Two Parisian events marked the fall of 2021 and have refocused our attention on our living environment: the Maison Objet & More show and the Paris Audio Video Show. Back to our home sweet home, that the health crisis has transformed into an even more exclusive and versatile space, between work and daily life.
Paris Audio Video Show
Immersed in the hi-fi world from an early age, my passion for sound has taken me around the world in search of the Holy Grail for over 50 years. What I am presenting here is the most powerful experience I have ever had while listening to music. Probably the best listening experience of my life.
The Neolith model from American speaker manufacturer Martin Logan is the result of 50 years of research. It is a hybrid electrostatic speaker, that is to say it uses the very best of each technology: electrostatic in the mids and highs, and dynamic drivers in the lows.
The resulting listening experience is one of perfection, which is the very definition of high fidelity: one hears only the vocals, the instruments and the orchestra, the speaker literally disappearing, which is a challenge given the impressive size of the product. But its dimensions do the job: with its height and radius, the size of the speaker widely radiates throughout your room. The presence and the perfect soundstage are the two obvious qualities of this speaker that literally fades away to leave the music center stage.
Technically and without going into too much detail, it is an electrostatic speaker that must be connected to the mains. The large curved panels are in fact a huge driver whose membrane is sandwiched in between two perforated metal grilles, stretched to the extreme by a very high voltage of over 20,000 volts. Rest assured, the very low amperage makes this voltage harmless; it only serves to stretch the mylar, a thin sheet of transparent cellophane. Stretched by the very high voltage in the grilles and stimulated by the music signal, this sheet emits a clear and precise sound over its entire surface. The rapid attacks on the piano keys and the plucking of the violin strings are very present, thanks to the electrical tension that prevents the membrane from becoming too elongated.
Precision, finesse and energy are the result of this incredible technology.
To perfect this realism across the whole auditory spectrum, the low frequencies are handled by a classic dynamic driver in the bottom of the speaker to ensure that the music is perfectly delivered right down to the lows, which are ample yet controlled.
It is necessary to have a room large enough to provide the full extent of the soundstage, especially since the speakers are dipolar, that is to say that part of the signal is emitted towards the rear and uses the walls to the rear and to the side to achieve a flawless and haptonomic soundstage.
In terms of price, there is no debate: how much would you be willing to pay to have Callas or Chet Baker in your living room every night? More precisely, the 90,000 euro investment in this unique product remains reasonable compared to the price of luxury cars or watches, and even its competitors, for the immense pleasure to be shared on a daily basis.
Let us also add that this speaker proves to be reasonable in terms of overall investment as it can be powered by amplifiers with a reasonable output, as long as they are carefully chosen in terms of quality and compatibility because electrostatic speakers, whose impedance curve is uneven, require a very stable amplifier.
The best speaker in the world, a subjective choice
It is important to know that the acoustics of your room will be the decisive factor for the final sound in your home. At this price level, a test and a perfect adjustment are essential. Installers have precise measurement and calibration systems to ensure accurate placement for optimal speaker performance in your listening room. The international specialized press considers that the best speakers are few and far between. The competition is between Wilson Audio’s Alexx V (€170.000), Focal’s Grande Utopia (€200.000) and the Magico M9 (€750.000!): all these models make the Martin Logan Neolith seem like a rather affordable product…
In the high-end audiophile sector, one often finds luxurious features that can be detected by a simple glance. Dan d’Agostino is considered one of this generation’s high-fidelity greats. Following in the footsteps of founders such as Frank McIntosh and James B. Lansing in the United States and my late friend Georges Cabasse in France, he sets the standard for today’s technologies in terms of design, manufacturing quality and audio performance perfection. It is in fact through the pursuit of perfection in all areas and all details that one achieves the best results.
The D’Agostino Momentum Integrated amplifier is close to perfection. This jewel-like piece of technology develops 2 x 200 watts with ease. An excellent complement for the Neolith, as its huge power supply isn’t phased by fluctuating impedances. €65.000 at KLS Elecson Paris.
It’s no secret that vinyl is back, the superiority of this source in terms of sonic realism having trumped many digital sources in the eyes of audiophiles. This movement is accelerated by the frenzy of contemporary artists to produce a vinyl record for each new release, and also by labels that are releasing the last 30 years of CD hits on wax. The turntable has been widely popularized thanks to Pro-Ject and Rega. An elegant and refined Italian touch joins the big family with this magnificent product from Gold Note. The Pianosa 3 model presented here combines the elegance of curves and materials to make a refined design object (€2,890).
Not having the space or the means to reach the holy grail of sound should not deprive you of the best. To this end, the Korean firm Astell&Kern now offers portable sources of an equally high quality. However, these are intended for solo use, except when connected to your classic hi-fi system.
The advantage of these DAPs is that they can store your favorite music on the 64GB internal hard drive (which can be extended to 1TB), allowing you to take your whole music library away with you for the week-end or on vacation!
The SP 2000 from the A&Ultima range is a hi-fi DAP derived from the old Sony Walkman, but in Hi-Res, currently the highest quality audio standard in portable audio. Only the volume button is manual, all other controls are operated via the touch screen, which also displays the cover of the album being played. Supporting 32-bit/384KHz files, it features three amplifiers allowing the listener to select a listening mode depending on the track, from the extreme analytical nature of digital Hi-Res to the warm, analog sound of tubes, and a hybrid mode.
It features a dual band WiFi connection for great performance with local networks. The battery ensures 14 hours of continuous use, which leaves you time to sleep a little. It must be associated with high-quality headphones for the perfect portable system. High-end models from Focal, Sennheiser and Beyer are the best possible matches.
The SP 2000 represents the top of the range of this series, at a price of €2,300. Two other models, the SE 180 and Kann Alpha (respectively €1,600 and €1,199) complete this prestigious range. On www.son-video.com
Maison Objet & More
Maison & Objet has made Paris the world capital of domestic refinement, expanding from Villepinte to all the Parisian showrooms with an exquisitely sophisticated display that encourages us to rethink our homes. The remote working imposed on us by the health crisis opens up new horizons with mixed solutions, applying the requirements of the work space to our domestic environment.
We found exactly what we needed at Vitra. Distributor of the most iconic design brands such as Eames, Panton, Nogushi, Ottoman and Jean Prouvé, the company offers a range of hybrid home office products that are elegant and incredibly clever.
Isolating oneself without being cut off from the world, creating one’s own bubble at home or in an open-plan office space, is a real challenge. With Alcove, Vitra offers modular solutions to create your workspace during the day and to open it up to your surroundings in the evening. Since its introduction in 2006, the Alcove sofa created by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec has captivated with its large side panels that already offered a space for seclusion and discussions. Today, the concept has evolved with the Alcove + to become a space creator with many different configurations. You can change the layout in a few minutes, from work to meeting mode and family mode. The panels are very solid and can be assembled with zippers. They also provide soundproofing during telephone calls.
Other elements complete the range, notably Antonio Citterio’s ID Chair Concept, an elegant and comfortable office chair that is comfortable for hours due to polyester fiber padding that has no polyurethane foam.
How about dinner in Venice? When we discovered the Zafferano range, we wanted to bring some of this magic to our tables, both indoors and outdoors. Elegant and discreet, they take up very little space and do not require a cable because they operate on an integrated battery and are equipped with a touch-sensitive control.
The brightness is variable and the battery life is long enough to keep you going until late in the evening, which does not prevent it from following you to your room. Its price, under €100, is quite reasonable and is accompanied by a large choice of colors.
Zafferano has not finished enchanting our meals as it is a small piece of Venice, with a range of Murano glassware and tableware that is very tasteful because it is not very busy. Elegance in the materials and in the simplicity of the design. https://www.zafferanoitalia.com
The NES table, however, has quickly become essential for both the home and the office due to the growing popularity of using laptops everywhere. Adjustable in height, angle and inclination, it adapts to your working position or to your leisure time with your laptop.
Finally, the Locker Box allows you to tidy up your workspace and go from remote work to relaxation mode at home in a few minutes. The Alcove range starts at €3,640, the ID Soft office chairs at €972, the NES table at €649 and the Locker Box at €199, at CONRAN SHOP Paris.
If we had to sum up the Dandy magazine in one word, it would be elegance. Since 2002, the year of its creation, the magazine honors quality craftsmanship. In short, the entire heritage of the French lifestyle is at the heart of Dandy magazine. This article by Jean-Marie Hubert is available in full in Dandy #84.