Franco Serblin, who died in March 2013, is remembered as the founder, creative force, and papa behind Italy’s Sonus faber. I remember him for his incisive and curious mind, and the Italian ease with which he draped a cashmere sweater over his shoulders. Serblin’s earliest Sonus faber creations were compact loudspeakers like the Minima, Parva, and the famed Extrema. Growing ever more confident, he soon added the sophisticated Homage Series jewels—the Guarneri in 1993, Amati in 1998, and Stradivari in 2005—to the Sf crown. In each, he pursued a rare balance of beauty, design, and romantic musicality. When he withdrew from Sf a few years ago, many in the industry (including me) thought that he was too young and energetic for real “retirement.” Sure enough, Serblin’s creative juices were still flowing, and by late 2010, after four years of development, production began on two new models, the Ktema floorstander and Accordo stand-mount, which I will consider here. The speakers are produced under license to Laboratorium, owned by Franco’s son-in-law, Masssimilano Favella.
The two-way compact in a bass-reflex enclosure is where it began for Serblin, and the simplicity and purity of his designs were what ultimately put Sf on the map. Thus, Accordo is a return to familiar terrain—a Minima of sorts, but with the benefit of decades of experience.
From every angle the Accordo has the look of hand-craftsmanship, as well it should given its $12,000-a-pair price tag. The enclosure—one of the most striking and elegant I’ve seen, regardless of size—is an asymmetric design with inward-curving side panels and non-parallel surfaces (save for the bottom and top panels). The cabinet narrows precipitously to a short flare at the rear, a tiny chrome-encircled port dotting its angled back. The walnut side panels are inscribed with a series of short, deeply etched, V-shaped grooves that add to the impression of a limited-edition loudspeaker. Running horizontally along the top and bottom edges of the rigid, solid-wood enclosure are aluminum-magnesium inserts that decouple abutting wood elements to control resonances. Another such insert runs vertically up the rear panel.
Other flourishes (instantly reminiscent of the Sonus faber Guarneri Homage loudspeaker, also a small two-way reflex design from a couple of decades earlier) include heavy chrome fittings etched with Serblin’s signature, which support the familiar lute-string “grille.” Aficionados will note that some of the Accordo’s design cues are also strikingly similar to Sonus faber’s new Olympica Series, but I’ll leave it to others to speculate on just who inspired whom.
The drivers, thoroughly hot-rodded to Serblin’s specifications, include a 29mm silk-dome tweeter credited to Ragnar Lian of SEAS fame, and one of the great talents in transducer design. The mid/bass—a custom-made Scan-Speak 150mm paper cone with radial slices designed to control cone break-up—uses Serblin’s symmetrical drive motor system. The crossover is an example of Serblin’s trademark minimalist approach—a first-order, phase-coherent network optimized with select premium parts.
The graceful stands are standard equipment for the Accordo. Purpose-built, with a heavy chrome aluminum baseplate, a single black strut, and a top plate, each stand also houses the loudspeaker’s crossover network. Using an external crossover opens up the speaker cabinet’s interior, effectively increasing the usable volume and, crucially, avoiding driver-induced buffeting of delicate crossover parts. Neutrik speakON connectors link the crossover with the input in the stand of each Accordo. Finally, the Accordo’s unique shape (each speaker is a mirror image of the other) means that its front baffle is automatically toed-in a few degrees when the stand it is sitting on faces squarely into the room.
Accordo means “agreement” in Italian. Or harmony. It only takes a few bars of solo piano to understand why the speaker is so named. Accordo captures vividly the many moods a pianist can summon from this instrument. The electric brilliance of a presto upper-octave passage like the “Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells” in Evgeny Kissin’s performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, or the solemn and soothing weight of Bill Carrothers’ Civil War Diaries, or the resonant bloom and sustain from the final chord struck by multiple pianos at the close of the Beatles “A Day in the Life.”