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Building a Hi-Fi system: interview with Francis, a loyal customer

Platine vinyle VPI Prime Signature

Francis is one of’s most loyal customers. He is passionate about music and the Hi-Fi world, and was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about how he built up his Hi-Fi system and record collection.  

– Where does your interest in analogue and Hi-Fi come from?

I’ve loved classical music ever since I was a little kid. My love for music grew during the 1970s and ‘80s, particularly when I was introduced to baroque music by the opera Atys by Jean-Baptiste Lully, conducted by William Christie.  

– What were your first pieces of Hi-Fi equipment? How has your system changed and developed over the years?

A long time ago, I used to buy the early CD players released by brands like Sony and Denon. At the time, they were practically the only models available on the Hi-Fi market. Since then, I’ve been able to test out various products by different Hi-Fi brands: several VPI turntables, Ortofon, Dynavector and Transfiguration phono cartridges, excellent Sutherland and Audio Research phono preamps, a Lehmann Audio headphone amp, Grado and Focal headphones, to name a few.  

– What do you look for when choosing Hi-Fi equipment?

Well, naturally I prioritise the quality of the sound produced by the different players and speakers. On top of that, the reliability and user-friendliness of the equipment is also important to me. These are the three main qualities I look for when choosing my Hi-Fi equipment.  

– What does your current Hi-Fi system look like?

I recently replaced my VPI Classic 3 turntable with VPI’s new turntable, the Prime Signature with a 3D tonearm. I’ve fitted a Transfiguration Proteus MC cartridge onto the tonearm, which replaced my old Ortofon Hi-Fi cartridge.   Platine vinyle VPI Prime Signature   The rest of my Hi-Fi system is made up of various different Audio Research products. So I have an Audio Research Reference Phono 3 phono preamp and an Audio Research Reference 6 preamplifier. My amplifier is a Reference 75SE, also by Audio Research. Préampli phono Audio Research Reference Phono 3 On top of all that, I have an Esoteric CD player and a Naim Audio network player. Lastly, I use Transparent cables. For headphone listening, I have a pair of Focal Utopia headphones and a Heada headphone amplifier by Aurorasound.   Amplificateur casque Aurorasound Heada  

– Could you tell us a bit about the sound quality you get with this setup?

Everything sounds good to me. Overall, it has a lot of musicality while also being very realistic and remarkably precise.  

– Do you have any plans to upgrade your system? If yes, what changes would you make?

Well, it’s hard to say at the moment. Only time will tell…  

– What is your favourite genre of music?

At the moment I’m more interested in jazz than classical. This new-found passion for jazz has actually come from my growing interest in vinyl.  

– How many records do you think you have in your collection now?

I think I must have over 5000 records in my collection now, and probably more CDs. I’m starting to run out of shelf space for them, which is stopping me from buying even more!  

– What was the first ever record you ever bought?

My very first vinyl was a Beethoven symphony recorded by Herbert Von Karajan on Deutsche Grammophon, a German classical music label.  

– How do you keep your records in good condition?

Every now and then I wash them with my VPI HW-17 record cleaning machine. Otherwise, I do the more regular cleaning with the Pure Vinyl Mist cleaning solution. I always keep a few bottles of this product in the cupboard!   Produit de nettoyage Pure Vinyl Mist

– Is there a particular record in your collection that means a lot to you? Why is it so important?

This is a difficult question… I would have to say that my favourite records – and CDs for that matter – are my Bill Evans records!  

– Are there any records you would like to own but haven’t been able to find yet?

There is actually one record, or rather a box set, that I’m looking for at the moment. It’s the Mosaic box set of The Nat King Cole Trio, an American jazz trio. It contains a total of 27 LPs. They only sell one or two copies of it a year in the whole world! The Complete Capitol Recordings of The Nate King Cole Trio  

– We have a monthly column on our website where we recommend our favourite records. If you had to recommend two of your records, which ones would you choose?

Well, that would have to be Bill Evans again! I can’t wait for Record Store Day to roll around again so I can find more of his records! They’re quite hard to find outside of the US and Australia…  

– Thank you Francis =)