Sonus faber celebrated its 30th anniversary with style. The Italian company gathered together its biggest, brightest and best distributors and dealers (plus a handful of the world’s press) for a lavish event in and around its home town of Vicenza in Northern Italy. While there are always rumours of the audio press moving from one bacchanalian party to another, most of us today are happier with a coffee and a USB stick with the press release, in order to free up more time to do the real work. This wasn’t that kind of conference.
The massed troupe of Sonos faberites were bussed across the Palladian town of Vicenza to the glorious 18th Century Villa Cordellina Lombardi in the outer provinces. Here, the Fine Sounds Group took us through an edited highlights of the history of the villa and Sonos faber itself, before introducing the intellectual heir to the original Sonus faber Extrema, the Ex3ma.
If you cast your mind back to the early 1990s, the original Extrema was a two-way standmount loudspeaker with a rear-firing passive ABR drive unit, sitting on one of the deepest loudspeaker stands in history. Fast forward almost 25 years, and the new Ex3ma is also a two-way standmount loudspeaker with a rear-firing ABR drive unit, sitting on a deep stand.
The similarities don’t end there. The modern design is every bit as radical as its predecessor, utilising the highest spec materials and technology to create what could be considered a F1 car for the ears. Again. Although this time, it’s claimed not to be the modern equivalent of the Extrema’s uncompromising ‘loudspeaker in search of a system’. The materials science is very different, reflecting the almost two and a half decades between the two designs. However, rather than describe the full specification, we thought it’s best just to point the reader to the relevant part of the website:
Put simply though, this is a standmount loudspeaker that features carbon-fibre monocoque, with wooden panels used as musical soundboards as well as for decorative finish. The sculptural wood shapes are all cut from a single red spruce from the violin-maker’s most loved Val di Fiemme forest. The body includes Avional and Ergal aluminium alloys, with gum-metal contrasting baskets, crossovers hand built by the chief audio engineer, and there is extensive use of diamond and beryllium in the drive units. The rear panel shows a four-position ‘brake’ to adjust damping and the crossover point is at 2.35kHz. Famous names internally include Shunyata cable and Mundorf capacitors. Everything was taken into consideration, even down to mood-boards in the design studio to find the right physical shape.
This is a strictly limited run. Just 30 pairs, with serial numbers equating to every year Sonus faber has been in business, have been made. As if to prove the point, Fine Sounds Group CEO Mauro Grange literally broke the mold, smashing the carbon-fibre tooling required to create another Ex3ma.
What’s missing though is a price. There sort of isn’t one yet. Maybe there will never be a price, making the Ex3ma literally ‘priceless’. That seems unlikely, but the chances of mortals actually possessing one of these seems so rare, perhaps ‘priceless’ is a good answer. They are sold direct from the factory, and 20 of the 30 are already sold on the day they launch, despite there being no set price!
Those of us fortunate enough to hear briefly the Ex3ma came away deeply impressed. The bass was exceptionally deep for a standmount loudspeaker, reaching well into the sub-40Hz region in a reasonably sized room. It was also exceptionally accurate and detailed. Finally, it was also extremely dynamic; possibly more than the room could stand. With short listening sessions and more than 180 keen listeners waiting their turn, it was difficult to draw many conclusion about the performance, but it was clear those 30 listeners worldwide will be buying a piece of the very best. It is clear that the current chief designer Paolo Tezzon knows exactly what he’s doing, and is extremely proud of the design.
However, it was the event that says more about Fine Sounds and Sonus faber today. This is a company determined to show a powerful presence. This is the sort of pizazz and slick product launch seen with car marques and Apple keynotes. This is not the kind of launch seen in audio, in part because of the expense involved, but audio is a part of an expensive, glitzy world now, and some of that rubs off on everything it touches. Maybe this is a good thing.
There was one omission in the whole event. While the fabulous launch party, complete with impressive light show painting the elegant villa in a manner akin to a New Year celebration run by a fairly major city, the presentation itself essentially airbrushed the company founder, the late Franco Serblin, out of the picture. This was said to be purely accidental. I hope that’s true.
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