The company, the man and the new products

The Analogue record, the black vinyl, the LP, was launched long ago and remains with us today. When the cassette tape arrived in the mid-sixties, nobody seriously thought it would cause the demise of the LP. Nowadays the cassette is out. The CD surfaced in 1983. Despite the poor musical qualities during these early days, CD sales soared, equalizing vinyl sales as early as 1987. As a result, many forecasted the death of the old standard. And yet twenty (20!) years later, the vinyl record is still among us and strongly defended by rather more knowledgeable people than the average CD consumer. There are most likely good reasons for this. Many record labels all over the world continue to produce in both CD and vinyl formats and this is certainly not to lose money.  Though a small market, vinyl can hardly be neglected and the Internet will convince even the most doubtful. Additionally, there is no need to recall the huge amount of vinyl records stored in various collections worldwide. For a few years, the market even benefits from a revival most likely due to the CD crisis.

In terms of hardware, many giant industrial companies of the past do not manufacture Analogue products anymore but an always-increasing number of little and mid-sized companies handle the job. Several new turntables, arms and cartridges arrive on the market every year. The majority of these brands are lead by passionate people, great audiophiles themselves. One of them, Pierre Lurné from France, opened the Audiomeca Company long ago to focus on the production of Audio Sources. Hence the additional CD line from 1992 onwards based on proprietary CD mechanisms. One could wonder why audio sources only. This is simply because, “All that is lost from the source is lost forever”. Amps and speakers are absolutely unable to recreate what the player has missed right from the beginning. To Pierré, the clever audiophile must always favor the source. He is particularly keen about all philosophical questions concerning music reproduction.

After forty years of production, he has refined his Analogue design yet again. His new creation, the Belladonna turntable and the Septum arm make a breakthrough over the last 30 or 40 years of Analogue Art. Some have already stated that they clearly are a new generation and we are going to understand why in a little while.

“I made my first arm and turntable in 1968” says Pierré. During the following years, he designed and began to sell a number of arms while completing his studies in Physics and Engineering. Pierre has a degree in Physics, which he considers to be of the utmost importance in his work, along with experience, time, love and even luck as he points out. Subsequently, after an important article published in the old French magazine “L’Audiophile” – year 1978 issues 6 and 7 and 1980 issue 18 (copies on special request from Audiomeca) – he decided to open his own company, Audiomeca, in 1979.

His first “official” commercial product, a pick-up arm, the “model 1”, acted as the perfect illustration of the theory explained in “L’Audiophile”. “Models 2,3,4” quickly followed. At the beginning of the eighties, something new arose: OEM productions, making products for other companies, became a parallel activity, which continues to this day. The French company Audioanalyse commissioned Pierre for a complete turntable. Goldmund requested him to handle the production of the famous “T3” straight line arm and subsequently to design the “Studietto” turntable and the little brother of the T3, the “T5”, later Audiomeca “SL5”. For Vecteur, he designed the big “Vecteur turntable” based on his previous research work “The Minimum” – described in “LAudiophile” 1980 issue 18 – and the “Vecteur arm” based on the model 1.

And so it continues. Two Audiomeca front-end turntables, the “J1 and J4” arrived in 1986. These productions will last 16 years and distribution will extend to 25 countries. The same applies to the next model, the pretty Romance.

In 1992, Audiomeca decided to enter the CD market and to maintain the Analogue catalogue. Pierre makes no secret of it: “it was kind of CD or die”. And again, a similar story followed including the acclaimed and well-known series of the “Mephisto” CD players 1, II, II.x, cheaper players or transports and D/A converters as well, including the big “Eukianthus” based on a top component, the Anagram module. As is usual, Audiomeca produces CD products for other companies: ATD (Italy), Magma (France) and Rogers (UK/China). One may ask if this is simply too much for one single person and it very well could be. But spread over a long period of time, the whole thing sounds more reasonable, resulting more or less in one new product per year.

Four years ago, Pierre was involved in a bad car accident. After three months in the hospital, he purely and simply escaped to return to work despite being unable to stand upright alone at this time. Today he considers himself very lucky being only slightly lame in one leg.
Nevertheless, these were very hard times for Audiomeca. One can only imagine what kind of shock such an event could be for a small company. Month after month, everything slowly declined.

When the pressure became high enough and after careful preparation, Pierre decided to start a completely new catalogue. To him, it was even the opportunity to come back to his very first love, Analogue, and the first new product is called “Bella”! I use the present time for we have finally reached it now. “Bella” is there indeed, which is to be understood as the complete combo comprising of the Belladonna turntable, the Septum Arm and the Ground Base stand.

Pierre Lurné is a simple and flexible man. If not working in the factory, you will find him in his garden. He and his wife Christianne are gardening fans and grow an intensive collection of old roses and as many unusual and rare shrubs. This secondary activity is a perfect break after such demanding Hifi work. Other passions? Yes indeed as almost everything receives Pierre’s attention. There is little need to even mention his passion for music and books. With shelves upon shelves, Pierre is always studying something, writing everywhere, answering customer’s mails, cooking or playing with his grandchildren. He does not enjoy the agitation associated with modern life, neither noise nor crowd, nor hype. Hifi shows? They are nothing but a big circus. Traveling? Yes! But within Italy for instance, for art. Audiophiles? They are good guys in progress. Competitors? I consider them to be colleagues instead of competitors as, “all Analogue lovers are friends of mine”.

Reading this, you could imagine an overly serious and overly dynamic guy. But Pierre is, in fact, just the opposite being round, calm, accommodating and available. Besides there just may be something wrong with this man as fundamentally a tech, a physicist, a designer, he acknowledges his constant focus on the technical side and his lack of focus on business. “No time, no time, and it all depends on what matters for you first”.

When he locates a mistake in a product, he gets easily irritated and quickly turns simply sad. “No change”. To design a product upside down without any respect to the laws of Physics and mechanics, in the Hifi domain, makes no sense.
To Pierre, “Form follows Function” and when all has been achieved, when all is ripe, things become naturally simple and elegant - The gift of God.

For forty years, this man recalls the Laws of Old Good Physics tirelessly, writes explanatory articles, illustrates those things with his work, not his opinions, but what we have all learned at school and he always points out that correct engineering must be considered as the indispensable foundation of a correct design, but no more than this because “experience, time, love and even luck play their role too in turn”.

So now, what is so special with the new Belladonna and Septum? If you decide to design an arm and a turntable from scratch, you will quickly understand that you have some obvious rules to follow: Overall dimensions, geometry, tracking angle, wires and so on for an arm, platter, bearing, motor, suspensions etc. for a turntable. From this “school boy” level, restraints are immediately highly demanding and everything looks like a Chinese puzzle. Many different domains are involved and you need the right kit of competence. But, generally speaking, any good “craftsman” must get it. I shall not speak about the musical results.

Then, if you have good fun listening to your own creation, if you warm up and if you plan to build one for your best friend, you will probably improve perhaps by better materials, better arm ??, arm/cartridge resonance, rigidity, bearing with less chattering play, VTA adjustment, heavier platter, less noisy motor, stand, readings, buying equipment and so on. After, if all works well, arm after arm, turntable after turntable, you must get better results but if you are now one of the best students, you are still in the same classroom. Take it easy, many products on the market do not exceed this level and a few do not even deserve it.

Jumping to the second step is a much more serious affair. First of all, nothing can be undertaken without a strong background in Physics. This time, the program speaks in hard mathematics about severe matters called “Dynamics, Mass Distribution, Balancing, Ellipsoid of Inertia etc.”. Correctly applied the “Physics of the Solid” makes an arm, or a turntable platter, perfectly Neutral. This is an immense quality and a brilliant advantage. The concerned part, or system of parts, has no more will of his own, no personal behavior anymore and reads as a “Pure Mass”, totally neutral and dead. Such a body has definitely no sonic signature to add to the music and thus, respects its integrity. This is exactly what we want. Additionally, such a particular case brings a number of parallel benefits coming from the mere fact that every equation becomes reduced to its simplest expression.

Over the decades, Pierre advocates these notions and all Audiomeca products comply with them. Do not ask me why people seem to have never heard about Physics. Meanwhile Pierre has entered the third degree and already harvests the fruits.

Breaking the wall. At this point, one could think that everything regarding Analogue design is understood and under control henceforth. But it is far from it as we know almost nothing about what exactly goes on inside the materials, inside the parts of a turntable and, with greater reason, inside of an arm. A chaos of vibrations, noises and “euphonic” music is at work; splittings, amplifications, resonances, irregular damping, non-effective mechanical grounding, echos back to the stylus and tracked again, a number of neglected phenomenon which blur the sound and kill the dynamics.

“Sound Propagation” is busy with these complex problems and “Acoustic Impedence (microphonics)” explains what happens when vibrations pass from one material to another. Among all kinds of vibrations from all origins, the worst ones come from the tracking process itself simply because their harmonic contents are directly related to the music just being played.

With careful choice of the materials and interfaces, with a correct study of the forms, structural resonances can be kept in check and vibrations more effectively funneled away. Their evacuation becomes easier and easier along the stylus to the outside line and, on the opposite side, the harder and harder the returns. Additionally, carefully chosen damping systems further improve results. Interestingly this new work clears some old problems. For instance, why a well-balanced body is little affected by external disturbances or parasites, why an overly complex product made from too many parts, lacks of clarity and punch. Every constitutive part acts as a sound trap and, if simplicity is not the rule, the system quickly becomes unpredictable and gets out of control.

The Belladonna Turntable and the Septum Arm from Pierre Lurné, are the first Analogue products to benefit from these new studies applied to Analogue for the very first time.

All great audiophiles of the world, knowing that the black vinyl record deserves these fundamental efforts, will be happy to see something really new arising from the dark.

- Written by Pierre Bezzina, a friend of Pierre’s since the happy school days.

Audiomeca/Pierre Lurné
1250 Route d’Annecy
74540 – Saint Félix – France