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Sonneteer story

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Sonneteer (plural Sonneteers)

A writer of sonnets.

A poet

Sonneteer came to life in 1994, but it all started a little earlier than that.

While at University in the late 80’s and early 90’s Haider Bahrani and Remo Casadei started a business to organise gigs or concerts and recordings for small bands. Haider had a band so it was mainly a vehicle for this although it did branch out to a number of other student bands. As Electronics Engineering Design students Haider and Remo, not content with some of the sound equipment they had to hand, they modified it and often built their own. In fact Remo was known to rarely travel without a soldering iron and a multi-meter in the back of his car.

In his final year, Haider designed a hi-fi amplifier. Other than the requirements of his degree, he also wanted a good amplifier to monitor his personal music recording. Remo, a true hi-fi enthusiast, had other ideas. So taken with the original design, when Haider decided to go on a month’s holiday after graduating, Remo popped round to Haider’s parents house and ‘borrowed’ said amplifier to show off to a few hi-fi aficionado and dealer friends. They loved it and by the time Haider had come back from holiday Remo, a highly skilled product engineer, was already cooking up a production version of this amplifier. All products to date are co designed by the two gentlemen.

The original business at University was called Fine Thang Musico. The small amount of money they had left from this was used to start up an incorporated Fine Thang Musico to be known as FTM Marketing ltd the current mother company of Sonneteer.

Why Sonneteer? Well Haider has a passion for writing and wanted to name products after writers and poets. The first amplifier was to become the Sonneteer Campion, after Thomas Campion. The rest of the separates range followed suit and the Bard range, in name, was barely a departure from that. Only the Morpheus, an early digital audio streaming product by Sonneteer was not named after a writer or poet.

However, Morpheus, the Greek God of dreams and is coincidentally referred to in Thomas Campion’s ‘The cypress curtain of the night’ from the Books of Ayres. The Campion being Sonneteer’s first ever product, as mentioned earlier, of course.

Should we anticipate, a Dylan Thomas, a Wordsworth, or even a William Shakespeare one day? Who knows. Haider’s Welsh roots may lean in a certain direction, but there’s a lot more prose and verse to be read before any such decisions can be made.

Key dates in Sonneteer history.

1994

Sonneteer established as a British high end audio brand. The ethos of high quality sound performance was ingrained from the start

1999

Launch of the world’s first consumer separates high end, digital amplifier the Bronte as part of a set of amplifier and CD player by the same name.

2002

Bronte amplifier wins ‘Editors choice’, Product of the Year for Gramophone magazine. The digital revolution begins.

2003-2005

Show off pioneering Bard high end wireless system at the Consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

Sonneteer’s Bard amplifier, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, goes to market and revolutionises high end audio amplification.

What hi-fi? Magazine  proclaims, “Bard is a stroke of genius”.

2006

Sedley phono stage wins Audio Excellence Award from Japan.

2007

Bard, wireless system wins Audio Excellence Award, Japan. Exceptional reviews from the global hifi press, continue.

2008

Sonneteer Sedley phono stage, a product  for vinyl record lovers, wins  another Audio Excellence Award from Japan, this time for the USB version. The award, in this case was as an accolade for design innovation.

2009

The year of the Sonneteer Morpheus Music Centre first  unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show Las Vegas after winning a place to represent UK Trade and Investments’ British Designs and Innovations. The Morpheus changed everything. A luxury music system that encapsulates all modern ways of playing back music yet retaining the ethos of tradition high end hi-fi products that Sonneteer are renowned for.

2010

The Sonneteer Morpheus Music Centre wins Audio Excellence Award after nomination by a customer.

2011

The Morpheus Server was launched to marry with the Morpheus music centre. A product that sits silently in the living space in its beautifully hand engraved, aluminium casing whilst able to store an entire CD collection losslessly and allowing any number of network connected devices, including the Morpheus music centre to access them.

The Sonneteer Byron and Bronte Mark Five CD players launched.

Sonneteer Bronte CD player wins Visual Grand Prix Award, Japan.

2012

The Sonneteer Orton Mark Three announced promising even greater refinement to this iconic, British hifi amplifier.

2013

Sonneteer announce the retirement of the Campion and Morphues products.

The Sonneteer Alabaster (orinally based on a more powerful Campion is given the upgrade treatment.

2014

Early in the year, the last ever Sonneteer CD players are shipped. The last buy order was over subscribed by 3 to 1.

The Sonneteer Orton Mark Four is launched including a fully machined aluminium and stainless steel crafted remote handset.

December: More light is shed on Sonneteer’s ‘Heart beat’ project.

Artisan

All Sonneteer products are assembled by hand with one person taking responsibility for each unit made. Not one single Sonneteer music playing product leaves the workshop without being listened to by one of the founders. It is said that they can tell if an Alabaster has a wrong component in it simply by listening to the first note of a melody played through it. Read more in our Magazine.

Classic high fidelity

Sonneteer was born of an age when High Fidelity separates components were considered the epitome of audio reproduction equipment for the home. From the very first outing of the first prototype amplifier which was to become the Campion integrated amplifier, Sonneteer have proven that they are the epitome of a manufacturer of the ilk. The age was also still one that was synonymous with high readership numbers for magazines like Electronics World, HiFi News and HiFi World. Some might even remember Sonneteer’s own Haider Bahrani’s scribblings in the latter. It is also said that Remo Casadei (the other Sonneteer founder) managed to sneak in an article or two in the technical pages while Haider was sunning himself somewhere hot with the [now] mother of his child.

Although this was already the age of computers, home entertainment  was still defined by the home central music system and at the higher quality end or luxury end of this was the British hifi separates system.Vinyl records, which have enjoyed a mini revival lately were still competing on a level with CDs (Compact Dics) for sales and compact cassettes were still the dominant audio recording medium. The year was 1994.

“I was right in the middle of a Master’s degree course at Imperial College and Remo was technical Director of a big set top box manufacturing and distribution company at the time. At weekends and in the evenings Remo (as I was stuck in a laboratory in West London) was getting my original quite messily built prototype into a production ready product. We then managed to somehow wangle a spot at the Heathrow Hi-Fi show, which was very big in those days and the rest just followed on from there.” an extract from Haider Bahrani’s Blog, Haiderway.

Below is an extract from diSegno: a blog by Remo Casadei. Here he describes, as he remembers it, the early days of Haider’s first amplifier design. Originally written, Wednesday 27th of July, 2011.

Looking back…

As we are about to re-launch the CD players, I got a bit of a deja vu feeling and found myself reminiscing the initial Sonneteer journey while I was talking to a chap about the business.

Haider was making an amplifier for his university project… I was working on a satellite receiver project for my placement company. Although we were both really into music I remember I was far more into Hi Fi than him, and my friends were into it too and so were my colleagues and so on… you get the picture.

Anyway, I remember back then Haider often came to my place with his black box project of an amplifier with a bag of bits and try things out. It usually happens after him blowing it up at his place so let’s just say he was changing and updating components quite often! Back then, we used any bits available so long as the values were fulfilled and he started to notice those changes of component often changed the way the amplifier sounded! So quite often he comes over to my place and say, “tell me I’m not losing it, but if I do this the thing sounds different!!!”. Quite often I agreed and it wasn’t long until the sound we got out of that ugly black box with a hand written “h” on it was out performing my own system.

After the degree was over, Haider decided to take a holiday in the USA to cool his heels and left his pride and joy of an amp in his room. I really don’t know what got over me but one day I decided to go to his place, rang the door bell and told his mum I needed to “borrow” something from Haider’s room… and I ran off with the little amplifier.

I took it to my place and gave it a good listening to and found it wiped the floor with my system… I then took it to a friend’s house who had a far superior Hi Fi system than mine, and that little amp did the same to his system… he looked at me and said nothing, but that look was enough for me.

Last thing I remember was I rushed back to Haiders room and put the amp back exactly where it was as if it never left… a few days later Haider came back and I went there and said: “Let’s start a business making amplifiers…”