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.
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 ↩
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.
click for Press information
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.
As the rest of the electronics industry pops its tablets and shades off its 3D hang over, some small corners of the CES show were quietly revolutionising the way people live. No exception to this are Sonneteer who were on hand with their Music Centre now fully bluetoothed, Ipodded and Androided and sitting on a beautiful stand and potentially hanging out on walls. Days 1 and 2 were briskly attended by the trade and press alike and through these pages we will be linking you through to numerous blogs and news items posted.
As well as Bluetooth and a brand new stand, Sonneteer were showing off an iPod Touch controlling the two systems on display. The New Reciva Remote, developed in conjunction with Sonneteer’s partners in streaming, Reciva of Cambridge and which boasts the same software engine of the Morpheus can, by definition, control every function on the unit including the tens of thousands of radio stations and allows you to assign presets as well as showing off
Album art and creating play lists. No matter how many Sonneteer Morpheus you have in your home or how many servers, the remote will access and control them all from the palm of your hand. Traditionalists can, of course, use the solid aluminium remote control that comes with the Morpheus as standard.