Franco Serblin loudspeakers doesn’t pump out yet another loudspeaker range every few months. It’s more old school than that. As of the time of writing this review, the line-up comprises the Ktêma flagship, the Accordo two-way stand-mount and the small integrated Lignea. However, soon they will be jouned by the eagerly-anticipated Accordo Essence (effectively a floorstanding version of the Accordo). Also, abandon the notion of a ‘Mark II’ version from the brand; the concept remains get the product right from the outset. This idea has been core to the brand from the outset, meaning the current Franco Serblin designer Massimiliano Favella takes his job very seriously indeed.
We live in a world where loudspeakers are rectangular boxes and ‘edgy’ loudspeaker design is chamfering that rectangle to make something boat-backed or lute-shaped. The idea of ‘handed’ loudspeakers is typically reserved for moving a drive unit (typically) the tweeter away from the centreline of the front baffle, allowing the tweeters to be closer to the inner edge of the baffle for better imaging properties (it makes the tweeter seem more like a point source for the central image). The Accordo points to such a rudimentary design brief and giggles; unlike most loudspeakers, the Accordo’s two cabinets ‘mirror’ one another in the same way your left foot ‘mirrors’ your right. From the top looking down, the Accordo are more like a large reversed quotation marks, meaning the front baffle is deliberately angled toward the listener, with the longest side wall pointing outward.
There are some exceptionally clever touches here, some of which have become more integral to other designs today, showing not only that the Accordo remains current, but just how forward-thinking and durable that original 2011 design has proved to be. For example, the integral stand that contains the crossover and low-slung output terminals was about as far from mainstream as it was possible to get even a few years ago, but manufacturers are increasingly approaching the stand of a stand-mount loudspeaker as an integral part of the design, with more aspects of the loudspeaker itself removed into its support system. The company wasn’t the first to think of this concept, but it made it work and it made it look good… and that helped make the concept realised among the mainstream.
Accordo is dubbed ‘A Tuneful Speaker’ and this has dual meaning; it’s ‘tuneful’ in the obvious musical sense, but it also speaks to its need to be relatively carefully ‘tuned into’ the room. Careful positioning and fine tuning of loudspeaker relative to walls and one another, and equally careful positioning and fine tuning of listening position reaps extraordinarily large rewards here; while always capable of delivering a ‘good sounding’ performance, spending a lot of time getting it in the right point has the potential to raise that sound to ‘the breath of angels’ levels. You’ll know when the alignment is just right; the music will stop; you’ll be struck dumb and the hairs on the back of your neck will do the speaking for you. In my room, this meant a wider than usual equilateral triangle arrangement, with a marked toe-in and the rear-port bungs in place. A centimetre’s movement made the difference between ‘that’s a nice-looking loudspeaker’ and ‘that’s a great-sounding loudspeaker that looks nice, too.’
However, seemingly somewhat paradoxically, that fine-tuning doesn’t apply quite so rigidly to the choice of partnering equipment. And, in fact, it’s here where we begin to see the classic elements of the Accordo peek through. With the exception of the original Extrema, Serblin’s classic creations were easy to drive designs, typically with only a lower than average sensitivity being the only ‘difficult’ part of the objective performance. The same really applies here; sensitivity is lower than average, but the rest of the speaker’s load wouldn’t tax any modern solid-state amplifier or well-designed valve amplifier.