How is beautiful sound created? What are the differences, boundaries and blurred spaces between visual beauty and aural beauty? Since 1983, Italian company Sonus faber has been answering these questions through its spectacular, high-end audio products. Founder Franco Serblin was a dental technician with an unbridled passion for high-quality audio. In his spare time, he created stunning instruments, products he couldn’t find on the market. Through Sonus faber, he helped elevate audio—especially thanks to its distinctly smooth visual style. Over the years, the company has grown due to a fan base of audiophiles all over the world—and it’s now part of the McIntosh Group, a holding company devoted to superior sound.
Sonus faber is headquartered in Vicenza, just a few kilometers from the beautiful old town, which is distinguished by Andrea Palladio’s Renaissance architecture. In a region whose history is drenched in beauty and luxury, we weren’t surprised to find a factory that seems to be a synthesis of craft workshop and design studio.
In large spaces flooded with natural light, employees assemble the brand’s precious objects while surrounded by greenery, both inside the production facility and outside. The process follows the logic of a small workshop: more experienced staff hand-make circuits and test the final products, while the others work on assembly.
Sonus faber’s credo is that beautiful sound must emit from an equally appealing vessel. For this reason, incredibly talented carpenters craft the wooden structures, using techniques borrowed from violin- and cabinet-making. This practice is perhaps most obvious in the Homage Tradition collection, wherein wood is varnished 30 times and polished by hand—a process that takes one month in total.
But wood is just part of the complex equation. Parts of the speakers are made from Carrara marble and brass, as seen in the Electa Amator III speakers. Another key characteristic is leather, crafted by expert artisans. They use ancient, rare tools (including whalebone sticks) that help the leather adhere to the wood even in the most delicate, difficult places—such as the curves and grooves of the Amati Tradition.
To Sonus faber, sound is equally paramount. During our visit, we tested various sound systems, including the new Lumina V. These speakers use classic elements such as paper cone subwoofers and other technical elements borrowed from the brand’s higher-range products. During the listening session, we noticed that two speakers created the illusion of multiple sound sources. It was particularly evident when listening to Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “What a Wonderful World”—we felt immersed in the sound. The range of bass exploded with Leonard Cohen’s deep voice on “You Want It Darker.” On Dubxanne’s “Roxanne,” we could further appreciate a complex and structured song that pushes the system to its limits, while keeping the bass and treble balanced. We could feel the vibrations, but the pitch remained perfect.
Inside the new Design Lab Room—equipped with a mega-screen and an impressive range of 15 speakers and four subs—we heard more music as well as sound from films. The system really proves itself with 3D sound experiences like Dolby Atmos, which we tested with movie scenes from The Greatest Showman and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as well as with a spectacular live performance by Eric Clapton at The Royal Albert Hall. In each case, the space felt saturated in sound, while being presence of stunning speakers that don’t need to be hidden.
The Design Lab—led by Livio Cucuzza and consisting of approximately 15 designers and engineers—works to experiment, study and create new forms and functions. One of their most recent projects meant collaborating with Maserati, for whom they designed a sound system that can be installed as a luxury option in the MC20 supercar.
To enjoy the in-car listening experience, we traveled to Modena, where this vehicle is produced. The sound of the Sonus faber Premium Audio System has 12 speakers, reaching 695 watts. Only two of the speakers are visible, and they display a sophisticated interweaving of lines that mimic the movement of the string grills that define many iconic Sonus faber products.
The in-car sound can be adjusted in two modes (one dedicated to everyday and one for more extreme driving) and has been designed not to compete with the engine’s sound, but to remain crystal clear. The two companies plan to continue their collaboration, and a Sonus faber system will also be available for Maserati’s upcoming Grecale and Gran Turismo—the brand’s first 100% electric vehicle.
Hero image courtesy of Sonus faber