Interview: Pierre-Yves Diquelou, director of product engineering at Cabasse


Challenges, memories and technology: discovering Cabasse with Pierre-Yves Diquelou.

SV: What is your current job at Cabasse?

PYD: Today, my role in the company is to direct Cabasse’s research, its research subjects and the development of specific products, but above all I share my experience with my colleagues. I arrived at Cabasse over 30 years ago, somewhat by chance. I was looking for a summer job after my military service and I integrated the Cabasse team as a warehouse worker. My co-workers realized that I was interested in audio, so they passed on their knowledge to me and really took me under their wing. I’m trying to do the same today. That’s my job.

SV: Does Cabasse develop all of its own drivers?

PYD: All of the drivers are entirely designed by Cabasse. They aren’t all manufactured at our production site in Brest, but they are all entirely designed here. For example, the BCI driver currently integrated in The Pearl speakers is a two-way coaxial driver with a carbon cone and a tweeter. It has an ultra-flat coaxial design so that it can fit inside the most compact speakers.

Assembling the Cabasse Bora speaker inside the Cabasse production workshop in Brittany.

SV: Which materials are used the most often?

PYD: We don’t have any preferred materials. Each project requires that we study a specific material. With the TCA driver, we adapted the material to a specific application. In other words, we don’t necessarily use the same material for the midbass and midrange. That is the case with this driver: there is a honeycomb structure for the high-mids and midbass and the tweeter is made from a different material. We also do a lot of work on the materials for the driver’s frame and for the structure of the speaker itself. For the latter we use wood and composite materials with damping structures inside, or simply resin. Each speaker has its own material and requires a new material study.

SV: What do Cabasse’s technologies offer?

PYD: Cabasse owns a lot of technologies, but the most well-known is the coaxial driver with SCS or Spatially Coherent Source technology. This coaxial technology consists of embedding drivers inside each other. There is a tweeter in the central part, a midrange driver and a midbass driver. The driver that I’m showing you here is the TCA model used in the Sphère and Baltic speakers. In the Sphère, we’ve added a fourth quad axial channel behind the others. It is a 22” driver with a honeycomb structure like that of the midbass driver. So these are really four separate drivers, mounted concentrically.

To meet source coincidence criteria, Cabasse developed the ultimate solution: coaxial coincidence.

SV: What are the advantages of a coaxial driver?

PYD: The advantage of this type of driver, or at least for us when developing a speaker, is that it provides uniform dispersion. With a speaker that has multiple sources, the drivers are mounted above one another and their dispersion overlaps in certain coverage areas. With this driver, regardless of the sound dispersion axis, the directivity is always perfectly controlled and identical in every axis. Thanks to this controlled and identical directivity, the sound image is much more stable and robust than with a multiple source speaker. The Pearl speaker’s low-frequency driver is very singular. It was very complicated to design, and it was developed by Cyril, our acoustics engineer. The constraint of this speaker’s compact size along with the desired low-frequency performance obliged us to use a small, long excursion driver. It also needed to be able to handle very high power levels because the speaker has amplifiers that deliver over 1000 watts. Given the level of quality of the speaker, we tend to turn the volume up pretty high and the 1000 watts are reached very quickly. The driver needs to have a very long excursion of 20mm in both directions, with a coil that permanently stays inside the air gap so as not to generate any distortion related to the non-linearity of the driver. We used materials like carbon and compact, powerful rare-earth magnets.

SV: Did streaming represent a challenge for Cabasse?

PYD: Cabasse entered the streaming market over five years ago. In order to be successful in this field, our first challenge was to assemble teams of audio professionals, audiophile engineers that work on very high-quality audio equipment, and programmers. These are people who don’t use the same language and who don’t have the same interests in their lines of research, so we had to find a meeting point so that both teams could work as one. It took about two or three years to achieve this. Today, it can be considered as a single team. There is a team in Montpellier and one here in Brest. We have known each other for a long time because AwoX was Cabasse’s connected technology supplier before they acquired the company.

SV: How were The Pearl and The Pearl Akoya speakers created?

PYD: The Pearl and The Pearl Akoya speakers were the direct result of work that was previously carried out at Cabasse. We can mention the Sphère that we developed in 2006, which was the first active system with coaxial drivers. A few years later we released the Océan, which was slightly more advanced in terms of technology and signal processing. The Océan was followed by The Pearl, which in turn was followed by the Akoya.

The Pearl wireless speaker.

We are part of an industry where small devices have become a necessity. This isn’t new, a long time ago when I arrived at Cabasse I remember a listening session with the monumental Albatros speakers. They were 1.2m high, weighed 120kg and were absolutely fabulous.

When I was talking with Georges Cabasse, I asked him “What more can be done now that these speakers have been created?” and he replied “You don’t get it, do you? We will have reached our goal when we can stick something the size of a sugar cube on the wall and it provides the same sound as the Albatros!”. The Pearl and The Pearl Akoya are really the continuation of this. We are still working towards the same goal.

“We will have reached our goal when we can stick something the size of a sugar cube on the wall and it provides the same sound as the Albatros!” – Georges Cabasse.

SV: What is your fondest musical memory?

PYD: Unfortunately, the moments that made the biggest impression on me aren’t with speakers. I hope that we achieve this one day. Naturally, it’s at classical music concerts in large venues with big orchestras where we find amazing dynamics. Now, I realize that even though we have developed incredibly effective speakers, we still aren’t there yet. There’s still a lot of room for improvement before we attain the same sensations that one can experience at a concert. I’ve also had some great experiences with Cabasse speakers and the Sphères in particular. It is quite easy to get goosebumps, even with more modest models. I remember a listening session that we had here in the auditorium with the lab team. We listened to a pair of IO speakers and a Saturn 55 subwoofer with its iconic 55cm driver. It was an incredible experience that made an impression on all of us. It is possible to achieve beautiful sound with systems that have high dynamics, so we’re working along those lines.

The iconic Cabasse Saturn 55 subwoofer, featuring a 55cm driver.

SV: Can you tell us about your personal audio system?

PYD: I mostly listen to the home audio system that I have in my living room. Like many people my wife has her say so I have an IO2 system with a Santorin 25 in my living room that I’m entirely satisfied with. It’s a little system that works really well and that I enjoy a lot.

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