As far back as 2010, both Ken Kessler and Paul Miller, not renown for being Franco-hifi-philes were raving about this new range of hybrid analog-digital amplifiers from France.
I had a chance to listen to them for the first time at the CES in Las Vegas three years ago and again recently in Melbourne, where they were paired with Atom GT-1 speakers to showcase the new SAM technology that basically uses the DSP capabilities of the amp to linearise the speakers
As for the title of this article, I hope you will forgive me this very bad joke...Having being living with a Scott for the last 30 years, I thought the reference would be funny. Other might have thought of the Phantom of the Opera - we all have our idiosyncrasies, n'est-ce pas?
These new speakers are a mix between the spheres from Elipson and a baby Blade from Kef, both in form and concept at first glance, but obviously there is much more to it than meets the naked eye! First there is like 3KW of Class D amplification in the top model, more akin to the Kronos from Kyron Audio, although in a closed cabinet. The main concentric midrange and tweeter driver is reminiscent of Cabasse, but looks even more polished - a word that would be the best one word description for such a beautiful object. Ken Kessler who is also a famous reviewer for luxury watches, believes high-end HiFi should be marketed as a luxury brand to have a chance of survival and growth. And guess what? Devialet is now part of LVMH, the luxury brand umbrella par excellence! This new concept and marketing will propels this product to the highest possible recognition and suitable market. Smartly, the product is also conjugated down both in specifications, power and price for the mere mortals that most of us are and who would be more interested in the sonic result than the "show off" effect of owning such a luxurious product...And to be consistent with this new image and partnership, Debvialet has open the quintessential "flagship" store in the heart of the trendy fashion district: Place des Victoirs.
This will become a Vintage product! It is a revolutionary product that incorporates the best of DSP technology, Class D amplification, great looks and high-end performance. Can't wait to get my hands on a pair of these beauties for an extensive listening session and to report to you!
Some very good news for the hi-res digital files enthusiasts out there, and I am one of them.
Whether or not this will translate into mass produced products, and we would all welcome Apple for instance to join the flow and invent a high-res iPod or iPhone and iPad, or an entirely new product all together.
Obviously you can spend big money today on a Astell & Kern, the Rolls Royce of the hi-res portable player, or wait for a Pono if you cannot afford the A&K...
An agreement to formally define high-resolution audio technology has been reached by the Consumer Electronics Association, The Digital Entertainment Group, The Recording Academy, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. "The contributions made by our Audio Division Board will help consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers alike in their efforts to market the latest compatible devices and help provide more clarity about HRA for consumers," CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said
If you have been following this blog recently, you would have noticed me mentioning the names of Brad Serhan and David Allen who were kind enough to help us with the listening session of the new Kronos by Kyron Audio at Len Wallis Audio a couple of weeks back. Following this chance encounter, I was invited to give an opinion on a bespoke pair of speakers that these two gentlemen designed for an overseas and wealthy client.
This client had Quadral speakers and was interested in a little know Finnish brand, Penaudio, but eventually convinced B.A.G. to design a pair of speakers that would use similar drivers to the Penaudio and a ribbon tweeter, as a link to the Quadral he enjoyed listening to previously.
Now, a bit of background: Brad was one of the founders and is still the designer behind Orpheus speakers, a very famous Australian brand and works for other brands no less famous on the local scene as consultant/ designer for hire if you want. He has been designing speakers since 1984, same year I introduced Microphase back in France: good omen!
David on the other end is a Hifi enthusiast and has been for quite a long time. He is also more of a business man than a designer, although he told me that he had once 15" subwoofers embedded in the floor of his living room!
So, we have a lot of talent and experience behind this new venture: Brigadier Audio Group.
We had a first listening session at David's place in Walsh Bay, where we used only digital files from David's computer, Spotify Premium and FLAC files from my iPhone. We had other Hifi geeks joining us and we had a great time! These speakers work, period and they are exquisitely crafted and finished: High WAF, bravo!
Interestingly enough, I have not been given any specifications for these speakers. I have only been told about their genesis, the way these particular drivers ended up being used, some of the challenges along the way (!), but no frequency response or impedance curves. I had only my ears to judge of the result! It was a very interesting and fun exercise...
After an hour or so into this first listening session, I identified two areas for potential improvement, both to do with the way the drivers integrated with each other at the two cut-off frequencies of the filter, which I also identified correctly. We listened to more music, drank some more wine (great choice, David, btw...) and had more conversations between the very seasoned members of the audience and then we eventually had to split.
Brad and David decided then that they would work on my comments and would organise a second session later on, probably at Brad's place! And we did earlier this week.
Trust me, these two guys know their trade, as it took them only a few days to confirm my findings, think about how to improve these speakers by tweaking the filter appropriately and voilà!
For the second listening session, we had David's amp and streamer, Brad's Macbook for digital files and I was convinced to bring my very own OPPO player. Sorry, no turntable, no valves this time around, but eh we are in the 21st century after all!
Here are some of the stuff I brought we listened to:
Well, what can I say? In a nutshell, I really like these speakers. They are really accurate, speedy, they image very well, specially being quite large and the bass is extremely tight, although they are bass reflex, with very low distortion and coloration.
Now, I need to confess something: I don't normally like metal cone drivers and these 6.5" SEAS Excel drivers have magnesium cones. I do like ribbon though and this one from RAAL is really detailed and smooth, which is not a given for that type of driver. Same tweeter as the Kaiser speakers that I like a lot, by the way!
Crossover frequencies are 250Hz and 3.2Khz approximately. The cabinet is a work of art both externally - that you can see for yourself from the photos - and internally: The cabinets are made of a double layer of MDF and ply separated by a viscous compound (can't tell you, would have to kill you...). The drivers are mounted to the internal cabinet and there are two separate chambers for the midrange and the woofer, both bass relax tuned.
The two 6.5" drivers look the same, but are actually two different models with different magnets, voice coils and parameters ((can't tell you more - see above...). Nice terminals, good internal wiring, it is all done by the book!
And not only does it show, but you can hear the care taken in the design of these speakers! Well done!
I sincerely hope that this one off will trigger a suite of new commercial releases. I have been arguing about using a paper version of that midrange driver in future designs: time will tell, stay tuned!
We told you so!
A while back, we share with you the project that Neil Young had to design a Super iPod that would store and play hi-res definition audio files. It is now almost a reality as you can now preorder a unit via Neil's Kirkstarter campaign.
I am reflagging below an article from Audiogon for your information. This is BIG news, as it fits with Sony and others trying to set up a new standard for Blu-Ray Audio only disc which would support this resolution.
I have personally bought a few of these discs and they are a delight on my OPPO player. Now, I could travel with them if I wished! Enjoy with no moderation!
03.12.14 UPDATE: Well, that was fast. Neil Young’s Pono startup, which wants to build a high-resolution digital music player by the same name, shot past its $800,000 funding goal on day one of its Kickstarter campaign. Pono launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the production of its player Tuesday morning, and at 10pm, it already had raised more than $925,000. (via Gigaom)
NEIL YOUNG LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR PONOMUSICWE ARE NOW LIVE ON KICKSTARTER!DIRECT LINK to Kickstarter campaign: http://kck.st/1g5xVf3
Long-Awaited Product Features Full Ecosystem, Major Label Agreements, and Access to Studio Masters To Deliver Transformative Listening Experience
March 11, 2014 – (Santa Monica, CA.) – PonoMusic, a revolutionary movement conceived and founded by Neil Young with a mission to restore the soul of music, announced today that it is officially moving out of the R&D phase and is “open for business” with the launch of its Kickstarter campaign for the PonoPlayer.
The Kickstarter campaign features testimonials from some of the most notable musicians, including Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Norah Jones, discussing their experience with the PonoPlayer.
Read more at http://hub.audiogon.com/blog/2014/03/11/neil-young-pono-kickstarter/#oQAHUl00q8qBstU2.99
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...
You guessed it correctly - I was waiting to have my very own OPPO BD-95 to start reviewing sources encountered at the CES! And yes, it was my birthday present, and yes it does all it is supposed to do and does it very well indeed and I love it to bits!
It has been reviewed by every conscientious hifi journalist on the Planet, including a raving Ken Kessler, not a mince feast!
So, I am not going to do an in-depth review here, but after having listened to half a dozen CDs or so and two Blu-Ray, I can confirm that this machine does extract information from these discs in an extremely accurate way and present it to your ears in full colour - absence of noise, perfect silence between notes, accurate decays, impeccable timbre accuracy and amazing dynamic range even on my NAD amp - my Bryston 3b having decided to blow a fuse in the installation process and being at the Syntec hospital for a few more days!
I can't wait to get it back and enjoy even more firmness in the bass and more silk in the treble.
On a very rare recording of Memphis Slim in Paris in 1963 (INA FCD 127), recorded in various large and small venues, you can instantly recognised the differences, rather than just feel them on another player. It was particularly true of the recordings at "Les Trois Maillets", Memphis's favourite joint in Paris, where I was fortunate enough to meet and listen to him playing and singing with no mike, my arm resting on his piano, and that was a few years later in 1971, when I was at Uni. A real life and live experience...
It just confirms that a well designed 24/192 player can give a better sound than vynil and at a fraction of the price (1500$), my references being Michell Orbe (6000$) and Bergman (12000$) here...or a good old Rega, bien sur!
I have listened so far to Dire Straits "Private Investigations" and Andrea Boccelli live in Tuscany on Blu-Ray
- the video performance limited only by the smallish size of my LG LCD screen, but still providing blacker blacks and more accurate colours and nuances (ah, that sunset in Tuscany...), and on CD Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, and Rite of Spring on Decca (see my "Music" page), Carl Orff's Carmina Burana on DGG - a challenge for the NAD amp, I have to say... - , Carmen Fantasy with Anne-Sophie Mutter (obviously...should I say that to me Anne Sophie Mutter is to music what Sophie Marceau is to French Cinema???)) also on DGG, Astrud Gilberto Gold collection of Brazilian inspired songs on Verve, also on Verve "Ella and Louis", on Decca again the Organ Symphony and violin concerto number 3 by Saint-Saens, and The Astounding Eyes of Rita by Anouar Brahem playing the oud so graciously on ECM - and by the way, I still found time to work and cook!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.