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.
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.
As we go to press the latest incarnation of the Sonneteer CD player range is shipping out. Imaginatively dubbed the Mark Five or mkV for short, both the Byron and the Bronte have had their internals updated. So good are the new models, according to Sonneteer Technical Director, Remo Casadei that , ” I want to swap the [much cherished] prototype I have at home for one of these. It’s so hauntingly detailed and musical”.
“It took us a long time to get here” Haider Bahrani, Sonneteer’s Managing director was quoted as we interviewed them in the workshop. “The earlier versions of both CD models were a hard act to beat and to be honest we were struggling for a while.” He, revealingly, went on to say, “one day, as is almost always the case when we are developing new products, everything just came together. Suddenly we did one or two things and the players just started to sing. On a day like that you can almost do nothing wrong. The next morning is always very telling just in case someone had pumped some narcotic into the air the previous day. Thankfully, all was well.”
If you haven’t ordered one already, however it may be a week or two wait before anyone else gets their hands on these babies as it seems the order books are full for the moment and they are now taking orders for October delivery. Not a bad place to be in this climate. They were certainly busy bees on our visit and it was difficult to grab the guys attention for all the activity. They did say the Rugby World Cup(being played in New Zealand of the next two months may slow things down a little as a lot of the matches are on 9.30am.
Memories of 1999 when the Sonneteer Bronte ‘digital’ amplifier first took shape, came rushing back when we took a call recently, here at Sonneteer mansions, from our friends at Doug Brady Hi-fi. They have on sale a rare specimen of said amp’. It’s a former demonstrator model of ours which has been in the hands of one of their discerning employees who has now upgraded his ears to a Sonneteer Orton.
Back in 1999 we first showed off our work at the IFA show in Berlin in partnership with Tripath Technologies, the front runners in digital audio electronics at the time. Their European reps1 had been trying to get their chips into hifi, but were struggling due to the less than favourable audiophile nature of their evaluation modules. So, without any real intention of producing anything other than a concept product we put our hands to ‘Audiophiling’ them. The concept shown off in Berlin, became the Sonneteer Bronte amplifier that went on to meet with global praise including a magnificent review in Gramophone magazine and a follow up ‘Editor’s Choice’ in the 2002 product review.
This [Bass] extension can come as something of a surprise on first audition, but the Brontë is just as accomplished across the rest of the frequency range. That makes it able to deliver the smallest nuance of a voice or solo instrument as well as it does the full force of a symphony orchestra. For that reason this is a fine allround choice, as to the extent that one could almost forget its USP — the digital amplification — and just consider it as another amplifier. And while I’m sure the digital engineers at Sonneteer wouldn’t take too kindly to such an approach, that’s meant as high praise indeed. Gramophone Dec.2002
The Bronte went on to become one of our most successful products with Best Buys and awards heaped upon it from as far flung fields as Japan, USA and Russia as well as our near field continental cousins.
Sadly and due to the demise of Tripath, despite the subsequent adoption of their technologies by the likes of Sony (Smart Digital range) and Sharp amongst others, we at Sonneteer, have had to knock the Bronte Amplifier on the head for the time being, with the last amplifiers leaving the door in 2008 heading towards Paris and Tokyo. We also very rarely see them back and certainly have not had one on our servicing tables since we waved the truck to Paris goodbye.
Sonneteer, of course, have far from given up on digital amplification. The spirit of the Bronte lives on in the Bard amplifier and more recently the Morpheus Music Centre. The path was also laid for many, many others to follow as digital amplification now dominates audio reproduction. From a sound quality point of view the technology may have yet to surpass the best of its analogue brethren, but it is certainly and with good design on a par with most.[HB].
- On their first visit to Sonneteer one rep’ left with a Sonneteer Campion under his arm and we, a cheque in our hands ↩
Not contented with their industry leading products in the hi-fi sector, British Luxury brand and sound specialists, Sonneteer have transferred their expertise to the fledgeling electric car industry. Sonneteer have pioneered the field of high spec’ audio in adopting digital amplifier technology from as far back as the 1990′s whilst everyone one else were still debating the topological merits of super carbon hungry single ended class A. This was also the time when Sonneteer first considered the idea of putting their amplifier know how in to auto motive use. This was driven largely by Sonneteer’s Technical director Remo Casadei, a bit of a car Junky himself who has recently cross pollinated his petrol head brain with that of a green fuels fanatics’.
All this brings us to today with lab results finally showing that it can be done and the launch of the first working prototype. Sonneteer hope to secure governmental backing to take their developments to the next stage with a hope to seeing this British bred innovation in the likes of the Nissan Leaf and the Rolls Royce Phantom.
Some of you may also recall Sonneteer H2O remote controller. This technology is also being harnessed to drive the amplifier they are using which is a derivation of the same amplifier used in both the Bard amplifier(known to some as the Bard 3) and the mono blocks used inside the Morpheus Music Centre. Sonneteer Director and designer of the original Campion amplifier, Haider Bahrani was quoted to say “Combining these two technologies already adopted in our audio designs and transferring them to automotive products has not turned out to be that difficult as a lot of the principles of control are the same. Audiophiles want the perfect sound and Autoheads want the perfect drive. It’s really how you control the power source to give you just that. We’ve been perfecting this for years.” In many of the Sonneteer literature handouts we are given from time to time a little tag line often appears at the bottom in very small type face; Often copied, never bettered. Perhaps it should be written in big bold letters in future?!
Turning heads and pleasing ears, Sonneteer return home after three days of integrating at Europe’s top show for the ilk. The long drives there and home were certainly well worth the experience as Remo and Haider tested their vocal mechanics to their limits. Visitors were many and mostly a rewarding experience.
The three days of the show brought Sonneteer to the eyes of a crowd beyond the usual hi-fi massive as home system integrators, architects and installers hoofed en mass to the Sonneteer stall.
Dominant themes were, home networking of home entertainment and control. As technology makes life simpler in principle everyone seems to be hopping about looking for the latest solutions. That said, traditional hi-fi and bespoke solutions were all the rage as resellers look for the edge to bring the reluctant consumer back to the spender’s fold. who would know that customer satisfaction would be back on the agenda!? Hand crafted and in a multi-colourful choice Sonneteer were on hand to show off their bespoke solutions too.
One of their big posters read; “sound technology delivery systems, made simple”. A clear statement of intent.
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1F100 the stand at which you will find Sonneteer this year at the ISE at the RAI Amsterdam, February 1st to 3rd. British flags will be fluttering as the show’s highlight will be part of the UK pavilion, which despite the heavy cuts that were so clearly evident of the UKTi at CES, this one sneaked through the funding blockade.
As such, Sonneteer will be proudly showing off the best of British design and handy work (yes they are still made in the UK) with the Morpheus to be perched on its beautifully crafted stand feeding off the server and the internet in multicolour.
We hope to bring you reports on events back from the show.
As we got into the swing of things it became obviously wise to start the long days at CES with a hearty breakfast as the Sonneteer room was often overrun with folk and none more so than at lunch time.
On the Saturday the madness continued with notably a large number of end users trawling the floors of the show. As a trade show this is, of course, not strictly expected, but we were more than happy to oblige future customers.
The final day of the show is traditionally when the exhibitors get a chance to walk around for themselves and becomes more of an industry love in, so to speak. Most of the show visitors are at the airport or driving home across the desert ready to sip their black coffee on a Monday morning.
The show next year, we are advised, will be an all mid week affair.