It hardly seems like two years since my review of the Audel Magika Mk2 loudspeakers was published and they were awarded a well-deserved 5 stars. So when John Simm, the UK distributor of Audel, asked me if I would like to hear the Magika’s smaller sibling, the Sonika Mk2, I was more than pleased to accept. When they arrived, packed in a single shipping box, I was taken aback at just how small they are, even compared with the Magikas. They are just 26cm high and each enclosure weighs 5kg. These speakers are really tiny.
Much of what I said about the Magikas pertains to the Sonikas. The cabinetry is exquisite; birchwood ply with a beeswax finish that just begs to be caressed. I can think of few other hi-fi components that offer such a wonderful tactile experience. Like their siblings, these cabinets are not just beautiful on the outside. They also have the same internal rib system, which according to Audel’s Walter Carzan offers both increased structural integrity and sonic benefits too. The front baffle on the Art version of the Sonikas is a beautiful multi-coloured painted affair, which I thought was lovely and did away with the need for grilles. If you prefer a more traditional look, the Sonikas can be supplied with a dark tiger ebony baffle.
In terms of components, the Sonika follows the traditional main driver/ tweeter layout, with a front firing bass reflex port below the main driver. The latter is a mere four inches in diameter, while the soft dome tweeter is 29mm and there’s a first order crossover point is at 2.5kHz splitting the incoming signal. On the rear panel is a single pair of multiway binding posts. Impedance is quoted at 4 Ohms and sensitivity at 87dB, so not overly efficient but in practice the Sonikas worked well with my own Lyngdorf TDAI3400 integrated amplifier, and proved to be very easy to drive.
As with the Magikas, the Sonikas can be supplied with their own matching stands, but on this occasion they arrived alone so I mounted them on the HiFi Racks ones which usually support my own small pair of loudspeakers. With a tripod of Stillpoints MiniSS set out on the top plate I carefully positioned the Sonikas with some toe-in towards my listening chair and about 28cm between their back corners and the rear wall.
Listening to the Sonikas
Pretty as the little Sonikas looked perched atop the stands, I was simply not expecting what happened when I started to play them. I went straight to vinyl as a source. Regular readers will know that I have a selection of tracks and albums which always form part of any review. In this case, I started with my much played Mobile Fidelity pressing of Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, from which I played the first track Tangled Up In Blue, and looked for differentiation between the acoustic guitars, as well as the snap of the percussion. The Sonikas painted a vivid and detailed picture, with each instrument accorded its own space in the soundstage and Mr Dylan himself projected front and centre. What struck me from this track and never changed throughout my time with these mini marvels was the weight and sense of scale which they bring to the room. Switching to another of my regular test tracks One Of These Days from Pink Floyd’s Meddle, I was taken aback by the bass weight which issued into the room. Roger Waters’ bass guitar riff had real bite to it, as did his distorted vocal with its chilling “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces” lyric. The Sonikas may only be rated to 45Hz but they are capable of doing a fine job in the bass nonetheless.
I have a 1957 recording, reissued on the Deutsche Grammophon Privilege label, of Helmut Walcha playing a recital of some well-known JS Back organ works on the mighty Schnitger instrument in St Laurence Church, Alkmaar. One might have expected that a 4 inch driver might not be able to do justice to such a recording, but to my surprise the Sonikas made a very valiant effort at it, conveying the power of the organ even if they were not able to reproduce the almost subterranean rumble of the biggest pipes, I still somehow felt that I was hearing them.
Switching to a less torturous piece, my Analogue Productions 2012 45rpm reissue of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 classic Time Out allowed the Sonikas to absolutely shine. Brubeck’s piano sounded very lifelike, while Paul Desmond’s saxophone has a wonderful timbre to it. I devoured all four sides of this record and was absolutely captivated by it all over again, with the snap of Joe Morello’s drums really popping.
In fact I played a lot of jazz and acoustic blues through the Sonikas and they never failed to deliver a truly musical experience. Doug Macleod’s album Exactly Like This, another 45 rpm pressing, sounded astonishingly real. His slightly weary but soulful vocals, accompanied by his wonderful acoustic guitar and dobro playing, gave me as much pleasure as I have enjoyed from recorded music in a long time. Ask them to recreate heavy rock and the little Sonikas continued to surprise me, doing a fine job with everything I pushed through them. They don’t go to window-rattling levels of course, but for listening at levels which are not injurious to one’s aural health they were more than up to the job, and day after day never gave me less than musical delight.
Recommending the Audel Sonika Mk2 loudspeakers is very easy. They sound excellent, they look (and feel) lovely and they sound so much bigger than their small form factor would ever lead you to expect. I really liked the Audel Magikas two years ago but I loved the Sonikas. Yes, there are many fine loudspeakers at this price point, with many offering what appears to be more for your money. But these little guys sound far bigger than they look, they are hand-crafted in Italy and their fit and finish is second to none. I loved the Art paintwork on the front baffle, but if you don’t you can buy the Sonikas with a more traditional look.
If I was buying a pair I would definitely opt for their dedicated stands. They worked perfectly well as I had them, sitting on a very suitable third party option. But with their own stands they will be bolted in place, making them more stable and much more able to withstand life in a house with small children or curious cats, for example, and they will look extremely handsome.
And there is one other piece of good news. John Simm’s company Summerhouse Sounds also distributes the Zavfino 1877 cables (which I reviewed last year and which I nominated as one of my products of the year) and he will include a pair of the excellent Nova OCC speaker cables with every pair of Sonikas, which makes the Sonikas even better value. There is a “try before you buy” scheme available too, so there is really no excuse not hear these sonic wonders for yourself.