Sonus Faber's Amati Homage a Work of Art

Among loudspeaker designers, Franco Serblin enjoys an enviable reputation for beautiful creations and meticulous craftsmanship. Until recently, Sonus Faber's resident genius had confined himself to minimonitors with simple crossover networks, such as the Concerto, a Stereophile Class B Recommended Component.

All of Serblin's designs have been well received by the audiophile community. His first commercial venture into floorstanding speakers, the Concerto Grand Piano, a two-way-with-passive-radiator design, also won a Class B recommendation. Now he has graduated to a three-way, the Amati Homage, noted by Wes Phillips in his report on the Heathrow Hi-Fi show in the December Stereophile.

I recently had the opportunity to take the Amati for a test drive at Sumiko, the Berkeley, California distributor for Sonus Faber, Bow Technologies, and Solidsteel equipment racks. A scheduling glitch made me miss the official coming-out party, which was likely all to my benefit---as a result, I was able to spend several hours alone with the Amati in Sumiko's capacious listening room.

The visit was a treat. Sumiko's renovated industrial building is gorgeous, and so is the Amati Homage---a real stunner, both visually and sonically. At a distance, it looks from the front almost like any conventional loudspeaker: tweeter, midrange, and twin woofers in a narrow column. But from every other angle it stands far apart from the crowd. The cabinet tapers toward the back, its curve alluding to the streamlined "Machine Age" automobiles of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Serblin calls it a "Lute Shape" because it also resembles the body of that stringed instrument. Twenty-one layers of high-density hardwood and copper-lead sheeting make for an amazingly nonresonant enclosure.

This particular pair of Amati Homages---in red-stained maple---are the only ones currently in North America, according to Sumiko's Stirling Trayle. The front baffle, top, and rear panel are covered in pebbled black leather. An optional grille consists of numerous thin black elastic cords stretched top to bottom, which leaves the drivers visible behind a shimmering veil. The total look of the speaker is outrageous and sophisticated---a fabulous example of great Italian design.

Positioned rather far apart from each other and well out from the walls in Sumiko's large demo room, the Amatis threw an enormous soundstage, with depth, detail, and dynamics to die for. Powered by Bow electronics via Kimber Kable Monocle cables, the Amatis demonstrated an astounding "reach"---that ability certain divas have to stand motionless on stage and throw their voices to the back row of the top balcony. Trayle attributes this to the low-compression-loss ScanSpeak drivers Serblin specifies. The 28mm soft-dome tweeter has no ferrofluid in its magnetic gap, making it extremely quick, responsive, and dynamic.

During a long afternoon one day last week, Trayle and I listened to every imaginable type of music through the Amatis without developing a hint of fatigue. Quite the opposite, in fact---the more I listened, the more I wanted to listen. The Amatis performed as well on rough, raunchy rock and uptempo jazz as they did on delicate choral pieces. And although it's not the last word in bass extension, the Amati is plenty powerful in the low end. With a big REL subwoofer handling the bottom octaves---or "establishing the room," as Trayle put it---the Amati Homage seemed to me to be the equal or better of some of the best systems on the market today---and not at all overpriced at $18,000/pair.

Just when you think loudspeaker development has plateaued, someone comes along to knock your assumptions askew. The scariest part of the demo was hearing Trayle say that Sumiko is getting "only about 40% of what the speaker is capable of" in its present setup.

My afternoon with the Amati Homages was a day well spent. Trayle mentioned that the next pair to enter the States is headed to Santa Fe for a long date with Wes Phillips, that lucky dog. I predict he'll have a marvelous time with them---an adventure you'll be able to follow in an upcoming issue of Stereophile.