Franco Serblin Ktema Proscenium floorstanding speakers

FS 05 SF KTEMA
NZ$ 39,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Franko Serblin

"My passion for music, as well as my interest for musical instruments and their materials, heve lead my research since the early’80. Lutes and violin, through the use of wood, strings, their forms and harmony of their constitution, have inspired my systems".

New

Quotes:
"I am sitting in front of the speakers and, whilst listening to my album, I felt the need to sit down in front of the computer to write and congratulate you for the quality of these speakers and the pleasure they give me whilst listening. 
Even the voice seems warmer and more beautiful! A real home theatre eapriance, where the singer is right there, in front of you…many congratulations for ‘a possession forever"…..Arsa

"The Ktema speakers have 220 hours on the clock now, and WHAT a difference that time has made to them. They have lost their initial brightness and stiffness and the big improvements started at 50 hours. With a good recording the electronics and speakers disappear, and only the music is left to seduce the ears. You may have deduced by now that I am really wrapped with them."....Paul

Ktema: "Posession for Life"
Proscenium: "The focal point of the theatre" the inspiration of the Project.
Ktema proscenium loudspeaker is the new creation from Franco Serblin, highly respected as the creator behind Sonus Faber. His numerous works include, but not limited to, the Minima, Electa Amator, Extrema, Guarneri Homage, and of course, the Stradivari Homage loudspeakers.

Mr.Serblin with Ktema project celebrated his 30yrs in high end, he employed 4yrs to realize Ktema project and the result is tremendous, using high quality materials, unique concept & style. The drivers are Scanspeak tweeter & woofer and Seas midrange, representing the best quality in the world.

The Ktema Proscenium has exquisite finish and attention to detail, plus it is the flagship of the range. When you see and hear this speaker you immediately know why, it is extremely transparent and lucid, it exudes Italian beauty and quality. It has exceptional performance with a tonal presentation to die for and is the product of a true master designer. The speaker has one of the best 28 mm tweeters available and as is designed by Ragnar Lian.

Geometry: 4 ways 5 units. The two low frequency radiators are compression - loaded and room - interfaced at the lower part of the rear of the enclosure. Above the "fusion" frequency the mid - high cardioids radiators reproduce the significant part of the spectrum, at the top section of the front of the cabinet.

The cabinet: is a rigid, triple arch - shaped, structure. The two lateral front cheeks are concave, while the woofer compressor is convex.

The tweeter: is a well - established and time proven 28 mm soft - dome unit, created by Ragnar Lian, one of the greatest Danish masters of transducer design.

The midrange: array consists of two 4" units in a step - compensated, baffle, in a cardioids acoustic - resistance configuration, for the most accurate reproduction of the musical perspective..

The Bass: are two 9" metal cone, piston performance optimized units, in a compression - controlled and room - interfaced configuration.

The crossover: is a mutational variable slope, coherent spatial radiation design.

Finishes: High gloss piano black with hand-polished aluminium top & bottom. / Satin Sycamore with hand-polished aluminium top & bottom.

Franco:
“Sometimes we stand in awe, praising the beauty of the music... to recreate these particular moments is the goal of Ktêma.”

With fine craftsmanship and technical innovation, respecting the ideal continuity, Ktêma embraces the past in a new way, making a further contribution to enhance the ecstasy of the musical experience.

Ktema is a limited edition speaker avaialble in finishes:
High gloss piano black, hand-polished aluminium top & bottom  or Satin Sycamore, hand-polished aluminium top & bottom.

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Videos

Specifications

Frequency Response: 26Hz-33kHz, in room
Nominal Impedance: 4ohm  (minimum 3, 2 ohm at 70 Hz)
Sensitivity: 92 dB/W/m
Minimum power amplifier: 20W/ch
Dimensions: 42.5cm×46cm×111cm each (unpacked)
Shipping: 52cm×57cm×110.5cm each (packed)
Weight: total 110 kg/pair (unpacked) - 127 kg/pair (packed)
Finishing: High gloss piano black, hand-polished aluminium top & bottom 
                   Satin Sycamore, hand-polished aluminium top & bottom

Reviews

The story of Ktema
The story of Ktema

The Birth of ktema

To be able to communicate, using the language of music, those feelings that cannot be narrated with the most private of words - this is my task.

I am Ktema, a loudspeaker.

I am a fusion of the old, enduring experience with the light, free, searching spirit.

The birth of Ktêma

To be able to communicate, using the language of music, those feelings that cannot be narrated with the most private of words - this is my task.

I am Ktema, a loudspeaker.

I am a fusion of the old, enduring experience with the light, free, searching spirit.

My birth came about by chance, by the strange destiny of the simplest things that fascinating us - the things that give life to great passions and enthusiasm...

It was because of a mysterious string of events that a simple phrase – written in pen along the margin of a wiring diagram – began to represent the inception of an arduous project. Little by little, it took form and depth, generating my conception.

The following phrase was sent to the person who, through time, “gave me shape”, words from a friend with whom he had continuously carried out accurate and attentive research over the years, intent on delving into the innermost definitions of what music reproduction actually “means”.

This friend had written...
The Greeks said, “Ktêma eis aei”: a possession for ever - something that, over time, cannot be disputed. It is the opposite of “Panta rei”: everything changes constantly.

When will a speaker become “Ktêma eis aei” in place of all those that are “Panta rei”? -

It was an invitation to spur him on to create something everlasting, that would be “a possession forever” in a world where everything changes, in a world that cannot stop because it is interwoven with technology and research which by definition is always new, always in a continuum, sometimes sterile, always improving ... It was all about trying to find a stability in the impetuous and continuous “current” of forms ... and it was immediately clear that this was to be a truly fascinating challenge.

So my “creator” thought it would be nice to continue the planning process, to create a sort of “testimony” that could last through time: almost like a “ship’s boat” that floats on the unavoidable waves of “panta rei”...

After all, a lot of water had passed under the bridge of music reproduction since the time of the legendary “Snail”, which, with its incredible structure (rightly defined by the press of the sector as “Leonardo-esque”), launched a new way of conceiving the acoustic transducer.

Over the years, my designer had maintained a coherent approach, a wilful and spontaneous craftsmanship that had always represented a strong continuum in the production of all the speakers which came before me.

We are the offspring of the same inspiration and of the constant desire for beauty and simplicity ....

I remember with great pride the “Parva”, the “Minima” and the “Minima Amator”, which are still considered today as true points of reference by authoritative music authorities all over the world. For years they have been defined by the press of the sector as the “best loved by the Italians”. Then came “Electa” and “Extrema” - incredible speakers which are admired to this today. Then came the “summa” of their research - the continuously copied “Guarneri” ... and then the “Amati” and “Stradivari”...

A long list of “music instruments” that represent my “Ancestral Gallery”: a fascinating exhibition of products that foresees what my voice will be - another fruit from my creator’s fertile mind that has given life, in over 30 years of passionate work, to masterpieces that now belong to the history of music reproduction.

It was clear, however, that only through tenacious research, digging deeper, removing, lightening and finally by working a fundamental synthesis, could my designer give birth to a speaker, both new and old, that could happily stand in line along with all its “sisters” that had been born before me.

It was also clear that, by definition, there cannot be a product that can resist the assault of the new and technical evolution. Instead the product’s essence and its raison d’être will remain in time, because they are linked to its functionality and honesty - and also to a kind of universality that will allow it to overcome the influence (and also the wear and tear) of passing fads and time.

Therefore I had to embody a governing principle which time could not alter, yet, at the same time, had to materialise in the product as conceived ... I had to be the wonderful-yet-seemingly-impossible fusion of “ktema eis aei” with “panta rei”!

And so it was clear that the simple needs of every keen enthusiast are the credibility and the evocation of the musical event being reproduced. The keen enthusiast is the person who wants to use the system to enjoy music and not use music to enjoy the system. My creator felt the need to take hold of a new, strong concept that had to be a moment of a conquered synthesis, and had to reconcile the many requirements a product must have in order to be elegant, functional and useful.

I had to be a non-conceited and non-invasive product, destined to enter into the homes of those who desire something beautiful and “right” - a humble instrument of reproduction and not a bulky object that expects to be the protagonist, overthrowing the very concept of service and function.

It would have been normal, for the person who designed me, to think up a great and important speaker, imposing and powerful, able to deafen and amaze, with acoustic possibilities that go beyond the limit of perception, with infinite controls, and with a booming personality. When all is said and done, it would have been normal to think up a product that would have been the simple fruit of decades worth of knowledge regarding technique and components.

But the need for simple truth and measure has always been the leitmotif that informed and sustained the entire project which gave me a life. A project that could only keep in solid consideration the needs of the normal and keen music enthusiast, without having to sacrifice their home furnishings, or the norms of living, to instruments which look “professional”, but which are meant for recording studios or for rooms created exclusively for auditions, experimentation and comparisons.

In short, I was desired as a fresh and simply innovative creation: a calm and fascinating travelling companion, able to provide hours and hours of pleasurable listening to any enthusiast of good will.

I had to embody a new and strong concept, but at the same time I had to be elegant, functional and readily usable.

Therefore, many vectors had to join together to result in the conception that would lead to my birth, and many of these were completely unconventional.

Long before I was born, though, an idea whirled through the mind of the person who created me: he wanted to highlight - in the sound box that houses the reproduced music event - what counts most of all, that is … the thing which normally captures the attention of the listener ...

Thus it was that the idea of highlighting the “proscenium” came to be. The proscenium is, of course, the centre of the event, and this idea would give a clear reason and shape to my body.

Maybe it was precisely because my designer felt the need to reproduce the music event in the simplest, most direct, natural possible way, that brought about the desire to make the typical place of performance – centre stage –perceivable in the clearest way.

This is where the action takes place, where attention is focused, where you can perceive the virtual
space that surrounds the concert artist, the soloist, the singer - it is the element that is the focal point of what we listen to.

The surrounding area needs to develop around this point: the orchestra, or the chamber music group, or the group of musicians.

Two roles, ideally and simply illustrated by the centre and its surrounding space.

Specific choices were made, as well, from a technical point of view – special attention and care were paid to not disturb or “soil” the central part of the acoustic spectrum.

This is the most delicate and sensitive part, where the ear perceives the smallest variations, where the harmonic richness and completeness highlight the true timbre of the instruments, where the audio phasing needs to be carefully considered and respected.

I know that it took several years to choose those three components, embedded in my frontal section, and I know that those three transducers represent the state of the art. They embody a consolidated reality, which has been confirmed by continuous and careful listening in the most prestigious laboratories.

In short, there is a clear awareness that the ultimate aim of music reproduction is not about conforming to technical parameters, but rather, with due respect to the most sophisticated technical parameters, it is about making the ear of the listener “happy”.

That is how my frontal section was born, and it has been carefully designed and safeguarded by any possible interference or disturbance.

The centre and surrounding space are its nodal point and supporting structure. The construction of my entire framework has been determined by clear choices.

Governing principles originating from logic and pressing rationality have smoothed the way for formal production guided only by simple consequentiality: when the main process is logical and correct, the product that stems from it has to be correct as well. So this “surrounding part”, which supplies the correct support to the solo part, has acquired its own   importance: a rear diffusion that accompanies and complements the “heart” of the music without invading or obscuring it.

The low frequency has therefore been optimized in a wave guide (following the path mapped out by illustrious authors such as Allison, Klipsch, Snell, Berkovitz, et al) which, for months on end, has been the object of careful tuning. This has resulted in an extremely interesting and new characteristic: by giving the membranes of the loudspeaker the same “resistance” to both the front wave and the rear    wave, creating a synchronicity in the vibration with the most unexpected results.
Obviously, I’m telling you all this from my point of view, from how I perceive my unity, that is, from how I “live” the quality of sound that emanates from me: this goes beyond the simple technical aspect and positions itself in a place where (at the “base” of obligatory technical coherence) the listener’s “eminence” fuses with maximum awareness.

And so, I know all too well that the happiness and emotion that comes from listening to me will be directly proportional to the sensitivity, the culture and musical knowledge of my faithful listener. For a lengthy year of testing and improvement I was a guest in the home of Andrea Bocelli, and the admiration and respect he showed me made me proud and feel sure of my way of presenting the music reproduced - my personal “version of the facts”.....

The famous singer wrote this, about me, to my designer:
Dearest Mr. Serblin,
I am sitting in front of the speakers and, whilst listening to my album, I felt the need to sit down in front of the computer to write and congratulate you for the quality of these speakers and the pleasure they give me whilst listening.

Even my voice seems warmer and more beautiful!
A real home theatre, where the singer is right there, in front of you.
...many congratulations for “a possession for ever”...
Andrea Bocelli.

Now all I can do is to wish you good listening...on behalf of myself I have to say that I
am carrying out my work with great satisfaction because I am convinced that the fascinating challenge, that I mentioned at the beginning, has been properly won...
..........Yours, Ktêma.

Mono & Stereo
Mono & Stereo

Where form follows functions, it's hard to expect something of an art, but with those two going hand in hand and through the hands of real artisan, you'll end up with an object of desire. In Serblin case both esthetic and sonic vise.

Ktema is not just a statement, but precisely carved musical instrument with inherent knowledge and respect to fine craftsmanship heritage and most important to the music itself.

Don't be a stranger and let your ears take you places. Highly recommended!

Heritage

Franco Serblin Ktema is finally here. After many speculations and intrigues about this new speaker from Italian famous speaker artisan I can assure you, that it was worth waiting. Serblin brainchild Ktema is a unique sculpture in the world of high-end audio. Razwan from Amplitune would quickly remind me if it has a soul, as I said many times in prior to this review. Yes it carries the soul of all Franco's famous speakers and go beyond. For me, this is his best creation and certainly one of the best looking florstanders. Owning Sounus Faber Guarneri Mementos's puts me in position to quite fairly compare them two both esthetically and sonically.

Sonus Faber?

Ktema still holds recognizable Serblin sound, that made historical impact in high-end audio scene almost three decades ago and perhaps refine it with few innovative (or tributed) solutions. Finish is impeccable and I never seen such a glamour harmony of wood and fine brushed aluminum. It breaths life and strike you with it's (for a second) almost Klingon monument appearance. Black is still beauty and Italians still do it better :).

Sound

From the first note it was apparent and vivid that this is recognizable Serblin sound. Natural, a bit warm, but not pronounced and well suited for any music. Dispalyed Ktema's wasn't all smooth yet, if I can use that analogy, but speakers were only played for few hours so far. I guess it takes few hundred hours to drive them in as all previous Sonus Faber speakers. Even so far and with right amplification it was a formidable "deja-vu". If you loved the way Electa Amator, Stradivari and  Guarneri series sounded, you'll be not only equally thrilled, but even more impressed by Ktema ability to reply your favorite recordings. This might be the missing link of past few years in Sonus Fabes sound. They took a bit different sound approach from introducing of the Elipsa and I wasn't impressed with it to be honest. Not sure why, but high-end tend to follow strange route these past few years. Lots of modern amplifiers, speakers and other components are trying to portrait the music as super open, supreme dynamic and sterile. This is simply not the way real music sound like. Few concert goings might solve that dilemma...

Structure

It seems that Franco loves the voicing of Scanspeak and Ragnar Lian (Seas). He expertly implied these drivers into interestingly carved and archly shaped enclosure. This is five drivers based system with custom built crossover, opens up the sound and space even further. Franco took few of inspirations guides from classical Altec and Snell designs and refined them into contemporary speaker in the "grande" way. Bass is natural and the way it behaves in real life ambiance. It almost reminds on the horn loaded classical approach. I guess the compression-controlled and room-interfaced configuration (as resemblance to above mentioned inspirations) does really combine sort of the best of both worlds. This is not the horn like speaker and neither it's trying to mirror that principe. Speakers with crossover holds some inherent limitations. Well designed crossover will remedy to a degree few of those obstacles and Ktema does this in elegant manner with offering few other advancements. In the end everyone is taking their path towards music truth. Ktema won't win F1 of high-end race in speed revelations. I strongly doubt that it's designed in that way, knowing Serblin previous works. It points towards music, the natural feel and emotions of music. In my opinion everything is set accordingly without senseless compromises.

Mask

Grilles revival? Certainly no! Franco Serblin brought those nylon grilles to speakers with style and rest of the crowd just copied them. Ktema's looks great without nylon covers, but appears classical with them mounted. They're kind of a Franco final signature to his creation.

Synergy

Driven by outstanding Tom Evans Linear B monoblocks Ktema's conveyed music effortlessly and naturally. These days I don't care that much about specs and technical details. This doesn't mean that I would fall for any irrational nonsense, but if advertised high-end component cannot convey music, it fails for me. Period! Linear B is also a true jewel among many faked, overpriced and cloned amplifiers. We're living in and age of lies. Small and big ones. So, go and check facts out. Only your ears (you might even need to train them) will be the judges. Sometimes truth hurts, but for me screaming music is non tolerable regardless the name or price of high-end component.

R(e)volution

Will Ktema turn the world around? No! Revolutionize the way we listen to the music? No! It will drag quite some music lovers into many intimate moments.

Artisan

Where form follows functions, it's hard to expect something of an art, but with those two going hand in hand and through the hands of real artisan, you'll end up with an object of desire. In Serblin case both esthetic and sonic vise.

Statement

Ktema is not just a statement, but precisely carved musical instrument with inherent knowledge and respect to fine craftsmanship heritage and most important to the music itself.

Don't be a stranger and let your ears take you places. Highly recommended!

Specifications:

- Geometry: four-way topology, five units. The two low-frequency radiators are compression-loaded and room-interfaced at the lower part of the rear of the enclosure. Above the “fusion” frequency, the mid-high cardioid radiators reproduce the significant part of the spectrum, at the top section of the front of the cabinet.
- The cabinet is a rigid, triple arch-shaped structure. The two lateral front cheeks are concave, while the woofer compressor is convex.
- The tweeter is a well-established and time-proven 28mm soft-dome unit, created by Ragnar Lian, one of the greatest Danish masters of transducer design.
- The midrange array consists of two custom-made 4in units in a step-compensated baffle, in a cardioid acoustic-resistance configuration, for the most accurate reproduction of the musical perspective.
- The woofers are custom-made 9in metal cone, piston performance-optimised units, in a compression-controlled and room-interfaced configuration.
- The crossover is a mutational variable slope, coherent spatial radiation design.
- Yter pure Silver-Palladium mono-wiring used throughout.

Frequency Response: 26Hz - 33Khz, in room
Nominal Impedance: 4 ohm (minimum 3, 2 ohm at 70 Hz)
Sensitivity: 92 dB/W/m
Minimum power amplifier: 20W per channel
Dimensions: 42,5 cm × 46 cm × 111 cm  (unpacked)
                        52 cm × 57 cm × 110,5 cm  (packed)
Weight: 110 kg/pair (unpacked) - 127 kg/pair (packed)


Finishing: High gloss piano black, hand-polished aluminium top & bottom
                Satin Sycamore, hand-polished aluminium top & bottom

These are world-class hellaciously expensive speakers finished perfectly which deliver absolute top-shelf performance.

 These were extremely transparent lucid speakers. It's why every vocal carried aloft on such clarity and resolution felt very natural and real. That's why it attracted more attention than it usually does. At the same time the Italian speakers were not ruthless. I’ve stated it many times before that the better a device—loudspeakers, cables, preamp—the less we are bothered by minor recorded flaws and the more we focus on the music itself. There is no dissonance. It's nothing but urban myth that ultra resolution answers everything. Certainly it is necessary but more as a scaffolding whereby to build up the sound. I hope you understand the distinction. Serblin's speakers clearly showed the difference between reproduced sound and creating sound. Of course they can only reproduce it but they do it such that you can't tell for sure. They actually become sound makers. 

This review first appeared in the January 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. 

Last year (2010) exactly 30 years had passed since Franco Serblin presented to the world his very first loudspeaker system called Snail. That's no mistake. Rather than set of speakers, the Snail was a system of two small monitors plus single subwoofer. These small satellites were mechanically mounted on long extension arms off a central subwoofer all fashioned from wood. Although the 2.1 concept wasn’t exactly completely novel by then, it still was a pretty unusual setup for the times. It was only when home cinema became popular that subwoofers began to play any earnest support role for satellite speakers. This happened many years later. Serblin's successful carrier thus began with an unusual concept and by 1980 his legendary company Sonus Faber started to write its chapter in the annals of the world’s audio history.

By February 2007 Franco had sold his famous company to private Italian holding firm Quadrivio SGR which a year later acquired another audio industry legend in Audio Research. Nobody really expected Serblin to retire to his beautiful home in the vineyards and spend the rest of his life enjoying fame, glory and significant wealth. The last model he’d created for Sonus Faber had been the Elipsa, a scaled-down version of his top Stradivari model. Almost three years after terminating his Sonus Faber tenure Franco presented to the world his newest creation - something big and momentous yet surely connected also very directly to his previous quite revolutionary Elipsa and Stradivari achievements.

By 2010 he unveiled the first design for his new brand. By what name would this brand go? That's a rhetorical question. It simply became Franco Serblin, the first model the Ktêma. Okay, it's not that simple. Is it ever with Italian companies? Certain promotional materials make mention of Yter by association. That’s an audio cable brand. Distributor invoices are issued by another company, the speakers dispatched from yet another. Let’s stick with Franco Serblin. 

I’d already covered it during the Warsaw Audio Show 2010 coverage where our domestic premier of these speakers took place but I ought to repeat the most important information Serblin had forwarded. As he explains it, ktêma is Greek for an eternal possession that cannot be disputed over time just as his passion for treating loudspeakers as musical instruments can't be disputed. By being decidedly broad, his Stradivari Homage had been the first Serblin model whose geometry opposed the widely accepted modern standard of narrow deep cabinets. The enclosure was quite shallow but wide and thus unlike those Franco had championed previously - narrow, deep and if possible endowed with a lute-shaped cross section. 

The Ktêma is different again. Based on three arcs, the front is very narrow, the outwardly flaring concave cheeks are wider and the broad back is convex. The front sports a twin midrange module of two 100mm mid/high cardioid radiators that reproduce a significant part of the spectrum. This relies on both proper crossover points and special slits in the cabinet which decompress the rear wave and let it pass into the room. The treble is covered by what Serblin regards as driver legend Ragnar Lian’s top achievement, a special 28mm soft-dome tweeter. The back of the enclosure holds two powerful 230mm compression-loaded radiators. 

One of the first owners for a pair of Ktêma was Andrea Bocelli who later wrote to Franco: “I just listened to my own album and felt urged to sit at my computer and write a short letter to you to congratulate you on the performance of your speakers and thank you for the great enjoyment of listening to the music they gave me… Every recording of my voice seemed a bit warmer and more beautiful! It was a fabulous experience to feel the presence of the singer right next to me… Congratulations on your everlasting passion!” 

For me Serblin's loudspeakers arrived at a very opportune juncture taking their place in a line of other ambitious speakers I’d evaluated in the months prior like the German Physiks HRS120 Carbon, Isophon Berlina RC7 and Ascendo System ZF3 S.E. In this list I would also include the Avalon Ascendant; my previous Harpia Acoustics Dobermann in-house reference whose sound I remember very well; and one of the best monitors extant, the Harbeth P3ESR. I monitored this review as I always do with Sennheiser HD800 headphones over my Leben CS-300 XS custom amplifier and my recently acquired Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo cable. I had everything necessary in place to do justice to Franco Serblin's latest creation.

The first few days with the Ktêma were less fabulous than expected however. Unlike with the Avalons this was not about finding the ideal position. The Italians integrate quite easily although there are of course some tonal balance changes contingent on boundary proximity. But these changes were not significant enough to spoil the sound. They were more of a choice between different good options – more or less bass, a somewhat wider or narrower soundstage. Here the proper qualifier was ‘different’ rather than ‘better’ or ‘worse’. I simply had to make the choice that best fit me rather than being best per se. You might insist that there is only one proper tonal balance, only one proper soundstage scale and so on. Yet when you listen to loudspeakers of this caliber you appreciate that there is no objectively single best choice. And Serblin's products surely are amongst the best. 

One of the primary strengths of these is resolution. Here it is absolutely outstanding. Although I know most of Serblin's Sonus Faber designs I also know how these can still take you by surprise with their resolution. I refer mostly to the Elipsa and Stradivari models but also the very special Electa Amator MkI. Except for the treble where I peg the Electa slightly superior, the resolution of Serblin's latest is simply supreme. In a peculiar way it was this extraordinary resolution which rendered the first days with the Ktêma a bit painful. I couldn't get quite used to it. I felt there was too much midrange information. Later I realized that it was a matter of a quite significant difference between the Ktêma, the Isophon which preceded it and the Chario Academy Sonnet I used for direct comparison. On the other hand I also think that when the Ktêma arrived it was not fully broken in yet and required more time to show its full potential.

Their stupendous resolution helped me identify differences between two very high-end preamplifiers, the Ayon Polaris III and the Thrax Dionysos. Both are peak performance machines. This makes it impossible to cross-reference them with any superior product to concretise differences and strong and weak points. 

It was easiest to appreciate Ktêma’s resolution by analyzing the bass. Yes this is no mistake. The Ktêma’s bass range is astonishing. Only once before had I encountered anything slightly superior still by way of Hansen's Prince v2. There bass had been extended even further and also had been more muscular. Yet Serblin's speakers better differentiated the upper bass to distinguish between different recordings and different double basses where the Hansen tended to homogenize this band slightly. 

In general the Ktêma’s bass prowess was to be expected by those two giant woofers breathing out its back through narrow vertical slots. Even so it was not predictable what their effects might be on very specific placing and boundary loading. Here it seemed that Serblin’s special cabinet geometry serves a very practical purpose other than separating it from the competition (which clearly is successful too). Bass quantity can be manipulated by different in-room placement but it’s a matter of only two options – a lot of bass or even more bass. If memory serves I always obtained rich bass from big speakers in this room and I never tried to fight it but always rather fancied it. It makes recordings sound more natural and endowed with verve, never lean and clinical which is often the case with currently recorded fare. 

For me this tonal balance is the preferred one. Does it mean best or most realistic? It’s probably not perfectly neutral in the absolute sense but to be honest, I categorically reject neutrality that does not fully serve the music. I care about musical communion, not any Pyrrhic victory of absolute neutrality. As long as it serves its purpose, neutrality is vital of course. While the Ktêma's tonal balance was simply slightly shifted downwards, I found it very attractive.

It made double basses very natural and interesting by fully loading the room. It was the first time I encountered this instrument in that fashion in my space. The best speakers as these simply disappear to leave one with only the presence of a performer. To achieve that I usually have to set speakers up such that they cross just in front of my listening seat. Not all speakers fully cohere with such an orientation to slightly undermine the illusion but still it tends to be good. Serblin's speakers were aiming directly at me but this probably wasn't the most important factor. I think that the designer actually achieved something that seems quite impossible. He did turn his speakers into musical instruments. 

No, that’s not really about their very unconventional geometry. When I listened to Jazz and any well-recorded double bass entered like it does with Paul Chambers on Cool Struttin’ by Sonny Clark or Ben Tucker from The way it was! by Art Pepper, I saw a double-bass instead of a speaker. The upright wasn't presented somewhere behind it, at the side, in front of it or anywhere relative to it (all the usual concerns with recordings where the double bass appears in only one channel) but simply in place of the speaker. It had lots of air, great venue acoustics and fantastic intelligibility of the performers’ technique. All this was thanks to fabulous resolution of midrange and treble but unachievable without superior continuous rock-solid vibrant and energetic bass. I couldn't hear the drivers or any cabinet talk, just an almost real instrument. This became a very specific experience for me.

My impressions were quite similar when I listening to electronica or electric bass guitar This time it wasn't about replacing one speaker with a bass guitar since that’s usually recorded in both channels. Here it was more about a very powerful rich quality regardless of which recording I played. Even with less ‘heavy’ recordings like Nirvana's Nevermind—technically far from perfect—or the similarly compromised Playing The Angel by Depeche Mode, I didn't lack anything which happens far too often with other speakers. That's one of the Ktêma’s key features. It somehow realizes the music even if it means doing so with certain concessions to neutrality.

Even so the speaker will precisely administer whether an instrument played very subdued or whether the mastering engineer mixed it lower instead. Again the bass is very extended and powerful yet not in any way exaggerated. It’s too well differentiated to sound the same at all times. Proof thereof came from Bud Powell's Jazz Giant which includes takes from 1949 and 1950. These are quite uncomplicated cuts. It’s easy to appreciate that for the recording engineer the piano was most important. The bass existed only to support it. Clearly these two instruments were not treated equally and the bass played a subservient role on both sides (Ray Brown played bass on side A, Curly Russell on B). Serblin's speakers delivered it exactly according to these intentions. 

In my characterization so far I’ve focused mostly on the bass range. In conjunction with terrific overall resolution it makes the Ktêma into what it is. The sound is big, rich in the midband (perhaps overly so) and pretty distinctive in the treble. In matters of tonal balance, this presentation reminded me more of the Harpia and German Physics than Hansen and Avalon. Both the latter are creamier and perhaps slightly rolled off. Likely their resolution is not as advanced and their differentiation/separation inferior. 

The Ktêma’s soundstaging was spectacular if different from the omnipolar bending wave driver of the German Physiks which are unquestioned champs when it comes to sheer soundstage size. The Hansen and Avalon stage creamier where the Italian is more raw – like equivalent steak over well done. The instruments are presented quite close to the listener but their placement on the stage is very precise. It's easy to discern the sound engineers’ interventions or decisions in the studio. For many people it might come as a surprise to realize just how quietly the voices are mixed into most pop and rock pressings. Take for example Depeche Mode's Violator or Alison Moyet's debut solo effort. It is very difficult to present such recordings in a way that leaves clear how this was a premeditated sound engineer's choice rather than flaw of the recording or our system. On some albums like Suzanne Vegas’ Close-up, Vol. 1 or Moyet's Hoodoo it clearly becomes a flaw but it doubtlessly is one the mastering engineer made, not our system or the pressing itself. 

The Ktêma presents those subtle differences very distinctly so you have no doubts which faults they are for each recording – recording, system or sound engineer. Speaking about vocals, the Italian speakers maintain proper scale of voices at least assuming their perspective was properly captured on the albums. There is always a perfect balance between voice and instruments. If the mastering engineer wanted a big voice for Vega fronting her band you get just that. If he planned to place the vocal far away from the listener somewhere between and behind the instruments as is usually the case for Depeche Mode, you get that. Key is that it’s always part of a bigger picture and not just about exposing  the midrange even though voices usually are treated somewhat privileged. 

After I thought about this for a while I concluded that these were extremely transparent lucid speakers. It's why every vocal carried aloft on such clarity and resolution felt very natural and real. That's why it attracted more attention than it usually does. At the same time the Italian speakers were not ruthless. I’ve stated it many times before that the better a device—loudspeakers, cables, preamp—the less we are bothered by minor recorded flaws and the more we focus on the music itself. There is no dissonance. It's nothing but urban myth that ultra resolution answers everything. Certainly it is necessary but more as a scaffolding whereby to build up the sound. I hope you understand the distinction. Serblin's speakers clearly showed the difference between reproduced sound and creating sound. Of course they can only reproduce it but they do it such that you can't tell for sure. They actually become sound makers............

These are world-class hellaciously expensive speakers finished perfectly which deliver absolute top-shelf performance. They are also made by a legendary designer with limited availability to become the type of exclusive product certain watches are.

Description: The Ktêma is large and weighs over 50kg each though the triple arch-shaped structure makes it look less massive. It was one of the very few hifi designs all members of my family appreciated aesthetically. Everything about them seems well thought through and perfectly implemented and finished  even though personally I would favor another solution for the top and bottom as I'm not a fan of glossy chrome-type metal. 

Serblin's newest speaker is a four-way five-drivers design with two 230mm modified Scan-Speak woofers. These hidden drivers fire against the rigid rear baffle and deflect their emissions through vertical slots. The cabinet otherwise is sealed and not ported. There are similar breathing slots close to the sides of the two 100mm coated paper mid/woofers  with metal phase plugs which release the internal air pressure. These paralleled mids loaded into a separate chamber  are equipped with rigid moulded baskets and large motors. The tweeter is a coated Scan-Speak D2905 silk dome which Serblin views as the best transducer Ragnar Lian has designed who counts as one of the most famous driver designers alive. This tweeter is equipped with a non-resonant rear chamber. 

The enclosure is crafted of MDF panels strengthened with steel panels at the bottom and on top. The aluminum front  with black leather skin serves as rigid support for the drivers mounted to it. The speakers are equipped with four large spikes and Serblin’s signature string grill which should already be familiar to you from earlier Sonus Faber models (this can and should be taken off during listening sessions). At the back there are single WBT 0730 binding posts. The internal cabling was designed by Serblin's son-in-law Massimiliano Favella and is branded Yter. These cables are flat quite narrow ribbons made of a silver-palladium alloy. The sensitivity of the Ktêma is quite high at 92dB but impedance drops to 3.2Ω at 70Hz to demand a stout amplifier. The Ktêma is a limited edition release with Serblin's signature engraved in the top panel.

Ktema - It sounded huge and full of soul, easily the best masterpiece yet created by Franco Serblin in terms of sound.
Audiophile forum members have a say

Luv4nature:
Hi All, I listened to the Ktema speakers during its debut in Hong Kong.
It sounded huge and full of soul, easily the best masterpiece yet created by Franco Serblin in terms of sound.

howiebrou:
I can vouch for the fact that they are very musical indeed even when not run in they sounded very clean and sweet. Definitely worth an audition.

deaf.eye:
The way you describe Ktema, it makes me salivate.  I'm quite familiar with Stravidarius as my friend owns a pair driven by Klimax mono.  In his setup, the Stravidarius is so musical that it is hard to be beat at its price. 

Luv4nature:
Instead of conituing on the Sonus faber Speakers Thread, let me start an exclusive thread on the Ktema, having its first debut at the 2010 Hong Kong High-End Audio Visual Show.

For info, Franco Serblin, founder and designer of Sonus faber speakers, parted with the company some 4 to 5 years ago. Founded another audio product company Yter with his son-in-law, and while initially marketed some Yter audio cables and diffusor products, have been developing the Ktema speakers all these while and has recently launched the Ktema Speakers. Here are some impressions and images captured during the show.

Entering the listening hall, it initially appeared that the room was too big for the Ktema to fill, even the Yter Flexum acoustic diffuser seem bigger in scale standing adjacent the Ktema. Well, no worries at all as soon as the music note hits, the Ktema instantly drew amazement from all visitors in the room. In fact, the Ktema sounded very big, unbelievably huge. It filled the room and more. It drew listener to the music just like all the previous Sonus faber speakers designed by Fraco Serblin. But there’s something really special in the Ktema. It presented music as One; it radiates its passion as a unity, like a conductor having the full orchestra performing in perfect synchronization. I wouldn’t use the description that the Ktema “disappeared”, the speakers stood where they were like a pair of master craft static display, while the life like musical notes danced all around the speakers and in every space the huge listening room.

It is almost irrelevant to use audiophile or technical jargons here to represent what the Ktema could present, as I believe Franco Serblin really wanted the Ktema to convey musical emotion to the fullest... and boy they do! One couldn’t help but wonder if Franco was saving something up his sleeve in the Stradivari project, and then showing his final cards in the Ktema. Stradivari is now in the past, the Ktema Story has begun!

p.s. During the show, the Ktema was only driven by “Mid-Hi range” Audio Analogue special edition CDP, and Pre-Power amps (Maestro SE series, I think) instead of some zillion dollar electronics. It goes to show how capable the Ktemas are! Power was supplied via a Purepower APS Regenerator. Power and interconnect cables were combination of Yter and Crystal Cables, while the Ktemas were connected via the Yter Speaker cables.

These are world class, expensive as hell speakers perfectly finished and delivering absolutely top performance.
High Fidelity Magazine

Pepper's, or Ben Tucker's from same session I “saw” a double-bass instead of loudspeaker. It wasn't presented somewhere behind speaker, at the side, in front and so on (all that concerns recordings with double-bass present only in one channel), but simply in place of a speaker. Lots of air, great acoustics, and fantastic presentation of playing technique – all that thanks to fabulous resolution of a midrange and treble but unachievable without great presentation of continuous, solid rock but also vibrant and energetic bass range. I couldn't hear the driver, cabinet, reverberations in the room – just almost real-like instrument. This was a very particular experience for me.

Last year (2010) it's been exactly 30 years since Franco Serblin presented to the world his first loudspeaker system called Snail. That's no mistake - „system” and not just a „set of speaker” as Snail was a concept with two small speakers (monitors or satellites if you will) and a single subwoofer. They were literally, mechanically coupled as two small satellite speakers were mounted on long extension arms with a subwoofer placed in the middle, all made of wood. Pretty unusual setup at the time, although 2+1 concept was not brand new, but only when home cinema became popular subwoofers started to play a role of a “support” for satellite speakers, and that happened years later. That's how Serblin's successful carrier started, that's how, created by him in 1980, legendary company Sonus Faber started to write its part in world's audio industry history. In February 2007 Franco sold his company to private Italian holding firm - Quadrivio SGR, same one that a year later bought audio industry legend, Audio Research. Nobody really expected Serblin to “retire” in his beautiful house with vineyard and spend rest of his life enjoying fame, glory and significant wealth. His last model prepared for Sonus faber was Elipsa – smaller version of his top model, Stradivari. Almost three years after the end of his Sonus faber era, Franco presented to the world his newest “baby”, that on one hand should be a beginning of something big, on the other hand surely is connected with his previous achievements – Elipsa and Stradivari (models that were quite revolutionary). In 2010 he was ready with the first design created for a new brand. What brand name could ace his own name? That's a rhetorical question, so this new brand-name is just Franco Serblin and the first model is called Ktêma. Well, all right – it's not that simple (it never is with Italian companies involved). Some promotional materials mention name Yter, which is a brand name of audio cables. Invoices for distributors are issued by another company, and the speakers are send from yet another firm. So to keep it plain and simple I assumed that the correct brand name is Franco Serblin. 

We mentioned that already when inviting you to Audio Show 2010, where the Polish premiere of these speakers took place, but I think I should repeat the most important information given us by Serblin. 

As you can read on his webpage ‘Ktêma’ is a Greek word meaning something like: a possession for ever - something that, over time, cannot be disputed, just like Franco's passion for building loudspeakers treated as musical instruments, can't be disputed either. 

Stradivari Hommage was the first model with a design opposing widely accepted standard of speakers with narrow but deep cabinets, as its form was definitely wide. Do you remember it? Cabinet was quit flat – wide front and small depth totally unlike what Franco had been doing up to this time – narrow, deep and if possible with a lute-shape cabinet. Ktêma are different – whole design is based on four arcs – narrow and protuberant in the front, two bit wider and concave at the sides and wide and protuberant in the back. Front sports midrange module including two 100 mm mid-high cardioid radiators that reproduce the significant part of the spectrum. It's achieved thanks to proper crossover points and special cut-out in the cabinet that works in a somehow similar way as bass-reflex does, delivering information from the back side of the diaphragm. Top range is delivered by, what is supposed to be top achievement of Ragnar Lian, a 28 mm soft-dome tweeter. At the back of the enclosure there are two powerful 230 mm compression-loaded and room-interfaced radiators. 

One of the first people who bought these speakers was Andrea Bocelli, who later wrote a special letter to Franco.: „I just listened to my own album and felt urged to sit at my computer and write a short letter to you to congratulate you on the performance of your speakers, and thank you for the great enjoyment of listening to the music they gave me… Every recording of my voice seemed bit warmer and more beautiful! It was a fabulous experience to feel the presence of the singer right next to me… Congratulations on your everlasting passion!” 

SOUND

Discs used during listening sessions: 
•Bud Powell, Jazz Giant, Verve/Universal Music Company (Japan), UCCU-5062, CD.  •Pat Martino, East!, Prestige/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2018, SACD/CD. •Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin’, Blue Note/Audio Wave, AWMXR-0003, XRCD24;. •Art Pepper, “…the way it was!”, Contemporary Records/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2034, SACD/CD;. •Nirvana, Nevermind, Geffen Records/Universal Music Japan, UICY-93358, CD. •Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, Live at the Misty, TBM/Sony Music Direct (Japan), MHCP 10038, SACD/CD.  •Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends, Columbia/Sony Music Japan International, SICP 1484, CD.  •Depeche Mode, Playing The Angel, Mute, lcdstumm260, SACD/CD + DVD.  •Alison Moyet, Hoodoo, Sanctuary Records/Castle Music, CMRCD796, CD.  •Alison Moyet, Alf, Columbia/Sony Music, 483836, CD.  •Kombi, 4, Polskie Nagrania Muza, PNCD 999, CD. Depeche Mode, Violator, Mute, DMCD7, Collectors Edition, SACD/CD + DVD;.  •Youn Sun Nah, Same Girl, HUB Music/ACT Music + Vision, ACT 9024-2, CD.  •Suzanne Vega, Close-Up. Vol 1, Love Songs, Amanuensis Productions/Cooking Vinyl, COOKCD521, CD.  Japanese issues are available at CD Japan.

Serblin's loudspeakers arrived in a quite special moment for me – they got their place in the line between many other quite expensive devices I listened to in the last months, including also very expensive loudspeakers like: German Physiks HRS120 Carbon, Isophon Berlina, or just before Ascendo System ZF3 S.E. I would include in this list also Avalon Ascendant, my Harpia Acoustics Dobermann, that I don't have anymore but still remember their sound very well, and one of the best monitors - Harbeth P3ESR. I monitored the test, as always, with Sennheiser HD800 headphones with Leben CS-300 XS [Custom Version] amplifier and my recently acquired Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo cable. In my opinion I had it all that was necessary for comprehensive test of the new Franco Serblin's product.

First couple of days with Ktêma were not so great as I expected. Unlike with Avalons it was not about positioning them in the room. Italian speakers integrate with a room quite easily although there are some changes in tonal balance when you place them closer to the walls or further from them. These changes are not significant though, definitely not something that would spoil the sound – it is more of a choice between different good options – more or less bass, bit bigger or smaller soundstage, but the proper description here is “different” and not “better or worse”. So I had to make a choice that would fit the best and the best per se. 

You might say that there is only one proper tonal balance, proper size of the soundstage and so on but when you listen to loudspeakers of such a great performance you realize that there is no one objectively best choice. And Serblin's products are surely among the best. One of their primary strengths is outstanding resolution. Absolutely outstanding! Although I know most of Serblin's Sonus faber designs I also know that these can take you by surprise with this particular feature – resolution. I mean mostly Elipsa and Stradivari, but also a very special one – Electa Amator MkI. Except for treble which is slightly better in Electa, resolution of new Serblin's babies is simply supreme. The “funny” thing is that it was the extraordinary resolution that made these first couple of days bit painful for me as I couldn't get used to it. It felt like there was too much information in the midrange. Now I realize that it was the matter of quite significant difference between Ktema, Isophone (I listened to shortly before this test) and Chario Academy Sonnet (that I used for direct comparison with Italian speakers). On the other hand I think that when they arrived they were still not fully broken in and they needed some more time to show their full potential.

The already mentioned fabulous resolution helped me to point out differences between two high-end preamplifiers - Ayon Polaris III and Thrax Dionysos. Both are top high-end devices which makes it impossible to cross-reference them with some better product and thus even to name these differences, strong and weak points. It is easiest to appreciate this resolution when analyzing low range. Yes, that is not a mistake. Bass range of Ktêma is amazing. Only once I heard something slightly better – and it came from Hansen Prince v2. Bass was even better extended, with more muscle, richer. But on the other hand Serblin's speakers were able to present upper bass range in a better way by better differentiation of different recordings, different double basses and so on, while Hansens tended to unify this subrange slightly. In general there is plenty of bass which was to be expected judging by two giant woofers at speaker's back. On the other hand it was not possible to foresee what would be the effect of their very specific placing and loading. In this particular case it seems that special design had its reasonable purpose, it was not just about making it different from competitors (which worked too by the way). The amount of bass can be manipulated by different positioning of speakers in the room but it is only a question of how much bass we get – a lot, or more than that. If my memory serves I always got a lot of rich bass from big loudspeakers in my room and I never tried to fight it – I always rather liked it. That makes recordings sound natural, with verve, never lean, never “technical” which is often a case with presently recorded music. For me THIS tonal balance is the preferred one. Does it mean that it is the best, it is natural? Neutral in the absolute sense – probably not, but to be honest such neutrality that does go with the music is not something I could accept – I deny it, kick it out, forget about it. I care about music and not about achieving perfect neutrality. Sure – neutrality is important as long as it serves the purpose. So even though Ktêma's tonal balance was slightly shifted towards low range I found it very attractive.

Tested loudspeakers made double-bass sound very natural, very interesting as it was able to fulfill large space. For the first time I heard in my room such a way of presentation of this instrument. The best loudspeakers, like the ones described here, simply disappear from my room leaving only a presence of an instrument. To achieve that I usually have to set the speakers in a way, when the straight lines coming from them cross just in front of my listening spot. Not all speakers allow such setting and than illusion is not so realistic but still good. Serblin's speakers were directed directly to my ears but it probably wasn't the most important factor. I think that the designer achieved something that seemed rather impossible – he turned speakers into musical instruments. And no, it's not really about this very special design. When I listened to jazz and when well recorded double-bass entered like e.g. Paul Chambers'es from Cool Struttin’ by Sonny Clark and …the way it was! Art Pepper's, or Ben Tucker's from same session I “saw” a double-bass instead of loudspeaker. It wasn't presented somewhere behind speaker, at the side, in front and so on (all that concerns recordings with double-bass present only in one channel), but simply in place of a speaker. Lots of air, great acoustics, and fantastic presentation of playing technique – all that thanks to fabulous resolution of a midrange and treble but unachievable without great presentation of continuous, solid rock but also vibrant and energetic bass range. I couldn't hear the driver, cabinet, reverberations in the room – just almost real-like instrument. This was a very particular experience for me.

My impression were quite similar when I was listening to electronic music, or to electric bass guitar This time it wasn't about replacing one of the speakers with bass guitar because it is usually recorded in both channels, but more about this strong and rich presentation regardless of which recording I played. Even with not so “heavy” recordings like Nirvana's Nevermind (far from perfect from technical point of view), or Playing The Angel by Depeche Mode (same here) I didn't lack anything which happens way to often when I use different speakers. That's one of the features of these speakers – they somehow support the music, even if it means playing it in less neutral way. Whenever instrument plays quietly, or sound engineer rolled it off a bit – Italian loudspeakers will give you exactly that. Ktêma offer very deep, strong bass, but it is not exaggerated, and it is really well differentiated so it doesn't sound the same all the time. This was perfectly proven by Bud Powell's Jazz Giant album including recordings from 1949 and 1950 – these are quite uncomplicated recordings and it is easy to tell that for sound engineer the piano was the most important instrument, and bass only supported it. These two instruments were surely not treated equally – bass played less important role on both sides of the record (Ray Brown played bass on side A, and Curly Russell played on B). Serblin's speakers delivered it exactly according to sound engineer's intentions. I focused mostly on a bass range as it, together with outstanding overall resolution, makes these speakers what they are. They offer “big” sound with strong, rich (maybe even too rich) midrange and pretty distinct treble. In terms of timbre balance they sound more like Harpia and Physiks than Hansen or Avalon loudspeakers. The latter two deliver more creamy sound, maybe slightly rolled off. Probably also resolution is not that amazing, and they don't differentiate sound that well. 

Spacing offered by these speakers is spectacular, although presented in a different way than the one of German Physiks – German speakers are unquestionable champion when it comes to the size of soundstage, and the soundstage delivered by Hansen and Avalon speakers is more “creme”. Here everything is expressed in a bit more “raw” way – it's like taking raw steak instead of well done. Instruments are presented quite closely to the listener but their placement on the stage is very precise. It's easy to pick up sound engineers interventions or decisions they made when working with the material in studio. For many people it might be so kind of a surprise when they realize how quietly are the voices mixed into most pop and rock recordings – for example on Depeche Mode's Violator, or Alison Moyet's solo debut album (Alf). It is really difficult to present such recording in such a way that it is clear that this was a premeditated choice of sound engineer and not a flaw of recording or system. On some recordings like Close-up, Vol. 1 by Suzanne Vega or Moyet's Hoodoo it is clear that it is a flaw but you know for sure it's sound engineer's fault not system's nor recording's. Ktêma present all those subtle differences very distinctly so you have no doubts which one is for each recording – recording, system or sound engineer's fault. Speaking about vocals – Italian speakers keep the proper scale of each voice, at least assuming that they get it from the recording. There is always a perfect match, perfect balance between voice and instruments – they are shown exactly how the sound engineer intended them to be. If he wanted big voice of Vega in the front of the band – you get just that, if he planned to place vocal far away from us, hidden somewhere between instruments (like it usually is on Depeche Mode albums) – you get that. Important thing is that it is always a part of a bigger plan and not just exposing midrange, although voices usually sound a bit privileged. After I thought about it for a while I realized that these are extremely transparent, clear sounding speakers and that is why every vocal delivered with this clarity and resolution sound very natural, real and that attract more attention to it than it usually does. At the same time Italian loudspeakers are not “ruthless” for recordings or other elements of the system. I declared that already many times before – the better device, loudspeakers, cables and so on we listen to the less we care about some minor flaws and the more we focus on the music itself. There is no dissonance – it's nothing more but an urban legend that highly detailed sound is an answer for everything. Sure it is necessary but more as a framework to build the sound upon. I hope you will understand what I mean – Serblin's speakers clearly show the difference between reproducing sound and making sound – of course they can only reproduce but they do it in such a way that you can't tell for sure it only “reproduction.. 

I mentioned couple of times in this text that some elements of the sound are presented better by some other speakers at similar price level. I believe that Esotar tweeter used in Electa Amator is a better transducer than the one used in Ktêma, but it doesn't make the latter less amazing. Also a metal driver from SEAS used in Dobermann offers similar performance. The Scan-Speak's soft-dome is a very good one, but these mentioned above and also ceramic one from Isophon are able to deliver more firm treble. Tested speakers tend to accentuate some elements but not via more precise presentation but rather slower decay. The second small “but” is a subtle dryness of the midrange. I'm pretty sure that everybody can happily live with what Ktema deliver in this aspect but I simply remember Hansens and Avalons that delivered it in a bit more “creme” way (but without even slightest unification of this range!), so I know that there is a way to do it even bit better. That's exactly why the soundstage is not so dense, full as delivered by Hansen. It is also the truth that Prince v2 are the only loudspeakers I know better in this particular aspect.

Apart from this two small “buts” I don't see any flaw, problems and so on. These are world class, expensive as hell speakers perfectly finished and delivering absolutely top performance. Plus they are made by a legendary designer, quantity to be delivered to the market is limited, and they are simply exclusive products. Just like some watches used but blue-bloods.

DESCRIPTION

Ktêma are large, weighting over 50 kg/pc loudspeakers. Their triple arch-shaped structure makes them look rather lightweight. It is one of the very few designs appreciated by all members of my family. Everything about them seems well thought-through, perfectly implemented and finished – although I would try to find another solution for top and bottom as I'm not a fan of chrome finish. New Serblin's product is a four-way and five-drivers design. They employ two 230-mm modified Scan-Speak woofers. Drivers radiate towards rigid baffle placed in front of them that deflects part of sound waves directing them to quite wide gaps between baffle and cabinet. Obviously the cabinet itself is a closed design. There are some cut-outs close to midrange woofers that allow release of air moved by the back side diaphragms. These are two 100 mm drivers with coated paper membrane and a metal phase plug. They are equipped with rigid, moulded suspensions and large magnets. There are no markings on them so I can't tell who made them. They work in a separate chamber with cut-outs at the sides. Tweeter is a coated silk dome - Scan-Speak D2905 – Serblin says it's the best driver designed by Ragnar Lian, who's one of the most famous driver designers. It is equipped with non-resonant chamber. Cabinet is made of MDF panels strengthened with steel panels at the bottom and on the top, and with aluminum panel in front which serves as a support for drivers mounted to it Front is covered with black leather. Loudspeakers are equipped with for large spikes and already known from many Sonus faber models string-grill (which can and should be taken off during listening sessions). At the back there are single WBT 0730 binding posts.

Internal cabling is designed by Serblin's son in law Massimiliano Favella and branded as Yter. These are flat, not too wide ribbons made of silver-palladium alloy. Sensitivity of Ktêma is quite high - 92 dB, but impedance drops as low as 3,2 Ω at 70 Hz which means that they require quite a lot of juice from amp, so you better get a powerful one. Ktêma is a limited model with Serblin's signature engraved to the top panel.

Ktema - It will drag quite some music lovers into many intimate moments.
Matey Iask - Mono & Stereo

Where form follows functions, it's hard to expect something of an art, but with those two going hand in hand and through the hands of real artisan, you'll end up with an object of desire. In Serblin case both esthetic and sonic vise.

Ktema is not just a statement, but precisely carved musical instrument with inherent knowledge and respect to fine craftsmanship heritage and most important to the music itself.

Don't be a stranger and let your ears take you places. Highly recommended!

Heritage

Franco Serblin Ktema is finally here. After many speculations and intrigues about this new speaker from Italian famous speaker artisan I can assure you, that it was worth waiting. Serblin brainchild Ktema is a unique sculpture in the world of high-end audio. Razwan from Amplitune would quickly remind me if it has a soul, as I said many times in prior to this review. Yes it carries the soul of all Franco's famous speakers and go beyond. For me, this is his best creation and certainly one of the best looking florstanders. Owning Sounus Faber Guarneri Mementos's puts me in position to quite fairly compare them two both esthetically and sonically.

Sonus Faber?

Ktema still holds recognizable Serblin sound, that made historical impact in high-end audio scene almost three decades ago and perhaps refine it with few innovative (or tributed) solutions. Finish is impeccable and I never seen such a glamour harmony of wood and fine brushed aluminum. It breaths life and strike you with it's (for a second) almost Klingon monument appearance. Black is still beauty and Italians still do it better :).

Sound

From the first note it was apparent and vivid that this is recognizable Serblin sound. Natural, a bit warm, but not pronounced and well suited for any music. Dispalyed Ktema's wasn't all smooth yet, if I can use that analogy, but speakers were only played for few hours so far. I guess it takes few hundred hours to drive them in as all previous Sonus Faber speakers. Even so far and with right amplification it was a formidable "deja-vu". If you loved the way Electa Amator, Stradivari and  Guarneri series sounded, you'll be not only equally thrilled, but even more impressed by Ktema ability to reply your favorite recordings. This might be the missing link of past few years in Sonus Fabes sound. They took a bit different sound approach from introducing of the Elipsa and I wasn't impressed with it to be honest. Not sure why, but high-end tend to follow strange route these past few years. Lots of modern amplifiers, speakers and other components are trying to portrait the music as super open, supreme dynamic and sterile. This is simply not the way real music sound like. Few concert goings might solve that dilemma...

Structure

It seems that Franco loves the voicing of Scanspeak and Ragnar Lian (Seas). He expertly implied these drivers into interestingly carved and archly shaped enclosure. This is five drivers based system with custom built crossover, opens up the sound and space even further. Franco took few of inspirations guides from classical Altec and Snell designs and refined them into contemporary speaker in the "grande" way. Bass is natural and the way it behaves in real life ambiance. It almost reminds on the horn loaded classical approach. I guess the compression-controlled and room-interfaced configuration (as resemblance to above mentioned inspirations) does really combine sort of the best of both worlds. This is not the horn like speaker and neither it's trying to mirror that principe. Speakers with crossover holds some inherent limitations. Well designed crossover will remedy to a degree few of those obstacles and Ktema does this in elegant manner with offering few other advancements. In the end everyone is taking their path towards music truth. Ktema won't win F1 of high-end race in speed revelations. I strongly doubt that it's designed in that way, knowing Serblin previous works. It points towards music, the natural feel and emotions of music. In my opinion everything is set accordingly without senseless compromises.

Mask

Grilles revival? Certainly no! Franco Serblin brought those nylon grilles to speakers with style and rest of the crowd just copied them. Ktema's looks great without nylon covers, but appears classical with them mounted. They're kind of a Franco final signature to his creation.

Synergy

Driven by outstanding Tom Evans Linear B monoblocks Ktema's conveyed music effortlessly and naturally. These days I don't care that much about specs and technical details. This doesn't mean that I would fall for any irrational nonsense, but if advertised high-end component cannot convey music, it fails for me. Period! Linear B is also a true jewel among many faked, overpriced and cloned amplifiers. We're living in and age of lies. Small and big ones. So, go and check facts out. Only your ears (you might even need to train them) will be the judges. Sometimes truth hurts, but for me screaming music is non tolerable regardless the name or price of high-end component.

R(e)volution

Will Ktema turn the world around? No! Revolutionize the way we listen to the music? No! It will drag quite some music lovers into many intimate moments.

Artisan

Where form follows functions, it's hard to expect something of an art, but with those two going hand in hand and through the hands of real artisan, you'll end up with an object of desire. In Serblin case both esthetic and sonic vise.

Statement

Ktema is not just a statement, but precisely carved musical instrument with inherent knowledge and respect to fine craftsmanship heritage and most important to the music itself.

Don't be a stranger and let your ears take you places. Highly recommended!

The sonic signature of Ktema is more similar to old Guarneri Homage. Extremely pure, sophisticated, dynamic with good bass extension.
Audiophile forum member

Hello Guys,
the pairs revived in High Fidelity belongs to my friend so I have few times the opportunity to audition this speaker. The friend of mine has Sonus Fabre Stradivari and Ktema so I have opportunity to audition both speakers in the same system and the same room. I have to say that I would have very hard choice if I have to pick up one of them. Ktema is more suited for smaller rooms, Stradivarii for larger ones.

The sonic signature of Ktema is more similar to old Guarneri Homage. Extremely pure, sophisticated, dynamic with good bass extension. The most impressive aspect of the Ktema is their sound stage - very wide and deep. In direct comparison with Stradivari Ktema is more neutral sounding speaker and less warm in sound. Stradivari is born to play classical music, Ktema is more universal speaker.
Personally I like the warmth and magic of Stradivari, however in some music it may sound a little slow (especially on bass) and the soundstage is not so impressive..... Milimetr.

 

 

 

.......It will drag quite some music lovers into many intimate moments.
Mono & Stereo Ultra High End Audio Mag

"Where form follows functions, it's hard to expect something of an art, but with those two going hand in hand and through the hands of real artisan, you'll end up with an object of desire. In Serblin case both esthetic and sonic vise".

Ktema is not just a statement, but precisely carved musical instrument with inherent knowledge and respect to fine craftsmanship heritage and most important to the music itself.

Don't be a stranger and let your ears take you places. Highly recommended!

Heritage

Franco Serblin Ktema is finally here. After many speculations and intrigues about this new speaker from Italian famous speaker artisan I can assure you, that it was worth waiting. Serblin brainchild Ktema is a unique sculpture in the world of high-end audio. Razwan from Amplitune would quickly remind me if it has a soul, as I said many times in prior to this review. Yes it carries the soul of all Franco's famous speakers and go beyond. For me, this is his best creation and certainly one of the best looking florstanders. Owning Sounus Faber Guarneri Mementos's puts me in position to quite fairly compare them two both esthetically and sonically.

Sonus Faber?

Ktema still holds recognizable Serblin sound, that made historical impact in high-end audio scene almost three decades ago and perhaps refine it with few innovative (or tributed) solutions. Finish is impeccable and I never seen such a glamour harmony of wood and fine brushed aluminum. It breaths life and strike you with it's (for a second) almost Klingon monument appearance. Black is still beauty and Italians still do it better :).

Sound

From the first note it was apparent and vivid that this is recognizable Serblin sound. Natural, a bit warm, but not pronounced and well suited for any music. Dispalyed Ktema's wasn't all smooth yet, if I can use that analogy, but speakers were only played for few hours so far. I guess it takes few hundred hours to drive them in as all previous Sonus Faber speakers. Even so far and with right amplification it was a formidable "deja-vu". If you loved the way Electa Amator, Stradivari and  Guarneri series sounded, you'll be not only equally thrilled, but even more impressed by Ktema ability to reply your favorite recordings. This might be the missing link of past few years in Sonus Fabes sound. They took a bit different sound approach from introducing of the Elipsa and I wasn't impressed with it to be honest. Not sure why, but high-end tend to follow strange route these past few years. Lots of modern amplifiers, speakers and other components are trying to portrait the music as super open, supreme dynamic and sterile. This is simply not the way real music sound like. Few concert goings might solve that dilemma...

Structure

It seems that Franco loves the voicing of Scanspeak and Ragnar Lian (Seas). He expertly implied these drivers into interestingly carved and archly shaped enclosure. This is five drivers based system with custom built crossover, opens up the sound and space even further. Franco took few of inspirations guides from classical Altec and Snell designs and refined them into contemporary speaker in the "grande" way. Bass is natural and the way it behaves in real life ambiance. It almost reminds on the horn loaded classical approach. I guess the compression-controlled and room-interfaced configuration (as resemblance to above mentioned inspirations) does really combine sort of the best of both worlds. This is not the horn like speaker and neither it's trying to mirror that principe. Speakers with crossover holds some inherent limitations. Well designed crossover will remedy to a degree few of those obstacles and Ktema does this in elegant manner with offering few other advancements. In the end everyone is taking their path towards music truth. Ktema won't win F1 of high-end race in speed revelations. I strongly doubt that it's designed in that way, knowing Serblin previous works. It points towards music, the natural feel and emotions of music. In my opinion everything is set accordingly without senseless compromises. 

Mask

Grilles revival? Certainly no! Franco Serblin brought those nylon grilles to speakers with style and rest of the crowd just copied them. Ktema's looks great without nylon covers, but appears classical with them mounted. They're kind of a Franco final signature to his creation.

Synergy

Driven by outstanding Tom Evans Linear B monoblocks Ktema's conveyed music effortlessly and naturally. These days I don't care that much about specs and technical details. This doesn't mean that I would fall for any irrational nonsense, but if advertised high-end component cannot convey music, it fails for me. Period! Linear B is also a true jewel among many faked, overpriced and cloned amplifiers. We're living in and age of lies. Small and big ones. So, go and check facts out. Only your ears (you might even need to train them) will be the judges. Sometimes truth hurts, but for me screaming music is non tolerable regardless the name or price of high-end component.

R(e)volution

Will Ktema turn the world around? No! Revolutionize the way we listen to the music? No! It will drag quite some music lovers into many intimate moments.

Artisan

Where form follows functions, it's hard to expect something of an art, but with those two going hand in hand and through the hands of real artisan, you'll end up with an object of desire. In Serblin case both esthetic and sonic vise.

Statement

Ktema is not just a statement, but precisely carved musical instrument with inherent knowledge and respect to fine craftsmanship heritage and most important to the music itself.

Don't be a stranger and let your ears take you places. Highly recommended!

Franco Serblin factory visit and report
Matej Isak
Artisan story goes on
 
Franco Serblin needs no introduction. He was one of the few true audio artisans who could seamlessly close the unthinkable gap between the technology and art in the service of music. And in true Italian way. With his genius vision in the form of timeless design ability he brought many people into the world of high-end and music that would normally never step into this wonderful universe of music. Let it be his appeal for design or sense of aesthetics combined with traditional wood craftsmanship, his work and heritage left behind made him already at his world presence a true living legend. His contribution to high end goes beyond audio as he managed to inspire so many and in high-end audio both listeners and manufacturers. 
With the sad news of Franco passing this year many wondered and ask me what would happen to the company. This is the reason we organized the meeting for the report. With Igor Kante of Vklop-Ubiq who knew Franco very good from the early Sonus Faber years, and who Franco really loved, we hit the road toward the sunny and beautiful Vicenza.
 
New premises
 
Franco Serblin son in law awaited us at the new factory building. He’s the mastermind behind Laboratorium  and the man who took the task of preserving Franco’s legacy and family business. Even at the times when Franco was present Massimiliano was already in charged of whole production and company operations for building Accordo and Ktema speakers. If you’ve ever looked closely on both speakers models, there was always a small description on them noting: “Manufactured under the license of Franco Serblin by Laboratorium”. 
 
In this way Franco Serblin already ensured the safe path for future. 
 
With Franco Serblin passing away everybody wondered about the spirit of Franco and his company existence. Let me assure you; there is no better person on the planet to carry on the brand unmatched legacy then Massimiliano. I’m working with people all my life and my intuition rarely fails me. Massimiliano not only took his part of carrying on Franco legacy seriously from the business perspective, but by heart. In Italy family means everything. It’s a matter of culture. Tears came to his eyes repeatedly when we talked about Serblin his time together and work.
 
Franco Serblin Company was started from the ground, as a true artisan workshop and it remained as such. Everything stayed the same. Subcontractors, the building process, building materials, handwork, hand assembly etc. Once you learn a thing or two about speaker design it’s instantly become clear speakers like Accordo and Ktema can only be manufactured in Italy and only by persons of true passion for woodwork. Its in Italian blood. 
 
For Massimiliano the keeping of artisan production unchanged is the most important thing and life vision. Like from the first models of Accordo and Ktema he assembly each speakers alone. Yes, alone! Checking each part quality, screwing the parts, measuring, packing etc. Even the soldering, which is done in point-to-point fashion is done by him sole. He wants to keep it perfect and by doing it personally it is the only way to control the quality and outcome. I saw the man’s passion and dedication and it won my heart very quickly. In this an age you rarely see this kind of efforts to build and ensure the production of a true “slow” hand work. No rush, no panic. Like with Japanese Katana sword making; a process of building itself is an art and a matter of pride. It further reminded me of the process of high-end watch assembly or one of the kinds Hermes dedication for their perfection of hand work. Just for example. It takes a whole day to assemble Ktema’s. 
 
Only selected materials are used and everything in factory space is organized very nicely an on hand. Woods used as a part of speakers are left for at least two months once arrived to be dried up and ready to use. And even then they’re once again checked and rejected if not to the standard. 
 
There were numerous Accordo enclosures waiting for assembly at the factory. There is a new finish, it’s called Accordo Grey and it will be approximately 1000 euros more expensive then walnut version. It’s not only the finish that is different. Accordo Grey is multi layered hardwood and made of 1 mm layers of multi layered hardwood. This gives certain rigidity and a sound. The new Gray color is done in mirror like finish with twelve layers of hand brushed and polish. Result is eye catching and with premium feel. For example Franco Serblin Ktema black piano finish carries the similar twelve-layer finish, but with Ktema it’s done by piano company. 
 
Last wish
 
Franco last wish was to produce speakers for everybody. To make and affordable artisan speaker for people. Not only that, he wanted to give music also to those in pain in illness. He deeply understood the potency of music as realized in last years by science. Music can have a healing potential and its appeal is not only pleasing, but emotionally en-charged. For that he asked Massimiliano to make this project happen. 
 
New speaker
 
There are few projects in the future pipelines, but first one to come in a good year is a two-way floor-stander. This speaker will be even more affordable then Accordo and it’s the one, which Franco wanted to reach more people as mentioned above. Nothing will be done half way with this new third speaker. Same quality parts and hand assembly, just in the respect of Franco last whishes. 
 
Italian hospitality
 
Massimiliano was a perfect host. His energy and openhearted nature won me over. We finished our meeting by the perfect Italian lunch on the top of the evergreen hills. There is no place like Italy and even food taste differently, in better way. We talked about things generally and especially where high-end industry is going. Time passed to quickly in great company. Review on new Grey Accordo was set and I’ll report more in due time. 
 
Conclusion
 
For me the visit it only deepened my respect for Franco Serblin as person and now as brand to be carried on. There is no other person on the planet that can push on the legacy preserved as imagined by master himself, but Massimiliano. He’s the man of true passion and dedication, a family man with the deepest respect for masterwork left untouched and presented as such. 
 
With the late happening in high-end audio where everything get fast forward and measured by the numbers Franco Serblin speakers remains built by hand, passion, heart and real people! 
 
Once you experience the brand and man behindas such, it’s hard not to hanker after the products as Accordo and Ktema even more.

Testimonials

Paul loves his new Ktemas.....
The Ktema speakers have 220 hours on the clock now, and WHAT a difference that time has made to them. They have lost their initial brightness and stiffness and the big improvements started at 50 hours.

With a good recording the electronics and speakers disappear, and only the music is left to seduce the ears. You may have deduced by now that I am really wrapped with them.

To be auditioned though, they MUST have some burn in time on them.

Hoping your new shop is progressing well, I am gratefully yours,
 
Kind regards.
....... Paul

Image preview

http://www.audioreference.co.nz/brand/ktema
I'm very happy,
Hi Terry,
 
The speakers (Ktema) arrived yesterday in pristine condition and I set them up last night , they sounded great after placing them quite different to the Cremona ms, I'm very happy..... the leap of faith paid off.

Thank-you once again and has been a great experience all round.    

 …..Zane

Videos

Franco Serblin Ktema Ayon Scorpio Sigma Digibit Aria at Absolute Hi End