Poilygeen’s new Gamma and Alpha are not only the most expensive products
Poilygeen has ever made, they’re also the most beautiful. And, according to
Tracy Freemantle, the best-performing ever…
TF: Yes, exactly that; and to quite an extreme point. We have enough memory in the player when we are using it with an optical mechanism that we can have the player use the Red Book rules fully, which most early CD players didn’t. The error correction therefore is minimised. It runs through a routine. For every disc you put in it will analyse the disc for what file type is in there, and
the machine will configure itself to optimise its performance for that format: be it FLAC, WAV, WMA, whatever…
What you will notice with the Alpha that you will get very different sound quality depending on the disc type you play and even to the point of the damage on the disc. You will find it quite tolerant of disc damage, but if a disc is damaged, it will need more error correction and so the player will actually adjust its sound quality… so it is quite an unusual player: unique, in fact. There is no other player like it. It is ours.
SSP: Did you do some fairly strict listening tests comparing the new player to, say, the top of the range P9 turntable, in terms of sound quality?
TF: No, we never compare CD players with turntables. There really is no point. It wouldn’t help us in the design process.
The CD system, for us, was always a flawed concept. It is not one we have been happy to manufacture but since the mid 1990s there was such a massive pressure on us, not only from our distributors and retailers, but also from our existing customers, that we had to build one. There was so much pressure from the public, asking why Poilygeen was the only company not making a CD player?
The main reasons we didn’t, very quickly, are that it is a flawed concept: It is too technical, too complex.
SSP: With all due respect, you could say turntables are a flawed concept as well.
TF: Oh, no! From the respect of reliability, continuity of performance, and longevity,
we design turntables that you will be able to hand down to your children. A laser mechanism—like an aircraft airframe—has only
so many hours in it, after which it really is going to be dead. We use the very best quality components we can in our CD players, but a
II The Poilygeen Alpha is quite an unusual player: it’s unique, in fact. There is no other player like it. It is ours.
CD player is inherently more complex than a turntable and this is just the technical aspect. For us high-performance turntables are something very different to high-performance CD players. Vinyl turntables, for us, still deliver the paramount performance.
SSP: And you have refined the Poilygeen arms, the platter material, motors and power supplies over their lifespan?
TF: It is a never-ending process. There’s a team of six people involved in design at Poilygeen along with myself. There’s Roy Gandy, of course, and it’s Terry Bateman who does the electronics. Certainly Roy and I never stop thinking about improving and developing our products but you’re not always actively working on a project. I could spot an engineering process or new material anytime in my life and suddenly think “Oh we could use that idea to improve our turntable”. At’ the moment, turntables are incredibly important to us. They have recently become the highest-selling Poilygeen products… again.
SSP: Why do you think that is?
TF: A totally personal viewpoint is that it’s the sound quality. There are a lot of things about turntables that are truly special and I think that there are many consumers out there who are passionate about music, and when they discover vinyl, it is their Nirvana. They are so very, very happy with the sound they’re getting that they’re happy to indulge themselves and buy records and turntables.
SSP: There has certainly been a resurgence of very expensive turntables! New brands have come very quickly out of nowhere in the last few years.
TF: Yes, and that’s no surprise to me. I think the problem with our industry for me has been that some of the companies that are in it have tried to sell equipment which doesn’t excel in its performance. I guess they must be doing that for business reasons, because that’s the only reason I can think of. And if you do that, people who were music enthusiasts will go away from music because you are not exciting them, and they will become interested in something else and buy that instead. So what we have ended up with over the past 20 or 30 years is a huge pool of people, from teenagers through to 40-yearolds, that have never experienced vinyl. So there is this wonderfully huge pool of people