AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
I had been expecting to find myself in the business district of Troyes, France, but Davis Acoustics is practically located in the town’s center. The company’s unassuming building can be found behind a row of tall trees that line a quiet street. It is here that, for the past 27 years, Davis Acoustics has been producing loudspeakers and speakers.
Olivier Visan and his mother, Mrs. Visan, are already waiting at the door to welcome us, their guests. The greetings are casual, small groups form, and people become acquainted. On this day, visitors have come from all over France and Europe (the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and beyond (Canada and Turkey) to visit the company’s factory and discover Davis’ new line of products.
As soon as we enter into the vast workspace, we come face to face with shelves of yellow membranes made of Kevlar. At Davis Acoustics, membranes are made by hand; they are the product of precise and painstaking work performed by skilled female hands. Further along, these membranes are mounted, along with their fellow components, such as the magnets, into the speaker cone – so many parts make up a loudspeaker! Olivier Visan, the CEO of Davis, mentions to me that each loudspeaker is subject to a quality check before it goes into the speaker box. The company has even designed a tool that it uses to make its own magnets – it is a machine that sends an electrical current through pieces of metal in order to magnetize them. Magnets, in fact, play a crucial role in “powering” the loudspeaker, whose job is to transform electrical current into mechanical movement, creating vibrations in the air around the membrane and thus producing sound.
Video demonstration of loudspeaker sound production at frequencies from 200 to 6000 Hz
Even though the human ear normally cannot hear anything at 25 Hz, the speaker membrane nonetheless strongly reacts
The workshop also serves as an immense storage space. We have to navigate between mountains of cardboard boxes to get to the other side of the workshop, where the mechanical components (the loudspeakers, filters, etc.) are mounted in the speaker boxes and the internal cables are hooked up. The speakers cabinets are not made in France. Almost no French hifi companies manufacture their speaker cabinets in France because of the cost with some exceptions as Quellis, PE Leon and Focal (high-end models only) … Instead, the speakers cabinet are largely made in Asia, although sometimes they come from Poland or northern Europe. Davis gets the housing for its speakers from Asia, although the company underscores that its suppliers must adhere to particularly strict specifications.
At its core, Davis Acoustics is a manufacturer of loudspeakers. The company offers a selection of between 400 and 500 different loudspeaker models to a number of clients, including speaker manufacturers as well as automobile manufacturers. Mrs. Visan informs me that, for example, Davis just recently landed a contract to a major Korean distributor for the national car market.
Davis Acoustics’ ten employees work efficiently to assemble up to 300 speakers a day; the daily total drops to 60 to 70 for the higher end speaker models, which require much more work.
From the back of the workshop, it is possible reach the company’s offices by passing through the laboratory. In the lab, Olivier Visan shows us a frequency analyzer (a Bruel & Kjaer 2604), an older but extremely trustworthy machine whose job is to measure speaker performance. Each speaker must pass this step of quality control.
The legacy of an exceptional man
It is impossible to talk about Davis Acoustics without discussing Michel Visan, the company’s founder, who passed away a little more than a year ago. He is a man who left an indelible mark on the French high fidelity scene and who was unquestionably one of the major players in the business. Michel Visan was an expert in electroacoustics. His career began in 1960, when he was hired by Audax. He later ended up working for Siare for 22 years before founding Davis Acoustics in 1986.
20 DE8 Speaker
Michel Visan dedicated his entire life to designing loudspeakers and speakers. He even managed a final feat in 2011: he designed a full range loudspeaker, the 20 DE8. It is an exceptional product that has been praised by many hifi specialists. It is worth noting in passing that the technology used in full range loudspeakers allows the reproduction of as much of the audible frequency range as possible; in other words, sounds from the deepest bass to the highest treble can be reproduced by a single loudspeaker. The 20 DE8 is integrated into the brand’s flagship speaker model: the MV One. I had a chance to experience the MV One when it was released. My enthusiasm for its quality never waned, and I took advantage of my visit to experience a new the incredibly clear sound that it produces. In my mind, this speaker is one of the finest that the French Hifi market has to offer at present.
Michel Visan long ago passed down the essence of his legacy to his two sons, Olivier and David: highly efficient savoir faire that results in products with a sound signature whose medium register is extremely clear. At present, the speaker market seems to have somewhat lost its way; consumers end up feeling disoriented by the orgy of technologies being offered and the “bling bling” approach of the advertising campaigns. However, Davis Acoustics puts us back on course by, instead, offering us the possibility to experience music’s emotional power by focusing on more than simple acoustic performance.