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Lecontoure Loudspeakers - Stabile 210
Lavardin Technologies Company
Model C62 + Model AP150 + CMA317 + CML83 + CMR250

Price: Stabile 210 – 48 000 PLN (pair); C62 – 20 600 PLN, AP150 – 25 600 PLN; CMA317 – 16 200 PLN; CML83 – 5280 PLN; CMR250 – 1600 PLN Total: 117 280 PLN

CEVL 42, Rue de la République, 37230 Fondettes, France
Tel.: +33 (0) 247 49 70 92


Manufacturer's website:
Lavardin Technologies Company
Lecontoure Loudspeakers

Text: Wojciech Pacuła | Pictures: Piksel Studio

If I were a Frenchman, yabudibidibi ….. That would be great! As they have all the best things in the world. Ask any of them (in French of course as they don't really care much about knowing other languages – why would they?) and you will learn that best architecture, music, cuisine is … yes! French, everybody knows that, right? They believe also to be descendants of Roman empire and inheritors of ancient Greek wisdom – so they simply must be the best of the best. And if you are the best you can do most things your own way and claim that this is the one and only right way to do it. You can find this kind of confidence also in audio world. Some well known companies like Focal-JMLab, Triangle, Cabasse, HD Micromega or YBA are just a bit „different” than all the others – regardless of our opinion about them. Their real „treasurers” are known only internally in the homeland of haute couture, and when they finally reach to the outside world they do it in a specific way. Namely because these companies are … different… I really didn't mean to offend anybody and I sincerely hope I didn't but I think I'm not alone in this believe expressed above. If you took some offense, got irritated or displeased than please consider forget everything I said except for one thing – French companies have their own way of doing things. They don't care about what the rest of the world does, what audio magazines write and so on. The system under review is a great example of what I described above.

My first encounter with Lavardin Technologies Company happened not so long ago even though it existed since 1996. This is one of those few manufacturers that are satisfied with limited production and sales, who when make a good product simply don't mess with it anymore. Such companies very seldom add some new products to their portfolio. Model IT amplifier is a great example, (I tested it some time ago for „Audio”) – its first version was created at the very beginning of Lavardin's existence and since then it underwent only some minor, cosmetic changes. One of them, introduced in 2003 was about a new color of knobs, the other done in 2005 was more significant – some changes were introduced to input circuitry and they added an output for tape-recorder. These modifications were called 2K5 (manufacturer's website says it was 2K6 but that's a mistake). Reviewed system included power amplifier Model AP150 and preamplifier Model C62. This particular set is often used by Focal-JMLab when they do presentations of their loudspeakers from Utopia line. Anybody who has ever seen these speakers realizes that these are not easy to drive – it's a huge, multidriver design with not very friendly impedance. The French amplifier seems quite little comparing to those giant speakers and nobody expects it to successfully drive them… But of course guys from Focal know what they are doing – they surely need as good system for their speakers as possible. This amplifier is in fact the same design as IT integrated just without preamplifier stage – there are even some holes in the back panel (with covering caps) that in IT serve as additional inputs. The nominal maximum output power seems not too impressive – 55W at 8Ω and 150W at 4Ω. The point is these French amps don't act like most solid-states – clipping starts much later and they also seem to have more energy reserves than it would read in technical specification. Its partner is C62, a minimalistic preamplifier design with six line inputs. Both devices are based on the same idea related to „memory distortion” effect. Solid-state amplifiers use silicon components which keep a trace of current flow that has gone through. New electron flow is continuously affected by the pattern of the immediately preceding electron flow. It's a fact well known already for some time. Lavardin Technologies engineers claim that these distortions significantly affect the audible sound, and what's more they say they are able to eliminate them. And before you start laughing about „strange ideas” of another French company you should think about quite similar situation with phono cartridges and special de-magnetizing circuits made for them. Such a „de-magnetizer” is offered also by Gryphon Audio and it's designed for the whole system but the general idea is quite similar to the one developed by Lavardin.

You might remember from 2 years ago that High Fidelity prepared a special issue for Audio Show 2008, and we presented another special Japanese complete system by Kiuchi San. It consisted of Reimyo electronics, Bravo! Speakers and Harmonix cables. I learned then that a complete system offered more than its particular elements. It's because if all elements come from one designer he can offer the final effect that is unpredictable if customer buys only single elements and combines them with other products. Since then each time I'm given a chance to listen to a whole system I take it! Apart from this pre/amp combo I received also speakers from Lecontoure Loudspeakers (which is a sister company to Lavardin) and Lavardin cables. What's more – I received even stands for electronics made in France. Couple of days earlier I received a platform from Pro Audio Bono that I used under my CD player Ancient Audio Air. Is it a coincidence that both products were made of the same material (plywood) and had almost identical thickness? I doubt it…


Discs used for test:

  • Die perfekte Räumlichkeit, Stereoplay 10/10, sampler, CD.
  • Anja Garbarek, Briefly Shaking, EMI, 8608022, Copy Control Disc; review HERE.
  • Clifford Brown, Clifford Brown With Strings, Verve, 558 078-2, Verve Master Edition, CD.
  • Clifford Brown, Clifford Brown With Strings, Verve/Universal Music Japan, UCCU-9525, gold-CD.
  • e.s.t., Leucocyte, ACT Music+Vision, ACT 9018-1, 2 x 180 g LP; review HERE.
  • Eva Cassidy, Imagine, Hot Records, G2-10075, CD.
  • Jean Michel Jarre, Oxygene, Dreyfus Disques/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 613, gold-CD.
  • Kate Bush, Aerial, EMI, 3439602, 2 x CCD; recenzja HERE.
  • Kings of Leon, Only By The Night, RCA/BMJ Japan, BVCP-40058, CD.
  • Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch, 524055-2, CD+DVD; review HERE.
  • Lisa Ekdahl, Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile, RCA/Sony Music, 46663-2, Opendisc.
  • Lisa Ekdahl, When Did You Leave Heaven, BMG Sweden AB, 43175 2, CD.
  • Peter Gabriel, So, Virgin, SAPGCD5, SACD/CD.
  • Tomasz Stańko Quartet, Lontano, ECM Records, ECM 1980, CD.
  • Tomasz Stańko Quintet, Dark Eyes, ECM 2115, CD.
  • Tord Gustafson Trio, Changing Places, ECM/Universal Music Japan, UCCE-9185, SHM-CD.

Japanese versions of the discs available from CD Japan.

When I look back at my review of Lavardin IT, that I did for „Audio” (9/2010) I must say I was able to identify its sonic character really well. But on the other hand now, when listening to a complete system, I can see now that then I missed some other features of the sound. Critical auditions of audio equipment are in fact about trying to understand a way the sound is reproduced. At least that's what they are for me. In my understanding audio system plays similar role to the one of literature interpreter. On one hand the main principle for both is to interpret material in a way that will show the intention of author. That's obvious. But there is always one problem – the middleman – I mean the man or device (in audio system) that are there – between original material and the final receiver (reader or listener). There is almost a branch of science teaching the role of interpreter who should be working on creative writing more then just translating. Which makes him more of a co-author – his input is almost as important as the one of the person who originally wrote the piece. It's his sensitivity, education, believes and even his/her sex that matter and influence the final shape of the translated book. I should say – new book – as it is not identical to the original any more. I believe that the role, the way audio system is working should be in principle the same as this of interpreter. No matter how great system you have it will never deliver exactly what happened during recording session in studio, and not even what is there in the final recording. What we get is some version, interpretation of what happened in front of microphones or in a computer. And what kind of version we finally get depends on how good interpreter our audio system is. That's why an audio designer plays a key role in what we hear from our speakers – he offers us his interpretation of recordings we listen to. So in my opinion it is very important to read whatever manufacturer offers in manuals, on a web page, in reviews, but also what's there in tests written by other reviewers. It'd be perfect to visit a factory, talk to designers , to the owner and so on, and listen to the complete system build by them, placed in their room to hear what is their idea of sound. Unfortunately it is not possible for most of us to do all that – for financial reasons, lack of time etc. So what we can do at least is to listen to a complete system.

Lavardin presents very clearly what the people behind it wanted to deliver to users even of single device. But only when listening to the whole system I got the ultimate idea behind those devices. Before that I could only guess what it would be like when listening to the whole system, and now I could finally witness it. Sound of Lecontoure speakers does not offer, as the name would suggest, “contour” sound. Quite on contrary – sound is incredibly smooth, soft, rather dark – there is no harshness, brightness etc. This interpretation of the recording is so different that for me it might be called “Lavardin/Lecontoure” sound. It is a different “voice”, different point of view. This makes it easy to decide whether this vision/interpretation suits our own taste or not. Regardless of you own decision you can't deny some obvious advantages of this sound. After session with this system all others will sound aggressive. Ultimately after “detox” you will almost forget about it but it will take much longer than it usually does with other “mainstream” products – but still, somewhere in the back of your head there will be a memory of this very particular, surely having some own character, but very attractive sound.

Let’s start from the very beginning. Sound always comes from between loudspeakers, space at the both sides of them is an empty space. At least that's what happens when the tweeters sit on the inside. When I switched speakers and tweeters were placed on the outside soundstage got wider but it wasn't so rich, coherent in the middle anymore. So you need to chose your preference for yourself – mine was with tweeter inside. Hence the soundstage was becoming dense and rich. This window between speakers shows incredibly coherent picture. For the first time I had a chance to hear such a good presentation of stereo recording of Carmen McRea (from the CD of the same title), recorded for Bethlehem. It is added to the same recording in mono version. Listening to McRea on many, many systems I could understand why such a stereo recording was considered to be a worse version comparing to mono recording. Because it was worse! French system presented this recording in totally different way. Each instrument and the vocalist's voice are assigned to only one channel which isn't too natural, but this incredible coherence created between speakers and the “air” that was almost palpable made me listen to it with a great pleasure, like separation between both channels before was a mistake. I could still hear two separate channels but with some kind of connection between them.

Vocalist are presented in a quite different way than usually. Instruments in fact too, but voices are more important here. Yeah, now I should tell you about tonal balance… but it might be a good idea anyway as it will give you a full picture. As I already said sound is bit dark and that's because treble is little rolled-off. No doubts about it. There is a switch at the back of the speakers that allows to add more treble – I tried it of course but even the slight change (+2 dB) caused this great coherence disappear and the sound was becoming too bright. So designer's idea behind this switch wasn't probably to use it with Lavardin system, but most likely with other systems or in some over-damped rooms. At my place treble was rolled-off – but not just some part of it – whole part of frequency range. This couldn't be an accident. Sound was also very three-dimensional. Each recording was presented in a way it had been recorded – I mean without any easily recognizable modification. If the top treble was too bright like on Anja Garbarek's Briefly Shaking or Peter Gabriel's So, I heard that clearly. And at the same time the latter recording sounded really great – I was truly surprised how the system managed to show all the upsides of this recording that are usually overwhelmed by downsides. Garbarek's recording on the other hand, issued as Copy Control Disc, (more about this copy prevention system HERE) during the most dense moments sounded as usually – bright and aggressive. Lets get back to vocals. One of the important attributes of this particular sound presentation is lack of clearly drawn contours, blocks if you will. Soundstage is rather not a set of separate, protuberant events but more of an ongoing, continual presentation. That's what makes vocals presentation so special. Singers sound like it came to them so easy to sing. When listening to more and more records each time I hold my breath waiting to hear how the next voice would sound, how vocalist would behave on the stage, which parts would he/she accentuate. It is supported by incredible resolution of low-level signals in the midrange. Until now I thought that resolution + timbre result in a protuberant, palpable image. French system proved for the first time in my life that it can be done in a different way.

After some longer thinking I realized that this presentation is somehow similar to the one delivered by a system by Combak Corporation (Reimyo+Bravo!+Harmonix), tested exactly two years ago (HERE). Although these are two totally different technologies, different ideas of how to build loudspeakers, different cables but there was something in the sound that gave me similar impressions. I didn't want to admit that at the beginning as this would mean I concur with Lavardin's philosophy that sound of their devices should be as close as possible to the one of the best tube devices (clear assumption that they are the best), and eliminating “memory distortion” effect should have led to that. But … that's what I heard. It is a very soft sound, very similar to what we hear in reality. Not perfectly the same as for example mid-bass of Lecontoures could have been bit more “stiff”, better conveying the bass drum attack on Kings of Leon recording. But that's what we expect from our system when listening at home. If you listen to percussion during live concert from a distance it sounds more or less the way this particular system presented it.

The most important part of frequency range is midrange. Not because it is somehow emphasized. We perceive it this way because treble is slightly rolled off, but it doesn't determine the general timbre. Lower midrange and bass are strong, rich so I can't say that midrange is emphasized over them. None the less our attention is attracted mostly to vocals and instruments that play in the midrange. I think this is because midrange and treble are delivered with great resolution. Bass, as already mentioned, is strong and rich. It is also very well extended which was proved during presentations of Garbarek's recordings but also of Homeland by Laurie Anderson. Bass range is very well “connected” with midrange – I think that this happens because part of bass range is delivered by a woofer on the front of the speaker. Its large diameter is responsible for some other things, but I shall come back to that in a moment. What is important is that even though bass driver is placed in the back of the cabinet and close to the floor, there are no boomy effects. Resolution of bass range is not that good as it is in above 100 Hz range, or in some other classic loudspeakers. But the role of bass, as well as the role of treble, is just complimentary towards midrange.

When I mentioned “some other things” before I meant mainly a problem with woofers directionality. In theory the larger the diaphragm's diameter the lower down the frequency range this driver starts to play with a narrow band. In other words – the assumed frequency range is delivered only via its main axis. If you just moved out of this axis and the upper part of frequency range would start to roll-off. So with such a design with 210 mm woofer and a tweeter you need to be very careful about its placement in the room. I think that if you want to get a flat response curve you need to direct speakers straight on the listener, otherwise the upper midrange could be slightly rolled-off. Unless of course some other factors change the equation – your room, system or your preferences.

Lavardin system with Lecontoure loudspeakers creates a different world. World of soft reverberations, pastel colors, depth. Safe depth, domestic. All the recordings seem to be domesticated too – equally well these very good ones (from technical point of view) and those not so good. But still the differentiation of timbre is very good so they don't sound the same. Dynamics and consistency of a mid-bass could be better but obviously it couldn't be achieved without changing the “big picture”. And this “big picture” is well thought through, chosen mindfully. If you chose the French system you shall feel invited this, very special world. Sure, you might not like it after all, but ultimately you should regret it as some memories will stay with you forever and you will always compare other systems to this one. Are there better systems? Probably yes. Are there different ones? Of course. But this one is a very, very special one that could easily become an ultimate one you could live with forever.


Lecontoure Loudspeakers Stabile 210

Stabile 210 is the biggest loudspeaker in Lecontoure's portfolio. It is a three-way speaker with closed enclosure and a big 240 mm woofer placed in the back. Single binding posts are placed in the middle of the loudspeaker's height and next to them you can find two switches – one changing how much treble we get (+3 dB/Linear/+2 dB) and the other doing same thing for bass range (low cut/linear).

You can see only two drivers in the front like in a monitor – a tweeter - double ring 25mm soft dome and 210 mm midrange driver with multilayer polymer diaphragm. Considering the size of the latter we might assume that this is in fact a full-range two-way speaker supported by additional low-range woofer. Manufacturer doesn't state crossover points. The only thing we know is that low- and midrange drivers work in common, large chamber. Tweeter is placed at the side of a front panel, not in the axis as usually. All the drivers are glued to the cabinet so you can't disassemble speakers without causing damage to the cabinet. There is a grill made for treble and midrange section. It is made of MDF covered with some black cloth. Holes have been cut out in MDF for drivers – the one for a tweeter has a shape of an antinode pointing the direction “inside” which suggests that loudspeakers should be placed with tweeters “outside”.

Enclosure is made of 22 mm thick plywood and 40 mm MDF, covered with natural veneer plus there are some parts lacquered black. If you take a look at the front it will look like it's a mid-size floorstander supported in the back with a thick, black panel. This panel, which is wider than the rest of the cabinet is in fact supposed to support the whole design. In the front of the cabinet you need to fix a single spike. In the back panel you will find two drilled holes. You need to put two metal balls into them that are fixed to the speaker's plinth.

As already mentioned binding posts are placed on the back panel. Just like in Lavardin devices, also here the description is done on a piece of foil glued to the back panel. It is neither good looking nor probably durable but that's one of the things that make these French products different. Drivers are glued in so I couldn't check how the inside of the cabinet, or the crossover look like.

Model C62

C62 preamplifier is not a too high device (height 1U) with chassis made of aluminum. Manufacturer has its own workshop with CNC Vitronics-Soltec machines, that guaranty precision of 1/100 mm, and are able to execute 18000 activities per hour, and hence their extreme precision. No wonder chassis makes a great impression – they are simple but quite pretty. Front panel is 10 mm thick, black with two nicely finished knobs. One of them controls volume level the other acts as input selector. There is no remote control – you need to do everything manually. Right in the middle of the front panel there is a red LED indicating whether device is on or off. When changing input signal is muted for a moment and the red LED blinks. At the back, under a label with inputs description there are two rows of really nice RCA sockets – Lavardin makes only unbalanced devices. There are six line inputs and two outputs – one with fixed level for tape recorder and one with variable level for power amp (or amps). As an option Customer might order this device with MM phonostage section. On the left side of the back panel there is a IEC socket with mechanical switch. In the socket there is a „live” pin marked with red color. This clearly shows that Lavardin cares about proper connecting of power cable which doesn't makes them so special as there are other companies that do the same – YBA, Luxman, Ayon Audio or Trigon.

The circuitry is placed on two PCBs. The one with power supply is enclosed inside a large shield. I was unable to remove it. There are three thin wires coming from underneath the shield that supply voltage to the second PCB that sports amplifying circuits. Signal from input sockets goes with short, copper, solid-core wires. Source is selected via relays. These are hermetic, chosen for the quality of their contacts that are covered with three layers of gold, silver and palladium alloy. Its a discrete circuit with precise resistors and many transistors. There is a large Alps „Blue Velvet” pot with its axis extended to the front panel. Right behind it there are two small cubes that supposingly house amplifying modules. The rest of the circuit is quite classic, with regular transistors. In the output there are some more relays that cut off the signal when you switch inputs. Preamplifier stands on three rubber feet – two in the front and one in the back. There is no remote control.

Specification (according to the manufacturer):
Inputs: 6 RCA
Output: fixed level for tape recorder
Input impedance: 10kΩ
Input sensibility: 330mV
Output level: max +20dB
Output impedance: 75Ω
Gain: 12dB
THD: 0.001% (at max power)
Dimensions (WxSxG): 80 x 430 x 340mm
Weight: 6kg
Power consumption: 10W at stand-by; 40W max

Model AP150

Model AP150 is in fact a version of Model IT integrated just without preamplifier's stage. Enclosure is similar to the one of C62 but bit higher. The radiators placed at the sides of the devices have nicely rounded edges which makes it easier and safer to carry this amp – unlike BAT VK-255SE amp I had some problems with recently. There is a large on/off switch in the front, red LED indicating that device is on, and four screws bolting the face plate to the chassis. On the back the are two RCA sockets – for the left and right channel, and speaker binding posts plus IEC socket. Descriptions of all sockets are not made on the chassis but on kind of foil attached to it. It doesn't look too good and you won't see that to often nowadays – at least not in mass-manufactured products. Inside you will find three PCBs (there are four in IT). Signal goes from inputs to PCBs with power amps with solid-core, unshielded cables. There are two PCBs with power amps bolted directly to radiators in two opposite sides of the device. It suggests low cross-channel talk. The amplifying circuit is quite advanced although the most important are four small transistors bolted to radiators – two driving ones and two working in push-pull configuration TIP147+TIP142 National Semiconductors. The latter are in fact Darligton circuits – two bipolar transistors in one housing. They cost 3,5 PLN each so it is not them what decides about the price of the device. The most important thing is a patented circuit – which is indicated on PCBs. The whole amplifying circuit is transistor based and only in the negative feedback loop we shall find a chip. Passive elements are very nice – precise resistors and polypropylene capacitors form Philips and Evox. The power supply is really advanced. It is based on large toroidal transformer, enclosed together with power line filter in large aluminum shielding can, decoupled in a similar way as the power supply in the preamplifier. The whole circuit is patented and made by French company CEVL. There are two secondary windings – one for each channel. There are twelve capacitors – six per channel – four by BC and two smaller ones by Nichicon.

AP150 is very often chosen by JMLab for presentations of their Utopia speakers - HERE .

Specification (according to the manufacturer):
Input impedance: 10kΩ
Input sensitivity: 780mV
Output power: 2 x 55W RMS (8Ω)
THD: 0.001% (at maximum output power)
Dimensions (WxSxG): 135 x 430 x 340mm
Weight: 12kg
Power consumption: 35W at stand-by; 400W max

CMA317 + CML83 + CMR

Cables made by Lavardin are essential part of the whole system – according to Lavardin of course – but I have to admit they might be right. I remember well my conversation with the boss of MIT about Spectral electronics and necessity of using it combined with MIT cables. He explained to me it was about matching the impedance and capacitance of both transmitter and receiver. And these particular devices are made and tested using these particular cables. Lavardin cables don't come chip. So their appearance is a surprise – the only special thing about them are the round, metal boxes they are delivered in.

Speaker cable CMA317 is made of two quite thin wire runs and finished with gold-plated BFA plugs (similar to bananas). Obviously the idea was to reduce the weight and the quantity of metal used – which reminds me what DNM Reason is doing and Liveline cables (HERE). Cables are quite flexible. Nothing is revealed about how they are built. Manufacturer declares only that these are „Ultra Low Memory” cables just like their electronics. Maybe that's why they are so thin.

CML83 interconnects are equipped with small RCA plugs. Just like in some Chord cables, there are two separate runs clipped together just ahead the plug. Basing on Chord's description (as Lavardin offers none) the advantage should be probable separate run of hot wire and return in their separate shields, connected to the ground from the source side. That's what make their directionality important and it's clearly marked.

Power cord CMR looks almost like a regular computer cable with just one small difference – a small box mounted close to IEC connector. What's in this box – no idea. It is stated clearly though that it shouldn't be used for devices that draw more than 100 W – that makes me think this box is some kind of filter. Unfortunately it is not possible to take a look inside.

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  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air (previous it was Prime, tested HERE)
  • Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
  • Cartridges: Air Tight Supreme, tested HERE, Miyajima Laboratory Waza, tested HERE.
  • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III with Re-generator Power Supply; version II tested HERE)
  • Power amplifier: Tenor Audio 175S, tested HERE and Soulution 710
  • Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom version (reviewed HERE)
  • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • Interconnect: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Wireworld Platinum Eclipse
  • Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, tested HERE
  • Power cables AC (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
  • Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • Audio stand Base – under all components
  • Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE)
  • Pro Audio Bono platform under CD