The iconic venue, known originally as the PLM Saint Jacques, was built in 1972 and designed by Pierre Guidicelli. It has been home to numerous Hifi Shows and the last one on November 21st and 22nd. I sent my own reporter in the person of Jean-Paul Guy, owner of GUY H.F. and speaker manufacturer extraordinaire for decades. He was kind enough to take photos of what he thought interesting and added a few notes that I will post here 'en anglais', lucky readers!
And no, Elipson was not there, as they had chosen to exhibit at the the other Hifi Show organised by Jean-Marie Hubert a few weeks before. But you know my passion for Elipson...
The "cloud du Salon" was in fact Deviate with their fabulous amplifiers but mainly for JPG and myself, the Phantom speaker! Jean-Paul has actually revealed to me that our other friend Philippe Lesage, ex Technical Director of Addax when I first met him and now director and owner of PHL Audio was heavily involved in the design of the bass drivers. He was also involved in the design of the drivers for the 4260 Elipson a few years back and in the design of my main driver for Microphase, an enhanced version of the MHD10. Mr Legorgu, Director of Addax at the time said to Jean-Paul: "I have just hired a savant!". Not a small token of appreciation! Philippe actually took over from Jacques Mahul, who didn't do too badly either after leaving Audax...
I have recently posted about my first experience with the Phantom, and interestingly enough Jean-Paul have a similar conclusion saying this might be the end of the Utopias, Wilson Audio and other big contraptions. He is also mentioning the reference to Cabasse with the same comment i-e, this works!
I will continue with other French products like LEEDH, the amazing small speakers designed by Gilles Milot, another ex-Audax engineer, by the way...Jean-Paul, who is an art lover and connoisseur, calls him the "Giacometti" of the speakers. You can find more information about Gilles Milot and his speakers elsewhere on this blog. Since my last encounter, Gilles Milot has developed a matching subwoofer. There are obviously similarities in the design intent with the Deviate phantom, although this one is passive for the satellites, but active via a traditional amplifier for the subwoofer.
.This new subwoofer is based on the isobaric principle popularised by Linn decades ago. Here two 23cm drivers face each other in a 16L enclosure (Atohm LD23CR08) and two Pro Audax 38cm (AAC PR38T0). A two-channel 300w plate amplifier also from Atohm drives the woofers and gives the system the efficiency and the low end of 20 Hz at -1dB (to be compared to the 16Hz of the Phantoms). The main benefit of using this subwoofer with the E2 is to relieve them from trying too hard to move air to reach down to 50Hz, giving the whole system breathing space. If you read French, then I recommend you read the review on EVMAG here
The usual suspects were also there as in Focal presenting the new SOPRA, an avatar of the Utopias driven by Octave Audio amplifiers, PE Leon using YBA amplifiers and Davis Acoustics still pushing the Karla, one of their best design ever.
There was also an interesting contingent from our British friends who crossed the Channel for the occasion... B&W were presenting the famous Nautilus, and the new 802 D3 with amplification from Classé Audio and Devialet, KEF with the Blade 2 and Pass Labs amplifiers (not for the faint hearted...)
I couldn't resist sharing this video with you...It will save you the time to search for it!
This is by no means exhaustive and I have to say a "grand mercy" to Jean-Paul Guy who went to Paris from his sleepy village of Bourbon-Lancy specially for the occasion, at a time where most Parisians were staying indoors after the terrorists attacks. Well done my friend!
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...
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!
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!
Behind this simple logo hides more than 70 years of expertise in building modern furniture for famous designers of the time, some of the first TV cabinets and later on specialising in speaker cabinets for the most prestigious names of the French HiFi scene like Elipson, Jean-Marie Raynaud, 3A, A2T, Audax, AudioAnalyse, Audio Reference, Confluence, Elipson, France Acoustique, Mercuriale, Phonophone, Siare and for JM Lab/Focal, a collaboration over 30 years, Focal eventually buying the business in 2007. What an achievement for Emile, the father, and his son Jean-Paul Guy from the tiny city of Bourbon-Lancy, home to just over 5000 people but famous from Antiquity for its spa. GUY.HF is only one of two companies listed on Wikipedia in the town!
Jean-Paul Guy who I have known since 1983 has benefited from growing up in a rich cultural environment because of the trendy original clients of his Dad, like the famous interior designers Leleu Marcel Gascoin and Maxime Old. Jean-Paul is a serious melomane and a great collector of modern art with a collection of over 600 pieces which he occasionally lends to museums for specific exhibitions. An hedonist, he loves all the finer things in life...
He is also a speaker designer in his own right and was developing some products very similar to my Microphase around the same time, hence probably why he accepted to build our products.
As proof, you will find below some extracts of his catalogues, some products being sold under the GUY.HF brand and some more elaborate ones under the "Natural Sound" brand.
I find interesting in retrospect that we were all trying to replicate the 4240 from Elipson on a smaller scale and for less money. In many ways, most of these systems actually achieved this objective with very limited means sometimes and as a result, these companies didn't stand the test of time. But most importantly, GUY.HF and Jean-Paul were instrumental in helping these small outfits getting manufactured properly at a price which leaved them with enough margins as well as staying competitive in the retail market. Jean-Paul was also very helpful in streamlining the manufacturing process by advising us on ways to save money without too much compromise on the final auditive and visual results.Un grand merci!
All this quality manufacture was achieved without any CNC machines which arrived at GUY.HF only in 1987 when production reaches over 15,000 speakers. A second machine was bought in 1999 to accommodate the big success of the Utopia range from Focal representing half the production and all this achieved with less than 30 people!
One skill that GUY.HF had and still has is the quality of their varnishes, perfectly applied and never too glossy in the case of the clear finish. Lacquer was subcontracted to a local company Segaud, which was later bought over and integrated into the larger premises acquired in 2003.
If you have ever seen a Focal Grande Utopia in the flesh, then you will have experienced both the cabinet making and the lacquer expertise of Jean-Paul's team!
Over the next few weeks, I will go into each of the speaker companies that GUY.HF has manufactured over the years, and you will surprised to find out that even reputable companies outside France were clients, like Luxman, Toshiba, Sanyo, Fisher, Philips and Telefunken!
I will be forever grateful to have been associated with GUY.HF and still counting Jean-Paul as one of my long standing friends. Stay tuned for more French Vintage Speakers!
You can now be a design addict AND a digital nomad hifi enthusiast, thanks to the joint-venture between HABITAT - of Terence Conran fame, and ELIPSON the iconic French speaker manufacturer.
TIMBER is a desktop bluetooth speaker, and the LENNY is a portable, or should I say walkable version.
I have no details of the equipment inside, but will probably be able to find out soon.
Prices are 199 euros and 299 euros respectively. A shame we do not have HABITAT stores in Ausrtalia!
Jullien aka Violet from Passion Elipson has just shared these photos with me. They have been taken during the installation of the Elipson Expo, where Jullien has loaned a number of his collector's items. I will let you enjoy them without further comment...
This 12th edition of "Salon du Vintage" in Paris will have a section dedicated to Vinyl and an exhibition of the famous Elipson vintage speakers - with tons of speakers - literally - on loan from Jullien of Passion Elipson's fame
I am sure the new/old BS50 will be on display. So for your dose of nostalgia, rush to the "Enceintes en Blanc" event in Le Marais this week-end. Check their website for details: http://salonduvintage.com
Elipson 1801 Prelude
One of my readers in the USA has recently asked me to find more about this not so well known serie which include the 1801 Prelude, 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1815. see table below.
I am using documents sent to me by Violet of Passion Elipson and Patrick Pennetier from Hifi-Antique. So thanks to both for their help.
This little known family of speakers from Elipson seems to be an attempt to capitalise on the success of the 1303, the first product designed under the new ownership of Mr Bonnet de la Tour and a departure from the plaster cabinets to more conventional MDF, in an attempt to conquer the traditional hifi client (and the dealers...).
It was a successful strategy, specially because the 1303 was a very good product keeping all the same design principles as the original spheres, i-e time alignment, and resonators to provide exceptional transient response and excellent midrange.
The 1800 series seems to be an attempt to simplify manufacture and get rid of the resonator(s), at least in the entry level model, the 1801 Prelude.
From the review below, published by Stereoplay, a French magazine of some fame at the time, you can see that it is quite a good bookshelf speaker, equipped with a popular 17cm driver from Focal, the 7C02 and the famous TWM from Siare, which equipped the top of the range 4050. The filter is 12db/oct electrically, and very well made, but certainly not over the top - no impedance compensation for example.
It was sold for under 3500 francs at the time, a month salary of a electronic technician at the time.
The third harmonic distortion is less than 0.3% past 100Hz, a great achievement. It would certainly sound pretty good, and it is exactly what Yves Dupre says in his review.
ELIPSON 1800 SERIES
MODEL TYPE DRIVER POWER IMPEDANCE FREQ RESP ±4dB/Hz EFFICIENCY DIMENSIONS in CMS WEIGHT FINISH
1801/11 2 170/19 50W 8 Ohms 60/20000 86dB 41x20x20 8KG WALNUT
1802/12 3 170/110/19 75W 8 Ohms 50/20000 88dB 80x23x25 12KG WALNUT
1803/13 3 170/80/25 100W 8 Ohms 45/20000 87dB 89x23x29 17KG WALNUT
1804/14 3 210/170/25 100W 8 Ohms 40/20000 86dB 102x28x36 25KG WALNUT
1815 3 250/210/50x20 130W 8 Ohms 32/20000 88dB 116x33x40 35KG WALNUT
1805/06 4 2x250/250/130/50x20 150W 8 Ohms 30/20000 88dB 101x45x50 45KG WALNUT/OAK
ELIPSON 1801 PRELUDE REVIEW
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
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.