Raising the Bar in Value: A Visit to High-End Turntable Manufacturer Stable 33.33

Raising the Bar in Value: A Visit to High-End Turntable Manufacturer Stable 33.33

André Thériault (l.) of André Theriault Tonearms with Sylvain Pichette of Stable 33.33

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite like company Stable 33.3’s founder and head designer Sylvain Pichette. Or, more specifically—met a mind like his. That may seem a strange thing to say, until you speak with him and realize, as I did when I recently visited him at his new Gatineau, Quebec, workshop, how ingenuous and passionate—one could say obsessive—he is about his audio manufacturing business. He is also intensely curious and not only fascinated about how things work, but how they can be improved upon. It’s in his DNA.

Literally. Sylvain comes from a line of great-uncle inventors on his mother’s side who actually made their living inventing things. Some of those things had worldwide impact, such as the baby bottle with the plastic pouch that collapses so babies don’t swallow air; or his 12-meter-high Aérodium, a vertical wind tunnel designed to simulate the sensation of skydiving.* The franchising rights to the Aérodium were eventually sold to American real-estate tycoon Marvin Kratter for US$ 1.5 million. Like his great uncles, Sylvain is predisposed to think of how to build things or improve on old concepts.

(from l.) Sylvain, André, and PMA co-publisher Olivier Meunier-Plante
Tormach PCNC 440 benchtop mill

A machinist by trade, Sylvain didn’t always have his eyes on a career in audio. His first dream was to get into the movie business, in the field of animatronics or special effects. There was a chance his dream might come true when, on the strength of his win for Canada against 32 other countries in a robotics competition, he was introduced to a movie production company in Burbank, California. Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere because he couldn’t speak English.

Call it destiny, one that allowed Sylvain to pursue another passion (he has a few): turntable building. What turned out to be his career-defining vocation was triggered in the 2000s when he was allowed to bring home a box of Rega turntable parts he’d stumbled on at an audio shop. Among the parts were several turntable motors, three of which worked. He took those and duplicated the other parts—”I’ve never wanted to use other people’s parts”, he told me. “But motors are harder to make.”——and, relying on his wits and his employer’s milling facilities off hours (but using no reference manual), assembled a functioning turntable, a prototype of what would eventually become his 33.2 turntable.

A 33.32 turntable motor above two unfinished 33.2 turntables
Fibre optic laser machine used to imprint our logo on a small “puck”

Over the years, that design, driven by Sylvain’s compulsion to make it the best he can, became increasingly precise, more streamlined, better-sounding and more sleek-looking. What began as a three-motor turntable made of 116 parts, is now a cutting-edge analogue object d’art composed of 32 intricately machined and interconnected parts that flow in synchronous harmony.

The extent of Sylvain’s perfectionist streak and determination to get things right came into focus when Sylvain and our visiting group, which, aside from me, consisted of PMA publisher Michel Plante, his son and PMA co-publisher Olivier Meunier-Plante, and a fourth companion I’ll get to soon—talked shop at his new workshop occupying the entire first floor of a two-floor building the size of a small firehouse. The floor upstairs is where his sound system and listening room are, where he tests equipment or listens for pleasure.

Part of Sylvain’s system in the listening room he built above his workshop
Sylvain also built his subwoofers and horn speakers

Our visit also provided further insights into Sylvain’s personality, including that he is an amateur but very well-versed entomologist. Against the wall abutting the stairs leading up to his listening room are a variety of the most unusual and elaborately-limbed insects I’d ever seen. I also learned that he has no qualms about rifling through road kill remains to collect insects or reassemble the skeleton of a dead owl, both of which his younger self did to his mom’s dismay. It’s all part of Sylvain’s need to understand how things work, and what they’re made of.

An electric guitar Sylvain built himself
Sylvain with some of his bug collection

I’d never seen a workshop as spotless, bright, or meticulously organized as Sylvain’s. The manufacturing equipment looked modern and pristine, the floors were dust-free, tools were well arranged, drawers and cabinets were filled with instruments of high tooling precision, some offering tolerances up to one-thousandth of a hair.

Aside from his turntable business, Sylvain’s company is busy manufacturing parts for other audio companies, as well as turntable accessories it ships in large quantities across the world under its own brand, including weights and record-hole reamers (used to correct the hole’s diameter at the centre of a  record).

André peering at measuring instruments between PMA’s Michel Plante and Sylvain
Sylvain’s collection of measuring instruments is extensive

But it’s his 33.2 turntable, now in Mkll form, that Sylvain is most proud of and passionate about. A monument to his skills and know-how, it is the greatest product he has built in his lifetime. One such ‘table sat in a small open area in the workshop; examining it up close, it looks almost futuristic—all smooth curves, aerodynamic surfaces, architectural beauty, solid substance, and a platter whose rotation is so even and quiet it doesn’t appear to be moving at all. Every time I see and hear a 33.2 turntable—and I’ve seen and heard it several times in various setups—I genuinely can’t believe, considering the price of other top-end turntables, that it retails for CA$ 13,900 (US$ 11,000), without the arm.

33.2 Mkll turntable by Stable 33.33

This particular ‘table had a tonearm, the 12″ André Thériault Black Beauty Mkll (CA$ 11,500, US$ 9750), which brings me to the fourth member of our travelling group and the Black Beauty’s designer, André Thériault, who was also visiting Sylvain’s new digs for the first time.

André is another passionate audio manufacturer with a perfectionist streak and a high analogue intellect, whose fascination with turntable and tonearm design was sparked by his introduction decades ago to two classics in their categories—the original Oracle Delphi turntable and the Well Tempered tonearm.

Bottom of a 33.2 turntable platter, encrusted with its 12 stainless steel weights to ensure rotation stability
The 33.2 platter, made out of black Delrin, a resin material known for its durability, stiffness, and dimensional stability, is 2″ thick with a 11 3/4″ diameter

André has since become so proficient at tonearm design that, along with designing and selling tonearms under his own brand, he designed the tonearms for Kronos Audio’s Sparta and Pro turntables and the one on Nagra’s Reference turntable. But André is not just a specialist in tonearms; he also has an ongoing partnership with Nagra’s R&D team to help oversee the design of its turntables, the Reference included.

André Thériault Black Beauty tonearm

A special unipivot design, the 12″ Black Beauty tonearm is constructed of carbon fibre, natural wood, and finely machined metals. It’s a synergistic fit with the 33.2 Mkll turntable, in both looks and sound.

Together, the 33.2 Mkll turntable and Black Beauty Mkll tonearm offer a fantastic analogue front-end, entirely built in Canada by two lifelong, incredibly talented audiophiles. But don’t take my word for it; look these products up. Listen to them if you can. I hardly think you could do better at anywhere near their combined price. But beware: the price of the turntable is slated to go up significantly this year due to an increase in the cost of raw materials  and the economics involved in selling the turntable to foreign distributors.

Both models will be showing at this year’s Montreal Audiofest, held March 22-24 at Hotel Bonaventure. I hope you can make it.

*Obituary: Jean St-Germain, Quebec’s eccentric inventor of diverse devices – The Globe and Mail

Tel: 1 (819) 775-1838


To learn more about André Thériault tonearms, click here.

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