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The Maserati MC20’s Sound System Is as Impressive as the Supercar Itself

Road & Track logo Road & Track 2021-10-22 Patrick Carone
Italian audio giant Sonus Faber brings the vital sound of live music into the MC20’s cabin using innovative tech and old-fashioned ears. © Maserati Italian audio giant Sonus Faber brings the vital sound of live music into the MC20’s cabin using innovative tech and old-fashioned ears.

On the off chance you ever get sick of hearing the MC20’s V-6 race to its lofty 8,000-rpm redline right behind your head, Maserati has perfected an equally immersive soundtrack for your senses. To create a sound system befitting its new 621-hp mid-engine halo car, the masterminds in Modena enlisted the help of audio-obsessed paisans from just outside the famed Motor Valley.

Sonus Faber has been handcrafting some of the highest-quality speakers on the planet since 1983. Best known for small-human-sized, display-worthy tower units that cost up to $140,000, the company prides itself on reproducing the clarity, tonal balance, and dynamic range of a live musical performance. Indeed, when Leonard Coen’s haunting “You Want It Darker” played on the new line of Lumina V speakers at their headquarters outside the Renaissance-era town of Vicenza, I felt transported to a dingy recording studio, ready to bum a smoke from the gravelly voiced legend himself.

maserati mc20 © Maserati maserati mc20

To approximate that audio alchemy within the tight confines of the MC20, the system (an approximately $4,000 option on the estimated $210,000 ride) features 12 channels amplified with 695 Watts of power and 12 specifically calibrated speakers. By using natural materials to reproduce sound—such as the silk used for the tweeters’ domes, which optimizes sound dispersion—Sonus Faber developed a transfixing addition to the already improbable capabilities of the MC20.

Small Quarters, Big Sound

Shoehorning speakers made for big rooms into a tiny car is like squeezing an entire tray of lasagna into a toaster oven. “If you think about it, the cabin of a car is a small closet,” Sonus Faber CEO Jeff Poggi tells me after our listening session. “It's really small as compared to a normal home space, so you're dealing with some basic physics challenges.” The goal is to create reproduced sound that has the broad dispersion and natural midrange of live music. “When you're sitting in the driver's seat, you should be able to close your eyes and see the singer in the middle of the stage, the bassist on the left, the guitar player on the right, and hear the separation of those instruments. We have a sophisticated equalization system, but it ultimately comes down to someone sitting in the car, listening, and fine-tuning everything by ear.”

maserati mc20 © LORENZO MARCINNO maserati mc20

Closeness Is Key

“We took our silk-dome tweeter, which is in all of our current home products, and created an automotive version that meets the durability requirements of a car,” Poggi explains. In combination with a paper-cone midrange in close proximity, the tweeter essentially hones in on the “voice” of Sonus Faber, i.e. natural, live sound. “The close coupling of the tweeter to the midrange is very important, because it's about the time alignment of different frequencies as they reach your ear. We put that combination into the Maserati in five locations: the doors, the center instrument panel, and the rear as fill-surround speakers.” Elliptical-shaped woofers on the lower part of each door complete the package. While nothing can compare to twisting the MC20 around the tight curves of Maserati’s home track in Modena—my next stop after visiting Sonus faber HQ—hearing an orchestra’s worth of sound within the tight confines of a supercar was almost as incredible a sensory experience.

Keep It Light

Exceptional sound can be mind-blowingly immersive, but the MC20 is, after all, a performance car whose own dynamics deserve headliner status. “We've got to make sure the audio system isn't taking away from the core purpose of the vehicle, which is the driving experience,” agrees Poggi. That means keeping things light, a challenge when it comes to audiophile-worthy equipment. While their home speakers utilize ceramic magnets, Sonus faber uses much lighter neodymium magnets—a rare earth material that still provides a powerful magnetic motor force—in the Maserati. This allows for loud and dynamic speakers in a shockingly lightweight package, a design feat akin to Apple finding a way to put a five-lens camera in the iPhone Mini.

maserati mc20 © LORENZO MARCINNO maserati mc20

Stay Stylin’

Sonus faber is known as much for the sleek, modern design of their speakers as they are for their meticulous sound—remember, they’re also Italian—so it’s imperative that their product looks the part, seamlessly integrates within the lines of the MC20, and shouts out their home region. “Our design team worked closely with Maserati’s to try to get our look into the car,” says Poggi. “We use string grilles as the mask in the front of our home speakers—a reference to stringed musical instruments of the local Veneto region—and the pattern that we put into the metal grille that's in the MC20’s speakers was designed to look like moving strings. It has this interesting, three-dimensional aspect to it.” To understand just how obsessed the brand is with the local instrument, simply peep their headquarters’ violin-inspired roof.

Let It Rock

A grand piano may sound grand in any context, but Sonus Faber’s ultimate test is capturing, with astonishing clarity, every lilt and warble of voices and riffs we know by heart. “We start with vocals, because the sound of the human voice is so specific,” says Poggi. “Diana Krall or Alicia Keys or John Mayer, whoever your favorite artist is, you know that voice. Then we add more complexities into it—the guitar, the bass line—until you're into an orchestra, which has lots of dynamics. Then we end with ‘Money for Nothing’ and ‘Back in Black.’ We make sure the system can handle rock ’n’ roll.”

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