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.
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.
So what happens when you put a Bliss Silver in a larger box, with a properly tuned bass cavity (and a new crossover, Jean Claude reminds me — see below)? What is gained? Lost? According to the European audio market, a lot and, depending on taste, nothing. So they have driven the Blisses off the market, ending a long JMR tradition that began with the Twins many years ago. I understand why they did this. In my house, on a Resolution Audio Cantata digital front end, a 120 watt Blue Circle 022i solid state integrated amp, and Crimson cable, these new Euterpe Supremes have the essential qualities of the Bliss Silvers with notably more bass authority. Articulate through the middle, especially noticeable with voices and guitars. Clear, crisp, and present. “The crossover for the EUTERPE Suprême is different than that in the BLISS Silver: the crossover point is a bit different and phase at the crossover point is much better, so normally it is more accurate and more precise in the high mid frequencies.” The result here is that the new latest High Kings (Irish folk band) leaps into the room. In addition to whatever the new crossover contributes, the extra bass seems to add energy the Bliss Silvers didn’t quite have. These are Bliss Silvers with more chutzpah.
As one would expect, the improved bass has an effect on the speaker’s overall presentation. These are Bliss Silvers with not just mouth but chest: you can hear that immediately in the added natural richness of the saxes and the baritone voice of Matthias Goerne. And they have viscera: you can hear that in low brass and organ. Five more Hertz of bass information and three times more cabinet volume to increase bass energy make the overall presentation of the Euterpes considerably weightier than that of the Bliss Silver. Bass was distinctly impressive on Bliss Silvers, coming almost as a surprise. Some of my customers were looking around for the subs. Here with the Euterpes deep and solid bass feels more expected: it is less a specific attribute than a natural completion of the musical presentation.
I said that “depending on taste” nothing is lost moving from Bliss Silvers to Euterpes. A richer and deeper bass can create the impression of a slight loss of speed. But when you hear the defining snap and snarl of a solo cello as it attacks a piano in a Schnittke cello sonata, you are right to question whether anything has appreciably slowed down! Still the kind of audiophile who prefers the lighter overall presentation of stand-mounts will be free to demur here. We remember that the classic Trentes were preferred by some to their floor-standing big brothers, the Evolution Threes, a decade or so ago. Designers make choices about what is most important and so do we listeners.
I have always felt that floor-standing versions of stand-mounts had trouble getting out of their own way as imagers. Ever since JMR introduced their tension rod technology to reduce driver/cabinet interaction, this ‘problem’ has disappeared, at least with Reynauds. Euterpes (and Cantabile Jubilees and Abscissa Jubilees) image just fine. And with the introduction of the Euterpe Supreme, the upper bass hump and resulting thickening of the lower midrange in stand-mounts that JMR had to design the Magic Stand with a Helmholtz Resonator to get rid of, has also disappeared. The Magic Stands were magic indeed but I (and Bliss Silver owners with cats and children) am not sorry to see them go.
So my lament for the loss of Bliss Silvers has been short-lived. I now consider the Euterpe Supreme a fine entry level speaker. And in a few weeks, there will be the new (and more affordable) Blue Circle 80 watt 002i integrated to pair them with. That should be an ideal combination. My O22i is almost overkill here.
What do we get when we move up to the new Cantabile Jubilees? A more open and refined sound. Five more Hertz of bass and 3000 more on in the treble. Worth the additional $1300? Sure, if you have it. But if you don’t, stay here with the Euterpe Supremes and count your blessings, which are many. Bliss Silvers with chutzpah. For now, the price in the U.S. is $3700…and single wired!
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 high end which clarifies the 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. But without a wide open high end like the Abscissas’, forget it.
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…is about to leave the stage.
Jean Claude Reynaud has kept what many of us consider the perfect monitor in production for several years now since the death of this father, whose spirit inhabits it. But in a recent conversation with JC at the Son et Image audio show in Paris, he told me that time has finally run out on this fine music machine. It costs an increasingly prohibitive sum to build, the only builder he has who can build them right is retiring, and while people all over the world love the speaker, very few are still buying it, preferring large floor-standers and the mightier bass foundation that comes with them. So if the Offrande is in your bucket, as they say, you are hereby informed they’re are just four left. There were five until I claimed one pair in the event lightening someday strikes mine! I am going to retain my description of Offrandes here, however, until Jean Claude tells me the last four are gone.
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.