Jean-Marie Reynaud Twin Mk.III loudspeaker Page 2

John Atkinson's recording of the Jerome Harris Quintet playing Duke Ellington's "The Mooche," on Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2), showed off the Twin Mk.III's high-frequency articulation. The vibraphone is the acid test for tweeter resolution, articulation, and naturalness. With respect to tonal balance, transient articulation and decay, and low-level dynamic shadings, I'd never heard more naturally recorded vibes than when I listened to Steve Nelson on this track through the Reynauds. Moreover, the articulation of all percussion was so realistic that I could tell where on the ride cymbal Billy Drummond's stick was landing at all times. On the Kohjiba track, the flute was more extended and airy, and the upper register more realistic, than I would have expected from a speaker in this price range.

All was not perfect with the Twin Mk.III's high frequencies, however. The very extreme highs seemed tipped up ever so slightly. This characteristic, combined with the slightly reticent lower midrange, called my attention to the highs on well-recorded acoustic works. That natural-sounding flute on the Kohjiba composition was noticeably spitty during the higher passages. During the louder passages of this work, what I believe is the sound of the chamber orchestra overdriving the hall manifested itself as a bit of a glare through the Twin Mk.III.

This balance shift was also noticeable on George Crumb's Quest (CD, Bridge 9069). The louder woodwind passages seemed a bit "hooty," and even the upper register of the string bass seemed to emphasize the instrument's upper harmonics.

I don't mean to imply, however, that the Reynaud Twin will sound fatiguing or bright with less than well-recorded works. In fact, I found the speaker to be equally realistic and involving in a home-theater system, even when playing some overly bright DVDs. I used the Twin Mk.IIIs as my reference home theater speakers for several weeks, and was in no rush to replace them with my $12,000/pair—the sound of the Reynauds was "good enough."

The Twin's mid- and upper-bass performance was also impressive. On every recording, whether acoustic or electronic, these adjectives consistently appeared in my listening notes describing the speaker's midbass: "extended, quick, dynamic, natural, uncolored." On the aforementioned CSN recording, the bass guitar on "Marrakesh Express" was warm, rapid, and deep.

I began mining my vinyl collection for bassists. On Rick Laird's Soft Focus (LP, Muse T1308), Laird's string bass was forceful, deep, and not overly resonant. Low bass, however, seemed missing in action, this equally evident on classical organ recordings and bombastic special-effects DVDs. On "When the Levee Breaks," from Led Zeppelin II (LP, Atlantic/Classic SD 7028), the bass drum was insufficiently "Bonhamesque."

The Twin Mk.III's greatest strength, however, was how its wide, deep soundstaging, superb ambient retrieval, and low-level dynamic articulation made it one of the best small speakers for the reproduction of well-recorded classical music I've ever heard. Throughout Charles Wuorinen's Ringing Changes for Percussion and Chamber Orchestra (LP, Nonesuch H 71263), three-dimensional images of percussion instruments popped out of thin air and gradually disappeared into the recording space.

The massed pizzicato strings and piano tone clusters of Louis Andriessen's Mauseoleum, from 400 Years of Dutch Music: The Hague Philharmonic (LP, RN W 6814 7811786), will test the dynamic and transient capabilities of any speaker. The realism was such that I put my notebook down and listened to the entire 25-minute piece. This composition pointed out two significant characteristics of the Twin:

First, the speaker's high-level dynamics were limited. I was never able to get more than ff out of these babies with any recording. However, the Twin never sounded congested or congealed, or as if it was compressing. Beyond a certain volume level, the orchestra just ceased to get louder.

Second, despite the speaker's two greatest weaknesses—its limitations in high-level dynamics and low-bass extension—its many other strengths combined to form a package that is one of the most naturally dramatic-sounding bookshelf speakers I've ever heard.

The Twin Mk.III is not only a "classical" speaker, however—-the low-level resolution, dynamics, and overall neutral presentation of the Twin shone equally as well on jazz and rock recordings. On Mark Ribot's Saints (CD, Division One/Atlantic 93461-2), his barely amplified fingerpicking on his thin-body jazz archtop guitar was very easy to analyze. As a guitarist, it was easy for me to guess Ribot's finger positions and string type, and the hum from his Fender amp was quite audible (which, for me, added to the realism). My notes: "I can see the color of the pilot light of his amplifier."

The Twin Mk.III could also party with loud amplified rock music. On "El Padre," the commercial "dance tune" from Café Tacuba's Reves/Yosoy (CD, Luaka Bop/Warner Bros. 94374-2), the instrumentation is guitar, piano, electronic or amplified bass, and drum machine. Even at loud levels, the Twins had me twitching and dancing around the room without a hint of strain. Lead singer Amparo Tonto Medardo en Lak' Ech (this eccentric gentleman changes his name for each recording) sounded natural, rich, and forceful; nasal, but not bright.

Competition? I find it hard to belivv...
I compared the $990/pair Reynaud Twin Mk.III to the Alón Petite ($1000/pair when last available), the NHT SB-3 ($600/pair), and the Polk RT25i ($319/pair when last available) speakers. (Only the NHT is still being sold.)

The direct price competitor, the Alón Petite, was the equal of the Reynaud Twin in reproducing low-level detail and ambience, though I found vocals a bit richer through the Alón. The Alón's highs were a bit less extended than the Reynaud's, but just as articulate. In this region, the Alón was a bit more forgiving and less revealing. The Alón shared the Reynaud's shortcomings—typical of bookshelf speakers of this size—in high-level dynamics and bass extension. I found the Alón to perform a bit better with high-level dynamic material, the Twin Mk.III to have a bit more upper-bass sock.

The NHT SB3 had more extended bass and better high-level dynamics than the Reynaud, but its midbass was warmer and more rounded, its high frequencies less extended. Overall, however, the timbral presentation of the NHT seemed the more balanced, and the SB3 was more forgiving and less revealing than the Twin, while still very involving.

The Polk RT25i's resolution of midrange detail was close to the Reynaud's. Its highs were as extended but not as sophisticated as the Twin's, but its lower-midrange performance was even more natural. The Polk's upper bass was incredibly tight, but the Reynaud's midbass was more extended and dramatic. Although the Polk also suffered from high-level dynamic limitations, when pushed really hard it tended to coagulate and lose definition—unlike the Reynaud Twin, which remained clean-sounding under stress.

You must hear these spikkers!
Jean-Marie Reynaud has produced an impressive speaker for $1000/pair. Although it's not without flaw or personality, the Twin Mk.III's limitations are those one would expect from a speaker constrained in size and price. However, the Twin Mk.III is an exemplary performer in the areas of delicacy, articulation, and overall sophistication, all of which are unusual at this price. Lovers of classical, jazz, and vocal music will find much to admire in this speaker.

Veekh-tor, you've done it again!

Jean-Marie Reynaud
US distributor: Fanfare International
500 E. 77th St., Suite 2923
New York, NY 10162
(212) 734-1041