I was at university when Scientelec was the go to brand for cashless students like me. They were primarily sold via people like Cibot Radio (Paris 12ème) and some of their amplifiers were available in kit form, which made them even more affordable. Some would say that the good look of the products were hiding a not so upmarket performance... But, in fact some of the products were really good for the time and they also made an interesting turntable, which by many aspects, seemed to have been inspired by ERA (designed by the famous JC Verdier...).
Way before the internet (which turned 25 this month btw...) .
Very little information is available online, and after trawling all my forums and various vintage hifi vendors, I have compiled here a few photos to give you a glimpse of what the product range was about. Created in 1968, the company went bankrupt in 1980 and the founder ended up behind bars, a rare thing at the time for such a small business...
Photos courtesy of Audio Vintage Forum, Hifi Antique and Hifi Vintage Audiophile.
A reader from the Netherlands who owns a pair of these speakers, and a talented architect, triggered several weeks of research and accumulation of documents, reading of forums entries to try to tell the story of this iconic brand of French speakers active for 15 years or so...
I have to credit again cabinetmaker extraordinaire Jean-Paul Guy for sending me his complete file, including original drawings and hand-written notes from Jean-Claude Fourrière, the founder.
Dear readers, this is all pre-CAD, email and Internet. We didn't have mobile phones, and most communications were via landlines and fax machines, or slow mail...
Just that alone meant that it took time to get anything done, and mistakes were costly, very...
So, with that sort of documentation, producing anything to the standard that GUY HF was producing at the time is a near miracle, and it is a tribute to Jean-Paul that the results were always far superior than these drawings suggest. Here is a copy of the 1985 catalogue
But the story starts 10 years earlier when Jean-Claude Fourrière is approached by DECCA to design a monitor loudspeaker using the legendary ribbon tweeter developed by Stanley Kelly. And we don't know how that happened...
In most loudspeaker systems the Deccas were used in a passive configuration Later he developed the ALH full range plasma loudspeakers.) Fourrière used the Decca London Ribbon from 2000 Hz. Decca Special Products in England authorized him to use the denomination DECCA and he named his creation Decca AL2000. It was a 3-way system with complementing units from Audax (HD24 and HIF13). He also designed a 2-way system at the time: DECCA AL1500 with crossover frequency of 1500 Hz. The panels of the cabinets were heavily damped with sheets of lead. Photos below courtesy of www.soundfountain.com
From that same website, I made the extraordinary discovery that this ribbon tweeter could be compared in performance, and particular high frequency extension to the ubiquitous and far less expensive AUDAX TW8, which Elipson used on their "boules" and that I used in my very first design in 1971, as did Renaud de Vergnette in his first commercial Triangle speaker!
What triggered this article as mentioned before, was an email from Jan H. who asked me to help him identify a pair of Audio Reference speakers he owns and to find out some specifications.
He ended up sending me a number of great photos that he has given permission to share with you, you insatiable lot of hifi nerds and loyal readers of this blog!
The difficulty in identifying these vintage speakers comes from the fact that these small manufacturers were changing their configuration often without changing the model number!
This is a perfect example, as the REF 65 in the catalogue above shows both midrange drivers as domes (from SEAS), but this early version (my guess...) uses a MP14RCY from SEAS polypropylene cone. This, I believe, would have been a lot easier to crossover to the 24cm from Audax in the separate but integrated subwoofer. I have personally experimented at the time with a Dynaudio dome midrange and found it very difficult to use for that reason (and I have never been a great fan of Dynaudio drivers, or finished speakers for that matter...)
D25This midrange crosses over to two Audax tweeters, the very reputable HD100D25 and TW74, a larger flange version of the famous TW51, described as a super tweeter...and also used by Confluence on their Cantilene, and by myself on the Microphase SAT and many other manufacturers. Audax at that time was producing 10,000 units a day! mainly for TV sets.
The bass section is handled by a MHD24 from Audax in a separate enclosure, acting as a bass-reflex loaded subwoofer down to 35Hz. The entire speaker is deemed to go up to 26 kHz!
Obviously, with four drivers to take care of, the crossover needs to be quite a complex affair. We would certainly try not to use electrolytic capacitors in a modern design, but technically when they are used in the low pass section, they are not in the signal path and therefore should not have an influence on the quality. However, 30 years later, I would replace these capacitors by a Mundorf or equivalent, just because they are probably not 12 uF anymore and their leakage would be significant and that would move the crossover frequency significantly. All other components are of quite good quality for the time and should still be fine.
Although we do not have the value of all components, reverse engineering from the capacitors values and the frequency response of the drivers suggest crossover frequencies of 300 Hz for the woofer at 12dB/oct, 2000 Hz for the midrange and the HD100 at 12dB/oct, then around 4.5Khz for the TW74 at 6dB/oct. Various other resistors and capacitors may have been used to adjust levels and impedance compensation on the TH74, a good way to get reed of a nasty resonance. We might do some more research to clarify, or if somebody has the schematics, then we would be sorted...
I do not have a review of that speaker, although I have a number of them for other speakers in the range, which I will publish in a second episode to be published in the coming weeks.
In conclusion, Jean-Claude Fourrière was an inventor and a nuclear scientist, and he eventually went broke trying to design a commercially viable plasma headphone and full range speaker, the AHL Toltèque, which also had the benefit of being an open baffle design. Although he got some subsidies from ANVAR, the innovation French body, the product was too difficult to manufacture and the price made it very difficult to afford. Having said that, in his heydays, he had almost a hundred retailers throughout France and was doing quite well exporting to Europe and America.
Not that long ago, I upgraded my ageing NAD 7140 receiver to a new NAD preamp/amp C326BEE to drive my Bryston 3B. One of the reaso for the upgrade was that I was looking forward to a remote control of the volume of my preamp. If Audiocubics had been around then, I may very well have been tempted to buy this piece of gear rather than a new NAD. I don't regret it though, as it is a very transparent preamp/remote combo!
But here comes the Audiocubics R-Cube and look at what it does for a mere 295USD:
"The R-Cube system is a showpiece stereo remote volume control with superb audio characteristics and a sophisticated minimalist look. Appearance is just as important as performance in excellent audio gear and brushed or machined aluminium and exotic rich hardwoods enhance the R-cubes aesthetic. The cube shape satisfies the performance design goal of minimum possible total signal path and catches the eye with it's geometric simplicity. Each R-Cube is hand crafted out of brushed aluminium, with machine-turned aluminium buttons and a single 192 colour LED light indicating volume level. Select exotic hardwoods with a lustrous oiled finish and matching machine-turned aluminium buttons are used on the handheld remote to give it visual and tactile appeal. The R-cube is constructed with gold/teflon RCA jacks, silver/teflon wiring, triple eutectic solder and a minimum possible signal path in order to maintain maximum signal integrity throughout.
The Audiocubics R-cube system is a simple and elegant remote stereo volume control that is as much art as it is high performance audio gear." I really love that simple statement!
The specs are impressive and the looks! That's "hawt" as hell! I might buy one just for that alone...
And look at the different finishes for the remote itself, like cocobolo or purpleheart on top of anodised "aluminium" and black acrylic or the very vintage walnut!
I am also thinking about using this Audiocubics between my OPPO and the Bryston 3B for a very minimalist setup, bypassing the NAD altogether. I think that would be very cool!
Ideas for future products could be to add switching between two sources: I would connect the OPPO on one and the output of my NAD phono stage to the other - and a headphone amp! Au boulot Curt!
My sister and I bought a 1219 Dual turntable, but we could not afford the rest of the catalogue, so that's when I built my first speakers - full range 17cm from Audax in a DIY enclosure filled up with an old bedcover Mum gave me, valve amplifier kit bought from Cibot Radio, and DIY transistor preamp. The temperature in my room was always a few degrees more than the rest of the house as a result: cosy to listen to the Beatles WHITE album!
My sister has since acquired a Dual CT-1440 tuner
BRAUN was another brand also on my radar at the time, although I couldn't afford it then, and has probably gone too iconic today to be affordable now. As proof, this CSV-1000 found at Hifi Vintage Christian Grados in Paris is for sale for 1200 euros!
It has been said that Braun aesthetics were an big inspiration for John Ive, the chief designer at Apple, and yes I am a fan, as we are a complete Apple household from a 27" iMac - the one I am using right now, to a number of Macbook Air, iPhones and iPads...we are completely addicted!
During the last stages of our conversations, and after finally finding the real configuration for the Integrales crossover, Perry G shouted a last letter to PE Leon in the hope, I guess, to see our efforts vindicated. And this time, he got a response from a newly appointed export manager, promising to send the proper schematics, as soon as PE Leon came back from a trip. Although at first, Perry though that might well be another dilatory measure, he was quite surprised to receive that information a couple of weeks after, without to have to ask for it again... So, Perry was quite chuffed, and I was quite happy that this beautiful vintage document - nobody was using CAD then - which, after a bit of deciphering, proved to be exactly what I revealed in Episode 6.
So, it is a great story with a happy ending and I hope that Perry will now enjoy his renovated speakers for years to come. I have been told that he might even put his beloved Audio Research amp in service, after having replaced all the valves and put the whole thing through a serious burn-in session!
Hopefully, we will hear from him about the renewed pleasures of listening music on a fabulous set of vintage HiFi!
I hope you have enjoyed our journey and the story and would welcome any other enquiries into helping other vintage enthusiasts willing to restore or upgrade a beloved pair of speakers.
After Perry's elogious email, I was obviously quite happy with the result, and I thought it would be good to review everything to document the process and make sure we were the closest possible from the original.
During that process I realised I had possibly made a mistake by positioning the resistor network BEFORE the filter cell, rather than AFTER as per diagram above, which is more "textbook" if you like.
This topology gives the ouput of the cell a more stable impedance and make it easier to tune the cut off frequency of each cell.. We tried various iterations of this topology, swapping the resistor values to adjust the relative levels of the midrange and tweeter, and I guess I confused Perry quite a lot in the process, without necessarily getting a better result on listening tests.
The FFT above gives a good indication of the quite good response and is consistent with the listening tests Perry was reporting back to me. Obviously, I had to trust him entirely on his ability to remember how the speakers sounded more than 10 years before, but I believe that if you are familiar enough with a particular set up and a few recordings, you can have a fairly good assessment of the result you are after.
But a few days later, we had a breakthrough, actually two...but let's start with the cruncher!
Perry had spotted on eBay another pair of Integrales for sale in Canada, and I think at one point he may have been tempted to buy them...but in his infinite wisdom, he had the genius idea to ask the seller for a photo of HIS crossover and the seller kindly agreed!
The most interesting thing about this photo is the resistor on the top right: it is not quite as burnt as in Perry's speakers - maybe the party didn't go as long, or the music was played as loud, or they ran out of beer!!!! - who knows? Nevertheless, it means that this resistor should have been specified with a higher poet rating in the first place, and we will understand why soon!
The other good thing about this photo is that the filter has not been tampered with and is obviously as per the original design. So, then I spent some time decrypting it and came up with a new schematic - see below:
From this diagramm, it is easy to see that that R1 takes half of the power going into the midrange and should have been specified as a 10w at least, and in doing so, I would not have a chance to play and make anew friend across the Pacific Ocean! The good news are that when Perry had implemented this new crossover, he was on top of the moon with the auditive results, like being reunited with an old love!
Here are the corresponding measurements: We have not quite figured out why there is so much difference between the two speakers, but one suggestion is that one speaker is positioned in a corner of the room where the other one is not.
Well, you see, after more than six months of correspondence, trial and errors and a bit of luck in the end, we managed to bring these PEL Integrale back to life. Perry is now in the process of getting his Acoustic Research amp back to its original grandeur and I have not heard if it is back in service or not, but that should give another level of smoothness to the sound of these iconic speakers.
Now I promised you that there was a final twist in the story...well I will keep that for our next and last episode 7, next week! Stay tuned...
At that stage, I thought I had enough information to come up with a proper schematic of how and why. the filter should be wired. This wiring diagram uses all the right components, and are properly allocated to the right filter cell. A few calculations confirmed that the woofers were cut off at 400Hz and the tweeter at 6 KHz, which souns quite high, but I personally like to use a higher cut off frequency and also the curves I found for the tweeter were consistent with this design decision.
The midrange is not filtered in the treble as it gently rolls off naturally I suspected, as I could not find any measurements for the SEAS midrange P14RC4, pictured below as well as the mighty FOCAL 8C412 woofer.
I have since found a data sheet - which confirms my guess - here: http://www.seas.no/images/stories/vintage/pdfdataheet/h0522_mp14rcyp.pdf
By the time Perry got a chance to rewire his crossovers to this schematic, he also had received his iTestMic and we moved on to using the FFT measurements:
And I got this lovely email with this FFT photo - I have to say I was quite chuffed...:
"This Jean-Marie is the one that sounds the best by far. It was immediately obvious as so superior to the "correct" tweeter phase which was supposed to be inverted according to the very first schematic from PEL. Of course that schematic was for an old version of the crossover which was not the same as mine.
The white curve is the "inverted" phase while the orange curve is the "correct" phase.
You cannot believe my happiness after so many years of trying and giving up, tearing apart and cobbling back together, sure that this would be the last time. Hours on the internet corresponding to people who didn't know anything. Suggestion after suggestion. Now finally, this is it. How can I thank you enough?
You are a freaking speaker genius.!!! (bold inserted by author...)" Perry G.
Although the saga continued for a while more, let's leave it at that for today!
I personally use this fabulous little device to design speakers and measure them (obviously not to make coffee...lol) This, together with a decent microphone that Audio Tools can supply and an iPad, you are very well equipped to assess the performance of a speaker or its individual drivers. At 600$, it costs the same as a vintage bottle of Ducru Beaucaillou, my favourite Saint-Julien - see www.ourfrenchimpressions.com for more details - and it lasts much longer!
If you are not a professional user, then you might want to go back one step and use their iTestMic for about 200$
I recommended to Perry that he buys this more affordable version and he did!
It is really a cute little device and it has given us a way to compare measurements across the Pacific Ocean.
That's it for the hardware, but obviously what makes the system complete and useable is the App.
This is quite a smart product, as you can buy only the measurement modules that you need and they are usually around 20$ each. Even if you were to buy all of them, I think it would set you back maybe 400$ and you would have a complete set of tools very close to the 20,000$ HP3582 I used to use in the 80s, or the 40K$ for a Rhode & Schwarz UPV analyser (but this is the ultimate machine and I do dream to own one, if I were to become an active speaker designer again!
I have used a measurement method for many years which is not textbook at all, but which has given me very good auditive results without resorting to an anechoic chamber. I won't reveal all the details here, but let say that these measurements are made in the listening room, and, as such, give a realistic measure of the behaviour of the speaker under test in to a REAL environment. You can see on the curve above that this speaker is flat in the room from30Hz to 20KHz =/- 5dB and roughly =/- 3dB from 300Hz to 12kHz, and trust me, it sounds spectacular! I am awaiting a new prototype that should improve the lower medium down to 150Hz for a better match with the active subwoofer, but I won't be able to talk about this for another month or so, due to confidentiality arrangements with my client.
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
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.