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World of McIntosh: New Sonus Faber Homage Tradition speakers

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Have you ever ordered anything from J Peterman? Chances are, if you were a fan of Seinfeld, you at least know about the catalog that Elaine used to work for. A mail-order catalog that, until rather recently, only ever showed it’s wares in sketches. No photos at all. But what that catalog was best known for was the way they sold. The words they used to sell.

For example, take the Singularity Shirt:

The Missing Two Percent.

Singularity.

13.75 billion years ago.

98 percent of elements needed for life came from the big bang; only nitrogen and oxygen were missing.

Houndstooth.

1565, Scottish Lowlands. An unnamed genius (let’s call her Cairlell) crafts this design that is 98 percent of a new style; only a man with personality was missing.

Enter: Jefferson. Fitzgerald. Churchill. Sir Lawrence Bragg. Edwin Goodman.

Each man creates his unique style when he wears it, which is why Cairlell is a genius (a shame she doesn’t get the credit she deserves). Put it on.

I’m curious. Aren’t you?

Singularity Shirt (No. 3719). An elegant blend of cotton and wool, with black and white two-dimensional planes of repeating geometric shapes with no overlap. French seams. Cutaway collar with stays. Adjustable mitered cuffs. Buttoning pocket at chest. Made in Portugal.

Men’s sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL.

Color: Black/White Houndstooth.

I have no idea what that means. But it sounds amazing. A legitimate question, I think, is this: what are they really selling? A shirt? Or something else?

It’s clearly a joke, isn’t it? A lark? An elaborate pulling of the proverbial leg? That’s certainly how the writers of Seinfeld took it, and they spent a many an episode milking the evocative language well past “tortured” and fully into the land of “mangled”. But while there is certainly fun to be had there — the writers have to be aware — there’s a reason the catalog is the way it is.

Seinfeld aside, I still received the catalog and I looked forward to it. Those J Peterman catalogs, absurd pretentiousness delightfully acknowledged, stayed around the apartment for weeks — and weeks after all the other catalogs had been tossed. I flipped the pages, read the descriptions, laughed out loud at the audaciousness of the language, and then read some more. And yes, I did buy things from J Peterman. For example, I bought this wool scarf. It’s over 12′ long. It’s as warm as a coat, and in a pinch, I can use it as a litter for carrying injured wildlife out of a raging forest fire. In the arctic. Or something. It’s big and I bought it; it’s cozy and you can’t have it.

The Native American writer, teacher and activist Thomas King wrote: “The truth about stories is that’s all we are.” I think about that line a lot. About story. The telling and retelling of experience, filtered through a lens. Or a mirror, dark and cracked. Life. Life as story. Because that’s what I am, too. I am my stories.

When I looked through the J Peterman catalog, I lost track of what I was doing. I wasn’t shopping. I was a clairvoyant, peering into the life of another. Another me. Into a life that I could have had — and yet still might. I was seeing, reading, experiencing my story, expanded.

That’s different. Stepping back, it makes me ask what, if anything, any of us are really ever selling? Or buying? Is it a thing? Just a thing? Or another way to be? And isn’t that what “lifestyle” is about? An invitation to reconsider what your life might be?

This is where Sonus Faber lives. Lifestyle. Reimagined.

I think this is incredibly important. Most audio companies don’t — or can’t — tell stories, much less lifestyle stories. Arguably, that’s why they fail. J Peterman knew that. Seinfeld did too, and in making fun of the wild storytelling, was adding it’s own story. A story about nothing at all, they said, and by satirizing J Peterman, it was poking fun of itself, but still somehow popping out the other end as meaningful, insightful, and funny AF. Their stories became our stories. And we were able to imagine ourselves as more.

Which brings me back to the World of McIntosh.

Not that anyone needs to up and rent a 5-story townhouse in Manhattan or anything, but let me suggest that this is the kind of thinking that makes brands iconic.

I took the early train into NY on Thursday, to visit with Sonus Faber at the Townhouse in SoHo. If the photos look familiar, that’s not surprising — you’ve probably seen the Townhouse featured in Mr Robot or as a backdrop to a celebrity event. The place rents for staggering cash on a daily basis — but I will offer that the location does have some pretty remarkable amenities.

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Amenities … like a pool.

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Amenities … like a huge terrace.

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Amenities … like a two-story “room” with truly epic natural light

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… and walls absolutely festooned with giant works of art.

In short, it’s a magnificent venue. A world apart. Art sliding into beauty wrapped in light. And did I mention they promised me “an authentic Italian dinner”? Yeah. Amtrak, here I come.

Much like the sales meeting last summer, the McIntosh Group (McIntosh Labs, Sonus Faber, Audio Research, Wadia, Pryma) brought much of their top-tier resellers throughout the US into Manhattan for a day of hobnobbing and education, which is awesomesauce, but the ostensible goal was to introduce a brand-new iteration of the Homage product line they’re calling Homage Tradition.

Another aside — this may seem extravagant. And, in all fairness, it is. But it’s not unique — Cisco Systems, for example, used to do this routinely. Their “lean IT” subsidiary, Meraki, still does. Why? Because it works. And, given the multiple objectives being handled simultaneously, as juggled by a four-armed butler from Downton Abbey, it’s more cost-effective than it might appear. Think “disrupt expectations & create memories” and you’re on the right track.

But let’s pivot now, and let Sonus Faber introduce the reason for their efforts, the new Homage Tradition.

The line has three new loudspeakers. Or rather, three different form factors for the individual elements that separate the line, the Guarneri Tradition, the new Serafino Tradition, and the Amati Tradition. Say hello, my pretties.

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All three are currently orderable, and the first shipments are making their way to dealers as we speak.

But you probably want to know how much these are going to cost, so let’s get that out-of-the-way, and then take a closer look at the three speakers.

Retail prices

The suggested retail prices for the collection are:

  • AMATI TRADITION: $ 29,900
  • SERAFINO TRADITION: $ 21,900
  • GUARNERI TRADITION: $ 15,900 (stand included)

Each speaker is currently available in one of two finishes.

  • RED: Traditional walnut wood essence with black inlays combined with brushed black Aluminum and black leather (like flagships Aida, Lilium and Il Cremonese);
  • WENGÈ: Wengè wood essence – used for the first time by Sonus Faber – with maple inlays (reference to the walnut finish of Olympica collection) with brushed Aluminum in Titanium finish and brown leather.

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General Notes

The fit and finish on everything Sonus Faber does is, in a word, astonishing. It’s part of the package, or so we’ve come to expect. Again, they’re not selling audio. They’re selling luxury. And all three of these speakers are absolutely lux. Of the two finishes, my personal preference is for the dark wood Wengè — that inlaid aluminum is not only striking, it’s lust-inducing. I also have a suspicion that it adds stiffness to the cabinet, but that’s just a hunch. But I did catch a rather prolonged discussion of Fender’s use of different woods (backing, fretboards, &c) in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and how fans responded — this would be a very interesting discussion to have with the designers, but circumstances didn’t permit. This time.

You’ll note the porting. It’s not round or square, but rather a vertical slot. The flanges flanking create what the designer Livio Cucuzza called a “wave effect”, but also sets up the vertical binding posts, a nice visual touch.

Note that these speakers deviate from the traditional SF “rake”. With a straight up presentation, foot print is decreased, which is good. But the phase correction is still there — it’s just now handled in the crossover.

The cross-section of the speaker is also different, and much closer to the “traditional” (if it can be called that) “boat-tail” design, that would probably be described as “lute-shaped” because this is Sonus Faber and all of these speakers are named after luthiers.

Under the covers, the Sonus Faber drivers have seem some evolutionary strides. Designer Paolo Tezzon described the current woofer tech is “voiced for coherence”; and the drivers are treated pulp (paper) sandwiched around “syntactic foam”. The tweeter is a “trickle down” from the Lilium, and Tezzon took a few moments to walk through a graph for the on-axis and off-axis frequency response. A soft-dome tweeter (like that used in the Minima) gives truly excellent off-axis response, which is critical to a speaker’s “disappearing act”, he said, but cannot provide a smooth and linear high-frequency response to 20k without losing steam. A hard-dome tweeter (like that used in the Stradivari) can get the excellent extension, but loses the off-axis response. Their approach with their new tweeter, developed and leveraged in the Lilum, successfully blends the two for excellent off-axis response and smooth linearity up past 20kHz.

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I’ll have some listening notes shortly, but for now, lets say hello to the speakers.

Guarneri Tradition

System

2 way, full para-aperiodic vented box “Stealth Ultraflex System” and “Zero Vibration Transmission” technology implemented on the dedicated stand, decoupled from the floor, stand mount loudspeaker system.

Tweeter

H28 XTR-04. Sonus faber silk dome 28 mm “Arrow Point” DAD, implemented with a natural wood acoustic labyrinth rear chamber.

Midwoofer

W15 XTR-04. Sonus faber designed 150 mm neodymium magnet system ultra dynamic linearity midwoofer.

Cross-over

Non-resonant design, optimized amplitude/phase response for optimal space/time performance. “Paracross topology”. The impedance at low frequencies is controlled for a clear and friendly amplifier performance.. Highest quality is used in terms of the components: last generation Mundorf “Evo” Oil and Silver/Gold/Oil capacitors, Jantzen inductors.

Cross-over point: 2.500Hz.

Frequency Response

40 Hz – 35.000 Hz, Stealth reflex included.

Sensitivity

87 db SPL (2.83V/1 m).

Nominal Impedance

4Ω.

Suggested Amplifier Power Output

30W – 250W , without clipping.

Dimensions (HxWxD)/Weight

377 x 239 x 375mm / 148.5 x 94 x 148″

16 Kg / 35 lbs

Dedicated Stand

(entirely made in Carbon Fiber)

Dimensions (HxWxD) 758 x 300 x 390mm / 298 x 118 x 153.5″

16 Kg / 35lbs

Serafino Tradition

System

3.5 way, full para-aperiodic vented box “Stealth Ultraflex” system and “Zero Vibration Transmission” technology, decoupled from the floor, staggered low-frequency floor standing loudspeaker system.

Tweeter

H28 XTR-04. Sonus faber silk dome 28 mm “Arrow Point” DAD, implemented with a natural wood acoustic labyrinth rear chamber.

Midrange

M15 XTR-04. Sonus faber designed 150 mm neodymium magnet system ultra dynamic linearity midrange.

Woofer

2 x W18XTR-08. Sonus faber designed 180 mm lightweight “sandwich” cone structure (high-tech syntactic foam core and two external surface skins of cellulose pulp) woofers.

Cross-over

Non-resonant design, optimized amplitude/phase response for optimal space/time performance. “Paracross topology”. The impedance at low frequencies is controlled for a clear and friendly amplifier performance. Double staggered transfer function low-frequency/room interface optimized filter. Highest quality is used in terms of the components: last generation Mundorf “Evo” Oil and Silver/Gold/Oil capacitors, Jantzen inductors. Cross-over point: 80Hz – 250 Hz – 2.500Hz

Frequency Response

30 Hz – 35.000 Hz, Stealth reflex included.

Sensitivity

90 db SPL (2.83V/1 m).

Nominal Impedance

4Ω.

Suggested Amplifier Power Output

80W – 350W , without clipping.

Dimensions (HxWxD) /Weight

1091 x 396 x 485mm / 430 x 156 x 191″

52 Kg / 115 lb

Amati Tradition

System

3.5 way, full para-aperiodic vented box “Stealth Ultraflex” system and “Zero Vibration Transmission” technology, decoupled from the floor, staggered low-frequency floor standing loudspeaker system.

Tweeter

H28 XTR-04. Sonus faber silk dome 28 mm “Arrow Point” DAD, implemented with a natural wood acoustic labyrinth rear chamber.

Midrange

M15 XTR-04. Sonus faber designed 150 mm neodymium magnet system ultra dynamic linearity midrange.

Woofer

2 x W22XTR-08. Sonus faber designed 220 mm lightweight “sandwich” cone structure (high-tech syntactic foam core and two external surface skins of cellulose pulp) woofers.

Cross-over

Non-resonant design, optimized amplitude/phase response for optimal space/time performance. “Paracross topology”. The impedance at low-frequencies is controlled for a clear and friendly amplifier performance. Double staggered transfer function low-frequency/room interface optimized filter. Highest quality is used in terms of the components: last generation Mundorf “Evo” Oil and Silver/Gold/Oil capacitors, Jantzen inductors. Cross-over point: 80Hz – 250 Hz – 2.500Hz

Frequency Response

28 Hz – 35.000 Hz, Stealth reflex included.

Sensitivity

90 db SPL (2.83V/1 m).

Nominal Impedance

4Ω.

Suggested Amplifier Power Output

100W – 500W , without clipping.

Dimensions (HxWxD) / Weight

1176 x 411 x 512mm / 463 x 162 x 201.5″

61 Kg / 134,5 lb

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  1. Part-Time AudiophileWorld of McIntosh: Listening to the Sonus Faber Guarneri Tradition
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  3. Part-Time AudiophileWorld of McIntosh: Listening to the Sonus Faber Serafino Tradition

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