Sonus Faber’s Second-Generation Stradivari Is An Instant Classic
Italy’s premium loudspeaker brand celebrates its 40th anniversary with a successor to one of its most iconic components.
We’re no strangers to the auditory prowess of Sonus Faber. The Italian manufacturer, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is well known for making some of the most beautiful—and beautiful sounding—audio components on the planet, specifically loudspeakers. My visit to the factory in 2021 revealed some secrets, namely that centuries-old woodworking techniques and high-tech engineering can peacefully coexist. In an electronics industry dominated by robots, production lines, and outsourced components, Sonus Faber makes state-of-the-art speakers whose performance is matched by fit and finish that says “luxury” like few consumer products can.
The audio atelier’s new Stradivari Second Generation loudspeaker, on sale this June and retailing for $75,000 per pair, is a fitting tribute to the brand’s four-decade artisanal legacy. Located in Italy’s Veneto region, the company draws its inspiration from the violins of Antonio Stradivari, Andrea Amati, and Andrea Guarneri, master luthiers from Cremona whose instruments are renowned for their otherworldly sound.
The Sonus Faber Stradivari is thus aptly named, as its wide front baffle and sensuous form recall the hollow body of a violin. The enclosure of the latest Stradivari is a complex one—essentially a pentagonal shape when viewed from above—evolved from the elliptical footprint of the original, which launched in the early 2000s. Like its predecessor, the Stradivari Second Generation features a wide front baffle, which is partially responsible for the speaker’s organic, natural, full-bodied sound.
Wide front baffles are not terribly in vogue at present, and most loudspeakers today employ very narrow front profiles to mitigate diffraction anomalies inherent in mounting a dynamic driver in a cabinet with a wide, flat front. Of course, that’s an oversimplification, and exceptions to the rule, when circumvented brilliantly, are often the exceptions that render especially favourable results.
The original Stradivari Homage was a sonic masterpiece, so when, during my factory visit, I spied a raw wooden cabinet bearing the approximate dimensions of that speaker, I asked if it was a prototype for a new Stradivari. My hosts quickly changed the subject to a discussion about some of the fine Amarone we’d been drinking at dinner. Naturally, I was beyond thrilled to recently receive news of the second-generation Stradivari.
“When the conversation came about redesigning Stradivari, it was challenging but also exhilarating,” says Sonus Faber designer Livio Cucuzza. “We wanted to ensure that the new Stradivari represented all the advancements Sonus Faber has made in sound technology to date, while still keeping that speaker’s classic external look and feel.”
To that end, observers might even consider the new Stradivari to be a more elemental, beautiful speaker than the original. And while we’ve yet to hear it, a close look at the driver compliment and cabinet design suggests that it will improve on its impressive forebear.
The speaker, which weighs 63kg, stands 1.37 metres tall and is almost a metre wide. It has a relatively shallow visual profile and a depth of less than 43cm at the centre rear, proportions more akin to a planar design rather than a dynamic one. Set atop a metal base, the loudspeaker can have its angle changed by means of four height-adjustable spiked feet. Using what the designers call Intono technology, the cabinet is divided and damped internally to provide individual, ducted compartments for tweeter and midrange transducers, eliminating internal resonances and standing waves.
Unlike the original Stradivari, which employs dual 12-inch woofers, the latest version uses a pair of 10-inch units that are entirely new. The latter feature an anti-resonant organic basket, specially formed to avoid vibration modes naturally generated by the pulp-paper woofer cone and voice-coil assembly, producing usable bass down to 25 Hz.
What Sonus Faber calls Clepsydra Technology (“water thief” in Greek, apropos of the ancient water clocks designed circa 325 B.C.) is a downward-firing, hourglass-shaped bass-reflex port designed to maximize low frequency performance. And the six-inch Neodymium-magnet midrange driver handles the lion’s share of the sound signature for which the manufacturer is famous. From as low as 160 Hz to 2,200 Hz, this driver is the heart and soul of the Sonus Faber sound, aided and abetted in its role by the one-inch soft-dome tweeter. These loudspeakers are relatively sensitive, at 92 dB, but present a 4-Ohm nominal impedance, so a high-current amplifier of between 100 watts to 600 watts will go a long way toward making them sing.
On the rear, near the four terminals (which allow for bi-wiring low and mid/high sections), is a novel low-frequency adjustor that optimises low-frequency response relative to room acoustics. There’s also the crossover network, a portion of whose entrails are visible through a clear panel running up a portion of the enclosure’s centre rear, a reminder of where some of the customer’s money goes.
In the tradition of past Sonus Faber Homage series loudspeakers, the grilles are effectively transparent and comprised only of narrowly spaced, parallel black strings, a novel solution to discourage probing fingers and a wonderful allusion to the precious violins that inspired the speaker’s design.
Customers can select three cabinet finishes worthy of the most exclusive humidor: traditional Gloss Red, Wenge (a rich brown), and Graphite. We can’t wait to hear the new Stradivari, and if the previous iteration is any indication, this successor is bound to be a classic that will stand the test of time.
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