Platine Verdier



February 2018

Platine Verdier - since 1979 and still going strong.
The story of a resurrection

It cannot have escaped anyone's attention that awareness of analogue music reproduction has been constantly growing these last few years. If you have been visiting hi-fi shows recently, in Germany and elsewhere, you will have seen a bewildering spectrum of record players from a variety of different brands, chrome-plated high tech concepts alongside refurbished classics from EMT, Thorens and Garrard.

We would like to take a moment to reflect on this developement. We are not opposed to progress or to digital music reproduction as such. Still we ask you to spend a couple of minutes reflecting the recent past. Digital technology has made triumphal advance, not just in audio. Our approach to data carriers has changed fundamentally over the last years. In the case of music, we are enjoying the new possibilities offered by downloads, especially those provided as high resolution files, which surpass the limitations of the CD format - not to talk about MP3.

For those of us who have undogmatically accepted this new reality, digital or analogue reproduction are no longer mutually exclusive. Peaceful coexistence of both technologies in one's home is possible and meanwhile usual. The ones who have kept and extended their vinyl collection enjoy the benefits - not least because every record is a part of their unique biography, often bought at a young age and with tight means, an artefact of their time, often with an astonishing artistic quality of the record covers and giving a totally different impression of value compared to a CD or an immaterial download file.

Given this background, it is not so surprising that the dinosaur of analogue music reproduction are enjoying astonishing renaissance. The turntable, declared dead long ago, is as alive as ever and indispensable for music lovers worldwide and a steady flow of “new“ constructions enter the market. And although the turntable has been re-invented over and over, the black disc still rotates around a central axis. The one and only master plan for the design of an extraordinary turntable does not seem to exist, otherwise it could be summed up in formulas and provided on Wikipedia for general usage. There must be something else that makes the huge difference between the individual characteristics and possibilities of a record player; precise manufacturing and fancy design alone are by no means not all that is required.

In Germany and France, La Platine has achieved legendary status and has proved to be a lasting and exceptional achievement. First presented in France in 1979, it was an essential element in the legendary demonstrations at La Maison de L'Audiophile. In the very early days J.C.Verdier published the construction plans in the magazine ”L’AUDIOPHILE“, but the project turned out to be too demanding for the DIYers, especially in getting the needed materials

One of the early Platines which found its way to Germany were personally delivered by Jean Constant Verdier for review to the premises of HiFi Exklusiv in Munich where Klaus Renner conducted an interview with him, praised the qualities of this unusual record player and purchased the test model. The article he wrote in December 1980 was entitled “Heavyweight from France“.

Some years later, during his time as editor and author of the German cult publication DAS OHR (unforgotten for many of us), “La Verdier“ accompanied his work as an indespensible tool. His article ended up with the words “Platine Verdier, mon amour“. Years later, another writer of this magazine compared the turntable concept with the ingenious constructions of Leonardo da Vinci.

For European readers it is hardly necessary to go into further details concerning this classic turntable. Well,  just a few technical features: the almost 16 kg heavy platter hovers on a magnetic field which is generated by two repelling magnets. The mechanical counterpart is the solid plinth of cast Granito embedding the axle as well as 3 adjustable air spring feet. As principle for driving the platter, J.C.Verdier chose a string  drive. The motor is placed in a seperate housing and thereby isolated from the turntable, the tonearm is mounted on a board made of aluminium. Because the plinth has to be guided only laterally, practically no friction occurs in the bearing.

When the first CD players were introduced in 1982, Jean Constant Verdier decided to stop the production of the turntable that he had been offering to the French market exclusively so far. The basis for the Platine's popularity had been laid by its description in some very early issues of the French underground magazine L'Audiophile. In the light of the jubilant reception accorded to the first CD players and their ease of use, turntables appeared to be redundant.

Around this time, Auditorium 23 started a mutually beneficial cooperation with L'Audiophile and distributed their DIY-designs in Germany. For our demonstrations of DIY-concepts like Kaneda, Classe A 20 Watt, Le Monstre and L'Audiophile 300B, we used loudspeakers like the Petite L'Audiophile, Triangle TQWT and Voice of the Theatre as well as record players like the Rega Planar 3, Roksan Xerxes, Manticore Mantra or Thorens TD 124 and 127 – due to the absence of La Verdier. At one stage, we did a special plinth for a Roksan Xerxes to be able to demonstrate it with an SME 3012 and Denon 103, our reference at the time. But we never lost sight of a goal we had set for ourselves - re-introducing the Verdier.

So we pestered our friends and managed to drum up a total of five binding orders. We travelled to Paris to meet Jean Constant Verdier on the premises of La Maison de L'Audiophile and hoped to convince him. When he accepted our order after a long discussion, having overcome his initial reservations, we could hardly believe our luck. Neither he nor we could know that this unique conversation would lead to a friendship and close cooperation that has lasted for so many years now.

Some weeks later we drove to Paris again to pick up OUR Platines. The Granito (also known as Terrazzo) plinths that J.C. Verdier utilised at the time suffered from an uneven mass allocation; another disadvantage
was, that little stones particles could break out at the edges of the plinth. To avoid discussions about which plinth design was considered to be the most beautiful, we assigned numbers to the different  Platines and let our friends pick numbers out of a hat. One of them has kept his numbered 1 sheet of paper to this day.

From that day on “La Platine“  again was available and we could demonstrate the L'Audiophile concepts the way we had experienced them in Paris. Inevitably, this led to additional interest in and demand for the Platine Verdier. The little blemishes of the Granito plinth didn't bother us, but they did bother some of our clients, so we started looking for a solution to avoid them.

The new material needed to have the same functional advantages as the original plinth. Wood, which would have been the most aesthetically pleasing material, did not fulfill that requirement. Eventually we found a
small company specialized in  the production of polymer concrete, a material that can be combined with granulate, sand, resin and curing agents and moulded in the required shape. The process also allowed us to incorporate the opening for the main bearing, air chambers for the air spring feet, bushings for adjustment screws and the tone arm mounting. It took us quite a while to come up with the optimal size and shape in relation to the weight and available air springs. When we had a mould built for us, we had to keep in mind that the polymer material will generate some reaction heat during setting and will shrink a little while in this process. So the mould had to be a bit larger than the final plinth and a stone mason had to grind the plinth to exact measure (to extremely low tolerances). Quite a lengthy and costly process. Having tested the prototype and finding out that it lived up our hopes, we took it to Jean Constant Verdier, who had been kept informed about the project at all times and asked for his blessing to this alternative plinth. He agreed unreservedly with us. From then on we could offer the Platine Verdier with our plinth. All Platines we sold until then were equipped with this new plinth, at their owners' request. None of them has ever asked to return to the old concept.

The photo shows that we also changed the standardly provided aluminium armboard for a one made of bronze, resting on a block of wood.

Jean Constant Verdier was exposed to similar market demands of course. He refused to continue the production of  the very difficult to manufacture  Granito plinth without too many regrets and introduced MDF plinths which could be finished in fashionable high gloss lacquer. 

But when the Platine Verdier with our polymer concrete plinth was placed on the front page of the German magazine 'Audiophile' (1/2001), the result was a world-wide demand for this model which now was called 'Vintage' and which found buyers even in the Far East.
Our material cannot be painted as granulate and resin have very different properties. But for us, the functional advantages of the Polymer, especially the very high damping (as proven by studies at the Darmstadt and Magdeburg universities), outweigh the aesthetic compromise. Polymer concrete was also used in a recommended High-End loudspeaker of the 80s : the Goldmund Dialog Logos and later in the SL 700 Celestion Cliffstone - not the worst company to be in.

At one time, Eliahu Inbal, the renowned conductor, wanted to hear the first digital recordings he did with Denon on a Voice of the Theatre speaker system. Let‘s recall, we are  in the 1980s and A23 was the only spot in Germany able to demonstrate with high efficient history loudspeakers and 3 watts tube amplifiers. Since we had the same recording onVinyl, both conducted by Mr. Inbal, we were  given the possibilty for a direct comparison by just switching from analog to digital and reverse. After listening he asked: “Can you explain to me the reasons why the CD conveys so much less emotional, atmospheric and natural impact?“ He was impressed enough by this demonstration to approach the Managing Director of Denon Germany at the following Frankfurt High End Show, asking him not to stop the production of our then reference cartridge the DL 103, as was rumoured at the time. The DL 103 is still in production today. It seems that we managed to help the many friends this cartridge still has all over the world.

The success story of “La Verdier“ is written by its happy users. Since 1979 almost unchanged, the French Lady is still an object of desire for many music lovers. Frequently copied by competitors, always “embellished“, she can still be sure of the loyalty of her friends and owners. The Verdier is the very basis on which their systems are built, the antithesis to the flavour-of-the-month mentality. It is rare to find a Platine on the second hand market, and if one is offered, the owner will often sell at almost the price he bought it for or even more. Almost unchanged in technical details from the beginning this record player sovereignly still competes with present days competitors.

The appreciation of extraordinary products is also reflected in verbal references. The phrase “as good as ...“ or “better than ...“of competitors when promoting the excellence of their own products implies that there are references. Here, “La Platine Verdier“ as well as “La Nouvelle“ from A23 (which received the “DIAPASON d'Or“ Award by the French magazine “DIAPASON“ in 2002) obviously managed it to remain a benchmark for quality and musical performance to this day. In an environment of rapidly changing markets La Platine remained the solid rock in the audio systems of the majority of their owners. The story continues, now in the USA - almost 40 years after the first performance in France.  

Looking back to 1979 we read headlines like these:

Ayatollah Khomeini takes over the power in Iran.
Idi Amin goes into exile.
Coppola's »Apocalypse Now« runs in theaters.
Rudi Dutschke dies in the age of 39 years.
Mother Teresa receives the Nobel Peace Prize.
Volker Schlöndorff filmed »The Tin Drum«.
First publication about Platine Verdier in France.

Some of today's fans were still kids.

As for us, we can’t deny a certain pride and contentment that A23 was able not only to have convinced Jean Constant in the 1980s to manufacture this great and timeless turntable anew, but also about the fact that we helped to turn this record player into a legend. And we are happy about the fact that the friendly relationship to the family Verdier further persists with his wife Michelle and his son Eric after the all too early death of Jean Constant in 2014.  

Here you find PDF-files of the mentioned articles

Hifi ExklusivDAS OHR Nr. 4                       DAS OHR Nr. 29