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
Bruno Gest has been at it for over 25 years and I have spent an inordinate amount of time there in the 80s, investigating drivers, buying samples and components or just listening to the wonderful contraptions Bruno and his team created month after month.
At that stage, they were very much into horns and Fostex drivers, but also keen suppliers of drivers and kits from Audax and Siare, then Focal, and now Atohm, PHL Audio and Davis Acoustics.
I had met Herve Breton on the Atohm stand in 2010, but didn't get a chance to visit the Paris store. In October 2011, I was not going to miss out again...Situated in the 11th arrondissement at 138 Avenue Parmentier, you can find here a very large assortment of drivers, primarily of high efficiency or/and full range variety, components like inductances, capacitors and resistors as well as accessories like wires, connectors, vents, and also full kits to build your own speakers.
In one word, this is the Ali Baba cavern of the speaker DIYer, and also a plave where one can discuss designs, tricks of the trade or simply share a good listening session and enjoy the camaraderie and the knowledge of the people which is the trademark of the place.
Luckily enough on the day of my visit, Bruno walked in about 15mns after me, and once we had reconnected, Bruno surprised me with two things: one, a smaller version of our Microphase SATs that we thought we would market years ago, and two, amazingly a very rare prototype of our SATs, as we probably made 10 pairs to test the waters before going full speed. Bruno had bought them back from a client - I thought I had given him a pair at the time, but not...
Note the smaller cabinet, the off the shelf drivers and vent, and the first order crossover. also the cabinet maker could not make the chanfreined cabinet, so you can see the edge of the plywood on each corner.
Although quite elegant, it is nothing compared to the shear beauty and perfection of the final cabinets manufactured for us by Jean-Paul Guy of GUY HF in Bourbon-Lancy, now part of the Focal empire!
Audiolineaire - Choose your leather - A "Haute Couture" speaker
There is no end to people's creativity when it comes to designing speaker: timber, glass, acrylic, stone and now leather...
Obviously it is only a wrap around or more precisely a snap on cover - you can see the decorative panels at the back of the photo left.
These are really well made speakers and reasonably simple in design, with two 16cm woofers and a ribbon tweeter in a bass-reflex enclosure, and are specified as a 2.5 way, which means the bottom woofer is used only in the low frequencies and the top one is used as a full range.
The whole thing works quite well, very balanced, with an accurate reproduction of the timbres of instruments. The ribbon tweeter is delicate and the manufacturer claims 96dB/1W/1m efficiency.
It was certainly one of the good surprises of the Show
Atohm - One of my favorite brand of French speakers
Thierry Comte, the amiable owner of Atohm used to be the Technical Director at Triangle for many years, until he decided he could have more freedom to design speakers his own way.
Thierry makes his own drivers, and very good ones at that, and he is happy to sell them to other manufacturers (Waterfall Audio is one of his good clients and friends) and also to the DIY market at La Maison du Haut-Parleur - I will write a report on my visit to their Paris store soon on my "Interviews" page.
And he is not inventing new speakers every year - the GT1, GT2 and GT3 having around for a while and are not going anywhere any time soon. Why change something that works bloody well indeed?
The GT3 in particular is quite a complex object on the inside, although looking quite mundane on the outside, but close your eyes and you can enjoy music - efficiency, low coloration, very low level of distortion in particular in the bass make for a very accurate, energetic, feet tapping experience. I am a fan!
And as you can see in the photo left, I am not the only one!
Antelope Audio - Pro DAC and Atomic Clock for your CDs
This is not for the faint hearted! And it is fitting for my last post reviewing this Show.
This company makes products closed to my heart, as I used to be a Time & Frequency expert, as well as quite versed in A to D and D to A conversion during my 15 years at Hewlett-Packard selling Test & Measurement equipment (Now Agilent Technologies).
Antelope designs Rubidium clocks to drive accurately and steadily ADCs and DACs for the professional audio, video and cinema markets.
If you go to a good movie, or if you own some recent Blu-Ray DVDs, chances are, Antelope would have been used at some stage of the process - see video below:
You might have read my ramblings in previous posts about the ineptitude of upsampling a native 16bit/44.1kHz file as you are not going to extract any new information in the process. There might be a small benefit in the smoothing of the resulting signal, but it will not be more accurate.
Improving the clock's stability and jitter performance however will result in a more accurate reading of that same native file, hence the raison d'etre of Antelope products.
When you then apply upsampling to a 16/44.1 file, or if you can correctly convert a native 24/96 (Qobuz anyone???) or 24/192 file (Blu-ray DVD), then you have a winner. And this is exactly what the various DACs in the Antelope range will provide you with.
Added value: they were using a Bryston 4B amp to drive British PMC MB2i speakers, so no wonder the result was quite striking.
I could have talked to you about the amazing demo of the JBL Everest where I discovered the Michael Jackson posthumous "This is it" Blu-Ray DVD - a must have - or the new B&W Diamond speakers or the new iPod-based systems from Yamaha or a myriad of other products, but I chose to review the products that I liked, or that intrigued me or surprised me, or the products that were presented by passionate, honest and amiable people. At the end of the day, you will find a lot more information about this Show on the Web, but this my personal take on the things that I value most at that particular phase of my HiFi journey.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my prose as much as I had pleasure writing these articles.
I have a few more surprises in store for you over the next week or two, my Christmas gift(s) to you.
I will then leave you in peace for a month or so, as I am going away to California with my family to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in San Francisco where we got married, with a quick detour by Las Vegas to attend the CES and report back to you.
Thanks for keep coming back to my site and Merry Christmas and all the best for 2012.
I am happy to report that I will be covering the show officially this year for the Australian Hifi Magazine,
I feel very honoured to be the chosen one!
Here are two links to the show's website for those of you that are keen to visit:
Dates are October 1st & 2nd at the Pullman Rive Gauche Hotel.
One scoop: Ken Kessler will launch his new book on the history of KEF,
who will be celebrating their 50 years of designing beautiful speakers and will introduce the "Blade"
Some of the French brands already registered to exhibit:
See you there!
Or stay tuned for more news on this blog...
Today, I will review the two brands/products that have most impressed me in terms of speaker design and new to me.
Atohm and Waterfall Audio are kind of cousins as Thierry Comte is a partner in Waterfall, and the main driver (sic...) behind Atohm.
Besides, Waterfall Audio uses almost exclusively Atohm speakers.
Both companies have created a range of speakers that have some design criteria in common, but have achieved very different products out of some of the same components.
Atohm drivers are all high efficiency and both bass and midrange drivers have a metal membrane. Their top of the range tweeter however has a silk membrane and a 28mm diameter coil small enough to always stay within the humongous magnetic field of more than 17000 Gauss, resulting in a massive 98db/w/m efficiency.
We were exposed to their top model, the GT 3.0, a so-called 3.5 way freestanding speaker beautifully finished and equipped with 2 7inch bass drivers, 1 6inch medium with a phase plug and the above mentioned supertweeter.
The crossover frequencies are 100, 150 and 2500Hz, hence the 3.5 way name.
All filter slopes are 6db and the tweeter is time aligned.
The midrange driver has its own chamber fitted with an internal conical structure aimed at taming the standing waves and reflections inside that cabinet. This is reminiscent of the structure in the B&W Nautilus, but inverted inside the cabinet.
The bass drivers are installed in a bass reflex enclosure with a laminated vent at the base of the speaker's cabinet (like in our Microphase SWS subwoofer, this arrangement removes most of the potential problems linked with the floor structure and the position within the room).
The very well conducted demo showed the accuracy, speed and time alignment of this speaker, highly respecting the timbres of instruments and at 92db efficiency and 300W power capacity, reproducing the music with a realistic level and a total absence of distortion. Definitely in my top five at the show.
Their cost of 7,900 euros + seems to be the norm at that level of quality (Elipson 4260, Vienna Acoustics, or my favourite Martin Logans are twice the price...)
Waterfall Audio has taken a different approach, using some of the same drivers, in their top model, the Niagara.
First of all, Waterfall has made a name for themselves by introducing glass cabinets for their speakers.
We all know that glass is a very inert material, but being transparent, one cannot hide much inside the cabinet. Besides, it is quite a difficult material to process and assemble, more so once you add the complexity of a horn in front of the tweeter!
But Cedric Aubriot and Thierry Combe are not the types to refuse a challenge, and they came up with a number of innovative ideas to make this speaker a "chef d'oeuvre" in the sense of the Compagnons in the Middle Ages.
The result is a beautiful objet with a very high WAF - they have their Export Manager, Nadine, as their first judge, and she has convinced women (and men, I am sure...) in 30 countries to agree with her and buy this wonderful object!
Having said that, the auditive result is totaly in tune with the aesthetics of the product, proving once more that form should follow function if one wants to achieve the best possible results in any field. Electroacoustics are still full of "black magic" and in this case a transparent one: the filter is hidden in the base of the speaker, and so is the larger passive bass driver. Again, the midrange driver has its own enclosure baptised Acoustic Damping Tube, and the bass is generated mainly by a second 7inch driver. The tweeter is a 21mm diameter with a silk cone behind the proprietary glass horn. All drivers are bespoke versions of Atohm drivers.
The sound is solid, accurate and neutral. At 89db and 200w power handling, the output is realistic with a very nice, precise soundstage.
At 27,000 euros, this is not for the faint hearted, but a tenth of the price of a Focal Utopia and a lot easier to fit in one's living room. And with all due respect to Jacques Mahul, a much more lively proposition, more engaging with the source material, and, after a relatively short audition, certainly not less accurate.
It is to be noted here that Len Wallis (of Len Wallis Audio fame in Sydney) has given me access for a full morning to the Utopia in his showroom with two of his most knowledgeable sales people (and vinyl enthusiasts on top...) as my 60th birthday present...and so, my opinion of the Utopia is based on a much longer listening session on my own material. Although we had probably hal a million dollars of equipment in that room, I cannot say I was totally convinced mainly because it was almost surgical and lack the passion to engage my senses totally.
So, if I had a spare 40,000A$, I would certainly consider the Niagara!
I would like to try them with my Bryston amp and a Michell turntable and Grado Signature cartridge. Maybe the Aussie distributor of Waterfall Audio can organise that for me ( I will BYO my amp!!!)
I have not visited this exhibition for 15 years, I have been surprised to see a number of new, innovative, successful French Hifi companies, primarily in the realm of speakers and turntables, but also valve and silicon-based electronics.
Obviously some of the most famous and long established brands were there as well from Elipson to Micromega, Davis Acoustics to Focal.
The newcomers of note were from A to W: Atohm, Jarre Technologies - yes, it is Jean-Michel - , JMB Acoustique, KTR Lab, Leedh, Pierre Riffaud, Soledge, Stenheim,
Stormaudio, Vismes and Waterfall Audio.
Famous absentees: Cabasse, Jean-Marie Raynaud, Triangle to name a few.
Some of the famous Brits were here too: B&W, Chord, Cyrus, KEF, Lowther, Michell, Mission, NAD, Naim, Roksan, and Rotel to name a few.
A few Americans like JBL, Vienna Acoustics, you guessed it from Austria, Saegan & Shanghlin from China, nobody from Australia though, but the famous Perraux from New Zealand, and the powerfull Japanese Yamaha and Pioneer, giving an extraordinary multichannel musical demo!
Here are some pictures to satisfy your curiosity.
We will review some of these products in more details later, so stay tuned!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.