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Reviewer: Joël Chevassus
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Apple iMac, Apple mybook, Wyred4Sound Music Server [on review], on loan), Squeezebox Touch + Welborne Labs PSU, Jadis JD2 Drive, Yamamoto Sound Craft YDA-01, Audio GD Ref 5, Totaldac, Trends UD-10.1
Amp/Preamp: Rogue Audio Hera II, Wyred4Sound STP-SE, SPL Volume2, Orpheus Lab Three M, Trends TA-10.2
Speakers: Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolution [on loan], Triangle Magellan Duetto.
Cables: Legato digital cable, Skywire 2020 digital cable, Naturelle Audio interconnects Live 8 MK2, Audio Art SC-5 SE speaker cables, Legato Precision speaker cables, Legato Fluidita interconnects
Power cords: Audio Art Power 1 SE
Stands & room: DIY stuff, Triangle TS400 stands, Vicoustic panels
Review component retail: €13.800/pr including stands. Prices may vary according to VAT and national distributor pricing policy.

Context: "Se siamo convinti che un particolare prodotto artigianale dal Nord Italia puo essere assimilato ad un'opera d'arte pur risultando di techniche avanzate, possiamo definitivamente considerarlo prima di tutto com’un invito a godere dei diversi piaceri ed emozioni della vita"*.

Do not look for the author. He's the same as the current reviewer. It’s a condensed truth which perhaps will tell you more than what I shall still write about the new small jewel of a loudspeaker from the famous company of Arcugnano, provincia di Veneto.

* "If we are convinced that a particular handcrafted product from Northern Italy can be considered a pure masterpiece whilst being the result of advanced technology, we could also directly consider it an utmost invitation to enjoy the various pleasures and emotions of life."

Since the launch of the first Guarneri Homage bookshelf speaker in the early 1990s, Sonus faber has always been an epitome example for the very high level of elegance and emotion that can be wrung from a simple 2-way monitor. More than a tribute to the famous Cremonese school of violin makers and to Joseph Guarnerius himself, the first iteration of the current monitor under review represented a new path in the distinctive history of Sonus faber. Thanks to its original cross-sectional lute shape and particular driver complement, its trademark sound was expressed through transparent yet very opulent music making.

The same should be true for this third and last incarnation despite what might be said about the departure of founding father Franco Serblin who sold the company to private Italian holding company Quadrivio SGR. This latest version of the speaker looks to share the same laudatory spirit of aiming for the powerful sound of Guarneri del Gesù. As the successor’s name clearly illustrates—Guarneri Evolution—the new kid in town is more evolution than radical revolution. Even though in-house aesthetic values and Cremonese tradition remain jealously guarded, during the last few years Sonus faber has undergone a radical transformation. This introduced a new international dimension to the brand to transcend its more regional player positioning of the past. Since its acquisition of Sonus faber, Quadrivio has embarked on a strategic globalization of its portfolio. This was highlighted in 2008 with the acquisition of American brand Audio Research and further reinforced in 2010 with the purchase of Wadia Digital.

The distribution network for Sonus faber has been comprehensively reorganized and broadened to now include more than 40 national distributors. In addition to external growth, Quadrivio invested in a young but highly skilled work force for Sonus faber's R&D which is headed by engineer Paolo Tezzon. This strategy is quite removed from the brand's origins which were dominated by a single man's vision. Today's team approach facilitates the anticipation of new trends and the generation of wide ranging new ideas whilst still being committed to preserving one of the finest handcrafter's productions within the high-end loudspeakers market. The most prestigious illustration of the new era at Sonus faber era has been the release of its flagship The Sonus Faber. The Amati futura, Aida and Guarneri Evolution models since have all benefited from technologies that were first introduced by this statement effort.

Sometimes fresh blood might be useful to maintain the crucial passion and focus to mature a legacy like Sonus faber's to even higher levels of quality than were achieved in the past without undermining the original vision. Like the new team around Marc Le Bihan of Triangle Industries after De Vergnette's leave, the new Sonus faber design crew upholds respect for its inherited traditions and the established audiophile appeal whilst expanding prior thresholds of performance. The Cremonese knowledge that allowed for the obtaining of that most crucial timbre is still the most vital source of inspiration for the Arcugnano crew. The motto seems to be, forge new technical achievements, carefully tend to the roots of a prestigious past. That’s a reasonable way forward for Sonus faber and a good reminder that some of the best contemporary violinists still play on instruments that were built 250 years ago in Cremona.

The interdisciplinarian team at Sonus faber today consists of Paolo Tezzon and Livio Cucuzza shown as two of the current product designers.
Not shown are engineer and technical renderer Marco Trentin and driver expert Jospeh Szall of ATD.

The most recent releases from the Italian company since the change of ownership highlight an obvious desire to advance a more contemporary design aesthetic that still honors the virtues of established shapes and a high quality of tone as vital corner stones of the brand. In the same way that the Cavalino Rampante always kept in mind the importance of remaining at the avanguardia yet maintain a strong link with its glorious past, the new Sonus faber demonstrates its will to author technically more advanced products with a distinctive focus on artisanal quality. As many other companies from the Penisola, Sonus faber embodies a kind of national pride about true style.

Sonus faber's $120.000/pr Aida shows many technical solutions new to the brand.

Such expectations led the company to continue with the original’s celebrated values of transparency, warmth and tangibility to honor the brand's uncommonly seductive and luscious house sound or acoustic DNA. The Guarneri Evolution is also a demonstration of what Italians can achieve within the very real constraints of a two-way standmount speaker. Granted, it does introduce a cost-no-object strategy which keeps most of us moist with dreaming of pleasures beyond reach. But that already was the case with the first Guarneri of 2003. Then we must be realistic and factor in a different currency exchange and the rising costs of manufacture and materials since.

The basis for legendary products are rarity and luxury. Welcome to Northern Italy’s essere piuttosto di avere. It's this type of pride which drives Italian engineers no matter what their manufacturing specialty might be to achieve a combination of efficiency and enjoyment that is synthesized in a concept embodied by the Italian word capolavoro. The new Guarneri Evolution could well be considered an embodiment of the best of Italy, in this instance something that makes sounds like the very roots of unadulterated pleasure. Emotion and seduction are perhaps the most important criteria for this Italian company where the concept of high fidelity has always been more of a ploy to enhance pleasure and ecstasy rather than any ultimate achievement per se. The feminine elements are thus very much accounted for in the overall design strategy. This is not merely a question of sugary romance or vivid writerly imagination. For Italians seduction and delicacy are part of ordinary everyday life - belle ragazze, belle macchine, un paio di bei diffusori… ed un espresso senza zucchero. Mr. Clooney should ask, "what else?" That is true for all la dolce vita hedonists like yours truly.

With this background presentation concluded, the following pages focus on far more tangible arguments since behind all of this handcrafted glamour hide many quite advanced technical features.