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. They are naturally warm and robust but there is also, especially with the latest generation of Reynauds, greater transparency and sense of spatial magic.
Reynaud speakers have a way of providing the perfect marriage of sonic information and musical expressiveness that seems to elude so many other designs. 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.
Below are subjective descriptions of my favorite Reynauds.
NEWS: Word has just been received from JMR that by the end of June, 2017 both the Bliss and Bliss Silver will no longer be in production. Worldwide sales of the two Blisses has fallen off as customers turn to the Euterpe Supremes in their stead. According to Jean Claude Reynaud, the Euterpe Supreme outperforms the Bliss Silver, even with Magic Stands, at what seems to many customers to be a moderate increase in cost. I will be very sorry to see especially the Bliss Silver leave the line and expect there will be a short term increase in demand for them, as there was for the classic Trente when it was discontinued.
So if you’ve had your eyes on either the Blisses or Bliss Silvers, now would be the time to pounce. There are only so many Bliss/Bliss Silver cabinets left and when they’re gone, they’re gone. I’m going to leave my descriptions of the Blisses here a while longer. You’ll know when they disappear, it’s over…
THE BLISS (formerly called the Duet).
After thirteen years and four different versions, JMR decided it was time for the famous rustic & romantic Twin to retire to make room for something altogether new. Well, not absolutely altogether. The drivers are the same and the enclosure is almost the same –slightly smaller in volume (2 inches shallower, 1 inch wider). But the interior of the enclosure has been completely re-engineered to take advantage of what was learned from creating the Offrande Signature. There is a new crossover. And the sound: still JMR warm and expressive but much more immediate, with chest rattling bass. These are more passionate and physical speakers than their predecessors. They are not as open and smooth on top as Bliss Silvers nor as refined as Offrandes and Orféos; I would call them natural cane sugar speakers with a physical quality in the midrange and upper bass that is unique to them, a voice that loves jazz in particular.
The ideal for JMR has always been that elusive marriage of warmth and clarity we hear in the concert hall and jazz venue and that has eluded speaker designers for years. Over the half-dozen or so years that I have been listening to Reynauds, father and son, have steadily and conspicuously moved closer to this goal. But in the latest speaker iterations they have taken a giant step – and with the new Bliss and Bliss Silvers they have brought this level of improvement to the entry-level speaker. I loved the MK III Twins, I loved and admired the Twin Signatures. But the two Bliss models really are a new ball game. Again, the most dramatic improvements are in the immediacy of the midrange and authority of the bass. Where the Twins used to seduce with a degree of beguiling opacity, the Blisses amaze with the warmth, speed, and immediacy of a ‘live’ performance. And where the Twins sometimes wanted a subwoofer to fill them out, the Blisses often sound as if they are already subs somewhere in the room. Still no hint of the brightness or over-assertiveness that often accompany great presence. Just there-ness. The Blisses are warm, immediate, passionate, and fast. What they do for saxes and cellos will amaze.
They strike me as more versatile than the Twins. Within reason, you can get almost any sound out of them you like. My favorite combinations have them with the Blue Circle 6922 based FtTH 2 hybrid and new O22i solid state integrateds, which bring out their dynamic capacity and phenomenal low end; music has great weight and body through these amps. The FtTH2 is a bit softer sounding, the O22i a bit heartier. The 6SN7 based Blue Circle DAR integrated also performs well with the Blisses, bringing out their latent romanticism: a fuller and more blended sound, a more fluid midrange, increased holography & deep sound stage, and lots of energy, all at the cost of some authority and tightness in the low end and some overall definition.
I am getting the sense it will take me quite a while to discover all that these little miracles can perform, especially on the JMR Magic Stands. More than even their predecessors, the Blisses are the kings of the under $2000 speaker market. $2000.
Review of Duets [Blisses] on Positive-Feedback
Another more recent review of the Twins: http://positive-feedback.com/reviews/hardware-reviews/jm-reynaud-bliss-loudspeakers/
THE BLISS SILVER
As good as the Blisses are, the Bliss Silvers, introducing the new woofer suspension technology and other upgrades, are dramatically better. Not a replacement for the Bliss, which for now remains happily in the line, but a refined and stunningly upgraded Bliss. Everything I said about the Bliss applies but the upgrades place the Silvers among the clearest sounding speakers I’ve ever heard in anywhere near their price range. Overall definition is outstanding. The midrange is as clear as the Harbeth Radial but both sweeter and robust, at the same time. An overall natural warmth with a surprising sense of ease for a stand mounted speaker. Not a hint of brightness or assertiveness. Listening to a cello and piano duo: the two instruments are each perfectly and separately realized. Treble range is clear and smooth, midrange present, savory, and clear. Bass is solid with good body, tight, and extremely well defined. Clearly it’s stand-mount bass, but the absence of low end authority is not conspicuous because what is there is so well defined. Most interesting – and this is a feature I am hearing in all of the Reynauds which use the new technology – there is a dramatic increase in sense of space and imaging.
They are the most musically accurate speakers under $5000 I’ve heard, an enormous upgrade over the Bliss for $800. Twice as good? Quite possibly. $2,700.
For those who have endured the long wait for the floor standing version of the Bliss to benefit from the new research and technology that have transformed the Bliss, Cantabile, Offrande, and Concorde into Supremes, your patience has been finally been rewarded. As I have yet to hear it, here is what Jean Claude has to say:
The EUTERPE SUPREME is the result of the optimization of all components and uses the most advanced technologies of our newest Supreme models. It is in essence a floor-standing version of the Bliss Silver for those who crave more generous bass [5 Hertz plus added fullness and bass energy]. Like the Bliss Silvers, it has silver capacitors, ferrite coils with large diameter of winding cable, the tensioning system for the woofer, and WBT connectors. It has a different crossover with a new cutoff frequency and new phases plugs on the woofer and tweeter, both changes designed to suit the different demands of a floor-stander. It has the same spirit as its stand-mount brother but predictably with a more extensive, better controlled low end?. the new Euterpe is more open sounding than its predecessor. Its overall sound is lively, wonderfully lit, and particularly homogeneous, with rich and varied timbres. There is a deep and stable extensive stereo image untypical of floor-standing speakers. Equally important, unlike its predecessor, it has a highly articulate low frequency range along with the frank impact all fans of floor-standers crave.
And no need for stands! For now, the price in the U.S. is just $200 more than that of its predecessor. $3700.
For all of its obvious appeal, I found the previous edition of the Cantabile, the Supreme, somewhat on the light side, a lyric speaker: a cantabile, a singer. Like the 6SN7 based Blue Circle DAR amplifier with which I often paired it, it was an extremely pleasant, dulcet speaker. Sometimes lovely but never quite exciting enough for my taste. I preferred it on Symposium Sveltes rather than on its own spikes: the Sveltes seemed to add a necessary bit fullness and weight. They bloomed a bit on the Sveltes. In re-reading what I wrote about these speakers here, I feel I may have over-sold them a bit in an effort to be fair. I knew they were extremely popular in Europe: they were loved for what they were, not what I wanted them to be!
Paired with the Blue Circle O22i solid state integrated amplifier, my current ‘affordable’ amp of choice, and sitting on their own spikes, the new Cantabile Jubilees just here (and with fewer than 20 hours on them), 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 Supremes couldn’t really approach. They are still absolutely Cantabiles — they still sing. But where the earlier speakers blended things a bit for affect, 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, something larger speakers for all of their other qualities may not have. That is exactly what I’d hoped for.
Percussion, brass, winds are all dramatically and brilliantly present, but without a hint of over-assertion or stridency. Their trace of sweetness is especially audible in trumpets, for example. It gives both Iris Dement and her piano a wonderful smidgen of personality.
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. I will not miss the Bliss Silvers (or their need for Magic Stands) any longer, having heard these new Cantabiles, though I realize the Euterpe Supreme is the fairer comparison. Let’s just say, I will now be likely to push customers toward these speakers where before I did not. The Cantabile Jubilees have a level of refinement that I’m finding irresistible.
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. And as woofers are the last drivers to break in, I’m expecting more avoirdupois later on. 35 Hertz is 35 Hertz.
The speaker’s main attributes that I hear are speed and openness: everything is immediate and spread out before us in an open space. The top mounted tweeter clearly has a lot to do with this. Speed, openness… and grace!
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, $5000.
The Abscissa, the first JMR speaker from Jean Claude Reynaud’s hands alone, is now in its second edition, called the Abscissa Jubilee. The Abscissa is designed to bring some of the fullness and low end authority of the Orféos into smaller rooms. There is a new tweeter based on the JMR’s new active Aldara not yet in production, and the pioneering driver tension technology already in force in most of the rest of the line.
While I was especially pleased to see that the Cantabile has matured into a distinct sounding speaker in its Jubilee edition, I am even more pleased to report that the new edition of Abscissa Jubilee has achieved an even greater breakthrough. To my ears Jean Claude has turned a corner in his pursuit of a sound that while keeping the core of his father’s sound takes us closer to the the truth of what’s going on in the recording venue.
The initial Abscissa was designed to be an Orféo for a smaller room. The Abscissa Jubilee appears to me to have been designed to outperform the Orféo in one particular and perhaps essential respect.
One of the hardest things for a speaker to do is achieve realistic ‘life-like’ (both clear and deep) bass without losing speed, immediacy and articulateness in the overall presentation. The larger enclosures and larger woofers usually needed to get the bass authority we want give away a little speed, ‘jump’, and immediacy, thus moving us farther back in the concert hall than some of us really want to be. The Orféos do that and for those who want to sit “mid hall,” they do it admirably well.
But the new Abscissas give away nothing! They keep us in the fifth through the tenth row we paid dearly for and give us ‘life-like’ bass to boot. How they achieve the bass weight and bass clarity they do with a cabinet only a hair larger than that of the Cantabile and with the same size woofer/midrange drivers is beyond me but that’s clearly where the design genius lies. The overall balance of the Abscissas is both deeply satisfying and exciting. There are precious few speakers we can say that about.
The Abscissas are wonderfully smooth but do not have the Cantabiles’ hint of sweetness. If you can live without that (Is ‘live’ music sweet?) in exchange for considerably more and clearer bass and a dramatically clear and spacious soundstage, you will be more than satisfied. Having that bass affects everything, even the sound of a chorus. Mahler’s Second is a good deal more monumental on the Abscissas than on the Cantabiles. Foundation is foundation.
The Abscissa Jubilees are probably the most truthful speakers I’ve heard. And by that I don’t mean ultra transparent and uncomfortably detailed, I mean accurate to timbre. Every instrument sounds absolutely like itself. A solo violin sounds exactly like a violin, in all respects: it is physically present before us: its body of rich wood, its strings firm, clear, and exquisitely beautiful. As a solo violin climbs into the stratosphere, at least as far as my aging ear can follow it, it can take your breath clear away. These speakers will have a tendency to make many others sound limited and colored.
The comparison with the Orféos is logical and obvious. Besides being $3000 cheaper, the Abscissa are clearer from top to bottom, more immediate, more room friendly, and easier to drive. Where the Orféos are fuller & denser, the Abscissas are more articulate and exciting. A comparison many will also make is with the Offrandes. The Abscissas have more conspicuous bass, a larger better lit, and more highly detailed and broader spatial presentation, and are more literally truthful from bottom to top. The Offrandes feel as if they’re focussed more narrowly and closely and are a touch sweeter, sharing some of the spirit of the new Cantabiles. (A customer friend of mind considers his Offies romantic, a view I did not understand until I heard the new Abscissas.)
To use a photographic metaphor, where the Offrandes feel like a portrait lens, maybe a 100 mm, the Abscissa feel like a wide angle, but 35 mm — not 28mm or 24 mm. I don’t mean to exaggerate the differences. There is plenty of detail in the Offrandes and there is plenty of emotion in the Abscissa Jubilees. You would never mistake an Abscissa for anything but a Reynaud! These two speakers have different musical goals and will choose their listeners accordingly.
My truth test is Iris Dement’s “The Way I Should.” On the Abscissas, we hear all of Iris: slightly brown sugar raw, stunningly eloquent, and ‘in the room.’ Her musicians are all around her and equally clear and present in their separate spaces. We have no doubt this is what was heard in the recording studio, perfectly clear and perfectly balanced. On the Offrandes, a little of the edge is off Iris’s piquant voice and she’s easier to love. We are aware of the other musicians but the focus on them is not as sharp. Again, the differences are not huge but the designer’s preferences are clear. $6500 in black, grey, or white. Jean Claude likes these “modern” finishes, so there we are…
First follow up: With around 50 hours on them, they are becoming more magic through the midrange. This is particularly noticeable on the piano, which feels more eloquent than it did earlier.
THE PERFECT MONITOR?
Genius never sleeps. All capacitors, coils resistors, and drivers were measured and paired so they were exactly matched at a very low tolerance. The results, with both tensioning system and matched parts in place, reportedly shocked both Jean Marie and Jean Claude: the differences in imaging, tonal richness, and overall balance were extraordinary. And once I heard the Bliss Silver, the results were stunning to me too. Overall clarity was dramatically enhanced and the ability to reproduce spatial relations on recordings was up several fold. The Silvers lost none of the Basic Bliss’s virtues but leapt ahead of them in overall performance. I couldn’t believe I was hearing $2700 speakers. It was immediately clear what would have to happen next.
ORFEO SUPREME, V2
With the Orféos, we move back another 8-10 rows from the Offrandes, where the instruments begin to blend, where immediacy is down around 10%, fullness, and air up 20%. You are now listening to the Supreme V2 version of the Orféo, the complement to the new Offrandes Supreme, V2’s for larger rooms. Predictably, there is a bit more warmth and fullness. Also weight. The Offrandes have body but the Orféos have body and weight. The woofer tension system, meticulous balancing of parts, and silver capacitors do as much for the Orféos as they do for the Offrande Supreme V2’s, most dramatically in the area of imaging, which is startlingly good. Some will hear these floor-standers as Offranded Orféos.
My favorite seat in the hall is around Row M or N, fourteen rows or so from the stage. I want to relish the timbre of each instrument but I want a bit of the hall too: I want the coherence and weight of an orchestra. And finally, I want a hint of the sweetness that the air adds to sound as it travels those extra ten rows. To my ears, the Orféos have always achieved am impressive balance of “live” music’s wonders. They are not as immediate and exciting as Offrandes; they are not as grand, full, easeful, and authoritative as the Concordes. (Stay tuned.) They give away a little of both perspectives to give us the savor of everything. They are not a compromise. If anything, they may be for many of you, who have a large room and at least 150-200 watts of power, the golden mean, the possible best of all worlds.
Orféos are the reference speaker for David Elrod of Elrod Power Systems: “To me, the Orfeos are far more than a well designed loudspeaker. They are a finely tuned musical instrument that will thrill and astonish you. They are a masterpiece.”
8 Ohms, 92 dB. Again, while you can run Orféos on as modest and versatile as amp as the new 120 watt O22i Blue Circle integrated, they give you much more on separates, like the Blue Circle BC107 and new 300-watt 2K4 stereo amp. $9500.
Great review from Tom Campbell on Positive Feedback.
With the Concordes we are moved still farther back, farther still if you lower the volume. We are in the rear of the orchestra section, nearing mid-hall. Everything on the stage is marvelously clear but so is the room. There is ‘room presence’ not just musician and instrument presence. We are as much aware of what is around us as before us. And there is an ease to the proceedings as suits their perspective, the gift of a true three-way speaker design with a dedicated midrange driver. With Offrandes and somewhat with Orfeos, there is the greater intensity that comes from their closer perspectives. With the Concordes, there is more ease, fullness, and authority.
Authority. While the Concordes have essentially the same bandwidth as the Offrandes and Orfeos, their presentation is weightier, more impactful, and fuller: there are three large drivers to move more air and the cabinets are considerably larger (over one and a half times as much volume as Orféos) and heavier (nearly twice as heavy as the Orféos). We are acutely aware of the physicality, the body of instruments, and of orchestras. And everything feels as if it’s life-size. What keeps this quality in natural balance is the dedicated midrange driver at exactly ear-height assuring a marvelous clarity to the territory where cellos and human voices live. I hear things in women’s voices especially I’ve not heard before, tiny but essential inflections. The new midrange and woofer suspension technology and silver capacitors, here appearing in the Concordes for the first time, also contribute to the clarity in the midrange; but in addition improve the accuracy of sound-staging and the tightness of bass. Concordes can now work well in smaller rooms than before, though the height of the ribbon tweeter assembly (around six inches higher than on the Orféos) rules out nearfield listening. I find that around 12-13 feet is an ideal listening distance: at that distance, treble/bass balance is ideal and instruments begin to float free of the speakers — another contribution from the new technology!
I expected these speakers to present a spectacular listening experience, which is why I leapt at the opportunity to hear them. They do not do that. Rather, and this may be the most important thing to say about them, they offer an utterly natural and whole presentation. Everything is just effortlessly there, solid and in its place. Everything. There. Nothing is projected or emphasized. The Concorde Supremes are not sensational or overwhelming, they are simply true to the experience of live music heard from what many listeners, especially those who favor orchestral music, consider the perfect location.
The Concordes are 4 ohms, 93 dB, providing an easy load to amplifiers. That said, the Reynauds urge us not to scrimp on power or current in order to let these speakers do all they can do. I auditioned them here on a Blue Circle 150 watt hybrid BC 204. $14,000.
JM REYNAUD DEALERS in the U.S.
We are saddened to report the news that Craig Jensen of
Great Plains Audio in Chaska, Minnesota has passed.
4319 Columbia Rd
Augusta, GA 30907-1469
5341 Derry Avenue Suite S
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
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 JMReynaud speakers and will soon be a Canadian network of retail dealers.