After writing recent reviews on the Sonus faber Electa Amator III and Olympica Nova II speakers, I knew that I would be in for a treat when I got the opportunity to review their up-market Serafino Tradition models from their Homage lineup. Sonus faber is well known for combining amazing sound quality with innovative and class-leading design and craftsmanship, and all those attributes become even greater as you work your way up within their extensive offering of loudspeakers.
Sonus faber Serafino Tradition Loudspeaker
- Unmatched Industrial Design and Finishing
- 3.5-way design
- Precise imaging, and defined soundstage
- Solid bass output for 180mm drivers!
The Sonus faber Serafino Tradition loudspeakers ($25,000) are the middle-sized offering in the Italian speaker maker’s Homage Tradition lineup and are aligned between the larger Amati Tradition floor-standing models ($32,500), and the Guarneri Tradition stand-mount ($18,000). Named after famous violin makers, the Homage Tradition lineup sits below Sonus faber’s Reference line of loudspeakers that range upwards of $250,000. When you enter the realm of the Homage Tradition, you’re experiencing music reproduction capabilities that most would refer to as “reference”.
3.5-way, full para-aperiodic vented box “Stealth Ultraflex” system and “Zero Vibration Transmission” technology
90 dB SPL (2.83v/1m)
80 Hz – 250 Hz – 2500 Hz
30 Hz – 35,000 Hz, Stealth Reflex included
H28 XTR-04 DAD Arrow Point, Ø 28 mm
M15 XTR-04 Neodymium Magnet System, Ø 150 mm
2 x W18XTR-08, Ø 180 mm
Suggested Amplifier Power Output:
80W – 350W, without clipping
Dimensions (H x W x D):
43 x 15.6 x 19 in.
115 lb. each
$25,000 / pair
Sonus faber, loudspeaker review, 2021, Serafino Tradition, Homage Tradition, speaker review
The Sonus faber Serafino Tradition loudspeakers are a 3.5-way design featuring 2, W-18 XTR-08 180mm woofers, 1 M15 XTR-04 150mm midrange, and 1 H28 XTR-04 DAD-Arrow Point tweeter (shared with the $120K pair of Sonus faber Aida models!). It depends on your perspective, but I would consider these to be mid-sized floor-standing speakers at 43” tall, 15.6” wide, and 19” deep. Weighing in at an impressive 115lbs each, it’s easy to tell that these speakers are built extremely well.
In typical Sonus faber fashion, the Serafinos feature a leather-wrapped face of the speaker that is contrasted by the silver rings around the drivers themselves. The Wenge finish offers a dark brown leather, whereas the Red finish uses black leather. With such a beautiful design, it’s nice that their “rubber-band” speaker grills allow you to still see the drivers when they are in place. The shape of the tower is also the common violin styling within the Sonus faber range, and that is done to control resonance within the cabinet as well as provide a very artistic appeal.
On the back of the speakers, running from top to bottom, you will find a solid piece of extruded and anodized aluminum (black on the Red option, and silver on the Wenge) that is part of the Stealth Ultraflex™ system, an extremely low turbulence porting system. With this, you no longer have an unattractive port at the back of the speaker, or the “chuffing” sound that many times comes with it.
To support the hefty Serafino speakers, Sonus faber has created a lower base that extends out several inches from the cabinet itself and incorporates their “Silent Spikes” to reduce the transmission of vibrations to the listening room. As with everything else on the Serafino, the feet have received just as much attention to detail and artistry as the rest of the speaker.
For wiring purposes, the Serafino utilizes wonderfully engineered binding posts that are aligned vertically, and offer bi-wiring capability for those who wish to do so.
As for the main finish of the Serafino Traditions, you can choose from the Red as I have received for my review samples or the stunning brown finish of their Wenge option. Either way, you can’t help but stare in awe at the impressive woodwork and final finishing of the high gloss cabinets. They are sanded flat and perfectly polished to enhance the wood substrates with amazing clarity. This is coming from a guy who has made a living out of polishing paint on multi-million-dollar exotic and collector cars…I know a fantastic finish when I see one!
As I previously stated, the Sonus faber Serafino Tradition speakers weigh a solid 115lbs each, which translates into about 140lbs all boxed up. Fortunately, though, Sonus faber does a great job of packaging so that they don’t have to use unnecessarily large boxes. So, getting these speakers down into my lower-level media room wasn’t too challenging in comparison to others I have hauled down here.
I don’t know what it is about getting new gear in, whether it’s for reviewing purposes or for personal purchases, but I always get excited about the unboxing process as if I were 9 years old again on Christmas morning. And when you’re unpacking something from the likes of Sonus faber or McIntosh, you know that when you finally remove the last of the protective covering, you’re going to be in for a real treat. When I got the Serafinos out of the box and all that was remaining was their soft cover, I slowed myself down for just a brief moment to enhance the anticipation of it all knowing that I was only going to experience it once. And when I did the final reveal, I literally laughed out loud at what I saw. Standing in front of me was easily one of the most beautiful pieces of industrial design and artisan craftsmanship that I had ever seen…of any kind! The stunning red cabinet, the contrasting black anodized trim pieces, and the leather all came together to form one cohesive piece of art standing before me. The passion that went behind the design and manufacturing of the Serafino Tradition easily showed, and finally proved to me that the Italians have that flair about them that you just don’t see anywhere else in the world. Think Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Pagani automobiles when you think about Sonus faber speakers.
Fortunately, over the last couple of years, I have gotten to know Livio Cucuzza at Sonus faber in Italy. He is the driving force behind their designs and is extremely passionate about all things artistic and beautiful. He is also a fellow car nut, which is yet another reason to respect him.
After I received the Sonus faber Serafino Tradition speakers and set them up, I immediately sent Livio a message congratulating him on the design and telling him that I don’t know that I had seen another so beautiful. His reply was humble and genuine (as always) and said that it meant a lot since it was coming from someone who is constantly around the most beautiful cars in the world.
When I initially received the speakers, I was going through a major media room re-model (article forthcoming), which means it was a disaster mess and not conducive to my normal review protocols. This worked out though because I could have the Serafinos playing during the break-in period without jumping ahead of things and trying to do any critical listening before they were ready.
Once I finally got the media room put back together, I placed the Serafino Traditions in a similar fashion to where I had previously reviewed the Sonus faber Olympica Nova II speakers. After some minor tweaks, I settled on a final resting place with the front baffles being 51” from the back wall, and the mid-point of the baffles being 35” from the side walls. The distance between the speakers was 9’ from tweeter to tweeter, and my listening position was right at 10’ in front. For best imaging and soundstage, the speakers were toed-in so that the tweeters aimed to cross just behind my head.
McIntosh MC611 Monoblock amplifiers
PS Audio BHK Signature Preamplifier
PS Audio DirectStream DAC
PS Audio PerfectWave SACD Transport
Auralic Aries G2.1 Streamer
Tellurium Q Ultra Black II Speaker Cables and Bi-Wire Jumpers
AudioQuest Niagara 3000 Power Conditioner
Room treatments by Kinetics Noise Control and Vicoustic
The one thing that I know for sure is that you (the reader) and I (the writer) share a distinct commonality in that we are both music lovers, fans of music, or whatever you want to call it. That love of music has caused us to make some very questionable financial decisions over the years as we seek what we individually consider to be the perfect medium for playing what we love to listen to. When we first started our journey in music, most of us were in the “quantity” camp as opposed to the “quality” camp. One of the big reasons is because when we first start getting into it, we’re younger, and typically don’t have the income to support the quality side of things. Volume is relatively inexpensive, and back then loud was “good”.
But as we mature in our listening tastes, and our progression through life and careers enable us to afford the finer things in life, we tend to go up-market in the stereo gear we buy. But as we do that, we find that many of the products out there get more specialized and may not work well with the type of music or recordings that we enjoy the most. Navigating those waters can become costly, and they can take a lot of time. For me personally, I enjoy most types of music, particularly if they are recorded and engineered well. Granted, I don’t listen to much classical or country, but I can still appreciate a great performance.
So, when I am evaluating audio gear, I tend to prefer those products that have the ability to play just about everything. If a product is overly revealing, then I might not be able to enjoy the actual music as much because it is showcasing flaws in the recording or engineering of it. If a product (or speaker in this case) is ruler-flat in its frequency response, then it may come across to my ears at least as a bit boring, or dry, or simply a reproduction that takes away from the liveliness of the music.
When listening to the Sonus faber Serafino Tradition speakers though, I find that they can be both fun and accurate at the same time. They can provide me with a tremendous amount of details, without coming across as analytical or synthetic sounding. They simply allow me to enjoy being a music lover without worrying about audiophile-speak and thinking more about the equipment than the music.
When you look at the specs of the Serafinos, you’ll notice that they are listed at a 90 dB sensitivity rating, which means they shouldn’t be overly needy in terms of the amount of power required to drive them. I don’t know that I would pair them with a 10w amp, but you don’t need 1k, either. Granted, I’m a bit spoiled with McIntosh monoblocks at 600 watts each, but rarely did I ever see the needles go above 100 watts even at ear-splitting levels. And in terms of range, they list a maximum depth of 30 Hz, which I believe they come close to when you’re looking at the in-room response. For some, that is more than enough. But there are plenty of recordings out there (the fun ones!) that do extend well below that. If you’re one of those people who like to dig deep and feel notes between 20 Hz and 30 Hz, I’d recommend teaming the Serafino with a great pair of subwoofers.
So now let’s take a look at some obligatory music observations when played through the Sonus faber Serafino Tradition speakers.
Teardrop by Newton Faulkner
I have heard this song a hundred times by the band Massive Attack, and I’m sure many of you have as well. But this version by Newton Faulkner has a completely different feel with vocals really being center stage, especially during the first minute and a half. Through the Serafino, the vocals come through with stunning clarity and realism; placed directly in the center with instruments well balanced from left to right and even extending out beyond the outer boundaries. When the (deep) bass kicks in at about a minute and a half into the song, you can tell that it’s held back a bit by the 30Hz limitations, but still very pleasing and well-integrated. If you didn’t know just how deep that bass goes, you’d never know that you were missing anything because the Serafinos didn’t distort while trying to recreate notes that they were not capable of.
Planet Dada (Flambouyant) by Yello.
In this song off their album, The Eye from 2003 played through the Sonus fabers, electronic wizardry by Boris Blank is on full display exposing every nuance from top to all but the very bottom notes. Don’t mistake the violin-named and shaped speaker as one intended for chamber music…these can reproduce extreme dynamics without a hint of compression or distortion when pushed by the mighty MC611 monos from McIntosh. They can perform at very high levels with the meters “only” peaking at around the 100-watt level. Precise placement of sounds is as wide, and deep in both directions as I have ever heard. At times, you could swear that it is playing through all the speakers in my Dolby Atmos setup…the sound is that enveloping. I regularly found myself looking over my shoulder at my KEF Ci3160RL in-wall surrounds expecting to detect music being played from them. I just had one of my good friends who owns a high-end audio store over for a listen, and after we played this song, he claimed that he’s listened to this track many, many times, but heard things in the Serafinos that he had never heard before. He also had to verify that we were listening to only the two speakers, and not the entire Dolby Atmos system. Based on the systems I’ve demoed in his store over the years, I took this as a huge compliment in favor of the Sonus faber speakers!
Sing Sang Sung by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.
This is one to listen to at “live levels”, and the Serafinos did not disappoint. You’ve heard of the “front-row seating” analogy in audio reviews, however with this song through these speakers, it’s like being the actual band leader on stage right in front of all the different musicians. Everything rings through with uncanny clarity and definition from the drums to clarinet to some amazing trumpet playing that can strain lesser speakers. That playing in particular really shows off the amazing tweeters selected for the Serafino as they portrayed the highs of the closely mic’d trumpet with stunning accuracy. I had another friend over to demo the system who has spent a lot of time attending audio shows over the years, and he is the one who introduced me to this track. He said that the first time he heard this song was at an MBL demo room, and he was completely blown away by the effortless dynamics that they portrayed. He also said that he has never heard that song again being played so well until he heard it on the Serafinos in my system. I’d say that’s extremely high praise indeed!
Song after song, music genre after genre, the Sonus faber Serafino Tradition brought an overall level of listening enjoyment that I have not experienced, at least in my own listening space. They were also my personal definition of the perfect blend of quality and quantity, with a stunning visual design kicker!
I can’t imagine wanting or needing anything more than what the SONUS FABER SERAFINO TRADITION provides. They literally tick all my audiophile boxes, which is exactly why I purchased the review pair!
- Some of the most impressive industrial design and finish that I have ever seen, regardless of price!
- Precise imaging and mile-wide soundstage.
- Capable of showcasing all types of music.
- Did I mention just how beautiful they are to look at?
- No shortcomings from my perspective
With the Sonus faber Serafino Tradition speakers, you don’t need the absolute best, “audiophile” recordings to make them sound amazing. They are a unique blend of speakers that can handle all genres, be it super delicate, or they can hit you with a hammer…all with that touch of SF sweetness that they are well known for.
Their industrial design, artistry, and fit & finish are among the best I have ever seen. As I previously stated, I am heavily involved in the exotic automotive market, and what the Serafinos remind me of is the design and artistic elements from Pagani automobiles also from Italy. Every little detail is well thought out from both an engineering perspective, and from an artistic side as well. You will never get tired of looking at (or listening to) these speakers, and they will always impress your guests even before they get the opportunity to listen to them. The styling will also fit into any décor that I can imagine. Not many speaker manufacturers can accomplish this.
Yes, $25K is a lot of money. Period. Even if you’re doing very well in life, that kind of money is definitely an investment when it comes to loudspeakers. But with the Sonus faber Serafinos, you’re getting one of the most balanced blends of musical reproduction you can buy that aren’t overly sensitive at placement, and they also happen to be marvels of industrial design and artistic craftsmanship. There’s a lot of worthy competition in the $15K~$25K range of speakers, but quite honestly, I can’t imagine wanting or needing anything more than what these stunning speakers offer.
In the end, I purchased the review samples, as well as the matching Vox center channel speaker in the Homage Series, to represent the new reference in my system.