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!
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:
Although the first amplifier I built was valve based (EL84 if I remember correctly...), I can't say I am a fan today.
But, I do get the occisional arousal out of looking at soime of the beautiful contraptions that people around the world come up with, using valves (or tubes, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are from...)
This beautiful example here is from Thrax Audio from Bulgaria.
Their claim to fame is the use of DHT, Direct Heated Triodes, and they suitably impressed one of my fellow journalists and tube lover who happened to be visiting the stand at the same time.
I was just in awe with the sheer beauty of the beasts and the sound they provided via a pair of unusual speakers, the Kawero from Kaiser Acoustics (more on these in a later post...)
The French were remarkable by their absence: no Jadis, no Tosca, no Ocellia either...
Below, you will find a gallery of the valve electronics that I was impressed by...
In terms of turntables, all the usual suspects were present( Pro-Ject, Rega, Michell, Linn, Roksan...) but these are gadgets compared with the MASSIVE "Heritage" from Pierre Riffaud!
Some may recall PR was the designer of the famous "Epure" 20 odd years ago.
Epure was sold to Micromega and is still availble today for a mere 12,900 euros...
The new "Heritage" is based on some of the same principles, the main one by Pierre's own admission being MASS
The Epure weights 85Kgs, the Heritage even more...
Pierre has also invented a new 12" unipivot arm customised to suit your cartridge. It is a curious piece of mechanical engineering which looks like a cross between a Russian Church and a minaret (All this doesn't sound very catholic...does it?- Hopefully my French speaking readers will enjoy the punt - apologies to all the other ones).
These two products combined are supposed to be the ultimate vynil reading machine, available on Pierre's money and time (undisclosed...) terms.
Once you engage PR to deliver your ultimate vynil experience, you are in the same realm as when engaging star Australian Architect Glen Murcutt to design your house; You know it is going to be your own and very special possession, but you can't tell when it will be ready to enjoy and how much it is going to cost you, although I suspect it is cheaper to build a Glen Murcut designed house than a Pierre Riffaud turntable ( I am lucky enough to work with Glen - and his son Nicholas - in my professional life...so hopefully Glen will forgive me for this comment...)
Now, if you can't afford the time and money for this "Haute Couture" vynil machine, then maybe you have an old Garrard 401 in need of TLC. PR just happen to have a surgery to bring these oldies to a modern standard, keeping all their original qualities, and getting rid of their original sin(s), and in between fits the more mundane "Classique" turntable, more or less for the price of a Bryston 3B!
Unfortunately, PR had only a static display at the Show and one would have to travel 60kms north of Paris chez Jean-Jacques Capello of "Point Musiques" a very private showroom in a very private "demeure bourgeoise".
The location is way past CDG Airport, so I didn't get a chance of a listen, and it is a shame as JJC has assembled electronics and speakers of French design and very much "outside the square" the main brand being Ocellia.
I will certainly pay Jean-Jacques a visit over my next trip to France (sorry, but you will probaly have to wait until July 2011 for this review...)
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.