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 >>