We all live or die in business by our reputation. Here at Sonneteer we are certainly no different. We are human and will always have the odd off day. We all know the day when sleep didn’t visit us much the night before and breakfast was left behind as the kids chased us out of the door. So staring into a large cup of black coffee the best remedy is to dig out some of the responses and comments we have had over the years from our customers and the odd reviewer. The Sonneteer evangelists, as they may be called, always remind us why we really do all of the Sonneteer things we do. Here are a few typical recent examples:
“In this age of very dubious value, service and standards from big and impersonal retailers Sonneteer is a gem
emitting a much welcomed ray of sunshine. I am looking forward to adding more of your products to my system.”
Tony Melhuish, End user,Customer June 2011
“Your posting of December 9/10, 2010 in Ecoustics.com to Art shows you’re a great designer willing to come down to customer level, hold their hand and show them the way.”
Philippe Hing, End user,Customer June 2011
“I was lucky enough to hear some Sonneteer amps with my Harbeth C7 ES3’s a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been wanting to give a report since I was so impressed. There have been a few people recommending Sonneteer recently, and Adam Wyskonski has recommended the Orton with Harbeths in particular, so I was keen to hear it….. What I heard with the Orton, from the first moments really, was that it was extraordinarily clean and clear at the same time as it was expansive, dynamic and fast…. I would say this is the most impressive integrated amp I’ve heard up to this point; a really fine achievement made with great care.”
Pink Fish Media by an End User April 2011
“Orton is a very great amp. It has a very clear, transparency and refind sound like your description on the website. I am so surprised that the amp with only 33w can drive the speakers well in sensativity 85db. ”
Shih-Chang, End User November 2012
And of course there’s the press who have done their fair share of work to cheer us up on cloudy day:
“[On the Campion amplifier and Bronte CD player]..these machines are the objects of craftwork. Comparable to drinking single malt whisky, straight. You can enjoy the high quality sound without colouration. A person who like this is one who is a considerable lover of music and sound.” Translation. Audio Basic(Japan), Spring 2012.
“…The Morpheus Music Centre [from Sonneteer] will move you from the very first instant. This is not just a high technology laden piece of equipment, but clearly one created to bring music to life.”
Winson Ng, HiFi Review, August 2010
“…..Right away I sensed there was something special happening. While some of the preamplifiers I auditioned were (as Goldilocks would say) too hot or too cold, the Sedley was just right. It was quiet, had good sense of space, nice top end without hiss or excessive sizzle, and images were appropriately sized and didn’t sound congested or obviously colored in any way. Soundstage wasn’t too wide or too narrow and image location was excellent as evidenced by the track ”Home At Last.” This is the first preamp that I’ve had under review that I could honestly consider using for the long term. This is not to say it’s perfect and there is nothing better, but only that it doesn’t have any egregious flaws. I felt comfortable sitting and just listening (and without the feeling I was missing something or the music was being edited by the equipment).
…Tonally this preamp gets it right. I have to say that I had to be reminded I was working on a review and try to critically listen as I continually lapsed into just enjoying the music–as it should be! The other thing I noticed was that although the LP wasn’t in perfect shape the imperfections became less noticeable when the music was this engrossing.”
Brian Bloom(Yes the actor), Audiophile Audition, June 2009, USA
“…a digital amplifier of audiophile quality”
“…it’s reproduction [of music] demonstrates an incontestable transparency in the true spirit of digital
Translated from Diapason Magazine July-August 2009, France.
“…And if you’re feeling really flush, look around for Soneteer’s Bard system, a USB dongle that plugs into your
laptop and transmits to a receiver jacked into your stereo. The result is very high-quality sound that’s highly
recommended by audioheads. However, it does cost around £240″
Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian, Saturday 21 June 2008
“in fact, it comfortably compares with a variety of integrated amps and receivers in its price range.” [About theAmplifier that fits in the palm of your hand]
The Absolute Sound, December 2006
“Simple but highly effective …the quality is excellent “ ….“The Bard Audio system is recommended without
hesitation.”Gramophone June 2005
“Bard is a stroke of genius”
What Hi Fi? September 2005.
Now where are my chocolate biscuits?
Image courtesy of www.stockfreeimages.com
Open the June issue of HiFi Choice Magazine (yes it’s may and they are already on the shelves) and turn to pages 90 and ‘The Brady Bunch’ are waxing lyrical with the ‘Choice’. In keeping with our own day spent at Warrington’s hifi specialists it seems HiFi Choice were made very welcome and left smiling and brimming with confidence that hifi retail is alive and well.
What has kept us smiling is the fact that Sonneteer were well represented in the article and in a very positive way. In fact they came away saying that ‘Sonneteer enjoys a slightly lower profile than some of the other British Audio brands, but looking at the Byron, it is not easy to see why’. A clear statement that we need shout louder. It seems we impressed in both performance, aesthetics and build quality. we are happy to concur with the point of view.
The Campion has been with us since inception and the Alabaster arrived not long later. Since the mid 1990′s these two integrated hifi amplifiers have been the foundations on which Sonneteer has been built. The Sedley may have more Google hits and the Byron may have had a few more column inches in the press, but neither pluck our strings like the original amplifiers that marked our existence.
As sentimental as this all sounds it’s important to know that when we started off as young just graduated students, ideological by nature, we had this purist dream and the Campion was a fulfilment of that. In high fidelity terms we were purists and in business terms we were novices. So the first development embodies these facts. This lead to the Sonneteer Campion being critically very successful with reviewers’ hands aching as they scribbled so much prose in praise of it. The Alabaster which was based on the same design, but with a little more power followed soon after and was received with even more fanfare. The words,”the best amplifier ever made” were bandied about often as were the words “amplifier specialists” referring to us at Sonneteer. In the mean time, as the Sonneteer range has expanded and evolved, the Alabaster has been at the heart of our reference system ever since. With the exception of a few enforced changes due to supplier part modifications, it and the Campion have changed little since.
Not that long ago we announced the Orton upgrade which in itself was a long effort to better an already well respected amplifier. We can now reveal that at the same time and using much of the same learnt ideas the Alabaster and Campion amplifiers were going through a transition of their own. It would be foolish of us to think that we peaked in 1994 and that we can’t do any better. So we can make it official and tell you that a Campion or Alabaster that you buy today shares some of the ‘trickle down’ knowledge from the Orton and that there is indeed a new reference Alabaster now sitting in our listening room. Pop off the lid and the untrained eye will see very little. This really isn’t about oil filled capacitors and deionising spray. We do own an Oscilloscope or two and spectrum analysis tools are aplenty here too, but our most important tools are our ears and our brains. The trained eye will spot a few mechanical tweaks and some firming up in the power supply stage electronics. It doesn’t sound so glamorous, but the refinements, in our view, have taken the sonic performance to a higher plane.
Doug Brady Hi-Fi of Warrington are having a meet the designer day with Sonneteer’s very own Haider Bahrani showing up. Doughnuts and coffee are on offer. One imagines they will also have tea for the more discerning palate.
World famous Doug Brady Hi-Fi was born in the late 1950’s at the same time as Turntables, Vinyl and The Beatles in Liverpool, Great Britain. This Cultural Revolution with Liverpool at the centre, heralded the very first ‘Brady’ shop in Smithdown Road, Liverpool.
It was the start of something amazing and as word got around, turntable sales rocketed. Success soon followed with a flag ship store launched in Covent Garden London. Founder Douglas Brady had a passion for all things music and was instrumental in establishing some of the UK’s finest ‘High Fidelity’ audio electronic and turntable brands such as Naim, Rega and Chord. Today, in the same vein, they are very much part of the Sonneteer story.
In the early 1980’s the business moved to a more central location half way between Manchester and Liverpool at Kingsway North, Warrington, Cheshire and that’s where we are based to this day.
You can contact Doug Brady hi-fi by telephone 01925 828009 or through their contact page.
In Part 2 of our review of 2012 we head off to land of the rising sun, Japan. Our (Sonneteer) products enjoyed the poetry of Japanese reviewer on more than one occasion this year. In the Spring Audio Basic magazine wrote about the Campion amplifier and Bronte CD player stating that, “..these machines are the objects of craft work Comparable to drinking single malt whisky, straight. You can enjoy the high quality sound without colouration”. We wrote about it here in our May 2012 posting. The next episode came in the Autumn issue of Audio Accesory. This time the Bronte CD player on its own. Below are some translated extracts from the review which also spends some time praising our whole line up as well as the United Kingdom as country of Audio Aficionados.
The review starts by asking [on behalf of the reader] “who are Sonneteer?”. They went on to give a little history by stating that Sonneteer [that's us] produce realistically priced products that are accessible to the true music lover”…” Established in 1994 they are a relatively new company in the Audio Kingdom [The UK], but their products are designed in the traditional British [They said English, but I am Welsh!] way. Sonneteer products are not made exclusively for the very rich but accessible to all music lover who like to buy something a little expensive for themselves.” They then went on to describe the transitional British sound by saying, ” They [The British] don’t make their sound too loud in volume but like nuances and sensitive dynamics to be pronounced more than us [The Japanese]. The British manufactures produce high resolution audio products that maintain their resolution even at low sound volumes. We who live in cities in Japan cannot play music at loud volumes so we are very grateful to have Sonneteer products.”
Beyond the history lesson the Bronte CD player was being reviewed here and they certainly liked it. ” The music was full of energy…clearly expressive with a very good perception of detail and rhythm.The playback Sound is Faithful to the principles [of the music] … The sound reproduction is not in the true ‘high end’ style, so allowing the true music lover to concentrate the music.”
Having started the year as a winner of the Visual Grand Prix Award the Bronte CD/SACD player ends 2012 with high praise from Japan’s leading audio magazine. If we are an audio Kingdom then they certainly qualify as an audio Empire.
Magazine: The human ear is exceptionally sensitive and so responds to tiniest change in pressure in the airwaves. To give you an idea in numbers, the human ear threshold of hearing is less than one billionth of atmospheric pressure 1. Added to that the huge dynamic range we have it’s difficult to understand when some people say that they can’t hear the difference between one music system and another. Beyond the ear music is ‘listened to’ by our whole body. Deaf people have a more enhanced sense of this and often gain as much fulfilment out a piece of music as a person with the ability to hear. Albeit from a different perspective 2. I would expect that they too would notice the difference between the reproductions of different sound systems.
Recently, as we have been working on the Mark five CD players and the Mark Three Orton amplifier we have reawakened our awareness of the subtle sensitivity we have to tiny changes in sound. Because of this we find most of our work is done not behind the CAD 3 screen and not gazing at an Oscilloscope on the test bench, but on the sofa in the listening room with a clutch of CDs and with soldering iron and screw driver handy. Our abilities in audio electronics have to be at least matched with our mechanical engineering capabilities and knowledge of the dark arts. Though the latter can often be substituted with common sense. [Go to our magazine to read more]
It has taken us a little time but as Sonneteer products are received and reviewed more and more outside of the motherland we often have to wait a little for an accurate translation. In Part 1 as we look at reviews published in 2012 we start not too far back, in October when the Russian Edition of What Hi-Fi published a very pleasing review of the Sonneteer Orton amplifier. We picked it up courtesy of Audiomania.
They started off with a reference to the Bronte amplifier that was once so familiar to Russian Audiophiles:
“Our familiarity with Sonneteer amplifiers started with a digital amplifier [the Sonneteer]Bronte, a product not typical of the British company whose amplifiers, since 1994 have followed the traditions of the English mostly analogue school.” They then continued to praise the design, “ The amplifier design is uniquely different “dual mono” with a completely independent power supply for each channel and the control circuit.” and continued with ”[the] Orton’s design combines the elegance, simplicity and thoroughness, typical for the British Hi-Fi.”
It all got a little serious when Bach came into the equation:
“[The] Orton sound can also be called a classic. Main emphasis is on detailed, refined and expressive depth in the midrange charming the audience with the volume of musical information. We have yet to see and amplifier in this price range, which could so precisely and flexibly transfer the interaction of voices of Cantus Colin, performing Bach’s Actus Tragicus. At the same time, even in more complex compositions with greater number of musicians and dynamic range such as “Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky, the amplifier can deliver the frantic energy and changing diversity of every part of it. The dramatic performance is achieved not by a deafening volume, but by the exceptional solidity of the emotional expression- the same as a convincing actor with a well-trained voice and a deep understanding of the script. ”
It ended a little tong in cheek however mocking that the lovers of modern music like “Consolers of The Lonely” by the Racounteurs would not require so much detail with their music and hence perhaps the amplifier is not for them. Oh I don’t know, I had ‘Hail To The Thief’ by Radiohead and Muses latest offering ‘The 2nd Law’ both blasting through an Orton off a mark 3 Byron earlier. Reminded me of a recent experience at the O2 Arena. Me and 20,000 others. Exceptional.
Renown Japanese Manga Artist, Naoki Urasawa and a host of Analogue audio products including the twice Japanese Audio Excellence Award winner the British made Sonneteer Sedley phono pre-amplifier attended an evening of song and conversation hosted by the music producer Kouji Wakui. Better known for his Manga works of Yawara, Monster, Master Keaton and 20th Century Boys amongst others Urasawa is also affectionately known amongst our Japanese friends as an LP maniac. An early October weekend gathering of analogue enthusiasts, a guitar or two and an icon made for a perfect outing for music lovers and vinyl aficionados. The event was called ‘Analog school’. They did indeed use the american spelling to match the magazine cover shown in the picture . With Naoki Urasawa as the guest star (alongside the Sonneteer Sedley of course) Kouji Wakui hosted an evening talking about LPs and the sound quality of pressings down the ages with live music interludes by the Band Hilly Han Han.
The Sonneteer Sedley phono stage pre-amplifier which sits between your record player and your hifi system, winner of the top audio award from Japan in both 2006 and 2008 has become an icon of analogue audio reproduction globally and has been clearly taken to the hearts of the music lovers of Japan.
Thank you to Kyoji Arai of Allegro, Japan for the information in this report.
It may not be quite in the league of Brad Pitt dates horse or Obama’s re-election campaign, but the Sonneteer website is now fully loaded with downloadable information about all the products. We’ve put them in two places. You can find them either on the specific product page under the Download tab or on the Support page. There you will find product information sheets as well as user manual and start up guides where appropriate. You will require a PDF reader to read these files.
The ‘Download’ tab can be found at the bottom right corner of each product page. Right next to the ‘Buy’ tab. ‘We plan on expanding these area to include a wealth of information including help articles, reviews and product photography. All are made available free and to use as support information for Sonneteer products. Copywrite remains with Sonneteer.
The Sonneteer News recommends the Orton, Morpheus Music Centre and SedleyUSB information sheets as essential bed time reading. While your partner is wired into ’50 shades of grey’ behind their FT Magazine you could be knowledgeing up on dual mono, streaming and cartridge loading. each information sheet includes a picture of the product alongside some description as well as a list of product features. We know it just doesn’t get that much better.
The Koningshof in Veldhoven having hosted the VAD show in times gone past will host the third X-FI show this year and Sonneteer of Britain will be there again alongside Penaudio loudspeakers of Finland. The show will be on for two days, the 29th and 30th of September 2012. The British luxury mark will be hosted by their partner in the Netherlands, Riverside Audio. Sonneteer managing director was quoted as saying, “Riverside have put in a great deal of effort over the years in representing Sonneteer and showing us in our best light. The people of the Netherlands welcomed us in with warm hearts all those years ago when we first started. It really is the best place to come in the world to show and meet the enthusiasts.”
Riverside Audio, are the representatives of both Sonneteer and Penaudio in the Netherlands and have a wealth of more than 30 years experience in hifi. On show will be all the Sonneteer favourites including, but not only, the Alabaster amplifier, Byron CD player and the Morpheus Music Centre, integrated amplifier and Streamer.