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Q&A with Jean Marie Clauzel of Métronome

Q&A with Jean Marie Clauzel of Métronome

Did your interest in the high end come from the music side or the electronics side
Definitely from the music side. I’ve been a music lover from childhood. I can remember at the age of 5–6 in the mid-Sixties listening to 45rpm vinyl on a Radiola RA2225. For me electronics are just a tool, not an end.

What gear made up your first high-end system? 
Actually it depends on what you call “high end.” I had my first system at 14, purchased with my summer work salary. At 20 I bought a real hi-fi set from the German brand Continental Edison: turntable, cassette player, integrated amp, and speakers of the same brand. For me at that time this was high end, and I got a lot of pleasure from it!

When did audio develop from a hobby to a career?
Very late! I am an agronomist, and I worked in this domain until 2012, from research labs to the flavor industry. Meeting with Métronome’s founder, who was planning to retire, occurred by merest chance in 2013. I fell in love with his products, and everything started from there. For years, I’d been looking for a job where I could draw. This is one of my passions besides music. I’ve always drawn and painted. So, naturally, after I took over at Métronome, and after some months of restraint, I began to put on paper drawings of new products, beginning with the loudspeaker Ea, then the DreamPlay Stream, etc. But, of course, I’m not and will never be a digital designer. My team does that very well, and my ears are the judges.

How do you explain the differences between hi-fi and high-end audio?
No fundamental difference for me, because the aim of every system is to give musical pleasure to the owner. High end just results from a combination of high-quality design and making—most of the time handcrafting. And the most important requirement: fidelity of sound reproduction to the original recording.

The trend appears to be moving away from physical media. What are your thoughts?
It’s at the same time a good and bad thing. I’m not convinced that the race to higher and higher resolutions can bring anything but uncertainty and misunderstanding to users. For me the basis remains the original recording, and people should be informed about how it was made before looking for artificially upsampled remasters.

What interesting fact, aspect, or philosophy about Metronome surprises audiophiles?
I think that very few people know that the company originally made loudspeakers. The founder was a woodcrafter and hi-fi lover, and he naturally began making speakers for himself, then for friends…and so the story began. His first products were bookshelf speakers, 40cm high, with the pyramidal shape of a metronome. 

How will high-end systems change in the next ten years or so? 
One of my hopes is that people remember how interesting the CD is, but I’m afraid that the increasing quality of streaming and the access to huge quantities of music will win out. At least some users will stay interested in holding an object in hand, but it won’t be sufficient to maintain an interest in CD players for companies like ours. Thus we need to move to so-called computer music, and this is what we’ve been doing for a couple of years. I also imagine systems will become simpler, with all-in-one devices and wireless speakers joining the high end.

Going forward, what are the greatest challenges confronting the high end?
One of the issues, globally, is that younger generations have been used to MP3 and music on phones. The challenge is to educate them about sound quality.

What kinds of music do you find yourself listening to most these days? Have your tastes changed?
Regarding music, I’m quite versatile, but my preferences go to the pop and progressive rock of the 70s. I’m an old fan of Genesis, Pink Floyd, Queen, Dire Straits. I have to confess that my musical tastes don’t change that much, but remain diverse even if I’m not a “classical music” guy. I love many rock bands from the U.S., like Cake, Eels, or REM, but also cool jazz, female voices, and, of course, French singers like Jacques Higelin, Etienne Daho, or -M- (Matthieu Chedid). Amongst the mediocrity there are always new, refreshing, and interesting things to discover. This is the magic with music.

Outside of audio, what do you do for fun? 
My hobbies range from running and walking outdoors to rallying. I also love cinema, graphic novels, and comics. Hey, I’m French, so wine is also quite important, and maybe even more in the future.

What inspires you about your work?
I could mention many things and people. But basically what really matters is to be proud of what you do, and work with people who also love what they do, and have fun! Inspiration comes together with pleasure.

Neil Gader

By Neil Gader

My love of music largely predates my enthusiasm for audio. I grew up Los Angeles in a house where music was constantly playing on the stereo (Altecs, if you’re interested). It ranged from my mom listening to hit Broadway musicals to my sister’s early Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Beatles, and Stones LPs, and dad’s constant companions, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. With the British Invasion, I immediately picked up a guitar and took piano lessons and have been playing ever since. Following graduation from UCLA I became a writing member of the Lehman Engel’s BMI Musical Theater Workshops in New York–working in advertising to pay the bills. I’ve co-written bunches of songs, some published, some recorded. In 1995 I co-produced an award-winning short fiction movie that did well on the international film-festival circuit. I was introduced to Harry Pearson in the early 70s by a mutual friend. At that time Harry was still working full-time for Long Island’s Newsday even as he was writing Issue 1 of TAS during his off hours. We struck up a decades-long friendship that ultimately turned into a writing gig that has proved both stimulating and rewarding. In terms of music reproduction, I find myself listening more than ever for the “little” things. Low-level resolving power, dynamic gradients, shadings, timbral color and contrasts. Listening to a lot of vocals and solo piano has always helped me recalibrate and nail down what I’m hearing. Tonal neutrality and presence are important to me but small deviations are not disqualifying. But I am quite sensitive to treble over-reach, and find dry, hyper-detailed systems intriguing but inauthentic compared with the concert-going experience. For me, true musicality conveys the cozy warmth of a room with a fireplace not the icy cold of an igloo. Currently I split my time between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Studio City, California with my wife Judi Dickerson, an acting, voice, and dialect coach, along with border collies Ivy and Alfie.

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