23 was not founded, in the common sense of the word.
Rather, it playfully came into being through our enjoyment
of music in the early 80s. Soon this love of music led
us to France, where we encountered people who'd gained
a certain notoriety by following a path entirely different
from the rest of the world: L'Audiophile. At a time
when the power output of a transistor amplifier was
as prestigious and coveted as horsepower is with sports
cars, L'Audiophile boldly moved against the mainstream.
They unearthed historical tube amplifiers with a mere
3-5 Watts output, connected them to sensitive horn speakers
and had the audacity to present this to an amazed public.
The results struck us: Here, we experienced a quality
of music reproduction that modern components had so
far denied us. The annual presentations which L'Audiophile
held in small movie theatres are now legendary, their
cult status secured.
understood that this could be our only way. What we
had experienced at L'Audiophile's shed a critical light
on so-called technical progress and made us look back.
On our journey into the past we learned a lot: It became
evident just how much had been sacrificed on the altar
of cost-efficient production, of analytical measuring
and of blind trust in the alleged advantages of modern
to say so was considered heresy. Consequently our road
in Germany was hard, and we polarized the field from
the beginning. The first 300B amplifiers, efficient
loudspeakers of Triangle, Roiene, Altec, Vitavox and
WE, a mass record player with magnetic bearing of Laboratoire
Verdier, Ken Shindo's tube amplifiers in Europe... all
of these things came too soon for the German market
when we set out in the early 80s.
have changed since then. The market share of Triode
amps keeps growing, and tubes are back in production.
Efficient speakers are being developed left and right,
horn speakers are in vogue again. Mass record players
with or without magnetic bearing are in, lightweight
record players, on the other hand, are almost extinct.
By looking forwards with eyes attuned to the past, many
people have begun to collect historical hi-fi gear,
and are amazed by the new worlds of sound they encounter.
People start to re-evaluate things almost forgotten.
Reissues by Macintosh, Marantz and Quad are being launched
and lauded as if they'd never disappeared from the market.
a few companies like L'Audiophile with its authors Jean
Hiraga and Philippe Viboud, and Uesugi, Eltus, Kondo,
and Shindo in Japan didn't have to make this laborious,
retroactive comeback: They hadn't veered off course
in the first place, always using small output (Triode
Watts) and large speakers like Onken, Altec, JBL, Siemens,
and WE to enjoy music to the fullest.
the chances to obtain good pairs of authentic old speaker
units diminished with time, while the production quality
of later models didn't maintain previous standards for
cost reasons or the altered requirements of modern amps.
Hence, speakers became the problem. Auditorium 23 concepts
like Latour, Marsannay (best
sound of the High End 95 in Stereophile) and Morgane
each were unique designs created from our historical
stock of Altec, Siemens, and Western Electric and thus
limited. Thanks to Bernard Salabert and his company
PHY-HP who developed a 21 cm full range and a 30 cm
wide range, we can now construct speakers on a par with
historical models, even surpass them at times. The H21LB15
proved the absolute equivalent of the legendary WE 755
wide range unit. "Not a single present-day speaker
can compare to H21LB15 - the only competition comes
from the best units of the 40s and 50s," wrote
Jean Marie Piel in one of his editorials in DIAPASON.
another master in his field, Ken Shindo, we made further
forays into old knowledge, sharing his grasp of the
use of energy. The magic didn't reside in comprehensive,
allround dampening; it didn't lie in "deaf"
wood kept from vibrating; neither was it found in sandfilled
soundwalls nor in lead-mantled cabinets. We learned
to appreciate a speaker cabinet as a supporting body
of tone, similar to the corpus of a musical instrument.
this in mind, we developed speakers like Provence, Appassionata
and Rondo. Appassionata was probably the first speaker
made of special panels normally used for the sound floor
of pianos, and ?Rondo? consequently acted upon the idea
of the speaker cabinet as sound body. It made careful
use of arising energy instead of eliminating it.
we would embark upon paths unknown, and each of these
projects could have led us astray. Sometimes, they did,
while being remunerative and rewarding in other ways.
They gained us something invaluable, though: experience.
No compendium in speaker building, no taken for granted
parameters could have replaced the practical application
of seemingly rogue ideas.
people talk about "musical speakers" today,
hinting at thin, resonating enclosures, they tend to
neglect the fact that such a concept calls for congenial
speaker units. Frankly, most units currently found on
the market aren't up for the challenge. The construction
of a heavy, rigid enclosure with Medite, chipboard or
similar materials, layered with carpet sheeting or leadplate
is much easier than that of a light, reverberating soundbody
of carefully planned proportions, stabilized in exactly
the right spots. And just that final touch of veneer
to the surface might have tipped the balance again.
new approach to theories of speaker building was further
engendered by working with original old Western Electric
loudspeaker enclosures. Initially, we had purchased
them in order to learn more about the characteristics
of vintage speakers. While co-operating with L'Audiophile
for some of our clients we had built "Voice of
the Theatre" enclosures strictly according to guidelines
in "L'Audiophile" magazine, issue #38. We
found, however, that these rigidly constructed cabinets
failed to generate the same musical credibility which
emanated from the lighter, venerable originals of the
first move to introduce PHY speakers in Germany was
the development of a variety of enclosures for the kit
market, using the PHY H21LB15 as the company's very
first and (then) only unit. The first finished speaker
concept turned out to be Provence, born in a vacation
mood while staying with friends in the South of France.
It was our first finished speaker realisation in open
baffle manner, to be presented to the public at Frankfurt's
HighEnd Show 1997.
We still fondly recall the surprise on our visitors'
faces whenever they stepped around to inspect the speakers
from the back: Whatever they expected to find, it certainly
wasn't this open, undamped box.