My friend John Darko from DAR, Digital Audio Review. is reporting from the HIGH END Show in Munich and raves about the PHANTOM and a few other Deviate new gadgets.
A few years back, this gentleman got in touch with me through the AudioVintage forum. He had bought and restored a pair of passive SATs from Microphase. We talked further about where to find a subwoofer to match. And it just happened that my good friend Pierre Bréart, the happy proprietor of Audio Conseil in Uccle, one of the most respected dealers in Brussels, as well as one of my best dealers at the time, had bought one back from a customer. And I just found out that the two got together and clinched the deal! The power of the internet and social media!
You will find below a few photos of the inside of the beast, including Cabasse 21 cm woofer, modified SAT active amplifier and connectors. And to help this particular fellow and happy new owner of this very rare piece of French Vintage Hifi, I have put together a wiring schematic for his new hybrid system. Very few of these subwoofers were made, so it was quite a surprise for me to find one in such a good condition. When I first got photos from Pierre, I actually didn't remember producing this particular product. So here it is for posterity!
Come with me to Provence and I may organise an add-on French Vintage Hifi tour of some respected French manufacturers
Some of you, my dear nerdy readers, may have been curious enough to wander to my other blog where I indulge in my other passion for food, wine and everything remotely French!
So, you might not be surprised to learn that I am organising a gastronomic and cooking tour of Provence in September for 12 people. If we had enough interest, we could also organise an add-on tour of some of the iconic French Vintage Hifi manufactures still alive...How does that sounds?
Confluence was started in 1983 by Christian Gerhards, an ex-teacher whose passion for music got him into speaker design. The company survived until 2001 when it became Soneco. All the models share the same design principles of cabinets with non parallel faces and rectangular port(s) at the bottom. They mostl use double coil Focal drivers and a rare Audax tweeter, derived from the famous TW51 with a small rectangular horn in front. GUY HF manufactured the cabinets for these speakers from 1991 to 2001 and then Ets Berthommé in Availle (Limousin) took over. The Cantilene has been the most successful model commercially.
I will make a particular mention of a model that was not a success, more an experiment.
I am talking about the Chimère, a 125kg monster with no money spared and amazing design principles. First is the use of a Phy-HP full range driver with an open back, second a piezo tweeter from Audax all in separate cabinets, the midrange one being supported via its own invisible metal stand and supporting cones, going through, but decoupled from the subwoofer cabinet. and finally cut-off frequencies of the crossover at 150 Hz towards the 34cm Focal bass driver and 6Khz to the piezo tweeter. See photos and diagram below. The crossover is in a separate and external box. Apparently, only three pairs were ever manufactured...
Interestingly enough, Jean-Paul Guy had designed an adjustable panel to form a variable tuned port on a previous model, and this was used on the subwoofer here as well. But the most amazing part of the story is that some years later, this idea was used again with some of the same drivers by no other than Ocellia! Phy-HP full range, piezo tweeter AND adjustable port...
And BTW, these were some of the most amazing speakers I had a chance to listen to in my long hifi life, so I can only imagine how good the Chimère might have been! This "money is no object" design was turned into a more commercially minded product, the Cantilène III, using all Audax drivers, 2x17cm AM170G8 and one textile dome tweeter the famous TM 025 C1.
This is probably the last known design by Confluence in 2001. I should now pay tribute to Raymont Lerat and Christian Quest for their excellent "virtual museum" on all things Confluence.
Even if you don't read French, most of technical details will be obvious to the keen hifi nerds that you are and I will thank them for all the photos in this article. Here is the link:
Well, I have not been very active on this blog for the last two months not by lack of good content, but mainly because I have been buried in a couple of other projects and taking care of my real business...So, my apologies for not being around, although you may have caught a glimpse of my state of mind on my Facebook page where I try to post things fun and current.
1970 - ELIPSON
Elipson is 100% responsible for my involvement with speaker design, period. Many of my contemporaries designers were all in awe with these speakers and we all tried to emulate their design and the magical sound they were capable of. It was a labor of love by artisan Joseph Leon and his team. I had the chance to compare these oldies with the new 4260s, but no match!
The 4260s are hifi speakers, the 4050s are musical instruments. Often imitated, never equalled!
1980 - THE GOLDEN DECADE - AW AUDIO
AW Audio started at the same time as Microphase and lasted a lot longer, up until 1995 with the introduction of the TRANSPARENCE, which unfortunately was not a commercial success.
Alain Wacquet, the designer for these amazing looking open baffle speakers, was, and still is, a great amateur of jazz and a great musician himself, still composing and up until recently involved in radio programs promoting the most modern of music genres. Alain is a perfectionist and his demos were some of the most spectacular I had a chance to listen to. He had a keen ear and a good understanding of getting the most amazing result out of the speakers. His demos of percussion instruments were legendary, specially considering the lack of real bottom end to these panels. We became friends - and still are - because we shared the same design objectives, time alignment, impulse response and respect of timbres, a must to reproduce music, not hifi...
1990 - SONUS FABER Guarneri Homage
This was and still is one of my favourite speakers. Still relatively compact, beautifully crafted, Italian with all its elegance and flamboyance, it is more a musical instrument than a hifi speaker.
Again here, phase, time alignement, dynamics and low cabinet resonances give precedence to the music, well deserving their name as an homage to the violin makers of Cremona.
2000 - MARTIN LOGAN - Summit X
I could have chosen a number of models fromMartin Logan, but I think the Summit X was the first one to be the best at matching the electrostatic panel and the integral subwoofer. I could happily live with a pair of these if I had a larger living room. Their speed, imaging, transparence - both visual and auditive - as well as going low enough without becoming boomy are the reason why I would have chosen them as my favourite speakers at the time and some of the best irrespective of time. They are also spouse friendly enough to be enjoyed with your partner.
2010 - KYRON AUDIO - Kronos
This was a revelation at the first HiFi Show in Melbourne after 16 years of absence. I was not going to miss that show, although I had just returned from the Paris HiFi Show, I managed to go
So glad to meet Leon Suter and Lee Gray and listen to their hifi journey. The Gaia was their first commercial attempt at open baffle speakers, but they employed the heavy artillery, using the best drivers, the best class D amplifiers and the best DSP in the form of the locally designed DEXQ. There are NOT spouse friendly at all, but the sound, even in such bad sounding room was amazing. I was the first to write ecstatically about these marvels of design, engineering and musical performance. I still remember the look of amazement on visitors' faces, circling the beasts as if it had just landed from Mars. And maybe they had...
A couple of years later, Leon and Lee were at it again, with what I believe are even better speakers at half the price and much more aesthetically pleasing. The DEXQ software had improved, Hypex had released new class D amplifiers with an almost non-existent level of distortion and a much better slew rate. The drivers are more or less the same, but this time the mayonnaise has gelled and those are the best speakers I have ever listened to, in over five decades of addiction! I was vindicated at the recent Melbourne Show, when Michael Fremer, a vinyl and analog aficionado, who has his own blog - Analog Planet - and has been writing for Stereophile for decades visited the Kyron Audio stand, he was mesmerised and I will quote only one sentence from his article:
"There was nothing 'digital' about the presentation. Nothing." Exactly my point...
Even if you are a talented and well thought after jazz musician, you are not necessarily made of money, but you still want to be heard properly at the venues you are playing, specially in outdoor situation, and not everybody can afford a Wisdom Audio system, not to mention transporting it in your car and playing outside in all kind of weather....
Unlike regular speakers, line arrays have the unique feature of getting an even levelled sound regardless of the distance the listener is from the source, hence their use in professional audio applications like concert halls and outdoor rock concerts. They are generally heavy, expensive, difficult to set-up and require electronic equalisation and a big bank of amplifiers (Bryston anyone...)
Paul Sun went and designed his own (relatively...) portable system comprising 4 line array modules, each including 8 VIFA 3.5inch drivers, and two subwoofers using VIFA 12inch drivers.
They stack on top of each other nicely to provide an intrusive but highly effective sound system.
They are powered by two professional stereo amplifiers and a dbx electronic crossover set at 240 Hz. Although the full range drivers are limited to about 12 Khz, it is amply sufficient for this application. The sound of the guitar was reflecting the perturbations of the top end of the speakers and could be improved by using a few 19mm VIFA tweeters on a LR2 passive crossover
I have successfully implemented the 2.5in version of these drivers coupled to a 19mm VIFA tweeter and a 6dB/oct crossover for a PA application for schools and museums to be integrated into a lighting profile. We just got our first order for a project in Sydney.
VIFA also makes excellent 10in and 12in bass drivers that I have also implemented in an active subwoofer built in a 27 litres closed cabinet. You can see the combined response below. The system generates a very warm sound, and even without the subwoofer, the result is impressive.
So, Paul has managed to design a very good system, with enough portability and performance for his application, at a reasonable cost. Well done!
AWOX is a French company based in Montpellier in the South of France. They are experts at DNLA networks and wireless technologies in general and have developed products for lighting, sound, home automation and more. They own over 10,000 patents in this field.
They have been instrumental in the wanderings of Cabasse into wireless audio products for the last five years, and when Canon wanted out, Awox stepped in and spent only 2Meuros for this iconic French audio brand. It is good to have Cabasse remaining a French asset and we wish both companies the success they deserve. They have exhibited at the recent CES in Vegas and would have had a chance to expose themselves to the international market there in a big way.
Our Header image is extracted from the film "Gainsbourg" and that scene is when Serge and Jane are presenting this song to their producer, who initially refuses to publish it on its own, and finally decided to go ahead with the amazing success that we know. Watching the film for the first time yesterday, I also discovered that this song was originally written for Brigitte Bardot, with whom Gainsbourg was having an affair at the time. While Gainsbourg declared it the "ultimate love song", it was considered too "hot"; the song was censored or banned from public broadcast in numerous countries and in France even the toned-down version was suppressed. The Vatican made a public statement citing the song as offensive. Despite (or perhaps because of) the controversy, it sold well and charted within the top ten in many European countries.
Since we are talking about Gainsbourg right after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I thought I would also share Gainsbourg "Spirit of Charlie" adaptation of "La Marseillaise", my little contribution to freedom of speech! For my Australian readers, SBS On-Demand plays "Gainsbourg", so watch it!
And for the nerds out there who read my blog, the photo shows a pair of Elipson BS50 (1953) and a REVOX A77 in the background, whose MKII version was released in 1969, like the song!
We have talked about 3A before, but having received a lot of new documents from Jean-Paul GUY - GUY.HF, it seems appropriate to write this complementary article. Read the first one here
The photos of the catalogues from 1977 and 1980 respectively show the success and the growth of the 3A range of speakers. Interestingly enough, they both use what was considered like one of the largest anechoic chambers in Europe at the time, although my suspicion is that KEF had a much better one with better test equipment (HP - Siegfried Linkwitz...) then, but I suppose, the British never though of themselves as being part of Europe. For proof, if one was needed, I am keen to tell the story of one of the best hifi dealers in Edinburgh to whom I was trying to sell my wares, who was almost in tears when I visited the second time around. When I asked what was wrong with him, he said " I heard we are becoming European...". That was in 1984/85...It is quite telling that, if the recent Scottish referendum had returned a "yes" Scotland would have immediately applied for EEC membership, thirty years later...Enough politics for the day!
Let's go back to the beginning of the 70s when Daniel Dehay an electronic engineer starts 3A with the help of Alain Guillaud who ended up working for Framatech and Max Chalambeau who will eventually start Alpheratz...and has now completely changed his field of activity.
Their first model was the 3A ARIOSO, which cabinet was built by GUY.HF. It was equipped with a 38 cm Fostex, a 12 cm midrange from Siare and a compression tweeter from Fostex. about 5000 were built in the first two years. Not bad for a start up...
3A ADAGIO was the second model and was an easy rework of the ARIOSO, with the same midrange, a 30cm woofer from Fostex and an ITT tweeter. There will be several versions of this model over the years with many driver configurations, including the latest version in the 1980 catalogue which uses 3A made drivers, favouring the midrange dome instead of the 12cm Siare paper cone. The 3A tweeter claims to reach 30KHz, but I am not sure it could be measured up to that frequency at the time, using the Bruel & Kjaer equipment shown in the catalogue...
3A claimed to measure each speaker separately and attach the resulting print-out on the speaker itself. This photo seems to prove the point. However, the way the curve is silk screen printed on each front panel makes me believe that this was a marketing ploy and only a generic test...Daniel Dehay was very good at marketing and this was reflected in the catalogues he produced. See some extracts of the 1980 catalogue below.
In the late 70s and until the demise of the company in the early 80s, 3A designed and manufactured a series of interesting drivers. 25 and 21cm for the woofers and dome speakers for the midrange and tweeters. Focal bought the moulds for the woofers chassis and it is easy to spot them in the early JM Lab productions as well as many other French speaker designers.
The drivers were manufactured in a dedicated factory in Lussac-lès-Chateau
The most popular product made by 3A was the 3A APOGEE, with a 25cm woofer from Fostex and the same ITT tweeter as in previous models. This was so popular that 3A had three different cabinet makers and had a production line at GUY HF to assemble them and ship them from a central location.
Probably what was the most famous product made by 3A was the ANDANTE, one of the very rare electronic feedback speakers of this era (Philips started the trend...). 3A called their system "Acoustic Pressure Feedback" and used a 125W amplifier and associated circuitry to claim a lower limit of 32Hz in a 20 litres cabinet! It made the hifi headlines in no time for sure:
"The Andante won our Compact Quality Award on the basis of its superb sound for its size. It also deserved the award for solid construction. It was organ music that demonstrated best the amazing deep bass of this small speaker...we were astonished to find that the pedal notes of organ, the earth shaking were as loud and clear on the Linear as on a speaker about six times its size". Extract from the 1980 catalog, with no source noted...This was the 1979 version.
The 3A ANDANTE in its original form used a 25cm SIARE driver and a compression tweeter from Fostex, as per previous models, then it evolved into the 3A ANDANTE LINEAIRE using three 3A proprietary drivers. The cabinets were still made by GUY HF, 3A being their biggest client at the time. It is nor clear who was manufacturing the amplifiers, but they ended up being very unreliable. I guess the combination of low quality, huge investment in manufacturing their own drivers and electronics, as well as the demise of some very large retailers who were the primary output for the sales of 3A speakers had a large influence on the eventual bankruptcy of the company. Interestingly enough, GUY HF was not one of the casualties of this debacle.
3A closing their doors was big news at the time and coincided with the rise of JM LAB/FOCAL who became in time the largest client of GUY HF and eventually buying the business.
Another factor in the failing of the business was the plethora of models and the incessant redesign of successful speakers with new drivers and various revisions of the same models.
I have no intention to name and review all on them here but will direct you to the excellent overview put together by Jean-Marc Hauchard here:
The last product I will feature though is the 3A TR+Atom triphonic systems, where a coffee table houses the active subwoofer in 80, 100 and 120 watts , using a 150w amplifier and the "Acoustic Pressure Feedback" feature, using 2, 3 and 4 drivers respectively. One could choose from two satellites, the Atom 2 equipped with a 20cm woofer and an "Equipase" tweeter and Atom 3 equipped with the same boomer and two dome drivers for the higher frequencies, both using geometries to time align the drivers. Quite a neat system which was quite convincing.
To conclude this rather long article, let's say that 3A was one of the most prolific and famous French speaker manufacturers. There were certainly a good deal of great ideas in the designs of Daniel Dehay and his team. After the closure of 3A, he tried to resuscitate a business, moved to Switzerland first and then on to Canada where he still resides and where he helped starting another company called Reference 3A! These speakers are only sold in North America and have a great reputation. I have been in contact with the company recently and I will write a follow-up article on their products soon. So stay tuned for the next episode of the 3A saga!