On the one hand I like the English very much, and on the other hand I don’t think that I should ever feel at home in England, as I do for instance in France. Perhaps I admire the English more in some ways but find the French more congenial. I should always, I should think, be aware of a certain sense of confinement in England, and repression. T.S. Eliot
Jean Claude Reynaud and the late Jean Marie Reynaud.
JM Reynaud speakers are the most congenial, least confined, least repressed speakers I know of. They pursue the natural warmth, body, and immediacy that give many listeners their chief emotional charge from music. There is also, especially with the latest generation of Reynaud Jubilees, greater transparency and a sense of spatial magic. The new Blisses, Euterpes, Cantabiles, and Abscissas are especially striking in this regard. Listening to them, I can’t help but feel that many other designers are afraid of the real sounds of instruments!
My zig-zag to Reynaud began with Kefs, proceeded to Meridian M-2 actives, Linn Saras and DMS Isobariks, B&W Matrix speakers, Spendors (BC1’s and 1/2’s), and on to Harbeths. The arrival at Reynaud was both satisfying and definitive. No speaker I have heard does as well at getting the elemental emotional feel of a live musical performance into our living room, which is their designer’s express goal. In contrast to the vivid kind of clarity that distinguishes some of the most popular contemporary ‘for a clear day you can hear forever’ speakers, Reynauds offer a natural but also spirited and energetic version of transparency, resulting in a physical immediacy that can take your breath away. To my ears, had the Spendor BC-1 evolved in a straight line rather than thinning out its heritage into the Classic line, it would have turned into a Reynaud.
JEAN MARIE REYNAUD LOUDSPEAKERS
Again, for more detail and a look at the full JMR line, go to the manufacturer’s website, http://www.jm-reynaud.com. All JMR equipment is available through Amherst Audio. Amherst Audio is the US sales agent for JMR as well as a retail dealer. A list of U.S. dealers appears at the end of the JM Reynaud section.
NEW JUBILEE EDITIONS
It really is about time to talk about the transformation moving through the JMR line. Jean Claude’s vision of what musically truthful domestic loudspeakers ought to sound like began appearing in the last edition of the Offrande Supreme V2’s, but with the new Abscissa Jubilee and its siblings, this vision has become more explicit — and impressive.
The new Jubilee models — Blissses, Euterpes, Cantabiles, Abscissas, and Orféos — are both continuous with and a departure from the Reynauds you know. The continuity has to do with expressiveness, emotion, presence: what has always distinguished Reynauds from the English sound in particular, which is where many Reynaud listeners gravitate from.
The Jubilee Reynauds’ departure and difference from the Reynauds most of us are familiar with has to do primarily with greater definition and articulateness. It is significant enough, especially when you get up the line to the Abscissas, which are the first Jubilee Reynauds I heard, to let us hear for the first time that the expressiveness of the speakers most heavily influenced by Jean Marie took a subtly warm and romantic view of reality, something that early Reynaud fan Bruce Kennett characterized as something we could “just fall into.”
It is the contrast with the new, as it is so often is in audio, that lets us hear this classic Reynaud voice more objectively, to separate the warmth from the expressiveness. Even the consummate Offrande Supreme V2, meaning the consummation of the ‘old’ sound, confronted with the new Abscissa Jubilee, for example, seems to change its colors. Its ‘natural warmth’ that had evolved steadily from the original Offrandes of an audio generation ago to something that still turns heads with its eloquence, after a week or so here came to sound different, less truthful, incomplete. Once I heard the new Abscissas, there was no denying that the sound I’d loved and had come to believe was ‘the truth,’ was not quite that. As I listen now to the new Blisses, Euterpes and Cantabiles and remember the sound of their predecessors, I hear the same thing, if a bit less dramatically. They are truer sounding speakers.
The story goes that Jean Marie set out to reproduce the sound of old, especially stringed instruments performed in his living room, though to be fair toward the end of his life, perhaps partly due to the presence of his son alongside him in the lab, his speakers were doing a good deal more than that. It strikes me that his son, Jean Claude, seeks to reproduce the sound of all instruments exactly as they sound and feel (ah, there’s the father), wherever they are playing. He has the ears, mind, and soul of a music lover (a lover of all kinds of music) who has lived in a recording studio; who has mastered the science & art of capturing the (absolute sound of?) the clarinet, the trumpet, the guitar, the viol, the piano, and even the harpsichord. Their true, natural, native sound. I now believe that Jean Marie’s Reynauds appealed to us with the beauty of their overall presentation — instruments were suspended in an appealing atmosphere; whereas Jean Claude’s appeal to us with the distinct and compelling beauties of individual instruments. The familiar JMR atmosphere has been whisked away. Listening to the new Jubilee Reynauds, we are instead most aware of many voices. Some warm, some brisk, some brilliant. That is what I have lately been calling clarity, but it’s more than that. But it will have to do for now.
I don’t pretend that lovers of the best exemplars of the old JMR sound will come around quickly. Customers keep asking me, “But how do they compare with Trentes?” Answer: they don’t. Anymore than the Spendor BC1 compares with the SP 1/2, though they both sound like Spendors. (And the new Reynauds still sound like Reynauds.) The Trentes and BC1’s were lovely sounding creatures which get better the longer it’s been since we last heard them! One of my long-time customers clings to his Offrandes because he wants exactly what they do and do extremely well. They make him comfortable. And another with both Offrandes and Abscissa Jubilees, both of which he likes, can’t bring himself to surrender the Offies. “They are special, he says.” Truth is, the Offrande Supreme V2‘s were a marriage of the father and the son, which theoretically sounds ideal, I agree. But I finally let my Offrandes go because they kept making me crave my new Abscissa Jubilees. I kept not hearing what Jean Claude’s new speakers do: clarify, delineate and complete the picture.
Below are subjective descriptions of my favorite Reynauds. Updates to follow as I spend more time with the new Jubilees.
LUCIA, which means ‘the light’ in Italian, is a compact 2-way bookshelf loudspeaker system with harmonious proportions. Designed with the same rigor as the most advanced models in our range, it concentrates all the know-how of the JMR brand. To remain faithful to our tradition, we wanted to develop a small and extremely musical loudspeaker that is also notably affordable and that offers realistic tonality and a very good spectral balance. We have optimized its performance so that it can be used placed on a shelf or even on a desk… from JMR website
I have yet too hear the Lucias but they look very promising for the kinds of installations often cited but long ignored by most speaker companies…bookshelves! $1250
Well guess who’s back and better than ever? I would not have guessed this from talking with Jean Claude during the early/mid part of 2017, but folks, in the person of the new Folia Jubilee, the Twin and Bliss are back in new clothing (and with an advanced design) and sounding better than ever. The Folias are not quite as open sounding as the Bliss Silver (at twice the price) but they definitely sound like better Blisses…and Twin Signatures. The warmth we remember is there but also, depending on what electronics you use, more clarity in and amongst the warmth. And more excitement. Great energy and a wonderful firm sense of body. It’s not exactly a throw-back to the earlier JMR sound but there’s plenty of that there — along with greater definition. I started them out on my new Blue Circle 002i 80 watt solid state integrated and I heard notably better Blisses. Then I hooked up the BC amp’s optional EPS external power supply and on CD’s that wanted it, these little kids bloomed — from the inside out. A cello took on greater presence and reality. You don’t need an EPS — the 002i and Folias already sing the same song. But it does show you what they are capable of.
So we have a stand-mount entry level speaker back in the JMR line. $1400 in black or white. Magic Stands, $450.
And now, the return of a champion as well. What do we expect from entry-level high end stand-mount speakers? First, that they have no conspicuous shortcomings but that they should also go beyond a lack of flaws to the presence of virtues — those qualities that excite us and for which we come to audio in the first place. We don’t expect all of the virtues — some of us are willing to pay two or three times as much (or more) for most of the rest of them. But moving from $2500 (plus $450 Magic Stands) to $6600 (Abscissa Jubilees), for example, should not be a shock. Abscissas should be different in degree, not in kind. We are moving toward the Y axis of complete sonic truth, not leaping into a whole new dimension.
Abscissa Jubilees are more complete speakers than Bliss Jubilees. We hear a greater amount of natural definition, range, and spacial magic from the larger and more expensive speakers, which are the best overall speakers I know. But Bliss Jubilees bring us a significant portion of this. The Blisses on their own don’t make us miss Abscissas. They are fast, immediate, firm and clear in the bass, smooth and clear in the upper mids and treble, thanks to the wonderful silk tweeters they share with the Cantabile Jubilees. They image as (only the best) stand-mounts do. They provide more convincing timbre and instrumental voice than I’ve heard at anywhere near their price. And Magic Stands correct for the exaggerated (and blurred) bass that generally comes with the stand-mount breed — and adding clarity to the midrange as well, a benefit Magic Stands don’t get enough credit for. These speakers have no right to be as good as they are: they are successors to the Bliss Silvers they succeed and outperform. Return of a champion indeed.
One more round: For fun and to see what these new Blisses could do with the best amp in the house, I switched out my extremely good 75 watt solid state Blue Circle 002i-ESP integrated ($7100), which is their proper mate, and switched in Gilbert’s best, the 75 watt solid state Blue Circle NSI “G” integrated ($38,800). Everything, literally everything, went up several steps, especially presence, dynamics, and definition. The Blisses did not turn into Abscissa Jubilees but it narrowed the distance between them dramatically. The ribbon in the Abscissas can do more than the silk tweeter in the Blisses and a much larger cabinet and another woofer can deliver bass authority and fullness that no stand-mount can achieve. But now we know that the Blisses fed filet mignon are not just very good but extraordinary.
Okay, obvious comparisons. Their big brothers, the floor-standing Euterpes, at the same price as Blisses with Magic Stands, have a bit more weight and energy in the bass, moving the center of the presentation down a bit to provide the slightly warmer and weightier presentation some people prefer — surrendering a bit of presence and immediacy in the deal. That’s the game stand-mounts and floor-standers play with each other. As Jean Claude Reynaud says, the choice between these two speakers will be entirely a matter of taste.
Bi-wired, with two woofers and a top-mounted tweeter, the Cantabile Jubilees for an additional $1500 give us better instrumental definition, refinement and air — a sense of increased openness — and project a fuller and more present soundstage, hinting at the Abscissas. In a sense, they combine the virtues of the Blisses and Euterpes but take them up a notch.
Bliss Jubilee price is $2500 — $200 less than the Bliss Silvers! Highly recommended Magic Stands add $450.
As I say above, Euterpe Jubilees, with same drivers as the Bliss Jubilees and a larger enclosure, have more bass energy and weight than their little brothers but a bit less immediacy. They have a slightly warmer overall sound. With these observations understood, everything I say about the Blisses applies to the Euterpes. You can’t go wrong either way.
Listening to the wonderful recording of Ligeti’s and Brahms’ violin concertos by Augustin Hadlich, I found myself riveted to the performance. Quite frankly I had expected to damn these speakers with faint praise, but I can’t. They’re way too good for that.
Price, $3150…and single wired! $3250 in anthracite grey or pearly white.
Paired with the new Blue Circle O02i-EPS solid state integrated amplifier and sitting on their own spikes, the new Cantabile Jubilees make an absolute virtue of what I felt was the characteristic shortcoming of the Cantabile Supremes. Their lightness, which is still there, now feels like grace; and it is accompanied by wonderful, liquid clarity. These new Cantabiles are more agile, articulate, and ever so slightly sweet. They have an utterly natural clarity throughout their range (they go to 35 Hertz) that the Cantabile Supremes couldn’t really approach. They are still absolutely Cantabiles — they still sing. But where the earlier speakers blended things a bit for effect, the Jubilees have no need for that. Their beauty strikes me as totally unaffected. These Cantabiles now have a distinct identity of their own that some listeners may find is exactly what they’re looking for in a speaker for a modest sized room, something larger speakers for all of their other qualities may not have. That is exactly what I’d hoped for.
Contrasted with the Euterpe Jubilees, the Cantabiles take an orchestra apart more — the top-mounted tweeter obviously contributes to this effect, as do the dual woofers, especially when the speakers are bi-wired. We are more aware of the individual instruments spread out before us. The Euterpes sound more focused because their presentation is less airy, less spread. In comparing the two speakers, we find ourselves torn between focus and spread, less awareness of detail vs. more. The tweeter that the two speakers share guarantee that both the Euterpes and Cantabiles sill give us a smooth and appealing high end.
The tension-rod technology, which now exists throughout the speaker line, enables these speakers to image like stand-mounts, even more impressively than the Supremes which also had that innovation. Bass is better here than in the Cantabile Supreme. Not dramatically deep — their size would seem to preclude that; but solid and clear. Its notable clarity compensates considerably for absolute depth. Once I adjusted to their presentation, I didn’t find myself missing that.
I am coming to love these little (and they are little — just 40 inches high) floor-standers. In a modest sized room (though mine is 5000 cubic feet!), they may well be all some customers ever need. They do not quite rock out: they can do rock fine, but they won’t slam you in the solar plexus with enriched upper bass punch. They sing like birds — when called for, substantial birds. I’m sitting a room away as I type this and they still sound beautiful playing Jordi Savall’s Saint Colombe on bass viol. The late Jean Marie would be weeping. There is a lot of him in these speakers, though the clarity is all Jean Claude…Easy to drive at 91 dB, $4600 in stained cherry. $4725 in satin black, pearly white, or anthracite grey.
Judging loudspeakers is a time-sensitive and of course highly personal affair. In 1958, the “best” speaker I’d ever heard was the Altec Lansing 803 Voice of the theatre with its 15-inch woofer and huge sectoral horn. As time moved on, the “best” in roughy chronological order, became the KLH Four acoustic suspension speaker and best of that breed; the Meridian M2 active speakers; Linn Isobariks; Audio Note E’s, and then finally, after brief flirtations with Spendors (BC1’s and SP 1/2‘s) and Harbeth M40’s, the beloved Jean Marie Reynaud Offrande Supreme V2’s, the perfect marriage of truth and beauty.
I could honestly say, frequently did say, that each of these was my all-time favorite. I loved every one of them. If I still had them and had not met their successors, I am confident I would love them still. They each gave me what I wanted and needed at the time. People who still own them are absolutely right to treasure them. Each of them gets some essential things right.
The Offrandes held sway with me for the longest tenure because, as Jean Claude concedes, they made people love them. Music lovers loved them, frequent listeners of ‘live’ music harbored some doubts. I did not. I loved them and love is strong stuff. But it is time to concede, once we get away from our Offrandes for a week or two (it took three or four here), that Jean Claude’s new Abscissa Jubilees, teach (remind?) us that what we love is the true sound of voices and instruments faithfully rendered. When I listen to these new Abscissa Jubilees, I am not swept up by music as I have been by my Offies, I am swept into it and both entranced and delighted by all of its sonic qualities. Our emotion as a listeners of ‘live’ music is different — less general and more specific — than it generally is when we listen to domestic audio: in the concert hall, it not about the music, it is the music. That is what my new Abscissas are teaching me. At first grudgingly. Truthfulness is underestimated in audio. I have underestimated it for years, probably because I haven’t heard it, until now.
The Abscissa Jubilees are the most truthful speakers I’ve ever heard. They now make even mostly faithful speakers sound like compromises, as if they are holding something essential back. Jean Marie’s speakers made it clear to me that other speakers, especially Harbeths at the time, were withholding the essential emotional component of musical performance. Jean Claude’s new Abscissas take the next step. The emotional component is still there but, again, we feel it is coming from the voices and instruments — and the spaces between them. We sometimes prefer our home music systems because they produce a simpler experience, a more comforting one. These new speakers are giving a more complex one, one full of individual voices to attend to. There is more emotional pleasure in detail than we remember.
The Abscissa Jubilee, is the second edition of the first JMR speaker from Jean Claude Reynaud’s hands alone. It was designed to bring some of the fullness and low end authority of the Orféos into smaller rooms but it has gone far beyond those modest aims. There is a new Heill transformer tweeter, the same used in the Aldara, a limited production Reynaud, which has a silicon diaphragm covered with extremely light aluminum. The new tweeter is naturally clear sounding and audibly faster and more dynamic, though less sweet than the ribbon used in the Offrandes, Orféos, and earlier Abscissas. The Aldara (which I have not heard) is an active speaker — and to my ears the new Abscissas sound a lot like active speakers: fast, clear, and immediate with great definition of both voices and space. Those who regularly attend ‘live’ performances will recognize it soon enough. It is a ‘live’ sound for a domestic venue.
For those keeping score, what we gain moving from the Euterpes and Cantabiles to the Abscissas, besides a predictable increase in scale and bandwidth, is notably greater refinement and greater overall ease and confidence. There is definitely an audible sense of continuation moving up the line of the new Jubilees, each maintaining and improving on its little brother. This is a characteristic that I find is rare among speaker lines.
It is in mid-summer, 2019 the “best” speaker I know of.
$6600 in black, grey, or white. Jean Claude likes these “modern” finishes, so there we are…
If you are one of those who crave the full and natural weight of an orchestra…or of a bassoon…or of bass baritone Matthias Goerne, the new Orféo Jubilees may just have to be your speakers. There is a great deal more to them than that — a wonderfully fleshed out, saturated — not artificially warm — mid-range that gives new life to cellos and organs (Sol Gabetta’s new recording of Peteris Vasks’ Second Cello Concerto is pure and savory magic), strong reserves of dynamic energy, a degree of overall ease not heard since the 3-way Concordes, which these new Orféos have driven from the product line. They need lots of power — in my house the 300 watts of the new Blue Circle NSW solid state stereo amp. They need a good-sized room, though Jean Claude tells us not so large a one as their predecessors: just enough space to get them three feet (?) or so away from the room boundaries. But with sufficient power and some room, they are impressive music and sound machines with all of the virtues of their predecessors but several steps beyond them in all respects. Like the Supreme, V2’s, they are still mid-hall in their perspective, but it is a better hall!
They do not sound like larger Abscissas. They play their own game. They are more confident and effortlessly full-range. Everything feels larger, heartier, richer and more substantial through them. There is no question that these Orféos get more of the lower end of a piano than Abscissas. Their sheer physicality can be stunning. Even their subtlety and nuance is more bold and forthright, if that makes any sense. Clear but less delicate. Are they darker than Abscissas? In an A-B comparison, yes; but on their own, from their own point of view, perhaps not. Abscissas sound less weighty, so that may be what we hear. And dark or light compared with what? Both the Abscissas and Orféos convince us they are telling the truth in this matter. Abscissas, with less deep bass energy and on an 80 watt Blue Circe 002i/EPS integrated, seem more open, articulate, and graceful; but they would. Nature of moderate power on less than full range speakers. All instruments have more body through the Orféos: a Shostakovich string quartet is bolder, less insinuating. A harpsichord is larger and more resonant but again less delicate. It will be interesting to hear how the larger speakers change as they break in. Mine are still pretty young beasts, as is the Blue Circle amp.
Large speakers are different from small speakers, we must remind ourselves. The best of both can challenge our established ideas about what is true. In my college room my roommate’s Janszen/AR1-W fought out this issue with my Altec Lansing horns. Some Abscissa lovers may find the new Orféos insufficiently deft and lithe. Some Orféo lovers may find Abscissa insufficiently substantial. Orféos Supremes to a degree were marvelous rhinos that could dance — and dance very well. Orféos are lions. And to complete this silly analogy, Abscissas are black panthers. As absurd as these analogies may seem, they do represent the fact that there is no absolute better or worse here. Until we have the impossible ideal speaker that can do all that live music does, we must make choices.
Details: Same new Heil ribbon tweeter as in the Abscissa. New mid and bass drivers, new crossover.
Bandwidth: 32 to 25khz (30hz to -6db).
Impedance: 4 Ohms (minimum 3.8 ohms)
Power required: 90 to 300W (400W in peak)
Sensitivity 91db / W / m (2.83V)
Price: $10,000, cherry stained anigree
$10,300, black satin, pearly grey, pearly white
NOTE: The CONCORDE SUPREME has been dropped from the JMR line. Reasons given are (1) the new Orfeo Jubilees make them redundant and (2), the companies who made their drivers have gone out of business!
MAGIC STANDS. JM Reynaud has resumed production of the famous Magic Stands, designed specifically to improve the performance of stand-mounted speakers, the Bliss and Bliss Silver in particular — and now the Folias. Making use of the principle of the Helmholtz Resonator, Magic Stands not only clarify low end performance dramatically, they also have the effect of evening up response in the midrange. Price, $450 plus shipping if ordering without speakers. For a definitive presentation of the theory behind the Magic Stands, go to:
JM REYNAUD DEALERS in the U.S.
West Palm Beach, Florida
East End HiFi
Coram, NY 11727
Osage Audio Products
P.O. Box 232
Hallsville, MO 65255
164 Red Gate Lane
Amherst, MA 01002
There is now a Canadian importer for JM Reynaud speakers and will soon be a Canadian network of retail dealers.