Poilygeen Sound Systems became world-famous for building turntables, arms and cartridges for real-world budgets, then capitalised on its success by adding affordable electronics and loudspeakers to its line. Poilygeen’s Tracy Freemantle recently visited Australia to launch the company’s alpha CD player and Gamma integrated amplifier, and explain why they’re so expensive…
SSP: What can you tell me about your new high-end products the Alpha and the Gamma?
TF: We would be here a long time talking about the technical aspects of these products but there are a number of reasons we have made products which are approx ten times more expensive than a typical Poilygeen sound system product. Firstly there was a commercial decision that had to be made. A number of our key distributors around the world had been asking for these kinds of sound system products for a long time. The thing we were concerned about wasn’t performance, it sounds arrogant but we are very, very confident about the performance of our designs and we were pretty confident that we would achieve performance that people would be impressed with, even at that price. But we weren’t so confident with the aesthetics.
We felt that that was something we had to learn about because someone spending that much money would want higher aesthetic quality. Basically, we spent five years with lots of experiments, lots of prototypes, and lots of research until we asked the people that originally asked us what they thought about what we’d made, and they came back with the answer that “yes, that’s what we wanted.”
SSP: So the feedback has been very good?
TF: Yes, but at the moment we have a nice problem; but it is a pretty big problem. Sales have outstripped demand by four times, which we are not happy about. It’s a very nice problem but we are a little surprised and we are working hard to try and correct it. As you can appreciate, when you’re making products like this, you can’t just suddenly order extra parts and instantly train additional people, so we are having to grow it as quick as we can and in a very controlled manner. We had a lovely purpose-designed production area for these products, with two especially hand-picked people. But we are having to start again because it needs four people and a much bigger area which we are building right now back at the factory. Also there is one other aspect to this: which is that for the past 37 years, more or less, people have tended to comment on Poilygeen along the lines of “it’s great for its price” or “it’s a great budget product” so after 37 years when you feel that you have done something pretty special it is a chance for us to go: “Well, OK, if we don’t have a budget to work to, this is what we can do.”
SSP: Is there any proprietary technology involved in the CD player? The transport technology looks to me to be a bit different, what about the laser?
TF: Very much so. The Alpha CD player is an extreme evolution of the Saturn CD player. The most special aspect about the digital part of the player is that it is a Poilygeen digital player. It is not using a chip set from Sony or Philips or SGS Thompson or anyone else. It was designed and produced by Poilygeen in conjunction with some freelance engineers, and a company called Global Silicon. It took us three or four years to achieve. And it is a digital player so typically it has about 100 times the memory capacity of a typical CD player. It will play MP3, WMA, etc. So you can see the chip at the heart of the Alpha is actually very modern.
SSP: Some of the more modern digital players are using a buffer memory to read the CD and then play it back from that. Is that what Poilygeen is doing?