Micromega owner Didier Hamdi (right) with Ricardo Franassovici
I spent a fascinating day in Paris yesterday with Didier Hamdi, the new owner of French hi-fi company Micromega.
Hamdi is an intriguing character: he was a world motorcycle champion in 1991, owns a string of successful engineering businesses in France (including the company that lights the Eiffel Tower), sells motorbikes and even has his own travel agency.
He’s also a life-long audiophile with a passion for music, which partially explains his latest acquisition – Micromega – which he bought from the receiver in March 2007 after it ran into financial difficulties.
Those with long memories will remember that Micromega dropped out of the UK market about a decade ago, leaving some customers stranded and with a string of reliability problems.
The company’s new owner does not gloss over the firm’s troubled past.
“During the last year and a half we felt obliged to clean up some of the problems suffered by previous Micromega owners who were abandoned in the UK ten years ago, and in France three years ago,” says Hamdi. “Although most products were out of warranty, we tried to help customers anyway to restore the Micromega name.”
At the same time, Hamdi and his engineers have completely redesigned and re-engineered the Micromega product range to develop the 11 products that are now being sold as part of the 2009 line-up.
“Our aim is to provide reliable, functional products that offer value for money and excellent musical performance,” he says.
There is one remaining link with the company’s past, however. Micromega’s founder, Daniel Schar, is now head of R&D and will work closely with Hamdi on all product development.
Sound and Color's Paris showroom
As we’ve already reported in our news channel, Micromega is bringing its products to the UK through distributor Absolute Sounds, run by managing director Ricardo Franassovici.
Absolute Sounds is an interesting choice of partner for the French firm. Best known in the UK for its range of high-end brands, Franassovici admits that adding a more affordable range of hi-fi components to its portfolio is something of a departure for him.
However, he has known Didier Hamdi personally for some time and is convinced he’s a man he can do business with.
“Micromega has been responsible for many audio innovations in the past, particularly in the field of CD replay,” he explains. “With new ownership reinvigorating the brand, there are exciting times ahead.”
The initial product range coming to the UK comprises 11 products, ranging from £698 to £1998. There are three CD players, three integrated stereo amps, a stereo preamp, two power amps, an FM tuner and a surround preamp/processor.
Each component is designed and manufactured in France, and the full range is as follows:
CD-10 CD player £799 (below)
CD-20 CD player £1222
CD-30 CD player £1599 (above)
FM-10 radio tuner £698 (above)
IA-60 integrated amp £888 (above)
IA-100 integrated amp £1199
IA-180 integrated amp £1698
PA-20 stereo preamp £1290
PW-250 stereo power amp £1500
PW-400 stereo power amp £1998
AVP-180 AV preamp/processor £1680
Yesterday I got to hear some of the new hi-fi range in action. We visited Sound and Colors, a specialist hi-fi dealer in the centre of Paris, who are one of the top Micromega retailers in the French capital.
They’d set up two of their demo rooms for us. The first was running a Micromega IA-180 integrated amp and CD-30 CD player, coupled to a pair of Kharma 3.2 speakers (see below). The electronics cost £3297, and the speakers will set you back about £10,000.
Micromega IA-180 amp, CD-30 CD player and Kharma 3.2 speakers
System 2 was even more upmarket, with a CD-30, plus a PA-20 stereo preamp and a pair of 400W PW-400 power amps driving the huge Magiko M5 speakers you can see in the picture. They’re made in California, and cost a cool 100,000 Euros a pair!
Micromega CD-30, PA-20 preamp, 2 x PW-400 and Magiko M5
After a short listening session to a mix of classical and jazz, we were given a sneak preview of the next Micromega product to be launched in November.
The rather unassuming silver box you can see in the picture below (sitting on top of the CD player) is a prototype of the forthcoming WM-10 AirStream WHiFI.
Didier Hamdi takes up the story: “I was sick of my kids listening to poor quality compressed music on their iPods through my home hi-fi system, so I decided four months ago to develop a unit that would connect wirelessly to iTunes on my computer and stream to the hi-fi.”
The result is AirStream, designed specifically to work with iTunes and licensed by Apple. You simply plug the unit into your hi-fi in the conventional way, and it will receive music streamed via wi-fi 802.11 from any PC or Mac computer. It’s expected to cost under 1,000 Euros when it goes on sale in November. You can read more about the AirStream in Richard Melville's blog.
Of course, such wireless transmission of music is not new, but Micromega says the AirStream acts as a wireless DAC and claims that lossless music files ripped on to a computer and played back through the AirStream will sound as a good as a CD.
We’ll have to wait until we test the finished item to make a judgement on that. But more intriguingly, Micromega plans to build AirStream into all its source components in the future. The first of those is likely to be the Micromega AirStream CD100, a CD player with wi-fi streaming capability built in.
In the meantime, we hope to get some of the 2009 hi-fi range in for review. We’ll let you know as soon as we do.