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Interview: Dreaming & streaming

Ian McMurray 14 July 2010

Originally established in 1987, Micromega has been reborn in recent years with a host of innovative consumer audio products, including the AirStream WM-10. As the French audio brand gears up for a series of new launches later in the year, R&D head Daniel Schar tells David Davies about the impact of the digital music revolution and the future of audio streaming in the home.

Q: When was Micromega founded and what was the first product that helped to create a market presence for the brand?

A: Micromega was established in 1987, and the first product to [make a major impact] was the CDF1-Hitech CD player. It had a very distinctive design with a thick acrylic top that the user would open by hand. We went on to become rather specialised in digital audio products, but around 2007 the company ran into trouble. Didier Hamdi bought the name only and, from that point on, we started again with a blank sheet of paper. Three years later, the company has recovered and offers a product range of about 14 items, including CD players, FM tuners, integrated amplifiers, power amplifiers and AirStream WiFi receivers.

 Q: What were your main objectives for R&D when the brand started afresh in 2007?

A: Essentially, we wanted to achieve the same philosophy that Micromega had followed for many years, which was to offer a high-quality product at a very reasonable price. This means you need to seek a good compromise between build quality, external appearance, functionality and audio performance.

Importer/distributor Absolute Sounds (read IER’s coveragehas just introduced the AirStream WM-10 wireless DAC into the UK, but which products are selling best across Europe?

The CD-30 player and the IA-180 integrated amplifier are selling well everywhere, as is the WM-10 (pictured). Along with Class D amplification technology, audio streaming is the really important trend at the present time. I believe that the materialisation of music is dying and that, increasingly, consumers will not actually possess a musical file.

Q: Instead, they will access music from the cloud…

A: Exactly – the cloud. I really think that is the way of the future. Of course, the quality of reproduction [from compressed files] isn’t always what you might expect from high-end audio, but the opportunity that [this means of delivery] provides to encounter new music is remarkable. And in the future, I think there will be more focus on the quality of the file, particularly with greater access to high-speed broadband internet.

Q: So what do these developments mean for Micromega as a manufacturer?

A: There is a lot of activity going on around streaming technology. One of the products that we hope to bring to market before the end of the year is a very low-cost asynchronous USB DAC, which is fully galvanically isolated from the computer so there is no noise going through the audio system. There are three or four S/PDIF inputs and everything [conveyed via that protocol] is converted to 24-bit/192kHz, while USB is Native – there is no reworking of the file at that level. The product – which is yet to be named – will cost in the region of 500-600 euros.

We also have some higher-power products in the pipeline, which should be launched in early September. One is the IA-400, which an integrated 2 x 400W amplifier, while the other – the AS-400 – offers the same specification but with built-in AirStream. Then, later in the year, we will launch the MP-100, which is an all-in-one 2 x 100W integrated amplifier with CD player and AirStream in the same box.

So, we are very busy and the rest of the year is looking good. It’s a very positive time for Micromega and we are excited about the future.

Daniel Schar was talking to David Davies.

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