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News feature: Digital Party like it’s 1999

Sonneteer Bronte Amplifier, Archive

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].

  1. On their first visit to Sonneteer one rep’ left with a Sonneteer Campion under his arm and we, a cheque in our hands