Certain iconic products have become part of our cultural DNA. The Coca-Cola bottle. The Rolex Submariner watch. The Chanel N°5 bottle. The Ferrari 308.
The McIntosh amplifier. I have no doubt that if you closed your eyes right now, you’d be able to conjure up an image of a McIntosh amp with a great big VU meter beaming out all blue like an American Cyclops eye.
While the Sonus Faber brand isn’t yet as iconic as McIntosh, each time I view the Italian company’s products and the slick, stylish way in which they’re presented, I can sense that it’s headed in that direction. I can see that SF is working hard to build a distinct identity and an association with luxury products.
In Munich, Sonus Faber was unveiling its new Stradivari G2 speaker, a re-introduction of the original Stradivari, which was introduced 20 years ago. In a round-numbers-matter way, the release of the new Stradivari also coincides with Sonus Faber’s 40th anniversary.
In what seemed a pointed message about keeping away from the riff-raff, Sonus Faber hosted the premiere at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski München. Without a doubt, this is the poshest establishment in which I’ve ever set foot. Dressed in my typical show attire of jeans, comfy shoes, and a faded T-shirt, I noted with wry amusement how the liveried doorman almost managed to avoid showing any disgust at having to deal with one of the poors. Without some sort of lottery win, I’m definitely not a target customer for the Stradivari G2. That’s fine and all, but I’m not used to having it shown quite so clearly to me.
Anyway, the Stradivari is an uncommonly elegant speaker. The woodwork is stunning. The book-matching on the veneers is utterly flawless, both on each side of the drivers and between speakers in a pair. In his product coverage, Doug Schneider has already provided all the technical details on the Stradivari G2, so I’m going to focus on how these speakers sounded.
Sonus Faber was playing great music, much of which I’d never heard before. But for crying out loud—they never let a song finish! I caught some Johnny Cash, a snippet of Dead Can Dance, a cover of a Portishead song. I can understand why they did this—you’ve got to give the transient listeners a good idea of what this system can do with disparate types of music. But still, it pissed me off.
Powered by two big McIntosh MC1.25KW amplifiers, the Stradivari G2s sounded almost decadent. I’d wager these speakers need a huge room, perhaps even bigger than the medium-sized hotel conference room they were playing in. There was a ton of bass—deep, high-quality, rich, juicy bass that made me feel like I was sinking into a huge sofa with down-filled cushions. Through the midrange, the Stradivaris sounded neutral and clean. I noticed just a touch of warmth on Johnny Cash’s voice. Not much, just enough to clean off any sharp edges. Just enough to add a slight layer of luxury. Up top, the Stradivaris were clear and unforced, smooth as all get-out.
In all, the Stradivari G2s’ sound perfectly matched the looks. Clean, luxurious, and comfortable. The G2 is a big speaker, and it sounds big. At one point, a giant drum track lashed out really, really loudly. Everyone in the room jumped, me included. This speaker can play very loudly without strain and without losing its composure. It’s not like that Ferrari 308 I mentioned earlier. No, it’s a Mercedes-Maybach S Class, the one with the big-ass V12 engine. Large, powerful, luxurious.
A thought about those McIntosh amps. Sure, there are more expensive amplifiers out there, more powerful ones, maybe even better-sounding ones. That’s not the point though. Hearing these amps powering a pair of Stradivari G2s, I couldn’t imagine there could be better-sounding amplifiers. How could another system sound better than this? For sure, other systems could sound different. But better? Combine this system’s stately, aristocratic, architecturally beautiful looks with its luxurious sound, and you’ve got something that’s gonna sell like hotcakes in Monaco.
As I walked toward the exit of the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski München, I noticed an older couple sitting in the restaurant, their table piled high with a most complicated breakfast, which was arrayed vertically on some sort of chrome triple-decker stand. It probably cost more than my hotel room for the night. The man was wearing a Rolex Submariner, and I was fairly sure I caught a whiff of Chanel N°5 as I passed. Perhaps they’ll pick up a pair of Stradivari G2s on their way out to the Benz.
Senior Editor, SoundStage!