AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
Over the course of our conversation, Stéphane and Emmanuel Dubreuil emphasize that the business philosophy at Atoll Electronics is centered around the strong desire to make products in France that are as French as possible. For instance, an Atoll amplifier is a collection of numerous components with about 1000 product references. However, according to my hosts, rising to the challenge is not that difficult. Even if many parts are clearly made exclusively in Asia, a number of the components come from French suppliers: the transformers are supplied by a company in Lyon; the brushed aluminum face plates come from Metz; the capacitors and filters are made in Saint Nazaire. Only parts like the resistor and the microprocessor are Italian and North American, respectively. What’s more, a factory in Brécey handles the soldering of the parts, the wiring of the printed circuit boards, the final assembly of the devices, the tests, product storage, and product shipping.
As is the case for many manufacturers, the “made in France” label affords a marketing advantage in many regions of the world. International sales currently account for 45% of total sales and have been steadily increasing since 2012. One must turn to the east and the Far East to find the countries that are most partial to the brand: Germany, Eastern Europe, and Japan. Even if gaining access to the international market is not always simple, the modest size of the company is an advantage when it comes to modifying products for use in different markets. “Our technical adaptability makes a difference. In Japan, for instance, wifi standards are different, and we clearly needed to modify our streamer in this market as a consequence, something we did immediately. In Germany, because of the sensitivity of their electrical systems, we had to change the internal fuses used in our devices,” explains Stéphane Dubreuil.
Flexibility and proximity: the two keys to success
Clearly, Atoll Electronics is doing well. However, before setting out to conquer the international market, Atoll first managed to seduce French consumers with products that provide a high level of quality and musicality for a reasonable price. Products that are recognized for their great reliability. Here again, it seems that the modest size of the company, and its resultant responsiveness, are points in its favor. “If, for one reason or another, we find ourselves needing to modify a component or an assemblage in a device, we are able to do so almost immediately,” Stéphane Dubreuil reminds me. The company’s responsiveness is only strengthened by its hands-on approach to customer support, which has contributed to the company’s image as a “local” business.
As our conversation wraps up, we discuss the brand’s characteristic sound. I toss out, “Would you assert that Atoll products offer an audio experience that is typically French?”
“We used to talk about a characteristically French sound experience a couple of years ago with respect to brands like YBA or Micromega, brands that proclaimed their commitment to transparent, crystalline sound. Our approach is completely different. Our objective has always been to create amplifiers that do not make themselves heard and that are as neutral as possible,” comments Stéphane Dubreuil. Laurent Mansion concludes, “Everyone who uses our devices can testify to this. It is really crucial to experience our products to understand that critiques of the supposed “dry” quality of the sounds produced by our devices are completely unfounded and are simply urban legends.”
In the fall, I will have the pleasure of offering you a special report on audio systems are that 100% French. Atoll will clearly be included in the list of blue, white, and red systems.