CASTLES AND DRIVERS
In November I made a long postponed visit in headquarter of Supravox – manufacturer of transducers I use in my loudspeakers. To Bléré in France I have about 1680 km from my house. Destination address like any other but, when the time has come to organize the trip I looked closely to the map and it turned up that the region where Supravox is located is the famous valley between the rivers of Loire and Le Cher. Shortly speaking Les chateaux de la Loire. I decided to go by car and was happy about this plan.
The main goal of the visit of was of course to meet in person the Supravox crew, visit production facilities and listen to the whole range of drivers manufactured in Bléré. Arriving to the place took me two days with one intermediary night spent in Wiesbaden – Germany with my friends. By the way cruising on highway A19 in France was something I haven’t experienced for long time – excellent newly constructed wide road and almost zero circulation. There were moments I was completely alone on the road as far as I could see and it was in the heart of Europe.
When I finally got off the highway, leaving Orléan behind – I found myself in the center of Blois by the Loire river. Despite some drizzle I decided to park the car on the road closely to the Jacques Gabriel ‘s bridge and make a quick tour of this city which attracted me already from behind of the windshield of my car.
The next day in the morning I showed up in Supravox headquarter, when finally I met in person Yann and Franck.
They invited me to the auditorium or the listening room where almost all combinations of loudspeakers made by Supravox were presented. I suppose it is the only place where the whole range can be listen to.
Interestingly the loudspeakers in the auditorium are mainly driven by 2×35 W solid state amplifier specially designed and made also by Supravox. However a SET 2A3 tube Supravox amplifier can be used as well for the loudspeakers with highest efficiency.
We were listening and having discussions almost whole day. We started by Carla, bi reflex enclosure with one full range 5” driver. Then the twin Sheridanne, the same enclosure and the full range driver, but this time with added TG1 tweeter and the crossover designed to make of it a more conventional two way system.
Next came Melodia – also a two way system in a bit larger bi reflex enclosure with TG1 tweeter and 165 GMF driver. We listened to the Bahia – a TQWT enclosure with 215 S Bicone driver that I know already very well. Then came two way system, with big Jensen type enclosure driven by the famous 285 GMF and a horn with compression driver. I used also the occasion to listen to the Dulcet loudspeaker manufactured by Mantrasoud in Florence in Italy, two way system with very interesting large horn.
We did not miss the open baffle that Supravox recommends as a diy kit. Finally I could listen to something new that is “under construction”. It is a large open baffle system using two 285 GMF, one medium 165 driver and TG1 tweeter. I have admit that this one is imposing as seen live.
After a large dose of music went to the atelier to see how the famous drivers are manufactured. There were piles of raw “salad bowls” as in direct translation from French would be translated the name of the driver frame.
Piles of paper domes waiting to be mounted in frames, coils, magnets, motor systems – some already partially assembled and finally a fully assembled drivers waiting for measurement tests.
As I wrote by other occasion the drivers are matched in pairs by parameters in order to have the same sound quality from two speakers. It is very important and here in Bléré they treat it very seriously. If some unit does not comply to the high standard it goes back to re-production from the beginning. The quality costs.
By afternoon we were quite hungry so Yann invited me to lunch in the small brasserie in the center of the town. In a small town everybody knows each other, off season time so by the tables only the locals. The staff suggested a boeuf bourguignon and I happily agreed. And it was bingo. I do not remember when last time I ate so deliciously prepared beef. It was another strong point of my trip so if you came by I recommend the Bresserie Uniion in Bléré. By the way in all my so far made trips to France, beside one lucky accidental finding on some side street in Paris, every time I had an opportunity to eat exceptionally well it was in the presence of French host who new very well where to go. A tourist has a hard time in this regard.
When we came back to the office we had one more listening session ahead. I wanted to listen to 215-2000 drivers, and those were mounted in a prototype enclosure. It was a kind of transmission line of not so common shape. It looked a bit like the R2-D2. The sonic result of this couple was however quite pleasing. At the end of the listening we came back to Carla, which enchanted me in the morning right form the start.
The next day I had to start my return path and since the host of the small hotel when I stayed for two nights informed me that in the nearest neighbourhood is one of the most beautiful castles in France I decided to start by seeing it. So in the morning after a few kilometres driven up the road parallel to the Le Cher river I found myself in the beautiful park surrounding the castle Le Chenonceau. One could lament it was not summer, it was drizzle again but the autumn offers charms too with its own colours. And it was this time the case of Le Chenonceau.
Take a small boat or kayak and from this marvelous garden row five kilometers down the river and you will moor in the garden adjacent to the Supravox headquarter.
After visiting the chateau and fascinated by the autumn gardens …
I got back to my car and headed my way home. One and a half hour later I made this shot:
The Chambord castle, one of the most recognized castle in the world. So in these surroundings Supravox makes their excellent drivers.