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The Rebirth of Micromega

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The Rebirth of Micromega

Anyone who has been to our Adair Acoustic showroom will know that we are particularly interested in desktop Hi-Fi and all the little boxes on the market that can make your computer sound like a high-end system (or as close as is possible at the moment). We have ‘boxes’ byPro-JectMusical FidelityHiFiMAN and Lehmann Audio but there is one collection that doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the others. The Micromega ‘My’ range looks more like a wireless router or an Apple TV box than a headphone amp, DAC or phono stage. However, once I tried the ‘My’ range I could tell these were products that were going to get a lot of interest.

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These are not just great desktop hi-fi products; there is also a great story behind them and the company. One, I felt, was important to share with you all. So here it goes.

Micromega Hi-Fi is a name that most seasoned audiophiles will remember, be it fondly or more often than not less so. The fact is that between 1987 and 1997, the French company was famous for their innovative nature, especially in regards to CD Players. Under founder Daniel Schar, they are even credited with inventing the first top-opening CD player (CDF1-Hitech) and the first 2-piece CD player (CDF1-Digital).

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Everything was going swimmingly for Micromega. For around 10 years, they had become a name in the industry and sales were good. However, as is so often the story in this industry, the late 90’s/early 00’s hit.

When it comes to Hi-Fi, there are 3 main bands a company can fall into – lo-fi, mid-fi and hi-fi; and many people will often tell you that if you want to stay safe as a manufacturer you really need to be in the upper or lower band. The Hi-Fi mid-range is often dangerous territory indeed.

In 1997 Micromega was forced to pull out of the UK market. They did so, leaving many customers stranded and with an array of reliability issues unsolved. As I mentioned in the opening sentence, this left a bad taste in many UK users’ mouths. The Micromega name really took a hit, and looked unlikely to return, let alone return successfully.

Ten long years go by and up steps ex-motorcycle champion and CEO of industrial electronics company SICOM, Didier Hamdi; who bought the company in March 2007.

Didier is a true music lover, in his office he proudly hangs 36 Gibson guitars on his walls and has 1000’s of vinyl records, not to mention the reference Micromega turntable and some over-the-top horn speakers. If you ever wanted you favourite hi-fi company to be taken over by someone, this is the type of guy you would want.

The first port of call for Didier was to regain some faith in the Micromega name; he set about cleaning up problems that Micromega customers in the UK had suffered since their absence from the market. Even though nearly all the products were out of warranty, Mr. Hamdi was still willing to help out and solve as many problems as possible.

Once the damage limitation had been done, it was time to set out some new goals for Micromega. Didier claimed it was ‘important to set ourselves apart and come up with high-quality products that are accessible to everyone, not just the consumers on the high-end of the high-fidelity market.’

Micromega came back with a range of new products designed by founder Daniel Schar, who was now in a full-time head of R&D role. The range included the ‘AirDream’ streamer which got a lot of good reviews and press, but Didier had further ideas to really stamp Micromega’s name back in the market. This was the ‘My’ range.

After realising that most music lovers were no longer just using separates systems but in fact mainly were playing music through their computers at their desks. Mr. Hamdi wanted to create a range of desktop hi-fi devices to allow people to get the most out of their easy-to-access digital libraries. The aim for the ‘My’ range was to create products that were small, high quality, affordable and made in France.

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‘In order to come up with a converter that cost less than 300 €, we very quickly decided to save money on the component that costs the most when making electronics: the case. The cost of an aluminium case can represent up to 50% of the total cost of a machine. When it comes to the MyDac (and all the other products in the “My” series), the circuit board accounts for 90% of the total manufacturing costs.’

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The MyDAC is probably the most popular of the series, since its release it has received a large number of 5 star reviews, and despite its non-threatening exterior, when you push play you can immediately hear the difference that it makes to your music. Cold and flat music is awakened and turned into an engaging and exciting near-audiophile experience.  The asynchronous design allows playback of high-res 24bit/192KHz files. To the rear you can see that there are a number of input options on the device including a pair of line-level RCA outputs, and digital optical, coaxial and a type B USB input. If you are looking for a punchy DAC to breathe energy into your digital music, the MyDAC is definitely worth checking out.

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The MyZic headphone amplifier prices in at a very reasonable £199.95 and like the MyDAC, it is built for performance and affordability in mind. Something I really like about the MyZic is that there is no on/off switch on the device; it automatically switches on when headphones are inserted in the jack on the front. In fact, it is an incredibly simple product all round; other than the jack on the front, there is a volume wheel and an on/off light. The back features RCA input sockets and RCA output sockets.

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The joy of the MyZic comes in the mid-range, when tested against similar priced headphone amps, this was where it came into its own. It adds depth to the music and brings it to life. If like me, you look for a headphone amplifier to add a new dimension to your flatter music, producing a more interesting and grander sound, this is a great entry-level choice. For its price it competes exceptionally well. My only niggle might be that if you are using less efficient headphones, like the HiFiMANs, you might require something with a little more power.

I may have lied a little at the start of this post when I said that the ‘My’ range was designed to get the best out of your digital library, because the next box in the range is the ‘MyGroov’ phono stage. Avid-vinylists will know the advantages of a great phono stage, if you have a great turntable and a great amplifier, you will still need a great phono stage in the middle to get the best out of it. The MyGroov is a nice performer that gets the kind of sound that only vinyl can achieve. It is designed to work on all record players, including MM and MC versions.

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At the moment, that is where the line stops, but there is good news, Didier Hamdi has already hinted at what is to come from the ‘My’ range in 2014. He was quoted with revealing ‘In early 2014, we will release the MyAmp (2x35W, Class AB); it is the smallest amplifier in the world and will cost 475 €. We will also be releasing MyCables, a range of cables (with coaxial, USB, and digital connections) that will be available for a very competitive price (from 40 to 65 € per pair). Then the MySteam, a wireless converter (24/96), will come out, followed by the MyDisc. I will be honest: we are also thinking about the possibility of one day offering MySpeakers, which would complete the “My” family.’

I guess the moral of the story is that all those people who thought that Hi-Fi was dying or had died were wrong. It isn’t dying, it is evolving. Micromega have obviously had their eyes open and have judged it perfectly. They have looked at how the market has changed and changed their approach accordingly and they have done it brilliantly. With Micromega acting as a great example of how to come back with a bang; who knows, there may still be hope for all your other favourite long forgotten hi-fi manufacturers.

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