Sonus faber Serafino Tradition loudspeaker

hfnoutstanding.pngThe 'entry-level' floorstander of Sonus faber's Homage Tradition series is much more than a shrunk-down Amati

Anyone familiar with Sonus faber will love the superlative craftsmanship of the Vicenza-based company's loudspeakers. Although pretty much all high-end designs are extremely well turned out these days, this Italian company remains on another level – producing speakers that resemble art pieces, rather than just big boxes trying to look expensive.

For a while, some thought that the brand had become too synonymous with visually arresting designs – almost acquiring the sense that form overrode function. In recent years however, the sonic performance bar of Sonus faber loudspeakers has been raised significantly, and they're right there in the fray – fighting it out with the very best of the rest...

La Bella Figura
It is loudspeakers such as the Serafino that carry this solemn responsibility. Its name literally translates as 'seraph' in English – a celestial or heavenly being. Costing a whisker under £18,000 per pair, it's a beautiful high-end product for which no excuses need be made, the very embodiment of the Italian aesthetic of la bella figura.

The woodwork is flawless, with deep colour, superb texture and an immaculate lacquer surfacing. Reminiscent of a luxury yacht's exquisite wooden hull, there's a choice of Wengè finish with maple inlays, and a Red finish. This counterpoints with brushed aluminium in a choice of titanium or black finishes respectively, with Sonus faber's traditional front baffle finished in coffee or black leather.

The Serafino may look like a slightly smaller version of the Amati Tradition [HFN Oct '17] but in the flesh it still feels big, and it's soon obvious that a lot of work has gone into its design. A large 3.5-way system, it is said to be a full para-aperiodic vented box and has a striking rear end treatment – the back panel is an aluminium extrusion that forms both part of the speaker's exoskeleton, and also part of its so-called Stealth Ultraflex system where the port ducts are lined to reduce turbulence [see HFN Jun '15].

The drive units are all Sonus faber's own of course, the tweeter being the H28 XTR-04, which many audiophiles will surely know is a 28mm silk dome, complete with a natural wood 'acoustic labyrinth' rear chamber. This crosses over to the M15 XTR-04 midrange unit at 2.5kHz – this being a 150mm diameter design complete with neodymium magnet system. At 250Hz the first of two Sonus faber W18XTR-08 woofers pitches in, both with 180mm cones made from a syntactic foam core between external surface skins of cellulose pulp. At 80Hz, the second joins the party.

As it's such a sizeable thing, you might expect the Serafino to be fairly efficient, and the manufacturer does indeed claim a sensitivity of 90dB that was largely met in our tests [see Lab Report]. Alongside its 350W power handling rating, the speaker is obviously designed to go very loud. So while you'll need a large-ish listening room for these 52kg cabinets it's worth knowing that their bass is readily 'tuneable' by positioning.

sqnote.jpgBristling With Detail
From the moment you fire up this loudspeaker, it's clear that you're listening to something special. It simply does not sound like most examples of the breed, regardless of size or price. There's a certain vibrancy that makes pretty much any type of music you play through it unerringly good fun. Recordings feel alive, bristling with detail and nuance – with the Serafino, Sonus faber appears to have mastered the secret of making highly transparent loudspeakers that are nonetheless extremely musically engaging. It is powerful, shows great poise, and yet is also the life and soul of the party. This isn't the most common of combinations, as many will know.

For example, feed it a clean slice of well-recorded classic pop music, such as Malcolm McLaren's 'House Of The Blue Danube' [from Waltz Darling; Epic 460736 2], and one is instantly struck by the physicality of the loudspeaker. It is not one of the largest I've encountered, yet it appears to be able to shift vast amounts of air with utter ease. The song's thumping electronic bass line – beautifully syncopated with snare drums and hi-hats from the drum machine – proved a joy to listen to. This speaker is able to excavate from deep down low and pound out huge amounts of low frequency information. Yet it remains rock-solid, as if the drive units were set into the cliff face of some windswept coastal cove!

Sonus faber SpA (Fine Sounds Group)
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
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