Italian Speaker Manufacturer Sonus Faber Breaks the Mold Celebrating Its 30th Anniversary

Worldwide distributors, key retailers, representatives of Fine Sounds Group-associated companies McIntosh and Audio Research as well members of the audio press gathered at Sonus Faber’s Vicenza, Italy factory March 26th through the 29th to celebrate in grand Italian style the speaker company’s 30th anniversary.

The celebration’s focal point was the all new Ex3ma loudspeaker, which was developed over the past year and a half by Sonus Faber’s design team using as its inspiration the original 1991 Extrema, a legendary stand mounted design that extracted maximum and at the time seemingly impossibly performance from a two-way loudspeaker.

Beginning with its dramatic, angular shape, in no way does the new X3ma resemble the original design, or, for that matter, any previous Sonus Faber product.

Everything about the Ex3ma is new from the outside in, beginning with a complex shape carbon fiber monocoque skeletal structure produced by multi-layers of carbon fiber damped in between with layers of wood laminate and rohacell foam applied to a mold that’s then “cooked” in an autoclave to produce an incredibly stiff, strong, yet low mass, non-resonant structure.

The handsome wood accents of solid Red Spruce from Val di Fiemme, also used in the production of musical instruments, are CNC machined to produce irregular three-dimensional shapes that complement the carbon fiber structure to give the speaker its “Sonus Faber-iness”.

Thick, heavly hand-finished front and back panels CNC machined from Avional aluminum alloy billets attach to the carbon fiber structure sandwiched with copper sheets and visco-elastic decoupling agents.

The drivers, developed in-house by Sonus Faber engineers make use of various metals, nano-carbon structures and a physical vapor deposition based tweeter of Beryllium that’s then coated via the same process with a layer of DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) to produce a well damped metal dome.

The tweeter is truly an international product. The beryllium dome comes from America, the diamond vapor deposition is done in Germany, the rear support structure is made from Ergal aluminum alloy as well as Gun Metal—an alloy of copper, zinc and tin milled in Italy and final assembly takes place at Scan-Speak in Denmark.

The 7 inch mid-woofer uses non-carbon and a special damping foam as well as a combination of metals to form the massive basket structure. The mid-woof features a 6N pure copper wire coil wound on a controlled “eddy current” former.

A rear mounted, “race track” shaped passive radiator fitted with a flat piston diaphragm that resembles ones used by KEF many years ago as well as a motor that can be adjusted via a rear panel mounted to switch to one of five positions to vary the amount of damping. Sonus Faber calls this arrangement the “L.E.M.B.A.B.R” (Electro Magnetic Brake Auxiliary Bass Radiator).

Thus the speaker can operate at one extreme as a quasi-sealed box (maximum damping) and as a quasi-ported speaker at the other depending upon personal preference and room placement

The 2350Hz crossover uses the highest quality Mundorf Supreme capacitors, Jantzen inductors, each three-dimensionally hand built by Research and Development manager Paolo Tezzon using point-to-point construction with Shunyata hook-up wire.

The included stand makes use of similar damping and copper sandwich construction techniques.

Response is said to be flat to around 38Hz with smooth roll-off from there and up to 40kHz. Most importantly the new speaker’s efficiency is 88dB, which is the same as the original Extrema, but the new speaker is much more easily driven.

Only 30 pairs will be manufactured and sold factory-direct through the auspices of S-F dealers. Serial numbers will run from 1983 to 2014.

Less cynics think Sonus Faber might go back on its word and produce more Ex3mas once the 30 $50,000 pairs have been sold (which should already have happened), Fine Sounds CEO Mauro Grange held a mold smashing ceremony Friday afternoon outside company headquarters.

As 250 or so witnesses watched he donned a pair of white gloves and grabbed a large, heavy sledge-hammer. I had my GoPro camera on to record the event but without warning Mr. Grange grabbed me out of the crowd and asked me to join him in the smashing. Watch the video:

kenkirk's picture

The original Extrema has a published spec sensitivity of 88db, not 81db. I own a pair. But you are correct about the load they present to the amp as punishing. Many a great amp will clip on the original extremas due to the special crossover design. But they remain after all of these years as my favorite Sonus Faber speakers. I also still have the Amati Homage you once owned and reviewed. I also have a set of Electa Amators I's.  Why they would break the mold and limit this new set 30 pairs is beyond me. 



Michael Fremer's picture

I'll amend what I wrote. Those Amati Homages are another difficult speaker more in terms of room loading than amp loading. They worked brilliantly in my old room but when I moved into where I am now I just couldn't get any bass out of them. It was pretty crazy..... I think you'll see these drivers and similar carbon fiber technology in upcoming speakers. They just wanted these 30 pairs to be special....

Jim Tavegia's picture

Who wouldn't want them gracing their living room system.  

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes they are something to look at. The lines are stunning. The sound takes Sonus in a new direction—at least based on what I was able to hear: more sports car, less sedan.

amandela50's picture

Mikey:  What are the chance's that the good folks at Sonus will front you a review pair of the new Extrema's? BTW, I agree with you: this may be one of the sexiest speakers I have ever "seen". Matej Isakat over Mono and Stereo has what can only be described as an audio obsessive's collection of Extrema photos. They really are beautifully rendered (the photos and the speakers) and worth catching a glimpse of.  

Paul Boudreau's picture

Do those speakers look a bit like Cybermen to anyone else?

Daniel Emerson's picture

...but the name is a bit naff. I can't decide if it reads like a boy band or a skin complaint.

Looking forward to more affordable Sonus Fabers with the influence of this design, though.

simon's picture

...but I've got to disagree with Jim. I don't think these are beautiful at all. I think they just look like some over-designed speakers produced by a 2nd year industrial design student. And yes, the name sounds like a skin complaint.

I wouldn't care except that they bear the name Sonus Faber. Franco Serblin's Sonus Faber made speakers informed and inspired by the greatest musical instrument makers of all time. They used the same techniques and materials and they "played" music, they didn't just reproduce it.

Does anyone agree? I just think that there are enough manufacturers doing the sports car variety of speaker. SF were the first speaker I fell in love with and it's not about "things were better in the old days" because I'm only bloody 36 but I just think that SF have completely thrown out the one thing that made them special.

Am I wrong? I just don't see it.

kenkirk's picture

I have not cared much for the direction Sonus Faber has taken since Franco sold. But they remain very successful. And more people know of Sonus Faber today than did back in the days of Franco. Or that's the impression I get. But I am only interested in the original designs done by Franco for the reasons you mention. Many speakers grab your attention with speed or dynamics or resolution. And they are great. But I get tired of listening to these type speakers. The classic Sonus Fabers that I own do enough of that to get my attention when the music calls for it. But more than anything else they just pull me into the music with emotion. All of my Sonus Fabers do this. They just have different strengths and presentations. My Amati's can play big, doing the full orchestra with believability. The Electa Amators create a huge sound stage and do smaller scale bands with incredible realism. And my Extremas, driven with great amps ( I use Cat JL-1's ) throw the widest and deepest sound stage with more velvet. So smooth. So dynamic. Like the Electa Amators on steroids. But I would love to hear the new Ex3ma's. But I am afraid that will never happen. With only 30 pairs, I just don't hang with the right people to get a chance to hear them. Fingers crossed. I do like the look of the new speakers. But I think my old classic models are better looking in my home than the modern looking newer Sonus designs. 



Michael Fremer's picture

But you need to see more vantage points before final judgement. Live, i thought they looked spectacular.

ravenacustic's picture

Some of the comments regarding a new generation of sound from SF. I was unpleasantly surprised a couple of years ago when I heard the Veneres at RMAF. Lean to a fault is how I would describe them. 

Michael Fremer's picture

Keep in mind the Veneres are Sonus's entry level speaker aimed at a younger demographic and like it or not they have a slightly different 'ear'. 

simon's picture

...the Domus range and before that, the Home range (I'm aware of the tautology, Italophiles) and before that, the original Home range were all aimed at that same demographic and each of them still contained the bloody beating heart that Ken describes.

amandela50's picture


I had the good fortune to hear both the new Olympica 1 and the older but still recent Amati Futura recently at Hanson Audio in Dayton, Ohio. Driven by a trio of lovely but hardly warm-sounding Plinius solid state gear (integrated amp, phono stage, digital server), both speakers deftly balanced neutrality and natural warmth, producing a sound of great beauty. The big Amatis in particular really tickled my fancy (and at $35,000/pair they should). They did it all: scale, drama, detail, deep bass, superb imaging, all the while never loosing sight of music's proper tonal balance. You should hear them properly set up. The old Sonus blood and soil aestehtic still resides in their elegant cabinets. 

Jay's picture

I've always loved the high-end Sonus Faber models, but one sensitive enough and with a benign enough load to work well with a mid-power valve amp would be nice.  The old Minima Amator with an Audio Research D70mkII was a great combination, but the original extrema needed serious power.  I wonder who'll be the first to try this baby with an ARC Ref 75?

kenkirk's picture

I often drive my Amati's with a Music Reference RM 10 MK II. It will play them more than loud enough with great bass dynamics and volume. The amp uses 4 EL 84's in pp with 35 watts per channel. That amp can drive the Electa Amators pretty well too. If I want more volume, I use my Music Reference RM 9 MK II. That amp uses 8 KT 77's in pp for a little over 100 watts. And of course it will drive the Amati's to extreme levels. But only my Cat JL-1's can properly drive the Extremas with tubes. And I have seen a few big, powerful solid state amps take a dump on the Extremas. One Classe amp clipped hard on a bass note and I had to replace the mid woofer. It bent the voice coil it hit the magnet so hard. The original extemas require careful amp choice, wires, and room placement. Then they will light up your life. I have owned them for 15 years and I still don't think I have gotten everything they can offer. I really was hoping Sonus Faber would just reintroduce the original Extrema like they did with the Minima. But Ex3ma is the new Sonus Faber in spades. I would love to own it. But I doubt it would truly replace my Extremas.



Jay's picture

I've only heard the Amati with the Krell FPB series amplification and they sang magnificently.  But I've heard the Guarneri with many different amps and one pairing that on paper seemed fantastic, the Air Tight ATM-211 just didn't work well together at all.

simon's picture

I feel that SF hit their peak with the Stradivari Homage, a speaker that encapsulated everything that SF was for me. I spent a very happy week with them at the hifi shop I worked at and then they were gone. I was so excited to hear about their new flagship (aria or whatever) and then I just saw this silly, busy, $200,000 speaker that was the polar opposite of what Franco set out to do.

If you can make a speaker like that, great, but don't make it under the brand that stands for purity and simplicity and truth in materials and such. It's just jarring.

The Strads are a '62 Ferrari 250 GTO, the aria's (or whatever) are a Lexus LFA. Technically better but you can have it.

(Disclaimer: I have driven neither of these cars, nor even seen one in real life, nor heard the aria (or whatever) speakers. The internet was made for people like me!)

End rant.

ex3ma's picture

Dear Simon, you are right, Stradivari is one of the best.

Unfortunately as you know Franco is not more with us,  in our company and no more with us in this life.

With all my respect to him I tried and I'm trying  to manage the company in the best way possible (I'm join in 2009 when SF was almost to collapse even if the Stradivari was one the best, Franco left the company in 2006). Something could be good something could be wrong, but in any case all traditions are safe in SF and if you have the opportunity to be in Italy , please come to our company and I'll be happy to show you Sonus Faber. All of us are working with passion and trying to give our best.

I personally own 2 cars of the same brand (no ferrari !!!!) one old (is been my first special car and I love it) and another brand new. Same car, same brand, different age but I love both of them even they are completely different. (please excuse my english)


Mauro G.


Michael after the sledgehammer are you still good ?


Michael Fremer's picture

Just so readers know, the respondent is Mauro Grange, CEO of Fine Sounds, which owns Sonus Faber, McIntosh, Audio Research and Wadia. I like this man's style and it comes through in his response to some withering criticism posted here.

As for me, after having swung the sledgehammer, I'm fine!

BTW readers, if you think I've been "buttered up" by Sonus Faber or by Mr. Grange, when he asked me about the demo I heard at the factory, he got an earful from me!  

simon's picture

I certainly mean no disrespect to you or to anyone who is working hard at making SF what it is today. I apologise unreservedly for the withering-ness of my criticism, which, upon reading back was far more withering-y than I intended. Such is the dangerous anonimity of the internet that I quite forgot my manners. Please forgive me.

I stand by the general thrust of my post, though, tactless as it was. I did find the change in direction jarring and I did not understand it from a company with such a clear mission and direction for so many years.

Myself and some of my ex-colleagues mourned Franco's passing as one might mourn a favourite musician or artist: distantly but with real emotion and loss. I had the genuine pleasure of meeting Cesare Bevilacqua on one of his trips to Australia and was struck by the sincerity of his passion, even through all the jetlag and language differences.

These criticisms of mine are of course, completely selfish. The financial viability of a company and the livelihoods of all of it's employees are far more important than my churlish little wants but we all experience the world through the prism of our own experience and I am but a flawed hooman.

When I come back to Italy - if my wife lets me - I will certainly accept your invitation to visit Sonus Faber. Maybe I will hear what I miss and maybe I will not, it doesn't matter. That you are all working with passion and giving your best is enough.

Humbly yours


ex3ma's picture

Dear Simon,

thank you for your passion.

I felt the need to answer to you just because I understood your love to our company and I assure you that the same love is in myself. I appreciate the criticisms when they are came from passion, love and heart. These criticisms allowed me to stay strongly attacked to our passions and values.

I strong believe that we have to do everything is possible to save our world and try to open our world to new fans and younger generations without losing our history and our joy.

I really hope to have the opportunity to meet you in Italia (we can offer a wonderful dinner to your wife)  we may listen the music together and talk about past ,present and future .

Anyway I know that one ex3ma will be in Australia and for sure I'll be there. Please let's have the opportunity to meet in person.



amandela50's picture


I had no idea that the company was near financial collapse in 2009. I, for one, love the sound of your new speakers. I had a chance to hear botht the Olympica 1 and the more costly Amati Futura at Hanson Audio in Ohio, and all I can say is amazing. As I wrote to Simon:

"They [the Amati Futuras] did it all: scale, drama, detail, deep bass, superb imaging, all the while never loosing sight of music's proper tonal balance. You should hear them properly set up. The old Sonus blood and soil aestehtic still resides in their elegant cabinets."

If the new Extremas sound even better than the Amatis, well now, that would be something.

By the way, brother, your English is just fine.

ex3ma's picture

Hi Amandela50,

I really appreciate that you use "brother" and I'm very glad about your opinion of Olympica and Amati. I hope to be able to produce ever  and ever good products, or better, to be able to do our best and not only with Sonus but even with the rest of our brands.

Thanks also to support me with my english and since the fact that I'm moving myself in US I hope to improve it because in other case .......... I risk to have many problems :)).



audiof001's picture

I, for one, have appreciated reading this exchange between Mauro and Simon. Passion for our hobby sometimes brings us to comment a bit harshly from time to time. Reading the genuine heart felt responses from a manufacturer of a product line I've always admired shows a true depth of character.

I think the lower priced Veneres are a grand idea. We need affordable products to entice others into audio. It's hard to get youngsters to listen and even harder to get 40-60 year olds to care about sound. They've settled for the equipment they've had for 20-30 years and see no reason to change. One friend clearly refuses to hear the difference and is too set in his ways to change. He bought speakers I recommended , but for their style alone (Studio Electric monitors $2500), has a 30 year old Onkyo receiver worth $100 (likes how it looks), automatic Hitachi table worth $100 (likes how it looks), uses cheap Monster cable wire (because that's all the receiver will acept) and no name interconnects... and has a Benz Silver MC ($425) on the front end. Everything between the cartridge and speakers is junk. A modest investment in an affordable table and integrated amp - even with a budget phono stage (like the db-8 for $165-195) - would vastly improve the level of reproduction, but he just can't bring himself to invest the money. After 4 years of recommending everything worthy, I gave up trying.

So, maybe, audio is truly for the young and impresionable.