Sonus Faber is an Italian speaker manufacturer based in Vicenza. The company started in 1983 and – since 2007 – has been part of the Fine Sounds audio group; which also includes high-end giants such as Audio Research, McIntosh and Wadia.
The manufacturer's latest product, the Extrema, confirms its high-end status with luxury build, innovative technology and massive price tag (over €30,000) to match.
As is common in our industry, the company’s headquarters are based in an anonymous industrial estate. We arrive to find the car park packed with people looking over Pagani’s new Huayra, which is here to show off Sonus Faber’s in-car set-up and is the kind of association many high-end brands are chasing.
While the building may look like just an office, all the company’s more upmarket speakers are built here too. Production runs at around 400 units a month, in total.
As we walk towards the factory floor, it’s a pleasure to see the company’s classic products on display. We’re particularly taken with a pair of original Extremas, launched back in the early 90s. These cost around £6000 at the time and quickly attained legendary status. It’s little wonder the company turned to these as inspiration for the new statement product.
We also pass the company’s anechoic chamber. It’s the place the engineers use to measure their speaker designs. At one time it wasn’t uncommon to find such facilities at a speaker manufacturer, but it’s now getting increasingly rare due to cost and space.
There’s no mistaking that the brand is part of the Fine Sounds group. There are reminders everywhere – including this stack of kit.
More after the break
Once on the shop floor, it’s a surprise to find a lack of heavy machinery. It’s not needed. The cabinets come in from an outside supplier leaving Sonus Faber to do the final assembly. This involves fitting the drive units, crossovers and the finishing trim on the enclosure, as well as the final packaging. I’m surprised to find all the crossovers are handmade, right down to the soldering.
We see lines of cabinets waiting to be completed. The quality of internal build is impressive as is the care taken to increase rigidity by bracing.
There are a number of different speakers being built. There’s a line of Minimas waiting to be assembled, with all the parts grouped together to make assembly easier.
Once made, each speaker is placed inside this test chamber to make sure they measure as expected.
A small part of the factory floor is even given over to assembling Wadia products. It’s a sign of how the parent company is trying to maximise resources. Here’s an assembly line for the Wadia’s Intuition digital stereo amplifier.
We also come across a display that shows all the components used in the new Extrema. The quality of the build and finish is deeply impressive. We see the carbon fibre enclosure alongside the drive units, crossover and rear-mounted passive radiator.
It’s clear that the engineers have refused to compromise on this product (and rightly so given its price point). The point is rammed home when we’re told that the centre cap used in the mid/bass driver – made of Beryllium like the tweeter dome and coated with diamond – costs the company as much to make as a typical pair of entry-level standmounters. Shocking.
After looking at all this exotic engineering, we’re amused by the factory floor’s music system. It’s nowhere near as upmarket as we imagined.
After we finish with the factory floor, we go to the design studio. Here we see the original design sketches for the Extrema, and the inspiration behind its distinctive external design.