It seems like every week brings a new turntable to the market!
Obviously, vinyl records are still the most widely spread medium of recorded music in a material format. And this is one good reason for new turntables. The second one, which I believe is the true driver, is that a lot of people - including myself - firmly believe that there is still room for improvement in retrieving information from those precious "microsillons" - see photo left (no, it is not the Grand Canyon...)
Spiral Groove from California, Once Analog from Australia, EAT from the Czech Republic, Audio Note from the UK, were either new to me or were first chance to listen. So you will find below photos of these great vinyl spinners...
Last week-end, I busied myself visiting the second edition of the Australian HiFi Show, this year held in my hometown of Sydney. The show was reasonably well attended, but certainly not to the level it was in Melbourne last year.
The Sheraton on the Park, one of my favourite hotel in the city, was an appropriate and easy to reach venue and felt more spacious than the Marriott in Melbourne. The relatively low attendance meant that exhibitors had time on their hands to talk to everybody and some even indulged in playing CDs brought by their potential clients or fans - including myself!
I carried around 4 CDs:
Jacques Loussier Trio Plays Debussy on Telarc
The Astounding Eyes of Rita by Anouar Brahem on ECM
Love Over Gold by Dire Straits on Vertigo/Phonogram
Anne Sophie Mutter playing Carmen Fantaisie on DGG
Lots of French or French inspired music bien sur, but also some extraordinarily difficult music to reproduce properly. Unfortunately, I didn't take any Blu-Ray DVDs to try 24/192 digital audio, as most systems were two-channel only.
From Arcam, Brodman and Bryston to waterfall, Wisdom and Ypsilon, almost all letters of the alphabet brought to our ears some interesting brand names, some established, some new and some obscure, but worth a listen.
I will attempt to let you share my sonic adventures over the next few weeks and will share in the next post, some vinyl beauties, and primarily some that I had not seen at the CES, so you are in for a visual treat at least...
You will have to find "your nearest dealer" for a listen, or if it's not at your local, then you will have to move!
When I first started on my HiFi journey, France was lucky to have two great drivers manufacturers AUDAX and SIARE.
Both companies have tremendously smart technical directors like Gilles Millot, Jacques Mahul and Philippe Lesage for AUDAX, but only one is remembered from SIARE: Michel Visan. He stayed there for 22 years until the company folded. He too had a short stint at Audax...
He ended up starting his own business, Davis Acoustics, first designing drivers, inspired by his own creations at Siare, then experimenting with new materials like Kevlar and later Carbon. Then he started his own range of complete speakers, the recent Karla being the accomplishment of a lifetime pursuit of perfection. He died in June at the tender age of 74 after 26 years running his own show, my hat to you, Mr Visan.
Michel helped me design the 17cm driver for my SWS subwoofer, and it is a tribute to him that they were so well built that I am still enjoying them everyday.
I had met Michel again at the Show over the last two years ad I congratulated him on his Karla system (see my report on the 2010 show). I did note at the time that Mr Visan (I never had the guts to call him Michel: as we say in French, we didn't shepherd the sheep together, so first name and "tu" were not appropriate...)was still happy to run the show with the help of his wife and two sons.
There are plenty tributes to his genius and kind manners on the Net (mostly in french, so this will make sure there is one in English...). He has helped countless small companies to design new speakers although I am sure he knew who had a chance to become a big client and who would be more a confidential name.
He was always ready to help with a new prototype or listen to you brainstorming aloud.
Up until the end he was still innovating and creating new products whether in the drivers department or in complete speakers. See below some of his best creations.
Rest in peace, Mr Visan and long life to Davis Acoustics.
No, these are not from Elipson, but they certainly share a familiar look...
In 1981, Marcel Rochet, a music teacher, passionate about music reproduction, filed a patent for an innovative way of getting rid of the radiation of a loudspeaker inside the cabinet, which is a major source of coloration (often more than the cabinet itself...) and also about a new type of load for the woofer, called double quarter wavelength transmission line.
The latest is certainly inspired by the resonator ideo of Joseph Leon, although the implementation is quite different.
You can see from the photo that the time alignment techniques of Elipson are also carried through to the Mulidine designs, including the fact that these two original models, the Clarine (right) and the Mandoline are made out of plaster.
Another interesting characteristic of these speakers is that their crossover is at 5KHz, my favourite...
It was a time when Bextrene membranes were the rage, as they were the new baby of KEF, and that's what is in the Mandoline, with I guess a dome tweeter from Audax.
Mulidine has survived to this day, and interestingly enough, was rescued from oblivion by a good friend of mine and ex-colleague from HP, Marc Fontaine. He is also a neighbour and good friend of Jullien from passion-elipson..
It is a labour of love, as Marc does everything from design to managing a few subcontractors (like the cabinetmaker in Alsace) to the final tuning and measurements (after all, this our trade, as we were selling test equipment at HP...). We are talking confidential levels of production, as it is like a limited edition of a work of art, numbered and signed by the artist! Prices are still kept at an affordable level for the customer.
These speakers have a great reputation for high efficiency, dynamics and timbre accuracy.
The current range consists of three models:Cadence, Allegretto (in its fourth revision) and Bagatelle (in its second iteration). There is also a professional monitor called Harmonie 2.
The only plaster left in the current model is the mechanical filter at the back of the midrange driver. It consists of a thick piece of plater with a multitude of conical tubes moulded in it, supposedly rejecting all frequencies coming back from the cabinet to the membrane lower than 20KHZ
To understand better the transmission line load, I think the best is to look at some photos and drawings of how the cabinet is built internally. It will also show you better how the mechanical filter is fitted at the back of the midrange. On these two examples, you can see the difference in the double TL implementation. One is more like a resonator a la Elipson, the other one more like a cross between a TL and a bass reflex.
The Allegretto and its ancestor, the Capricio (left) have a second chamber at the bottom acting as a resonator, the port is not quite visible, but is located behind the small panel just off the front baffle. You can see it at the front of the Cadence, in the center photo. On the right, a cut through the Cristal, which needs to be on a stand to clear the port at the bottom of the cabinet.
If you are in Paris at the beginning of November, (2nd and 3rd at the Marriot in the 14th) you might want to go and visit the other HiFi show organised by the magazine Haute Fidelite. This is more of a two-channel high end kind of show compared to the one I have covered for the last two years. I have not had a chance to visit this one yet, but the list of exhibitors is quite impressive: KEF, Kuzma, Nagra, BC Acoustique, Next Audio, Mulidine and Davis Acoustics to name a few...
New venue for this Paris Show now in its 35th year!
Along the Seine, almost across from the famous Maison de la Radio, where Elipson got its first big break, the Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel is a mighty building for a mighty affair!
Unfortunately, I could not attend this year, having chosen to cover the Sydney Show in a few days, and missing out also on tht RMAF in Denver that I dream to attend one day...
Four French Manufacturers were featured by the organisers:
MICROMEGA with a new asynchronous 24/192 DAC
ATHOM great speakers - see review of previous shows on this blog
ELIPSON with the BS50 Tribute now in production and
WATERFALL AUDIO, our glass speakers experts and good friends.
I will keep you posted when I get some feedback from my own grapevine...stay tuned
Death of the vinyl? (and MP3 and iTunes...) yes... if Neil Young has the final word...or sound, for that matter...
One good thing about visiting the CES as an official member of the press is that every other day I get inundated with press releases, most of them of very little relevance to my writings. But once in a little while, I got a gem.
And there is a ONE CARAT one today!
Neil Young has been working (not so...) secretly with Warner, Sony and Universal to convert ALL their analog archives into master files at 24bit/192Khz, not less
But who can read them (not everybody owns an OPPO player...), so Neil Young has the idea of inventing the new iPod, called PONO - well, the name is not exactly sexy (pun intended...) but may well replace iPod in the next generation vocabulary, specially when I will tell you that no other company but Meridian is designing it. 20 years ago, I was dreaming of buying a Meridian CD player, and vI would still dream if Oppo has not been invented and rewrote the rules of the game, for me at least! And as he was at it, he "invented" a hi-res iTunes-like to go with it. If you have experienced Sooloos by Meridian, then you might have a good idea of what iSooloos (my name for it...) might become. And if you had to this the fact that Meridian just released an App for iOS6 to control your Sooloos library, then, you are minutes away from a great portable hi-res hifi system. Now, my question to you is: who is going to invent headphones capable of doing justice to such a system, and be cool enough to wear on the Metro? I love technology...
Audio Note (Japan), Acoustic Signature, Rega and a few others
There was a plethora of turntables at the CES and I have chosen to give you a little slideshow of the ones I particularly liked or was impressed by, my preference going for the big masses of metal coerced into beautiful "objets d'art" and wonderful vinyl spinners...
But, besides all these expensive contraptions, I am still fond of the humble REGAs...the antithesis of mass, as the the nwest models are acxtually trying to be as light as possible, with their unusual motto:
“Mass absorbs energy - lost energy equals lost music”! Hence, a super lightweight plinth combined with a phenolic resin double brace mounted specifically where the increased rigidity is required between the tonearm mounting and the main hub bearing providing further weight reduction to the plinth which directly addresses the issue of mass absorption and unwanted energy transmission. The jury is out there in terms of performance, but there is no discussion about affordability...
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.