Auditorium 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.
We 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 materials.
But 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
Times 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.
However, 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
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.
With 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
Bearing 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
When 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.
Our 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 "golden era."
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.