under the golden rule of “C.Y.A.” I noted the holes on the shipping receipt and signed it myself.

Packing says something…

Once the unpacking began I saw just how meticulous Alan was with his products safety during shipping. The IIIs came triple boxed! Plus a medium density foam liner which encased the units snuggly. An envelope of plastic separates each transducer from that casket of all-encompassing closed cell foam.

The only noteworthy advice I can give here is to be most careful in how the speakers are handled when removing them from the foam liner. The domed mid range driver nearly touches the grill cloth and a lightly set finger will discover the little bump easily, so keep hands away from the grill area when unpacking. It’s not hard to do as these are not enormous units nor extremely heavy. Having a second pair of hands is not a bad idea, but if none are available don’t worry if you are capable of managing just over three feet of 90 or so pounds of speaker, you’ll be fine.

Things take time…

Once removed from their containers and the boxes put up they got plugged immediately into the run in system. In my case, speaker “run in” duties are resigned to my modest HT rig. Exclusively. In fact all but associated tubes & power cords are run in using that system. The rusty, dusty and always trusty, Sony HT 444 es receiver handles those jobs with great ease.

I take some care with new speakers and as I paid more for these than any previous units, a lot more, I’m taking still greater care with the new Sonata IIIs. Apart from their initial placement, which is quite easily done, just plug in some speaker cables and warm up the Receiver. That’s it. You’re done. For now.

Alan supplies a highly refined, “high performance” jumper for the IIIs Spanning the distance from the recessed lower binding posts to the upper ones. One is red, one is black. Now when I saw those two jumper wires the first time, after having read the instructions Alan passed along to me via email, I saw a part of Alan’s sense of humor.

These non descript, thin pieces of wire appear as nothing special at first glance. With all the hype about how they were specially chosen, and matched to the system, I had imagined some enormously over engineered fat gleaming jumpers. Well, they sure ain’t that…. But they do an excellent job, so don’t judge the book by it’s cover in this case. If bi-wiring is done right off, do remove and secure the jumpers.

Speaking of covers, or coverings to be more exact. These IIIs are genuinely perfect. Glossy. Silky smooth to the touch, and not one artifact, dimple, pimple or flaw. Consequently, add still more amazement to the receiving and minimal set up procedure. Also increase the grin factor by a good margin. The only additive note here is that the grill cloth coverings are only provided in black. Some greater choice there would be a fine improvement, and further the wife acceptance factor, not to mention the greater esthetic appeal that sole item would produce.

Four, quarter inch, 20 TPI cones are included in the packaging. I did not note anything over the top or out of the ordinary inspecting the cones/spikes apart from the extensive taper on the nose of the cone. Deep pile carpeting unless supported by a very thick pad, won’t stand much of a chance against these piercing gizmos.

I would severely recommend one situate the speakers well, before enlisting the spikes. The current norm for these anchors are quarter twenty studs affixed to sturdy cones. One at each corner of the cabinet proper. The housing for the X over network resides within the perimeter of the superstructure in a non rigid housing, further isolating the X over from spurious vibrations. A nice touch. Also a minor concern for moving about the units during setup, so do be sure to exercise some care while shuffling about the Sonata IIIs with respect to this design attribute.

I noticed this when setting them onto a pair of cloth covered 2 by 4s while connecting the spikes. I did not wish to see just how well attached the crossover cover had been constructed, or how strong the cover plate was either. I avoided any further contact with it simply by maintaining my grip under the units by keeping my fingers solely on the perimeter of the cabinets undersides. There is enough room for even ham handed folks such as myself that it poses no issues.

Otherwise moving the speakers was not a problem for me. I gently leaned them over a few degrees so I could get my fingers under them, and picked them right up. Once in the vicinity of their new digs, I’d set them down and ‘walk’ them about to this spot or that by again simply leaning them onto their outer edges and putting them in place. My flooring is 100% carpeted, had it not been, I would have set them onto a towel or throw blanket and slid them about that way. Satisfied with the location, ONLY THEN did they get spiked.

No ‘coins’ for the spikes for use with hardwood floors were included. In my case, that was of little concern.

Run in time.

Alan says 300-400 hours. Some say more or less. I’m not big on long break in periods. Not at all and I’ve had close to a dozen different types of speakers half of which were bought new. So I usually dread the run in phase, especially with speakers. Primarily due to the fact those speakers requiring extensive break in periods usually sound poor for a fair amount of time, and right off are near unbearable.

To my great surprise and some astonishment, the IIIs are quite good sounding straight out of the boxes. Really! I did not bother with spikes the first 125+ hours. Then I spiked them. Prior to the metal feet the sound was easy enough yet lacked some definition and distinction. Fuzzy. Yet was quite well blended. Homogenous. Tone was acceptable to very good from the start. Once spiked the sound changed. At 100 hours the sound takes on better properties. Better overall, but not quite done.

With the most previous transducers gracing the environs of my humble abode being the popular VSA VR4-JR’s, some unintended yet mindful comparisons came to the fore. It’s best put this way, and for comparisons sake only, there’s no adequate comparison. Between the two not run in speaker systems. They are as different as night and day during the run in period. So, in that fashion, perhaps they are inversely comparable. The differences continue afterwards as well.

Where the JR’s were thin, the IIIs were fat. Where the JRs were without deeply resolute bass, the IIIs had plenty. In the finish arena, the Sonata IIIs simply won hands down.

Setup? Again, no contest as the IIIs are a slam dunk to set into place. Some greater care will afford one better results… but a down and dirty placement will provide good results right off.

Unlike the VR4 JRs, the IIIs are not dependant upon surrounding surfaces for enhancement or reinforcement of any portion of the bandwidth. Naturally, if placed close to the sidewalls, some reinforcement will occur.

Apart from their height being nearly the same, there is little these two do in fact share in sonic reproduction. The VR4 JR have an intensely elevated upper region which does not go unnoticed. I usually kept the rear tweeter down to the near off position, or off entirely. The two tweeters on the JR are completely different type tweeters, in conjunction with two pairs of tweeters in operation, the JRs gave far more top end energy than I care to indulge myself with.

Until you reach the 200 hour mark on the IIIs the tweeter is well, just there. Minding it’s own business and doing it’s job without any notoriety. Things change around that point in the run in however, with the IIIs tweeter. It gets more forward and the clandestine approach to blending with the other drivers is left behind. A far more striking presentation becomes the norm as the upper range begins to make itself the focal point of the show… for a while at least. The Dynaudio Esotar II comes sleepily, to life and then with some greater gusto as it begins to mature. It then returns to being just a supportive player in the play, and not the lead role.

There also is a difference in sound depending upon if the grills are left on, or removed. During the break in period, I left them on… they sounded better that way too. Now they remain off and I place a very soft cover over the whole of each of the speaker when not in use.

Cmparisons between the VSA VR4 JR and the Silverline Sonata IIIs really aren’t appropriate. In fact given the retail price points of these two speaker systems, the IIIs should be favored completely. To be sure, the Sonata IIIs do not disappoint. Their better build quality, easy impedance load and higher efficiency comes into form as the run in continues, starting out sounding and acting like any other average 8 ohm speaker with moderate sensitivity. All that does change however as they loosen up, they become more resolute, quicker, more dynamic, and far easier to drive. Noticeably.

I’m not given to raves, and this isn’t one. I enjoyed the JRs, ultimately, after much mixing of wires and isolation devices on the system’s componentry, and lots of time dedicated to their placement. The JRs do so many things well it’s hard not to like them.

The Sonata IIIs on the other hand do those things the VR4 JRs do, though with more competency. Rounder. The music rolls out of the IIIs, it isn’t pushed or propelled from them. Surely there is greater depth as well. There seems more fluidity to the body of the musical notes. They aren’t as dry as some say the JR’s can sound. Chalk that up to the combination of first and second order X overs, and the compliment of Dynaudio and German midrange transducers customized to Alan’s specifications and implemented in this Silverline product..

Casual listening…

Just prior to the full run in period I connected a BAT VK 60 to the Sonata IIIs… just to see how they would fare on 60wpc of BAT tube power. They did very well. Very well indeed. The VK 60 had plenty of juice to run the sonata IIIs. In fact the power presented a fine level of performance and the Sonata IIIs did not ask for more at any point. For speakers not fully run in I was surprised how open the sound was, and how well the imaging of the soundstage became so readily evident.

The VK 60 was then summarily replaced by a pair of Dodd mono blocks, 120wpc MK IIs with the Platinum sonicap upgrade. Once the Dodd amps arrived and were settled in, the IIIs got attached immediately as both the speakers and the amps needed some time still to settle in with each other. The sound initially doesn’t need description here as it wasn’t very good…. For about 10 days more or less I wasn’t a happy camper. Something must happen at thirty thousand feet to the circuit components in electronic equipment. Though I’ve heard of this occurrence I thought it more myth than actual circumstance. Well there must be something to it as the amps took some time to regain their composure after the cross country trip.

Once the Dodds had overcame the flight from the great Northwest to the Sunburn state, things got seriously better. The most distinct improvement simply via the introduction of the Dodd amps was how much better the bass preformed over the VR4 JRs and BAT VK 500. I’ve even said previously the JRs have good bass, despite the six inch driver (s), and they do indeed. The Silverline Sonata IIIs are just in another league altogether in that capacity. Consequently, until the arrival of the Sonata IIIs, the use of a sub was always a perceived need with the BAT VK5i & VK 500 + VR4 JRs, as well as with many other loud speakers. Replacing the BAT VK 5i with the Thor 1000 Mk II preamp helped tremendously in that respect. Replacing the BAT VK 500 with the VK 60 was a step rearward in bass performance yet the BAT VK 60 produced enough otherwise, positive attributes to offset the bass deficit.

The Dodd 120 wpc tube amps with the thor feeding them into the Sonata IIIs bested them all with respect to the bass regions, and in many other ways as well. My pre-requisite or perceived desire for a sub is but a mere afterthought presently. That is no minor obstacle for me either. I like good deep and impactful bass, even at the risk of it being more pronounced than it should be at times.

The ‘made to order’ Dynaudio drivers allow for a recreation of tonal body that comes across as well deliniated as any musical passage should be dispensed. When called upon the drivers provide the leading edge and decay the gear in front of them can deliver. There is extension and harmonic information across the bandwidth sufficient enough to become startlingly realistic at times, yet never strident or etched.

The German made midrange driver gave me pause for sometime prior to my acquisition of the loudspeakers due primarily to it’s physical size. Certainly there are speakers that have no per se midrange unit in their housing, and the music comes across without leaving out any of the associated midband information… “so shouldn’t a midrange driver be better than no midrange driver?” that one thought kept presenting itself to me over and over again. It should. Clearly it does too.

The use of more flexible crossover networks of first and second order aids the implementation of the diminutive 2 inch domed midband drivers influence on the musical spectrum as a whole. Truly, I feel that designed choice for more flexible X overs, accounts for how cohesive the units reproduce the scale of the musical passage without one being able to discern the individual drivers, one from another. Cohesive and coherent seems the signature of the Sonata IIIs.

Vocalists and other midrange information is developed with as much transparency as I’ve heard in speakers costing well above the retail price of the Sonata IIIs. I did not detect any reticence, or recession at all in the midrange information being produced by the IIIs. None. Some ‘professional’ accounts of this anomaly have alluded to some minor but noticeable recess there. I have yet to hear it for myself, regardless with lesser quality sand amps, or better build hollow state ones. I can only surmise that effect, if indeed evident was due to speaker placement, room attributes, or the listeners’ own sonic preferences.

In my system, the mid band information had as much immediacy and presence as I’ve enjoyed with any other compilation of gear and accessories and still they had no veiling or edge whatever. The mid driver blended seamlessly into the pallet being brushed across the listening room landscape as fluidly as I’ve yet heard. I have to admit in fact that the Sonata IIIs achieve performance levels I had not experienced throughout the bandwidth from previous loudspeaker systems and equipment setups. I would obtain glimpses of portions of the soundscape that made my hair, or what is left of it, stand on end, but nowhere nearly as completely as do the Sonata IIIs I have presently. Just the here and there, with this recording or that, yet not as routinely as the circumstance currently prevailing.

The Twin rear ports of the IIIs (one for the top of the cabinet, and one for the lower end) never huffed, chuffed or puffed, hiding the fact a pair of rear firing ports existed. I’ve had them as close as 28 inches off the wall to their rear without any smearing or tonal deluding of the sound. 18 inches I believe is the recommended safe distance to avoid such issues according to Silverline.

The expressed 93db sensitivity of the Sonata IIIs appears appropriate, though I made no measurements with legitimate instruments save my ears, and past experiences. The IIIs can play loudly. Very louldly without any hint of breaking up or errancy. Simply by looking at the volume knob on the Thor preamp and with the Dodd amps doing the pushing, getting the knob to the noon position takes some doing to withstand the onslaught of sound coming from the Silverlines. I’m talking near indoor concert levels here. More or less. Certainly nothing one who wishes to maintain good hearing will remain at for any extended period. My digital Radio Shack SPL meter set to average was showing 98 – 100 db before reaching the 12 o’clock spot in my 13.6 x 20.75 x 8.5 room. Eleven o’clock is my usual limit for beddy bye, and it is for my ability to enjoy music now too given the setting of the preamps volume knob and the sensitivity of the Silverline Sonata IIIs. There still is more to go, were one insane enough to find out.

I should mention that the placement I used for the Sonata IIIs was nearly exactly that of where the VR4 JRs had resided but closer to the front wall by several inches as the sonata IIIs superstructure is not as deep as that of the JRs, by six inches. Therefore the drivers are yet further from my chair than were the JRs. Perhaps that positioning or simply the increased sensitivity of the Sonata IIIs account for the more forwardly perceived placement of the Soundstage. I did notice the depth of stage was still quite evident, yet the geographical location of it had encroached upon the LP by a foot or so. All the info is still there… so I in essence moved from a fifth or sixth row center seat to a second or third row position. Not on the stage and not close enough to get rained on by the sweat of the performers, but one that gave a mighty clear view into the production for sure. I found it more exciting as well. Again, the repositioning of the soundstage made a most modest difference indeed.

I made some additional changes to the system during this evaluation predominately the addition of Synergistic research’s new tesla line of interconnects, namely the Accelerators and finally their replacements, the Acoustic Reference ICs. Both of those ICs provided more expanse of the sound scape in terms of the total overall dimensions including fore and aft perimeters. I believe the SR ICs played a part in my perception of the ‘more up front’ presentation.

I also added a Sound Anchors six shelf rack. This sole addition invoked still greater coherency, and better bass definition and presence.

Naturally the implementation of different wires, either ICs or otherwise, could also make modifications to the Ss placement. Doubtful those changes would provide the impact and dynamics that speakers alone will, yet their influence is undeniable.

Not casual listening…

Spinning up the Eric Clapton + JJ Cale collaboration, “The Road to Escondido”, the track, ride the river, showed quite well how adept the Silverline sonata IIIs are at rendering spatial cues. The song has a wide mix and other phase placement of it’s elements. In all it makes for a good tune, with ear candy galore. The producer on this effort does mix up things with a different perspective than the norm for folk rock fare. It’s definitely interesting. The room absolutely fills up with the presence of the vocals being scattered about the room, behind, between and in front of the speakers. In stereo BTW.

On Larry Carlton’s “Deep Into It”, the track “I Still Believe”, the female lead is tangible and has great body through the Sonata IIIs.

Susanna McCorkle never sounded so good as when her CD “Hearts and Minds” on the track “Haunted Heart”.

On the Dana Owens (Queen Latifia) Cd of the same name, on the track “I put a Spell on You”, the vocal is eerie. Goose bumply. The in the room presence was astounding.

Continually, the they are in the room with you facets of many recordings is very common. The grin factor as the result of such attributes keeps the knees bobbing, and the smile widening.

The sonata IIIs are just fun speakers. Fun is a rare commodity and my favorite end result. Sure the audio nut in me is hard to satisfy usually, and the Silverline Sonata IIIs have gone a far piece to provide just that in my home. Fun.

The authentic richness of tone they offer, and the consistent blends of the music they afford are infectious. The inaging is solid and the ambient retrieval can be astonishing if all else is up to par, including the software. Critical listening has become far less the routine, and now the listening has morphed into one for the sheer pleasure thanks to the pleasantly musical actions of the sonata IIIs. It is most difficult for me to stop listening to music with the Sonata IIIs. That is as good a statement as I can come up with I think. The need now for a sub is for the first time not a pressing one, and merely a possibility… maybe. Not a need.

Musical elements have greater body, luster and color. The extension of the Dynaudio Esotar II tweeter remains consistent, extended, and supportive of the music, not an attention getter. It handles the upper area finely and deftly. Imaging and tonal quality abounds. The harmonics are far closer to reality than ever before.

The Sonata IIIs transparency does not detract from recordings which aren’t entirely up to audio-nut speed, and thus become revealed for what they are. These too have become enjoyable, bearing in mind the quality level is depleted by some good margin. Dreadful ones are still dreadful however. In no part do the Sonata IIIs gloss over anything, nor do they ruthlessly reveal each and every aspect of the recording, though that speaks to the system synergy and balance as a whole, I believe.

My musical tastes are not those of explicit neutrality and starkly revealed content, but now find themselves just barely to the warm side of neutral and that all by itself is a major migration for me. Due in large part to the step up in components and cabling I’ve made recently which allows for greater resolution while retaining musicality as it’s avatar. Previously I had been ensconsed in the euphonically warm and liquid camp which left behind much resolution and detail in lieu of liquidity and ease as it’s heralds. No more however. That context has severe shortcomings with the majority of musical genres especially those containing great dynamic swings or tracks with complicated passages where numerous musical elements formulate the event. In short, that preference is fine with Coltrane & Holliday, but sucks with big Band jazz and orchestrated productions. The ‘newly’ set preffs afford a far greater appreciation of the prowess of the system devices, and the involvement in the music itself, as there simply is ‘more ambient retreval’ apparent.

For instance, on Wayman Tisdale’s “Way up” track on the selfsame titled album, the engineer creates a room enveloping mix that routinely sweeps the LP with darting bits that leave a trailing tail of the path they take about the area just in front and above my head.

The information the Sonata IIIs tweeter reproduces is always congruent to the musical event and done with obvious refinement, and excellent location.

Perfection in a short box?

It’s hard for me to find fault with the latest Sonata IIIs. They have elevated my current system to a whole new level in every regard. Their physical size doesn’t impose. They play well outside the box and present no cabinet colorations I can detect. They allow the intended musical content to bloom out into the room with ease. They draw in the listener readily. In fact they equal and in some fashions surpass similarly appearing speakers from Wilson, namely the Sophia. The Sophias are a speaker system I have longed for and day dreamed about for some years now. Recently I heard a pair driven by an all Ayre rig, with the top tier Ayre mono blocks. I saved thousands of dollars buying the Silverline speakers and I feel I got a better sound in the bargain.

The Silverline Sonata IIIs are just flat out fun. Easy enough to place. Adept at any genre of music, though I’ve related but a few here that stand out to me. They can bring the performers into your room provided the rest of the setup is amenable to that end. They don’t cost one, their first born either, though some outlay is necessary… as this level of sonic achievement isn’t inexpensive. They are definitely easy enough to drive, keep a decent load to operate with regard to impedance.

The strengths do outweigh their shortcomings for sure. The Sonata IIs do possess some issues which though minimal, if addressed, could afford the buyer to have an even more enhanced experience in the ownership of the Silverline speakers.

As faults go, it was hard for me to give the Sonata IIIs demerits in their performance abilities. One purely perceived liability I’ll allow for them is in their claimed impedance level of eight ohms. That figure may be a mite optimistic. I say might because I’ve no method for precisely determining it. The ONLY item that did give me pause to suspect it is below that 8 ohm plateau is their performance with my dodd amps. I decided “just for grins” one day to move the speaker leads off the 8 ohm output tap and into the 4 ohm output taps on the amps. Whoa! No subtle difference there! Gobs more weight, and body. An immensely better formulation of the harmonics, and akin more to a naturalness. The bass too, improved dramatically.

My memory fails me as to how low the impedance dip of the Sonata IIIs is, as expressed by Alan to me personally. Had he said, “ 8 ohms, never dipping below six? “ Was that it? I just can’t remember exactly. Back in the real world of high end audios “cottage industry”, do remember methods for measureing such factors, and the circumstances for conducting such measurements are not consistent throughout the industry and vary from one maker to another, and sometimes very much so. My experience with the Silverline Sonata IIIs does not indicate any great stretch from the acclaimed specifications, only that with different amps, different results were attained. That statement merely reflects the importance of system matching, or the grail of high end audios buzz word, “synergy”. At no time were the Sonata IIIs depicting the sonic realm arbitrarily, filled with nuisance artifacts, nor did they detract from the musical event. It was simply that they preformed better with certain components in the mix. That is just the way of things with all components. Such is my experience.

Truth be told, the Sonata IIIs apparent impedance as it showed itself with the various amplifiers I used during this account, was not that important. It did seemingly, remain well above the 4 ohm frontier as each amp other than the Dodd amp, use of mid to high impedance taps were used providing very good results.

Many amps are quite capable of driving loads whose connected loudspeaker impedance delves even below 4 ohms. Some are not however. I’m running 21 feet of biwired SR Signature 10 active X2 wires as well. Don’t ask. It just worked out that way. Perhaps, that too, plays a part. I feel it does.

A friend of mine, who also has the Dodd amps yet an otherwise different system and loudspeakers said to me that the dodd amps do fare better if the 4 ohm taps are used. He has Eggleston Andreas whose impedance is six ohms I believe. Whatever the reason for the greater level of performance gained by utilizing the lower impedance output tap truly is, I doubt it a concern for those seeking out speakers in the $7,000 retail price range which possess good efficiency, as the rest of the gear is likely to be most supportive already. In fact with the use of multiple driver speaker systems, the acclaimed impedance is usually 4 ohms, predominately. It is then, most creditable for a design to achieve a higher impedance zone, as with these Silverline Sonata IIIs has been accomplished.

Results will vary perhaps as they regularly do in the wild and wooly world of the affected audio nut. I believe this will stand however…. The Silverline Sonata IIIs play well above their price related competition and easily meet performance levels on par with more expensive offerings. They involve one into the music and are capable of being a truly great speaker. Additionally they have no untoward preference for amplification and did quite well with all those I used with them, reproving their ease with the music, and their lack of a prerequisite need for substantial power reserves to drive them. Nor did they act finicky with even lesser quality amps, as in the case of the Sony HT. were a good receiver all I had on hand, or wished to use the Sonata IIIs as the cornerstones of an exemplary HT setup, I’d be hard pressed to want for more.

Gaining some greater depth in the bass region before the bass begins to roll off would be nice, but the claimed 25Hz at -3db sounds about right, and the bass in each of my applications was most satisfying and tuneful. More impact there is simply my preffs.

Picking nits I’d say the added choices in grill covering cloth colors would be nice. Greater choice in finish color, if not the actual veneer, would be a fine touch too.

Adding to the base for greater support of the cabinet footers/spikes might also be addressed, though this does appear a common issue about the loudspeaker makers overall.

A full compliment of Dynaudio drivers inclusive of the midrange unit, might also be interesting and a possible upgrade path, though that likely would be a major change in the cabinet structure as well, given the physical dimensions of it.

Overall it should be clear that I feel the Sonata IIIs are versatile, and fine performers, regardless the setting, be it HT or two channel. Used with quality amplification or mass fi units. Solid state or tubes.

They are, simply put, “A lot of FUN”. A lot indeed and are most adept at the subtleties of musical nuance as well, regularly and consistently. I’ve no regrets what so ever, apart from perhaps maybe a different overall color scheme inclusive of more esthetically coordinated grill cloth colors. For now, Piano gloss over Honey Pine maple with flat black grill cloth, is just fine. When the lights are off, who cares about color anyhow?

The sonata IIIs aren’t perfect after all, but the design and performance level to price assures them good value and should be on anyones short list when looking for speakers at or past the retail realm of $6500… and up.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

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Thanks for a thoutough review, I liked it. I am considering getting floorstanders to replace my monitors and I love the way the Sonata III's look!! Nice pics.

You're welcome, the pleasure is all mine. It's always a pleasure to address a product that meets or exceeds one's expectations. The fact I bought them the same as anyone else would usually have to and got no 'reviewer discount' or accomodation says something too... I think.

Better pics will soon be on my virtual/real system page. I'm fortunate I actually can get them into the frame, let alone do them justice.

I definitely reccomend the piano/lacquer finishes... minimal care - maximum looks. Strong consideration should be given to the sonata IIIs as they work well with a wide variety of gear and don't dominate a room with their physical presence. Just their sound.

I had said the spikes on the sonata IIIs were quarter twenty threads.... they are NOT. THEY ARE 8MM, or 1.25 std.

SORRY. I had recounted just what Alan had told me. replacing the carpeting forced me to investigate it further and I found out by taking one of the spikes to a home improvement center to verify things completely. Some other threads and pitches appear to work, but the 8mm is definitely the deal here.

Naturally, this could change, so if in doubt, take one to the closest HD or LOWES AND MAKE SURE.

Alan offers 3 different types of spikes on the Sonata IIIs. this was a bit surprising to me. I have the middle set, which retail recently for $15 ea. The only step up from those are the top tier spikes which are taller by about half an inch, and come in 3 pieces.... stud, cone, and thumb set nut. They retailed about two weeks ago for $25 each. $100 PER SET OF FOUR.

Get your spike desires in order up front, there are no exchanges allowed later on.

......Upon further review…

With the Sonata IIIs having attained well over 400 hours now, I thought to input those differences I’ve since detected on a fully broken in pair, and add some thoughts on the use of accessories which enhance their performance.

Overall, the greatest note here would be increases in extension and resolution on both ends of the spectrum. The IIIs tweeter fully run in gives the listener a more detailed view of the original venue in a subtle oh by the way, slant. The sparkle has increased and air is more apparent in the stage itself.

Bass, usually the late arriving feature, got far more developed. Fuller by a bit, and more deft. Nimble. Articulate. In this area I must admit I’m not the keenest ear unless direct comparative notes are being played. Usually. It is easy to determine distinct differences however, so the musical event becomes just that much more involving.

Some additions to my system have also been made in the past year of boarding the Sonata IIIs. The Dodd amps saw the addition of Sound Anchor amp Stands, and a power cord change from VooDoo Gold Dragon IIIs to Shunyata Taipan helix’s. A Velodyne DD-15 sub, and an Odyssey Stratos SE amp have both been added.

The addition of the SA amp stands provided the greatest impact overall. To wit, imaging, and space. Greater definition of the musicians and musical elements gained more presence as the result. In this area the Taipan Helix’s helped too.

Although the Odyssey amp was mainly added for HT use and has seen only sporadic use for 2 ch so far.

The most curious item I picked up is the Velodyne. I say it that way as I’ve not done the prescribed setup completely as yet… only the 1-2-3 initial general one and some shuffling about to improve both the sound and esthetic of the room. Still, you can’t get past the addition it brings to the show, as it were. I wasn’t prepared for what a good sub does to the bandwidth above it’s intended base region. The music took on more substance, weight, and yes, even greater solidity of position. Imaging and weight of the images appeals to me. In accordance with those two items, the result is simple… the sound becomes more natural. More reality is always welcome around here except around the first of the month when it’s bill paying time.

As integral as was the entrance of the DD 15, so was the infusion of the Nirvana SX Ltd. ICs. I parted ways with the SR Acoustic Refs and kept the SR Resolution Refs (a long time fav), and that combination is a winner. The SX, as I’ve said many times in the past is a real go getter of ambient information. A real bird dog that brings home the original venue with ease. Tonally instruments bcome readily distinct as to their true selves. Discerning instrument desparities is far easier leaving little if any doubt as to their actual identities., thus adding to a greater enjoyment of your recordings. These attributes of the SX Ltd aren’t solely in regard to tube power, they presented the same benefits with SS power as well. Further, as source ICs, or mains. In combination with the greater bass presence and sound stage volume of the Resolution Refs, the SX Ltds provided for more an organic and impactful presentation than did the Res Ref + Acoustic Ref, or SX Ltd + Acoustic Ref combo. The immediacy of the SR Resolution Ref x2 active IC bottom end response and mid range depiction is tough to beat.

Currently, perhaps the neatest cost to performance ratio for the Sonata IIIs was the use of platforms directly beneath them and atop the pad and carpeting. Installing new pad and carpeting recently posed an undesired issue. The mid level spikes which came with my Sonata speakers weren’t sufficient to connect to the flooring any longer. As the result I had to find some solution. I chose a cheap way as a “let’s see” approach, and I did see a benefit. Which leads me now to believe some further investigation of either platforms or dedicated stands, now seems in order.

Each aforementioned item gained along the way supplied more. More information, more substance, and more reality. How much further can the music be revealed is the current trek.

Having loudspeakers which convey changes, be they subtle or demonstrative, is a sign of fine reproducers. I’m quite certain some greater levels are yet to be had from these modest pyramid shaped towers. How much more I suspect is the fun of the audio hobby. It is also a path for the patient enthusiast. I often wonder just how much performance of various components is simply missed by those who don’t take the time to eek it out of their present systems, and would rather merely plug in and out, their new this or that’s?

I think it’s startling, finding out some of the advances one can make to present components merely by altering some features of the present rigs, via cabling or isolation. Personally, I’ll choose fussing about with a fine device over wholesale replacements.

Sometimes the synergy is already there and just needs to be urged out of it all by dedicating some added attention and devotion to finding it within, and not from without.

Aforementioned notes as to the geographic layout of the sound stage, I feel now, is more the property of the power train than it is the Sonata IIIs. The Dodd mono blocks have more a forward stance than a rearward one. Geographically speaking of course. Cabling too was also a proponent of this effect. My preferences vary some in regard to the boundaries of the sound stage itself. I usually prefer it to surround the speakers more than to lay behind them entirely. Most often my current preffs are for the staging to lay predominately behind the loudspeakers with some portion forward of them. Say in thirds, two behind, and one in front. With rear ported speakers it should be expected in most instances the stage will lay more rearward of the front baffle than one which encroaches upon the listening position. Certainly the recording plays a big part in a resultant sound stage characteristics.


I’m well pleased with the way these speakers perform. Period. Regardless the genre of music I play the Sonata IIIs deliver. Top to bottom they reveal that which is on the recording and as well, how good or bad the recording was made originally. I’ve yet to find those recordings that I can not listen to on these speakers. I’ve found some I don’t prefer to listen to often on these speakers, but it’s not a fault of the Sonata IIIs, rather my own subjective orientations. Much of these are older rock or R&b classics. Most of which weren’t intended for playback on higher res, or more refined stereos.

In anutshell, it comes down to acceptable or better with regard to the recordings themselves. That was the goal of my ideals on system building. I wanted to wind up with one which plays the greatest portion of recordings with resolution involvement, and distinction. Not one which does remarkably well on a mere handful or two. I will always take that tact to formulate a stereo assembly.

So I’m still looking forward to those instances when I can devote enough time to sit down and enjoy music for the sake of music, over those occasions where I would sit down to pick nits, and await errant strains in the reproduction. Therefore I still feel this speakers system affords the owner with an immense level of fun with music. They too do contain much for the ones who will endeavor to coax still more out from them via attention of upstream tweaks. Versatile, dynamic, esthetically pleasant, and honest to the intent of the music. That’s a tuff act to beat. ;-))

Stumbling into Nirvana

Stumbling into Nirvana

All of my statements regarding these Silverline speakers while in use with my 120 wpc tube mono blocks, were made with the Sonata IIIs being driven via the 4 ohm output taps. Naturally, the solid state Odyssey Stratos sE amplifier has no such choice.

That has now been changed. The higher (normally used) 8 ohm taps are now at work. The differences?


The only other noteworthy system change is the now all HDD based source material fed to the Bel Canto DAC 3. I no longer primarily use silver discs for playback. It’s almost all PC based for me currently.

Just days ago I decided to make a comparison between the high and low impedance taps of the 120 wpc Dodd mono block EL34 ultralinear amps one more time.

The reasoning for the swap aside , the results baffled amused and irritated me all to varying degrees. My desires for musical conveyance being previously listed here informed me a bit prematurely that some alteration of the sound was in order. I was too quick on the draw in making that assessment, and did not wait out the whole of the Sonata IIIs run in period before affecting a change over to the lower impedance taps of the mono blocks.

In my haste, and primarily based upon a recommendation from another member whose preferences are similar to my own, I switched onto the 4 ohm taps and became so enthralled by the obvious differences in timber and warmth of the new presentation, I thought I had now found the exact right combination of speaker and amp connectivity. Naturally I was so pleased no other thought was then given to ever going back to the more likely to be used, higher output taps.

Switching back onto the higher 8 ohm taps, some enourmous amount of time later, like a year and change more down the road, I made the swap, fired up the system, let it warm up, and started pushing a signal thru it into the sonatas. After about 3 or four hours I went in to check out the sound.

With the Sonata IIIs now on the 8 ohm taps, it seemed while I was otherwise occupied, someone had replaced my system with a different one. Gone was the soft warmish leading edges. Vanquished were the less revealed areas of the sound stage. Resolution across the harmonic spectrum was enhanced. Bass notes had more definition and clarity.

The fat was trimmed. Maybe it was Jenny Craig’s system! Though not lean and mean, notes gained more leading edge impact, while sustaining the decay that hall mark the tube sound. Listening became easier. More readily apparent… quicker… and more real.

My fears had been that I’d be returning to the thinner, tipped up sound I had experienced prior to the speakers being fully broken in. such was not the case however. By contrast, the overall sound was somewhat less richly displayed yet it remained natural and involving. Quicker. More lively though not altered timberally speaking. The sound still was quite svelte, robust, and palpable.

Continuing to listen to the tap swap, with familiar tracks the additional resolution, detail, and ambient retrieval was markedly improved. This welcome addition overshadowed my previous experience with warm and richly revealed cues as the sound presented became more exciting. The presentation inundated me with more musical truth thereby creating a more realistic setting in front of me.

Sure enough, some loss of big and thick occurred. So too was there some loss of dark and unrealized. The replacements did however outshine that former experience simply by conveying far greater musical and venue oriented statements which offered up a more exciting scenario.

I sat there mesmerized as all this took place about me. I kept waiting for the edgy strident and brittle behavior to return, and finally just got tired of waiting for it. It was then I succumbed to this new system sound.

Naturally this obvious transformation for me, took some adjusting to, and in the end it was more than welcome. Had it come at the expense of tonal encumbrances, artifacts, sterility, or an analytical reproduction, it would not have been well received, trust me on that part.

No tilting up of harmonic quality took place. Strings revealed both picks and bow activities upon the string itself, with just as much ease and without subtracting from the notes being played. Vocalists head movements about the mike, and their breaths became synonymous with the conveyance of their emotive content. Dog house bass tones were yet more practical and resolved possessing greater immediacy and range. Triangles did not receive more ‘angle’. Symbols gained more shimmer. Banjos got pluckier. Mandolins sweetened up.

Hartman and Prysocks’ baritones remained baritone. Raw boned wailings from the likes of Johnny Lang, Dr John, Wilson Pickett, and the inimitable Joe Cocker, made me transcendentally revisit some of their past concerts. Norah Jones’ breathy style got more seductive.

More so too was the space between musical objects. This added ‘air’ enhanced the whole of each exhibit. Sometimes only marginally, most often though, by considerably more.

The expanse of the stage did not bloat or swell. It became starkly ‘intuitive’. Each time with regards to the track info of course, the notion of how much of the “they are here” or “you are there” being represented, was added too.

I was mystified, a little upset, and pleased, all at the same time, or quite close to each other so it seemed simultaneous, so unsettling were these pronounced yet enjoyable changes.

Overall, with respect to properly matching tube amps to speakers, I’m quite glad of two things, I don’t listen at paint peeling levels any longer, thus perhaps saving both my speakers and amps, and I’m still open enough to take my own advice and that of others to try something else.

BTW…. I’m currently enamored with this ‘change’ so I’ll be sticking to the higher imp output taps on my mono blocks for a while… and make sure speakers are fully run in and then some in the future, before I go fiddling about with impedance matching scenarios... and/or switching in and out amps or other gear.

Time itself, I’m sure, played a major role in this realization. The Sonata IIIs although not a poor speaker system to listen to straightaway do improve as time passes. Solid state amps likely will fare best with them initially. Once loosened from their stiffness by such applications, and/or time itself, they will respond quite well to moderately powered tube amps with outstanding results.

'Sometimes the synergy is already there and just needs to be urged out of it all by dedicating some added attention and devotion to finding it within, and not from without.'

...timing too is key.
I recently tried the 4 ohm tap on my Cary SLI80 with my allegedly "8 ohm" Silverline Sonatina II's. Sure enough, it sounded substantially better to my ear set at 4 ohms than 8. A little deeper, richer, sweeter. Needs an extra bit of volume though (1 o'clock instead of noon). Interesting that you had a similar experience.

Yes, it is interesting.

My Sonata IIIs were not completely run in though. Switching back to the higher taps on my tube amps later on pretty much proved that.

true enough however, an entirely different sound is to be had from the two different outputs on tube amps with Silverlines.

Provided there is sufficient power on tap at the onset, and some prudence with volume controls is used it won't harm anything and you'll have two windows into your audio collection to pick from without doing anything else.... sweeter? ....spiceyer? U pick.

I'll stick with the spicey window now.

Adding a butler amp lately, with still more power, the resulting presentation is most welcomed. Albeit, there are trade offs from it to the Dodds. Each amps topology has it's own merits and depending upon setups, each amplifier (s) satisfys.
"The addition of the SA amp stands provided the greatest impact overall. To wit, imaging, and space. Greater definition of the musicians and musical elements gained more presence as the result. In this area the Taipan Helix’s helped too."

So if I put my amps on SA stands suddenly there appears greater imaging, space, definition & presence? Oh, wait, it might have been the power cord. I get the greatest amusement from this website :-)
Traceb said: "So if I put my amps on SA stands suddenly there appears greater imaging, space, definition & presence? Oh, wait, it might have been the power cord."

We do aim to help here, but much of what we say is aimed at those people who actually do understand the context of our accounts and don't misconstrue our statements.

Few of us possess the literary skills you appear to have.

Allow me to clear things up... Everything matters in a good stereo system.

IMplementing the amp stands followed the application of the Taipan power cords. Naturally they are a conttributing factor. the decided change I noted above was primarily the new addition of the Sound Anchor amp stands making improvements on what was already apparently noticed. the afterthought or in passing mention of the taipans served only to further illuminate their presence in the mix.... as I said... "... they helped". Meaning, in addition too; complimented' as being together; in accordance with.

Clear? Super.

I get the biggest kick out of this website from those folks like yourself who enjoy twisting things to suit yourself.

thanks for dropping by. Intelligent feedback is always a most welcomed event.