AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
A stone’s throw away from the Place de la Bastille, the Ateliers de Paris have set up shop in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s former stomping ground. It is a space that welcomes young craftspeople focused on the arts, design, and fashion. On the third floor of the building, I was welcomed by Charlotte Juillard, who was accompanied by Dominique Mafrand. Juillard is an interior designer. She creates furniture and other objects used in the home. A few years ago, she met Mafrand through a couple of mutual friends. Mafrand is a sound engineer who designs electronics and speakers, whose work is familiar to HIFI enthusiasts partial to tube technology and high-sensitivity speakers. In particular, he is known for his granite Enceinte Bleue loudspeaker. Out of mutual curiosity, they began a conversation, and Charlotte brought up a project she had been mulling over: the creation of a small speaker made of ceramic, a medium she explored towards the end of her studies. Juillard explains, “It is rather complicated to make ceramic objects. Ceramic materials are created using molds, but the firing process requires a delicate touch. You have to account for the 20% shrinkage that will occur when a piece is fired because the plaster mold absorbs the water contained in the medium.”
After generating a few prototypes, the two collaborators settled on a small active, portable, wireless speaker. It is a product that fits the spirit of the times and that has been named “Echoes” in a nod to Pink Floyd’s well-known song. Juillard was responsible for the aesthetics, and more particularly, designing the speaker cabinet. Mafrand tackled the technological aspects. The ceramic cabinets are made in Italy, and the device (acoustics and electronics) is assembled entirely by hand in Paris.
Juillard recalls, “At some point after designing the cabinet, I had the idea of adding a fabric grill that would protect the driver and allow the speaker to visually harmonize with the client’s home.” Echoes can now be customized; eight different fabrics are available. Furthermore, it is possible to ask for a fully personalized grill pattern. The raw leather carrying strap is made by a French tanner and is also available in several colors.
Simple, effective, and wireless
“From the start, we wanted to offer a user-friendly product of high quality,” clarifies Mafrand. Echoes are therefore each equipped with a single full-range loudspeaker sporting a metal cone (supplied by Markaudio). The speaker contains an amplifier board and Apple AirPort Express technology, which allows it to wireless stream media from devices equipped with AirPlay. Furthermore, its interior surface has been damped. For those without Apple devices, there is the option of requesting Bluetooth aptX technology instead when ordering the speaker. It is also possible for Echoes to work in a stereo configuration when a second speaker is added. Finally, this speaker model can easily become part of a multiroom system thanks to the handy Apple Whaale app (€3).
First contact…and first sounds
I was immediately compelled to touch the speaker’s ceramic surface. Its elegant design and pristine white enamel are very seductive; the materials used are high quality. The assembly and finishing are also rather remarkable. A few features reflect a clear attention to detail, such as the elegant copper-colored power cable and the lovely raw leather handle. Echoes goes for the bare necessities: no power buttons, no LEDs, just the speaker and its power cable. There is no need for more: the AirPlay connection is flawless and effective. If you have WIFI at home, you can stream music from your digital library or services like Qobuz, for example, in addition to playing your favorite radio station. During my audition, the gravelly tones of Louis Armstrong and the silvery vocals of Lady Ella were expressed in all their detail and depth. The tracks I listened to were nicely reproduced, in a very balanced way. The speaker makes no attempt to pass itself off as a member of the HIFI universe, but its performance was very impressive for this type of device.
Echoes is, without a doubt, very charming. It will easily find its place in any room in the house. Elegant and stylish, it also offers quality wireless sound reproduction. It is a device that illustrates that products can greatly benefit from local technological expertise and creative spirit. Hopefully, its innovative and audacious approach “resonate” with music lovers.
Technical Specifications :
Currently available in Le Bon Marché, Colette and Retro Futur boutiques in Paris, and soon available online.