And the answer is...MASS and turntables.
The recent passing of Jean-Constant Verdier triggers this article and will take us on a journey in time to revisit three of the most famous French High-End turntables and pay tribute to the two designers behind these mighty designs, JC Verdier and Pierre Riffaud.
It is quite amazing to see the resemblance between these two, don't you think?
Interestingly enough, both Jean Constant Verdier and Pierre Riffaud came to massive designs from very different paths. Jean Constant worked for ERA and designed a very flimsy turntable with a underhung sub chassis and innovative "virtual pivot" arm. I owned such a "bijou" after leaving home and letting go of our Dual 1219 turntable to my sister - who still has it, I believe.
The ERA turntable was very well regarded at the time and it was also used in a "combo" with amplifier, tuner and matching speakers, called the "Bloc Source Quarante", named after the industrial designer who put it together Danielle Quarante, born in the same year as JCV, 1938 (btw, quarante in French means forty, so I originally thought it was a model number...) and was available in blue, white, red (French flag anyone???) and orange. See photos below. I really like it!
Pierre Riffaud started by re-engineering Garrard 401s - he still does it by the way...
and in that process started to design a new platter for it and reusing the oversize and very reliable motor as well as the very strong spindle and bearing.
JC Verdier went on to design "levitation" for his turntable, first magnetic, and now hydraulic, on the more recent "Magnum" which competes with Pierre Riffaud's Heritage and Clearaudio Statement, and probably a few more I am not aware of...
It definitely has the biggest platter and the heaviest at 60kgs, with 3 motors of 30kgs each and a solid marble plinth, raising the total weight to 400kgs!
JCV claims it is the heaviest on the market, not the most expensive but just the best
The difficult part would be to organise a comparative listening session, and I don't fancy my chances to be successful with that project...
I have not had a chance to listen to any of these separately, just the Classique at Point Musiques in 2011, and that was certainly better than my REGA, but how much better these top of the range turntables would be compared to the Classique or to my current upgrade of choice, the Bergman Magne, a mere 12K$...
Pierre Riffaud will not give you a price for the Heritage, saying to me with a cheeky smile: if you ask, it is that you can't afford it! ditto Epure, Verdier or Clearaudio...
But having said that, I have the upmost respect for people who dedicate their whole life to the pursuit of perfection at any cost, whether they design turntables like these two, or speakers like Wilson Audio, KEF, Cabasse or a meal like Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon or Heston Blumenthal.
So RIP, Monsieur Verdier, in the knowledge that your son will continue holding the fort and we will continue spinning vinyl on whatever turntable one can afford, leaving some money in the bank to buy more records, good food and wine and listen to music in good company...
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.