Ferrari Art.Engine Speaker Under the Microscope

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by Josh Ray on May 17 '06


Remember when sports car company McLaren, former makers of insanity-on-wheels, came out with their F1 inspired speaker division? And then went quickly out of business? Yeah, seems Ferrari is following in their steps, though the Italian Stallion doesn't seem to be trying to build an audio empire off their burnt rubber pedigree. The Ferrari Art.Engine has a limited run of 1000 loudspeakers and a cool $20,000 price tag.

The Art.Engine is a single speaker solution and sports WIFI to hook up to your computer as well as a mini-jack for your old school electronics. The digital amplification is built in, as is pre-amplification and most everything else, so it seems. Frequency range is 40Hz to 20kHz. Size is 47" high, 16" wide and 6" deep. Colors include typical Ferrari hotness as well as custom finishes upon request. Speaker design by DWV.

So you want rampant speculation? No prob.

First, stereo from one speaker? Is this the world's most expensive boombox? The Art.Engine is said to: "provide accurate stereo imaging to any location." Strikes me as overzealous marketing. No speaker, even an omni, can do stereo everywhere in the room -- it's just physics. Of course, the Ferrari Art.Engine could sound brilliant, who knows. Then again, it is a single speaker, not a stereo pair, so getting correct imaging by bouncing sound off the walls has got to be difficult.

Second, the Art.Engine goes with a mini line array of 2.75" midranges, 16 total. Line arrays are normally done with both woofers and tweeters stacked up much higher than a typical speaker. This is done to make the sonic image massive. But putting midrange drivers near the floor? I don't get it.

Third, the bass is weak for a $20k floor-standing speaker. The range is 40Hz to 20kHz, shy of the 20Hz hearing limit. And 40Hz without distortion is questionable, though possible. 2.75" drivers simply can't deliver the goods, no matter how many there are. Those little fellas will be straining to do mids and lows at the same time. Bass is omnidirectional anyway, so there's no point in going with the splayed configuration where the lows are concerned. On the Art.Engine website, there's some talk about "decay" which basically defines how fast the driver is able to move -- faster is better. A 2.75" driver is damn fast, but all of the world's best speakers have bass drivers bigger than 2.75".

Some will take issue with cramming all the electronics inside of the speaker, but Meridian and Linn have been doing that and it hasn't hurt them any. If done right, it can sound great. The biggest issue is that of the mini-plug for connecting your CD players, iPods and anything else that will be completely wasted by this inferior connection. I'm all about wireless, it's the next great technology. But if it has WIFI, then it must have a DAC. Why no digital input? Why no RCA? Why built-in mini-plug instead of including RCA adapter? It's one thing if this were $200 or $2000, but $20,000? Come on now...

To sum, this is a very strange speaker that will probably do well banking off of the Ferrari pedigree. For $20k, the Art.Engine lack a lot off the features that should be standard. Ferrari will probably make their $20 million since this is the only speaker in the entire world that someone can look at and be impressed. But I'd be very surprised if they pursue reviews in major publications. Then again, props to Ferrari for pushing audio. Hopefully hi-fi will see a boost because of this.

More pics after the jump >>




Speaker designer DWV's previous project. DWV is located in Salt Lake City, an audio sanctuary (serious, same with Boulder, CO...go figure).



Oy! Marketing indeed! I don't think it would have a problem going to 40Hz with those drivers, if they have the right air chamber behind them. But 40 Hz is a miserable low end for such a speaker. Don't Ferrari owners like bass? The single tower is just silly too. They don't mention any special processing to get a full stereo image from any place in the room like Niro Nakamichis system. Vanity system for those who don't know better. The question is, would it be an upgrade from the Bose system that in all probability it would replace?
hmmm It has speakers both sides. 32 carbonfibre? mid/bass drivers and four softdome tweeters. Digital amplification will mean that they will be able to artificially boost and extend the low frequency responses of the drivers, however that does mean that the low frequency cut off frequency must be pretty close to 40hz (upper and lower limit usually quoted -6/-3db down from ave). Bose new digital amplified M3 micro music monitors use a 5cm driver and two passive resonators (70Hz) to push out down to 63hz cut off, by using Proprietry P.A.P - basically some equilization to smooth out the response curve and some equal loudness contour manipulation for the amplifier gain. These sort of maniputlation and reverberation trickery probably wouldn't be mentioned by this sort of designer product.
Whoops I missinterpreted the fabrication picture - I should of read the text - only has speakers on the one side. 16 not 32 etc, I see it has active filtering, anyway there is not that many musical notes below 40 hz.
Whoops I missinterpreted the fabrication picture - I should of read the text - only has speakers on the one side. 16 not 32 etc, I see it has active filtering, anyway there is not that many musical notes below 40 hz.
It's about style, not sound. They won't get very good sound out of that rig ... but who cares?
I should input that they sound glorious. Yes it is first selling point is the name but It does sound very good.