As a sometime wood-butcher myself, I assumed that the multifaceted Focal cabinets would require some pretty fancy clamps. Not so, Jean-Paul Guy explained. Modern materials technology has given us a stretchy, incredibly strong, adhesive film that's quick to apply, infinitely versatile, and also cheap.
This dashing zouave graced an antiques store in Bourbon-Lancy. What did it sell? Why, military antiquities, of course. I was tempted by a Hussar's sabre, but I was pretty sure I couldn't carry it on the airplane home with me.
Stiff, extremely light "aircraft" foam is stretched over a mold by hand and gently heated to maintain "dimensional stability," according to Dominic Baker, Focal's export sales director. The molds have different flares, depending on the driver's purpose—and they are produced in-house by Opus 42.
Focal allowed me to visit the Be facility in which it manufactures its beryllium tweeters in a HazMat room. They would not, however, allow me to take photographs within it—saying that some of the machines were secret. So they gave me this factory authorized image of their technician examining a completed tweeter.
Here's another example of how Guy.HF combines hand processes with modern technology. The finish room is state-of-the-art, combining heat with super-sophisticated polymer finish formulations. "Yet," Jean-Paul Guy told me, "there is always some orange peel. Machines can't detect it and they can't correct what they can't sense, so a human being carefully checks each piece and makes it perfect."
Lyon, I was told, has an extensive network of underground tunnels, which helped its citizens hide Jews during the Occupation. As I walked by this wine shop, I snapped a photo of its stairs to underground Lyon.
Focal combines high-tech work stations with a phenomenal amount of hand labor. Metal drivers and inexpensive dome tweeters are heavily automated, but many drivers are assembled by hand, especially Focal's "W" composite cones.
One of Focal's core technologies is its use of "multi-ferrites," Mahul having realized that it was more precise to use multiple magnets in big drivers than it was to rely upon finding enough truly huge, uniform magnets.
Fewer loudspeaker companies have anechoic chambers than you realize. They take up an awful lot of space, for one thing. Focal has one, and it has a twist—rather than have a suspended floor, the company puts its speakers on a hydraulic jack and suspends it 30' above the floor. This makes getting massive speakers into and out of the chamber a lot easier and safer.
It seems as though there's a QC employee for every assembly employee at Guy.HF. Not exactly, Jean-Paul Guy explained. Every G.HF employee is responsible for the work that comes to him or her—so after each employee signs off on a product as good to go, the next, um, guy inspects it before accepting it. "Mistakes get made," M. Guy told me, "but we try not to perpetuate them."