"A man, a passion, a dream"
Bernard Salabert was a man with a passion and also a perfectionist driven by a dream: he wanted to create the best loudspeakers ever! In 1996 he did just that and the quality of his work earned him immediate recognition (DIAPASON MAGAZINE). Bernard was an audiophile and music lover who devoted every aspect of his personality to fulfilling his ideal.
His creativity, critical eye, hard work and ground breaking research enabled him to develop loudspeakers capable of producing the most exceptional musical performances. His skills, determination and convictions will all leave a lasting impression upon the history of Hi-Fi. He was the first person to understand and use the latest fundamental discoveries (MDI) in the design of his products. This enabled him to push this type of loudspeaker beyond levels that had never before been reached.
The death of Bernard deprives his fellow professionals, colleagues and clients of his presence and talent. The new team, working closely along the same lines and with identical requirements would like to pay tribute to his memory by perpetuating his work... With the same thoroughness and in strict accordance with his ideas. The team will apply the same know-how and continue to manufacture the finest quality that makes PHY-HP loudspeakers the best in the world!
Over the last 16 years, PHY-HP has become a true reference, much to the delight of many audiophiles and music lovers, including ourselves.
Not many people are fortunate enough to recognize the thing they’re passionate about; and to then organize their life such that it allows them to live this very thing. Having met Bernard Salabert for an industry feature http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/phy/phy.html I published on my 6moons.com website, I’m convinced that he was and did. But such fortune doesn’t guarantee success and glory in the world. As many artists know, it can mean a very modest existence indeed. My visit involved a very long drive from Panjas in the West of France. I distinctly remember Bernard’s minor embarrassment for not being able to take us out for even a small meal. He lived from small order to small order and at the time only had four boutique-size speaker makers around the globe who built with his drivers. He clearly lived very modestly and had little cash. He did give me one of his brass tweeter housings as a memento though. Had I smoked –- he did and some very dark hand-rolled stuff at that –- it would have made for a terrific ashtray. I often look at it remembering the man.
Bernard struck me as a wild unruly uncompromising character who lived on the fringes and was unafraid to speak his mind (which could be blithely critical of the status quo of today’s speaker design craft or any other subject for that matter). He seemed intensely self-reliant, deeply curious and thoroughly impractical in his standards. His CD player at the time was a basic Pioneer-level affair, which he’d stripped down to the bare bones and mounted inside a cigar-type wooden box. He lived deep in the countryside and had built not only his own anechoic chamber but a listening room whose ceiling contained numerous tons of sand to be exceptionally inert and quiet.
In some ways he seemed a throwback who probably lived at the wrong time. Certainly his obsession with paper-cone widebanders dated him. Yet he probably knew more about the Western Electric/Altec Lansing-based art of driver design than most aficionados who survive him. Had he enjoyed greater renown, he could have been something of a ‘national treasure’.
He knew full well that the protracted hand labour, silver voice coils and costly bronze baskets priced him beyond much of the competition. This seriously limited his market potential. He further admitted that his drivers wouldn’t properly work in common enclosures. To fully blossom they required very different cabinetry that might seem old-fashioned in size and furniture appeal but was openly embraced and championed by his three core commercial users of Ocellia, Musical Affairs and Auditorium 23.
He had plans and designs for a more cost-effective line of drivers. Instead of costly Alnico magnets they’d use ordinary ferrite motors. Except he had discovered a way to make those ferrite cores perform far from ordinary. He simply lacked the funding to develop those drive units for production. He thus never managed to become a driver supplier on a scale large enough that could have secured him a more stable existence and sufficient resources to translate more of his ideas into manifest creations.
I still remember his sound demo. He had installed two of his full-range drivers plus matching tweeters in the concrete wall of his listening room as a somewhat extreme example of an infinite baffle. This room was very sizable and we sat at quite a distance on risers like in a movie theatre. Yet bass reach and power were such as to telegraph through the soles of my feet. It seemed utterly implausible, impossible and in defiance of everyday Physics. Yet there it was. Undeniable.
And that’s a good word. Meeting Bernard Salabert had that same quality of the undeniable. He clearly didn’t play the game (though he knew full well what the game was). He didn’t compromise on what he believed was important even if it meant personal hardships and no food on the table. He probably was difficult to get along with if one hung around long enough. Yet he was a real character and consummate artist – inconvenient, challenging, crusty, inspiring and hard to forget.
I’m happy to know that his affairs are in good hands for his legacy to continue. If a wildly expensive modern widebander could make the cover of Stereophile and be crowned Speaker of the Year, there’s sufficient appreciation and relevance for this breed to allow the reborn PHY-HP some room to grow. On that note it’s time to raise a glass of throat-burning home-brewed pastis and remember the departed with that growing warmth in the belly. Tchin-Tchin, Bernard!
I visited the PHY-HP Frangouille, southern France few years before becoming the distributor of PHY-HP in Portugal. I met Bernard Salabert, their products and their factory with magnificent conditions. Bernard has undoubtedly a strong personality and knew what his looking for. He was much ahead in time, he advocate the most natural sound possible and the Open Baffle speakers as the ones that do not show colorations that are allied to the speakers boxes and Horn Speakers. All his products are special and unique and express what Bernard thought about audio and what it should be, his full range speakers are the most magnificent in the world of high quality audio. Who has ever heard the PHY-HP speakers never stayed indifferent. Bernard left us one of the most natural and human way to hear music!
Luis Miguel Ambrósio
Mr Salabert give back to audio , what otherwise ,could lost for ever ...he is my hero, every single day, i am listening phy drivers, i wish i could say to him a big..big THANK YOU !!!
Your speakers made it possible to enjoy listening to music and feel like it is alive. We are grateful to you.
Tribute on the WEB ...
A couple of days ago I finished building a cd-transport implementing Tone Wood (ebony) an audio idea highly respected by Bernard.
The transport was for a friend and he listened with tears in his eyes to the music coming from it.
A greater compliment is not possible and Bernard has the credits.
R.I.P Bernard I wil miss your inspiring thoughts !!
Erik van Voorst
Rest in Peace Bernard
Thank you Bernard for making such wonderful drive units. A legacy that many people can enjoy all over the world. I really enjoyed our times together, in particular our last visit in August 2010 where we drank Pastis, had lunch and spent the afternoon together along with Jan and my girls, who you always made a fuss of. I will always have fond memories of our visits to you and I will always think of you as my friend.
Rest in Peace Bernard, from your friend in England Graham Tricker.
Markus Sauer said,
I’ll add my condolences to Mike’s.
I ran an open baffle speaker with PHY-HP drivers for some years until I moved and they didn’t work in the new living room anymore. Fond memories.
I had the good fortune to visit Bernard in Bédarieux, in 1998 IIRC, and of talking to him and listening to his system there. He was, as they say, a character.
I remember being served some white wine. It turned out Bernard had been given a number of bottles for helping out a friend with the vintage in her vineyard. That wine was later classsed as the second best white vine in France of that vintage.
So, a man of quite modest means could enjoy a really rather nice wine, and serve it to his guests.
Sad, sad news.
His legacy lives on in my living room.
Vale Mr Salabert.