AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
The path to Mulidine speakers will take you into a quiet business district near Evry, a city about 30 km south of Paris. You will walk alongside a row of workshops, made of bricks, before you happen upon a small sign reading “Crista Technologies.” Marc Fontaine, the company’s head, gleefully likes to remind visitors that he is Crista’s sole staff member. His workshop is both a storage space and the “factory” in which Mulidine speakers are assembled. What will strike you right off the bat is the large enclosure located smack dab in the center of the workshop. It is a booth in which speaker measurements are made, and it is a bit like a soundproof chamber. It measures 100 m3 and plays a crucial role when it comes to conducting the final tests on the brand’s speakers.
In both his personal and professional life, Marc Fontaine has had a wide diversity of experiences. When he was just 10 years old, his passion for electronics had him taking apart radios. He then trained as an electrician before going to work for Thomson CSF (whose research lab next door, to mention a bit of history, invented the laser reading system). After working as a manager in customer support in the nuclear industry and for measurement technology companies, he worked in sales in the informatics sector and occupied senior management positions in the fossil fuel and graphics industries. These multifarious jobs and responsibilities have led to him having skills and expertise that have served him well as an entrepreneur. Indeed, in 2005, his passion for electronics and high-fidelity systems took hold of him anew, and he bought the Mulidine brand. It was a brand created in 1981 by Marcel Rochet, whose primary objective had always been to scrub speaker output of the color added by the cabinet’s interior. A patented plaster mechano-acoustic filter, working in tandem with an electronic filter, was used to yield completely uncolored sound.
Marc Fontaine likes to tell the story of how his adventure with Mulidine began. He spent several years studying the market, conducted a lot of research, and took the time to carefully select his future product and service suppliers, trying as much as possible to establish relationships with French or European companies. As a result, his cabinets are made by an expert in Alsace, a second expert in Lyon takes care of the finer woodwork and finishes them with one of four available stains, the company supplying the tweeters is Norwegian, and the medium-low loudspeakers and ribbon tweeters come from Italy and Bulgaria, respectively. Marc Fontaine can clearly and succinctly explain his business philosophy: “Mulidine products stand out for three major reasons: they reproduce music with a certain authenticity, they are easy to install and use, and they are affordable, especially given that they last a long time. We are particularly targeting clients who listen to a lot of music but who don’t want to spend exorbitant sums of money on a pair of speakers.”
Marc Fontaine tells me that he produces 200 pairs of speakers per year. During my visit, he often returns to the topic of how he structures his work. He comments, “When you are a craftsman and you are working on your own, you don’t have the luxury of improvising. You have to do your best to optimize all aspects of your business, whether it be coordinating the steps involved in speaker assembly, managing your stock, producing a certain number of speakers based on the flow of orders, or strictly controlling costs.” For instance, the plaster mechano-acoustic filters are molded twice a year. It then takes about a week for the filters to be installed in a batch of 100 speaker cabinets; the “outfitted” cabinets are then sent to the woodworker in Lyon in sets of 28. When the finished cabinets return, Fontaine installs the loudspeakers and the electronic filters, which initially go on the outside so that they can undergo any last individual adjustments in the measurement booth, a process that involves standardized reference speakers. The booth is equipped with very sophisticated machinery; each adjustment takes into account a number of parameters, including the temperature or humidity in the booth at that exact point in time. The booth is also a precious tool when it comes to Fontaine’s research or the development of new products. Currently, four new models, including a bookshelf speaker, are objects of study.
I note once more that the finish and assembly of all of Mulidine’s products are remarkable, down to the last detail, even if the speakers’ aesthetics are not particularly novel. Marc Fontaine points out that his speakers are purposefully made to be unobtrusive, so that they can easily blend into any interior.
Over the last several weeks, I have been using some Mulidine Allegretto v4s. I am going to pair them up with various electronics over the course of the summer. Like other Mulidine models, the Allegrettos surprise the listener with their sound quality: uncolored and untainted by a “box” effect. The sound landscape they create is airy, and the message they produce is generous and characterized by a high level of clarity. These speakers should play well with numerous electronics, even the most demanding, although I think they will be unforgiving of those of low quality. I have tried the speakers out with a few Naim electronics, and I have found the pairing to produce rather homogenous and consistent sound. In contrast, the preliminary tests that I have run with Atoll products have left me unconvinced for the moment.
In a market that is oversaturated with new, flashy products that are both artificial and exhausting to listen to, Mulidine has chosen a different path. The company has decided to opt for dependability and takes the time to create speakers that produce an authentic musical message. Day after day, the brand distinguishes itself from others by advocating that we go back to the basics, and its products are starting to become, slowly but surely, references in the market. Mulidine speakers also unquestionably allow you to rediscover the most important reason we listen to music: because it conveys life itself.
Mulidine Speaker Series:
Bagatelle (€1,300), Allegretto (€2,500), Cadence (€3,200), and Harmonie (€6,700).