Jacques Mahul of JMlab: Inverted domes & otherwise... Page 3

Scull: So we can perhaps say that is what defines your company philosophy?

Mahul: Yes, I would say so. That's why our products work well with both valve and solid-state amplifiers. It's a very important element that we worked on from the beginning—to be independent of the amplifier.

Scull: Jacques, tell me: Do you prefer solid-state or tubes yourself?

Mahul: Well, the advantage of tubes lies in the midrange and treble, we all know that.

Scull: Mais oui...

Mahul: Yes, the wonderful imaging and the possibility of reproducing very high dynamics at a high but reasonable volume. The problem is in the bass, of course. Myself, I must admit to preferring the sound of tubes. I like also the tube as an object.

Kathleen Benveniste: Yes! It's very sexy!

Mahul: Yes, Kathleen, it's sexy—funny but true. [laughter] And I like the illumination. When you listen in the dark and see only the light of the tubes, it's quite erotic.

Scull: Jacques, before we get carried away—the Utopias have only a single set of binding posts. Bi-wiring is not possible. Why is this?

Mahul: Well, I consider bi-amplification useful only to compensate for some defect in the driver's design.

Scull: I see—no Band-Aids?

Mahul: Yes, exactly. We don't want to complicate the system. It should be as simple as possible.

Scull: There are no grillecovers supplied with the Utopia-series speakers.

Mahul: At JMlab we hate any type of covers, but sometimes there is a need. So why not cover the speaker in a way that makes it look like something other than what it is? A speaker with a foam or traditional grillecover immediately gives an idea of the function of the product. But with our design, when it's covered up, all you see a beautiful object. You don't know exactly what function it has.

Scull: And you supply a pair of wooden covers that snap into place over the drivers.

Mahul: Yes, if you use a regular grillecover, you wind up with something between the drivers and your ears, a sort of veil over the sound.

Benveniste: Jon-a-ten, you haven't asked Jacques anything about his manufacturing facility.

Mahul: Ah, thank you, Kathleen! I'm proud to say that we make almost everything in our speakers. The cabinet, the drivers, our own wire...We do, I must admit, use SCR polypropylene capacitors, however.

Scull: Being independent is an important consideration?

Mahul: I think that in 10 years' time, the only manufacturers still making loudspeakers will be those having total control of their drivers.

Scull: Tell us something about Saint Etienne, where your factory is located.

Mahul: Yes, we are located in a small town of 200,000 people in the mountains near Lyon. It's an area with many fine artisans and craftspeople working in small enterprises. It was very useful for me to begin JMlab/Focal there, because there were so many highly skilled people.

Scull: How many people do you employ?

Mahul: One hundred and fifty.

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