Visiting Diptyque loudspeakers
By Roy Gregory
I’ve always had a soft-spot for planar magnetic loudspeakers, ever since ‘graduating’ to a pair of Magneplanar MG1bs as my first ‘high-end’ loudspeakers. That notion of high-end might have had more to do with high price than anything else. The vagaries of international distribution and a slightly bizarre four-tier(!) distribution model in Europe left this, the second cheapest model in the Magneplanar line, with a significantly inflated ticket. But it offered enough and enough that was different to the prevalent, UK-built box speakers, to justify its price. And they didn’t just sound different. The distinctive looks were as appealing as the inherent simplicity of its design and construction. With its planar diaphragm, flat voice coil and co-planar magnet structure, it was almost as if a conventional moving-coil driver had been flattened into 2D. This speaker was the living embodiment of the EMF diagrams I used to draw in my physics exercise book. The panel construction wasn’t just transparent in mechanical/operational terms: it suddenly made the notion of hand-building a drive unit a distinct possibility.
I never took that DIY path – although I did make extensive modifications to those MG1bs. First I flipped the panels in their frames, so that the magnets were behind the diaphragm. Then I constructed an elaborate stand that added significant mass (and stability), braced the panel at one-third height and allowed precise adjustment of rake angle. I removed the crossover from the panel itself and split it, to allow first bi-wiring and then bi-amping. All of which was done in search of the dynamic authority to match the speakers’ beguiling scale and open soundstage, lack of boxy colouration and musical coherence. Ultimately I abandoned the quest, moving on to pastures new and you might well ask what all this has to do with Diptyque and their loudspeakers? The answer is, that in their own way, I suspect the company followed a similar path, faced similar frustrations but took rather more radical steps to solve them. They did develop their own drivers, build their own speakers and the impressive results are what you hear from Diptyque’s speakers today.
The Diptyque journey started more than 20-years ago, in the French city of Montauban, just North of Toulouse. Gilles Douziech and Eric Poix discovered a shared fascination with acoustics and sound reproduction that led them in the direction of loudspeaker design. Attracted by the ability to hand craft planar-magnetic drivers and the form factor that resulted, their first product appeared at a contemporary art exhibition in 2001. Since then, their original thinking and approach has evolved and developed to meet and overcome the challenges of their chosen driver topology.