Brand tie-ins seem to be de rigueur at the moment and Ferrari has to be one of the prime culprits. Ferrari's been doling out brand associations like Mentos at a Foo Fighters concert, as of late. You can now get Ferrari phones, Ferrari notebooks, and even Ferrari Lego! If it's not careful the Ferrari brand will soon be so diluted it will bring with it no caché at all.
Not that we're at that point quite yet but one does have to ponder the relevance of Ferrari branding on a piece of high-end audio equipment, even one made by award-winning Meridian. Sure, having high-end audio in your Ferrari could be desirable, but the other way round? Let's find out.
The F80 is a small desktop all-in-one home entertainment system designed and built by Meridian Audio in collaboration with Ferrari. It incorporates a 2.1 speaker setup, high-quality amplifier and digital sound processor, CD player, DAB/FM tuner, DVD player and a healthy selection of auxiliary audio inputs for plugging in your Personal Media Player (PMP) or other external audio sources. The whole lot fits in a package that measures just 408 x 230 x 185mm so fits comfortably on most window sills, bedside tables or TV cabinets. Of course, given the eye-watering price and eye-catching looks, you may not want it in any of the above places but rather have it stood high on a pedestal in the centre of your living room, both to really show it off and to keep it from the reach of children and pets.
The version we were sent is finished in a resplendent bright yellow (red, black, silver, and white are also available), or Modena Giallo, to give its official name. Whatever it's called, though, it is most certainly beautiful. The colour is rich and bright and the glossy finish is spotless. If the only impetus Ferrari had in the F80's design was doing the paintjob, it would still justify the tie-in.
You'll be glad to hear, though, that this isn't the case. As well as lending its painting skills to proceedings, Ferrari was also key in developing the low-resonance, high mass composite materials that are used in the chassis. These materials were needed to enable the construction of such a small device - especially given its chosen curved shape - that could maintain the audio quality that Meridian is associated with. Its rigidity and density quells resonances and eliminates the possibility of rattling that you might normally associate with a plastic construction.
Talking of construction, if the old audio equipment adage 'the heavier it is, the better it sounds' is anything to go by, the F80 must surely be without equal. At 6.5kg (14.3 lbs) this thing is without doubt the most deceptively heavy item we've ever reviewed. Without fail, everyone in the office that came to have a look went to pick it up and underestimated how much effort it would be - luckily no injuries occurred in the process, apart from a few mildly bruised egos.
This weight combined with the unit's mains only operation pretty much kills the F80's portability, despite its compact looks. It's ok for moving from room to room or taking outside for a barbecue but a ghettoblaster replacement, this is not.