Have you heard about the 1900 Building in Kansas City? Well, neither had I. Former office and factory for H.D. Lee's Jeans, the building was recently adapted to a new purpose by developer Steve Karbank. The building now includes multiple performance and conference spaces, a fitness room, a delightful outdoor courtyard and a wonderful restaurant. See my soup!
Now Steve just happens to be an enthusiastic audiophile, his equipment of choice being Sonus faber and Audio Research. He had a really bright idea. Could he incorporate high end equipment of this caliber into the performance spaces? The answer of course was no, you must be kidding. Never been done. But Steve wouldn't take no for an answer, and worked closely with Elevated Electronics, a Sonus faber and Audio Research dealer to make it happen. As it happens, the Sonus faber tweeters are pretty much unburstable, overcoming one of the most serious objections to the project.
Also, an ideal performing space has very different acoustical properties from a good listening space, so a lot of work went on and is still going on with fixed and removable acoustic panels to square that particular circle. Low maintenance and high reliability is a must, so a lot of McIntosh equipment was brought in to supplement the Audio Research tubed amps and preamps. Two large equipment closets, crammed with gear, are positioned net to the performance spaces.
In the main listening room, Sonus faber Lilium speakers have been mounted to not entirely beautiful custom rollers so they can be quickly replaced by live performers.
Within the larger space, a concrete support beam running across the width of the room around its mid-point presented particular acoustic problems. But it also formed the basis for the solution of reinforcing the sound of live performers to the back of the hall. If done perfectly, you should be able to walk around the hall while classical musicians are playing on stage and not be able to tell where the direct sound ends and where reinforced sound begins. Along with Sonus faber's other guests (mostly dealers and audio reviewers) I got my chance to test how well this works. On stage were three string players from the Kansas City Music School offering up Bach and Paganini.
Can you spot the Sonus faber speaker in this image? The test was not conclusive because reinforcement was also turned on for the front part of the stage. So we couldn't hear anywhere in the room without some degree of amplification, but I can attest that the sound quality is vibrant and the difficult timing issues appear to have been overcome. This is much better than you will hear in other competing spaces. Bravo Steve, and bravo Sonus faber.
Who Are These Guys?
"McIntosh Group is a family of the finest audio brands which all combine a keen dedication to the art of sound and individual reputations for exquisite craftsmanship to create unprecedented sensory experiences. McIntosh Group includes American heritage brands, such as McIntosh Laboratory and Audio Research, as well as newer brands from around the world, including Sonus faber, Wadia, Sumiko, Pro-Ject and Bassocontinuo. All McIntosh Group brands boast sophisticated electronics, avant-garde technology, and refined design made of top quality parts.
Since 2015, McIntosh Group has brought the ultimate home entertainment and sound system experience to discriminating consumers at the World Of McIntosh Townhouse (as reported by Enjoy the Music.com's Editor Tom Lyle) located at 214 Lafayette Street in the heart of New York City's SoHo neighborhood (pictured below). The iconic 13,000 square foot Townhouse serves as the McIntosh Group NYC headquarters and showroom, fully integrating the audio family's newest luxury equipment from McIntosh Laboratory, Sonus faber, Audio Research and Sumiko throughout its five stories."
We were here to experience this remarkable new facility, and to go through Sumiko MASTERS training for speaker and subwoofer setup, a full day learning experience that will be very useful for me and for all the dealers and reviewers present, and not just when working with Sonus faber speakers.
During this seminar we were introduced to Lorenzo Belloli, founder of Bassocontinuo, an Italian manufacturer of equipment racks, ranging from the relatively inexpensive Classic line all the way up to custom finished racks with your choice of many leather finishes and metals. They even make racks to precisely match Dan D'Agostino Momentum amps. Either way, you get exquisite Italian workmanship and multiple levels of vibration control. Bassocontinuo will now be distributed by Sumiko in North America. Lorenzo is a designer but not an engineer. Engineering for all models is performed by consulting engineers, and Lorenzo's role is to ensure a very simple and beautiful appearance. He should be good at that – in his previous life he designed high fashion Italian shoes!
The highlight of our visit was the introduction of a new range of speakers, the Sonetto, produced to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Sonus faber, in a beautiful bright room adorned by framed artwork from various rock concerts.
Rather than engineering a new flagship in the six-figure category as they were tempted to do, Sonus faber elected to bring the exciting new technology developed for their best products to market at an unbeatable price, and you have my word for it that they have succeeded. Sonetto sits neatly between the entry level Chameleon and Venere lines and the Olympia line.
At the big reveal The Absolute Sounds's Julie Mullins listens from the sweet spot, while Toronto Dealer Adrian Low gets right up close.
We were invited to bring a favorite CD along to try out the Sonetto speakers with something familiar. I brought Alfie, by Sony Rollins, and it sounded so good we ended up listening to it on three different Sonettos.
The next day we tried it on the big rig with the Lillium speakers. Magnificent! I will report back to you later when I have a pair of Sonettos delivered to my home in Toronto, but here are the salient features of this new made in Italy line, complete with unconfirmed pricing indications:
Two bookshelf speakers - Sonetto I ($1699) and II ($2299), with matching black stands ($499), three floorstanders - the Sonetto III ($3999), V ($4999 - a personal favorite) and VIII ($6499), with two center channel speakers - the Sonetto Center I ($999) and II ($1999), plus a versatile on wall speaker - the Sonetto Wall ($1199). The speakers are available in a white matt, piano black or walnut finish.
They share a lute shaped cross section to avoid parallel internal surfaces and minimize resonances, and the DAD (damped apex dome) silk domed tweeter mounted close to the paper and natural fiber coned midrange – "the Voice of Sonus faber". Bass drivers have aluminum alloy diaphragms. Both midrange and woofers are designed in house specifically for this range, and feature a die cast basket. The reflex porting is downward facing to make room placement easier. The column feet of the floorstanding models are milled from extruded aluminum billets to maximize rigidity. For a touch of luxury, the top surface is leather covered, hand sewn and embossed with the Sonus faber logo.
Sonus faber will also be selling subwoofers under its own brand name - the Gravis I ($999) and Gravis II ($1499), and strongly recommend using a high-level input for best results. These subwoofers are available in the same finishes as the Sonetto line.
You can see the new Sonetto, or perhaps you may enjoy the Bassocontinuo products this summer at selected audio stores or online. Feel free to read Enjoy the Music.com's in-depth look at the Sonus faber Amati Homage Tradition speakers ($29,900) as reviewed here.