Founded in 1984 by Mr. Mark Levinson shortly after his departure from the Mark Levinson Company (now owned by Harman Specialty group and the premium audio provider for Lexus) Cello was once the pinnacle of ultimate audiophile performance in the late 1980's through most of the 1990's.
Cello was originally sold in only the best retail locations such as Christopher Hansen Ltd. in Beverly Hills, Sound Components in Miami or Glenn Poor's in Champaign, Illinois - the brand ultimately opened a New York showroom operated by Mark Levinson and a Los Angeles showroom operated by Joseph Cali (an actor known for his work in Saturday Night Fever). Unlike many audiophile companies popular in the day such as Levinson's namesake, Krell, Audio Research and Threshold - Cello marketed complete audio systems into lifestyle environments that included studio-grade acoustical
treatments, lighting control, HVAC control and beyond. In the early 1990's, this level of integration was a relatively new phenomenon.
Read a review of the Cello Reference System by Ken Kessler in 1993 on HomeTheaterReview.com here.
Cello was purchased by a dot-com mogul named Rick Adams in the late 1990's. Adams, one of the founders of UU Net, also purchased close to a dozen of the best custom installation businesses in the country in an attempt to standardize the ultra-high end installation business for cities like Houston, Miami, Seattle, Aspen as well as New York and Los Angeles. The flagship New York location featured a critically accliamed restaurant. The West Hollywood showroom was equally impressive and included a 35mm screening room for Hollywood types. The Rick Adams era of Cello lasted a little less than two years. Most of the companies were spun off. Mr. Levinson started Red Rose Music after the Cello experiment failed. Christopher Hansen and Timothy Duffy took the Cello Los Angeles business and created Simply Home Entertainment which is one of the top 5 custom installation firms in the world today. Mark Levinson today consults LG on the audio for their HDTVs and other components. He and his former wife, actress Kim Cattrall of Sex in the City fame, published a best selling book about sex.
The brand Cello attempted a compact with the help of a former WADIA executive named Jim McCullough late in the 1990's but it is widely speculated that Cello is now a defunct brands. Spin off brands from Cello were created including Viola Audio Labs which also are believed to be out of business.
Notable Cello Products:
Cello Palette Preamp
Costing about $6,500 this unbalanced stereo preamp also came with an EQ that allowed listeners to agument the sound of their music on a disc by disc basis. The Cello Palette Preamp also came with an acrylic stand to enable the user to have his or her volume controls right at the their finger tips as this preamp does not have a remote control.
Cello Audio Palette
Designed by Dick Berwin, the Cello Audio Palette is still used nearly 20 years after its release as a studio-grade analog audio equalizer. Mark Levinson's famous 59 point potentiometer gives this shining silver audio icon the feel of a Patek Philippe watch. The Cello Audio Palette also came in an "MIV" version which allowed an Audio Palette to be a preamp as well as an EQ.
Cello Performance II Amps
These dual chassis pure Class A amplifiers were designed to have the sound of tubes with the power and control of a solid state amp. Their class-A "always on" design isn't the most green amplifier of all time but their sound was fantastic. When bridged as a pair, these mono amps could put out over 400 Watts of power and enough heat to warm an entire apartment building. At the time, bridged Cello performance amps were nearly $50,000 a pair which was about the most expensive amp on the market.
Cello Stradivari Grand Master loudspeakers
These ultra-efficient loudspeakers stand over 7 feet tall and can play at incredible levels. Cello's standards for cabinet tolerances were legendary as it wasn't uncommon for four cabinets to be rejected for each one that would be approved. The Cello Stradivari Grand Master was one of the first high end, in-wall speakers ever sold as they could be bought for retrofit applications
that were in custom cabinets and or in-wall locations.
Cello Duet 350
This $7,500 class AB amplfier was the Krell and Levinson killer in the Cello line up. The Duet 350 was known for its warm high end sound paired with the spank you'd expect from a 350 Watt per channel stereo amp.
Cello Serafin Powered Speakers
Named after an order of angels, these speakers were one of the first truly high end powered speakers on the market in the early to mid-1990's. They had internal class-A amps and a very open sound. They sat on aftermarket stands and cost upwards of $10,000 per pair.