The History of Cabasse
Cabasse have a long and interesting history going right back to 1950 when Georges and Elisabeth Cabasse first started repairing and producing drive units in the suburbs of Paris. The company got off to a great start as their launch coincided with the launch of Cinemascope leading to their drivers being used in movie-theatres including the Paris REX.
Their first two-way coaxial driver, the Diphone, was launched five years later and two years after that they opened a sales office in Paris.
By 1958 the company were building active loudspeakers with active crossovers and valve amplifiers but later in the sixties launched a range of two and three way, solid state, active loudspeakers.
A factory at Brest followed in 1960 and this included a 2000m3 anechoic room for development purposes but by ’74 a new factory in N France was opened and the Brest site became involved solely in R&D and production of high-end speakers, active speakers for broadcast and home use plus sound reinforcement systems.
In ’75 Cabasse launched a range of servo-controlled loudspeakers which offered control of speed and acceleration and by 1980 they were producing honeycomb dome drivers and launched four-way loudspeakers fitted with low-midrange and woofers based on the technology.
A new range of sound reinforcement drivers including tweeters and midrange units fitted with a carbon fibre diaphragm came about in ’84 and loudspeakers fitted with these drive units and their honeycomb dome woofers were used in the Omnimax theatre, La Geode in Paris for its 12 channel sound system.
The company’s Duocell based drivers were launched in ’86 and in ’92 Cabasse opened their factory in Troncais where they combined production of cabinets and drivers with the assembly and control of the speaker systems themselves. This year also saw the company premiere its SCS technology based on the co-axial three-way TC21 low-mid/midrange/tweeter and by August they gave the first presentation of the Atlantis – a four way active coaxial system that was the flagship of their SCS range.
The DOM40 and DOM30 midrange/tweeters were launched in ’96 and in ’99 an entry level (MT200 series) with new woofers and DOM20 midrange/tweeters was introduced with the home-cinema market in mind.
This brings us to the new millennium and the launch of the iO system and Jean-François Gautier taking leadership of the company. In 2002 the new Artis range with the TC22 and BC13 drivers was on the market and the company had doubled its turnover in just two years.
The Cabasse Acoustic Centre in Plouzané (where Hifi Pig visited) opened a year later with a new anechoic chamber, a power test bunker and listening and measuring rooms. Sales, marketing, purchasing and accounting all shared the centre with the R&D department.
Cabasse started a cooperative relationship with international giant Canon in 2004 with Canon becoming a supplier for Cabasse and also assembling speakers such as the iO2 and the Ki.
The first four-way fully concentric and active system with digital processing was introduced in January 2006 in Las Vegas when La Sphere was premiered to a world audience. In October of that same year Cabasse was acquired by the Canon group and determined to help the brand become a major world player in high-end audio.
Rapid expansion has followed and in 2011 at the Munich Hi-End Show Cabasse unveiled L’Ocean, a loudspeaker that combines both coaxial technology and digitised signals from the source to the amplifiers in the speakers and which was the result of three years of close collaboration between Canon and Cabasse.
The Stream 3 active streaming system came in 2012 and the stream family grew in 2013 with the Stream 1 a standalone loudspeaker and streaming source.
When we got the invitation to visit Cabasse we were really very pleased indeed and we saw it as a bit of a milestone in the development of Hifi Pig becoming even more recognised in the industry.
Our afternoon started when we met Christophe Cabasse, Laurence Kerduff and Sylvain Quainon at the company’s acoustic centre in Plouzané where after we headed out to lunch at a nice little créperie overlooking the Atlantic. Returning to the centre we were shown the facilities by Christophe.
First up we were led to the largest of the company’s three anechoic chambers which is treated on all six surfaces and is the place where all the testing of their drivers and loudspeakers takes place. It’s clearly a facility that has taken up a good deal of investment and it’s very cleverly thought out being isolated from the main building and “floating” separate to it. It’s the first time either of us had been in an anechoic chamber and it was an eerie experience for us both. What was nice to see immediately outside the room was that amongst the computers and high tech gadgetry was a nod to the past in the form of an ancient 1m measuring stick and an old resistor board that both looked like they could have come from the very first years of the company.
The main R&D department was next on the agenda and the company are clearly in the midst of designing something top secret as when we entered everyone was asked to cover their work. Without a doubt these are a talented group of designers and engineers with Bernard Debail having only very recently been awarded the Prix de l’Ingénieur du Numérique de l’année by L’Usine Nouvelle & Industries et Technologies. I made a comment about the size of one of the subwoofers on the floor of one of the offices and was then led to a listening room where we were shown a HUGE sub and told “Now that’s a big subwoofer”…and it was (See photograph).
Next up was “The Bunker” a reinforced, subterranean room where new products are soak tested at the maximum of their power ratings for weeks at a time. Old and it has to be said massive amps are used to drive kit under test and Christophe mentioned that they were initially designed for use in the French navy.
The engineering workshops were visited next where we were shown where their high end drivers are developed and put together. It’s an impressive and almost cottage like industry in here …albeit a very high tech cottage industry. What was really impressive was the range of drive units dating back as far as the 1960s which are used as replacements for drivers that have failed – most Cabasse drivers come with a lifetime first user guarantee!
The final room we were shown was the dedicated listening area which is a purpose built and very comfortable space. Dominating the room were the company’s Sphere loudspeakers and both of us were itching to have a listen. The Spheres are a fully concentric, active, four-way loudspeaker that come with eight dedicated amplifiers and a control amplifier. Sound-wise… Suffice to say Linette now has another pair of loudspeakers on her “If we win the lottery” shortlist (They are €13500 after all…but that does include Christophe personally flying wherever in the world you are and setting the up to your taste) – Avantgarde Trios with Basshorns and Gryphon Audio Trident II make up the rest of the list. They really do sound great in a very coherent, dynamic and well gelled sense. Move around the room and it’s as if you are moving around an auditorium with the stage being fixed directly in one space – difficult to describe but mightily impressive. One particular snare hit on Cabasse’s test CD is so powerfully rendered it’s as if you’re in the room with the drummer –REALLY in the room!!
But it wasn’t all high-end and Christophe was keen to demonstrate their new Streamer. It’s an unassuming unit that connects to your amp or DAC and allows you to stream Bluetooth or wifi to your hifi. At €350 it’s a reasonably priced bit of kit that performs well and sounds very good indeed.
We also had a listen to their streamer with inbuilt speakers which also sounded great – not an audiophile product at all but a great addition to the home if you want music in your kitchen, bedroom or wherever but don’t want to go the whole hog.
All in all a very enjoyable afternoon and or thanks go out to Christophe, Laurence and the rest of the team for their kindness and hospitality.