Jacques Mahul of JMlab: Inverted domes & otherwise...
Jacques Mahul: In 1980, I founded both Focal and JMlab. And before that, I was the chief engineer at Audax.
Jonathan Scull: I had no idea.
Mahul: Yes, and before that I was Rédacteur en chef of L'Audiophile magazine in France.
Scull: Ah-hah, you've worked both sides of the fence!
Mahul: Yes, I was two years an audio journalist before making the switch to Audax.
Scull: And before that, dare I ask...?
Mahul: Ah, long before I entered into the business, I was a hi-fi freak—since I was 15 or 16 years of age. So, Jon-a-ten, you can see that all my career has been involved in one way or another with loudspeakers.
Scull: What did you do for Audax that we might remember?
Mahul: Soon after joining them, I developed the first soft-dome tweeter made in Europe. Later, I had the idea of using double voice-coils of the type we use now on our Micron and Megane speakers. I'd begun by asking Audax to make a unit like that for me, but then decided to make my own.
Scull: So that's how Focal started.
Mahul: Well, when I left Audax, it was a big company in France, but they were making low-end drivers. It was very difficult for me to have a high-end policy there. So, when I left them and founded my own company, I wanted to devote myself exclusively to the High End.
Scull: You had no doubt there were customers for true high-end products?
Mahul: Actually, many of my customers in England and America told me that if I left to make high-end drivers, they would follow me.
Scull: The Pied Piper!
Mahul: [laughs] Yes, that was very nice. Because at that time there were no high-end driver manufacturers. They were all generalists, you could say. But, of course, the High End is only a small part of the total market—even if you make thousands of drivers, it doesn't mean that you can easily survive.
Scull: What was your first product?
Mahul: The first speaker we built was the Micron, which I'm happy to say is still in our catalog over 15 years later.