Designers come and go, but the true artisans and masters of an art... they are the ‘once in a generation’ folk. People talk about Stradivarius violins not just because of the output of generations of the Stradivari family, but specifically because of the work of Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737). In loudspeaker making, few true artisans had the same impact as Franco Serblin (1939-2013), and like all good masters of the art, his legacy lives on in the company that still bears his name. The Accordo from Franco Serblin is the distillation of a life spent making outstanding loudspeakers and exceptional two-way stand-mounts, made by family and friends (under the Laboratorium banner) in Vicenza, Italy.
Franco Serblin’s name is forever associated with creating some of the best-loved designs of the 1980s and 1990s under the Sonus faber brand, including the Minima, Electa, Electa Amator, Guarneri Homage and the Extrema. There were other designs (such as the awesome Stradivari loudspeakers), but Franco Serblin made his mark as a producer of elegant-looking and excellent-sounding stand-mount loudspeakers.
Despite founding and running the company from 1983-2006 the Sonus faber brand has all but airbrushed Serblin from its history, although it does credit him with ‘the Snail’ loudspeaker from 1980 that predated the company. However, after leaving Sonus faber, Serblin continued to create elegant and fantastic sounding loudspeaker designs, and the move from an increasingly commercially-driven brand to an artisan company meant those designs could be created without keeping one eye on market segmentation, brand positioning or anything apart from making a damn good loudspeaker.
Enough about Franco Serblin (the man), let’s talk about Franco Serblin (the loudspeakers). Starting with the first Ktêma floorstander – an elegant proscenium-arch style meeting of concave and convex – Franco Serblin models have a deceptively small front aspect that belies a lot of clever loudspeaker behind that front baffle. The Accordo – the second product from the brand – is a two-way standmount that is narrow at the front and wide at the rear (making it ‘look’ very narrow) and deceptively ‘big’ sound.
However, taking a design as complex as the Accordo from ‘working prototype’ to ‘realised production model’ without sacrificing performance or design – all the while not making the end-user cost prohibitive – is not an easy exercise and required a steep learning curve in production design. All of which goes some way to explain why a product first seen back in 2011 took years to make it to market. The long gestation period wasn’t helped by the company’s uncompromising stance toward products. For example, those cabinets are solid walnut, air-dried in Vicenza for months to cure in the traditional way. Everything from the finish on the bolts to the internal wiring is subject to scrutiny that borders on the obsessive That extends to the drive units; a 29mm silk dome tweeter and a 150mm sliced-cone mid-bass driver. These have a lot in common with classic products from that other Vicenza-based loudspeaker brand, although Sonus faber has largely moved to different driver technologies in recent years. There are other elements that show a common background, such as the elegant rubber strings used as a grille and the chrome accents, but that’s only to be expected. However, this uncompromising stance means the only way to make designs like the Accordo without obsessing the business out of existence is to build to order in batches. Which means those of us wanting to try out a review sample had to get to the back of a very long waiting list.