by Carrie Connolly | Seattle Sales Associate
This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting the Sonus faber headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. As our airplane descended over the islands of Venice (about 45 minutes east of Vicenza), I felt an old-world vibe, bellissimo! (Or “very beautiful,” if your Italian is a little rusty.) The purpose of my trip was to experience how a world-class company like Sonus faber designs and builds its high-quality loudspeakers, which look as luxurious as they sound.
I already knew of one commonality Sonus faber and I shared — they opened for business in 1983, the same year I began my audio career. At the time, my friend worked in the service department of a local audio and video company. She knew that I loved music, a passion that was first sparked by a gift from my grandmother, Mona, who gave me my first console. It was the coolest cabinet with speakers built into it, a turntable, a radio and storage for records. I started out at the counter and then moved to the sales floor. That chance job opening kick-started my career, which led me to working at Definitive for the past four years and now to Italy — to learn the philosophy of the company that makes speaker manufacturing look like an art form.
Street Musician Performs in Italy.
Drawing Inspiration from Instruments
Sonus faber has always drawn inspiration from its rich Italian culture, which is apparent in its craftsmanship. Their speakers look like fine musical instruments, especially the Serafino, a floor speaker named after Santo Serafino. He was a famous Venetian who specialized in making sturdy, yet incredibly delicate violins in the early 18thcentury.
Speaking of violins, that’s the shape of the roof on Sonus faber’s headquarters. The outside of the building is made up of rows and rows of modern glass windows. Inside, you’ll find the business office, engineering, and design facility, as well as an anechoic chamber and listening rooms. We could not have had a more enthusiastic or knowledgeable guide to lead us through them than Marta Vecellio Reane, Marketing Manager for Sonus faber. She made sure our every need was met — true Italian hospitality!
A History of Craftsmanship
Throughout the tour, she spoke about the history of the company, which was founded by visionary Franco Serblin. He grew up listening to classical music at home, especially the piano, which explains much of the inspiration behind the construct of each loudspeaker. His father was a master carpenter. When Franco developed an interest in audio, he noticed that he constantly needed to change out his equipment. He knew there had to be a way to make audio components that would last. In 1980, he pioneered an all-in-one system called the “Snail,” which was made entirely from solid wood.
Three years later, he started Sonus faber, which began as a small laboratory in Monteviale, on the hills of Vicenza. That same year, the company launched its first product, “Parva,” a two-way monitor speaker with a midrange cone in Kevlar and the cabinet in solid walnut wood. As time passed, Sonus faber became recognized worldwide — and most of its first international partners are still distributors today. It’s a testament to the brand’s ability to build lasting products — and to forge lasting relationships.
Choosing Only the Best Materials
In addition to touring the headquarters, I had the opportunity to experience the workshops, where woodworking and finishing take place. When we were in the cabinet shop, Marta held up two sticks of walnut to show us the difference in quality of wood available. One was very light in color and density, while the other was very dense and had beautiful marbling and tight grain. The team there goes to great lengths to ensure consistent quality of the cabinets, which impact everything sonically. So, even though the wood costs more, they choose to use the better material. As the wife of a woodworker, I can appreciate that.
I also loved that each speaker assembly “bay” had a small chamber that the speaker was placed inside and tested for frequency response. This level of due diligence is what ensures the greatness of every product, including their latest — the Sonetto V. It’s a three-way floor-standing speaker, with the ability to characterize even the largest rooms. And, like all of Sonus faber’s products, it’s inspired by Italian heritage, as the “sonnet” is the most ancient Italian poetic structure.
Outside of headquarters and the workshops, we saw another Italian structure —the Teatro Olimpico (“Olympic Theatre”). The first indoor theater in masonry in the world Teatro Olimpico was designed by the great architect Andrea Palladio in 1580, and it was certainly an experience. Throughout the theater (entry, lobby and theater itself), there were Sonus faber speakers “singing” classical music. The interior simulates the outdoor setting of a classical theater, with seven wooden-perspective scenes depicting the streets of Thebes. Last year, Sonus faber named a collection of speakers the Olympica after the theater. Live performances occur in the spring and summer, but audiences are limited to 400 so that the theater is not damaged.
Carrie outside the Teatro Olimpico.
A Philosophy to Design By
Between activities, we ate and drank and ate and drank. We dined al fresco(in the open air) and enjoyed watching daily Italian life. Research & Design Manager, Paolo Tezzon, was very gracious and taught us about the philosophy behind why they’ve chosen the materials they use, how all of their drivers are tested and how much time and detail goes into every speaker they build. This quote sums up their philosophy about the old world meeting the new: “Constant evolution of material use, design and research and electro acoustic solutions” is part of Sonus faber’s DNA, along with musical excellence, now and in the future.
Beauty, luxury and the highest level of sonic performance … mille grazie, Sonus faber! (“Thank you very much.”)