AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
While I was tidying up my parents’ house last weekend, I came across their “Teppaz”, a much vaunted record player that came with a small amp and a single speaker of the same brand. My parents had had to wait a few years to treat themselves to a stereo system. The first music I heard was probably played by this machine…
Teppaz was the star of the French sound reproduction industry in the 50s and 60s. The company, based out of Lyon, grew at an incredible pace and was an extraordinary success. Its story is first and foremost the story of its brilliant founder, who was ahead of his time. In 1931, Marcel Teppaz created a company in Lyon that assembled radio equipment. This small business was forced to close during the war, and the young entrepreneur ended up being captured by the enemy while serving his country . However, he managed to escape and started up a new company. It started selling its first record player, the “Teppaz”, in 1937.
Teppaz produced a wide range of portable record players and turntables that immediately seduced young people. When shut, the record player looked like a small suitcase with its rounded angles and convex lid. The company’s products were attractive and modern. The turntable did not weigh more than 5 or 6 kg (11 to 13 lb); teens could easily use it when getting together to listen to the latest records. Teppaz also very quickly got involved in music production and recorded that era’s biggest French artists: Johnny Halliday, Sheila, and Sylvie Vartan.
From 1955 onwards, the Teppaz’s factory was operating at full capacity, and the company employed as many as 1,300 people. However, it was especially the “Oscar”, which sold more than 1 million units across 11 countries that made Marcel Teppaz’s business a success. Although initially more rounded in shape, the Oscar changed its appearance through the years, adapting as times changed.
Teppaz thus became the greatest success that the French HIFI market had ever seen. The company exported its products to 107 countries and had assembly plants in Asia and the United States.
The brand was so popular in the 60s that its name became a generic term used to refer that class of products (just like Walkman): “Say, make sure to bring your Teppaz to the surprise party on Saturday!” Thanks to the brand’s well-conceived positioning within the music market, it became extremely trendy.
From our modern perspective, as we witness HD music becoming accessible to all, the HIFI products of the past bring a smile to our lips. However, the brilliant Marcel Teppaz already understood then that the need for music (especially that of the younger generation) must be met with portable solutions. He never stopped updating and developing his range of products. They continued to evolve over the course of 20 years in order to reach both teenage and more traditional consumers.
Even if Teppaz is associated with a particular era and is now part of the industry’s saga, the brand nevertheless still exemplifies how high-quality products can be made available to a large number of people. It is an approach that more of today’s manufacturers should adopt.