Red Rose Music R3 loudspeaker Page 3

I never heard the lowest organ pedals, or the illusion of a large room space that can be developed only by speakers extending flat to below 30Hz. And the R3 didn't deliver large-scale bass dynamics or high-volume bass slam. However, it did provide musical bass that was otherwise richly satisfying and dynamic. But whatever level of bass reproduction you expect from the R3 when you first see a pair—even after reading this—I bet what you'll hear will be far more, and better. The R3's low-frequency performance had me shaking my head long into many a night's listening.

The R3's soundstaging was as surprising as its low-end response. This small speaker could fill the room with a really big, well-focused sonic picture—even well off the center sweet spot. I don't mean "big" for a little speaker—I mean BIG, thanks to the smooth performance of the ribbon tweeter, which appears to have remarkably wide dispersion.

Red Rose claims that this tweeter, designed by veteran Swedish ribbon designer Bo Bengtsson, "has overcome limitations of the past with new patent-applied-for technology that makes Red Rose ribbons completely practical [and] reliable." Maybe so, but I wouldn't advise vacuuming near it. Red Rose says no blowing on it either. It will be interesting to see how the R3 fares in non-audiophile homes—especially those with curious kids. Parents are advised to leave the grillecloths on when not listening.

The R3's ribbon tweeter didn't seem to be quite as resolving as the ProAc Future One's, or as airy, extended, and detailed, but that may have helped it blend effectively, almost seamlessly, with the small woofer, instead of calling attention to itself. Other than some dips and peaks around 3kHz, where the crossover must be, my pair of R3s behaved extremely well in my room. I wasn't surprised by what the SPL meter told me: these speakers sounded great out of the box and during the entire month-plus I spent listening to them. Whatever aberrations show up in John Atkinson's measurements, they have been so skillfully woven into the smooth fabric of the overall sound that I didn't notice them.

What might you hear from the R3 when you listen to music? Small speakers are renowned for their ability to "disappear." The R3s didn't disappoint in that regard, but they "disappeared" in a particularly bold way. On my longtime reference disc, Mel Tormée and Friends Live at Marty's (Finesse W2X 37484), the Red Roses delivered an oh-so-vivid, airy, and effortless presentation of Tormée centered in 3D between the speakers, with a natural and convincing "edge" between his voice and the room ambience. The focus was dramatic, but without unnatural "etch."

The R3s almost dared me to jump up and step into the image to see if it was solid. Jay Leonhardt's bass (or, on some tunes, Rufus Reid's), Donny Osborn's drums, and Mike Renzie's piano were equally well-rendered, though larger speakers deliver more "nightclub"—more ambience, more low-level detail from the rear of the room. But I didn't miss that stuff; what was there had that smooth, rich, three-dimensional, naturally-easy-fit Dockers sound.

The R3's midband was unforced, uncolored, and convincing. The tweeter, silky-smooth yet fast, delivered satisfying violin tone and texture, and the blend of drivers proved adept at producing larger stringed instruments with their rich, woody tones intact, free of congestion and midbass bloat. Yes, I've heard more detail elsewhere, and better separation among massed strings, but the sweet, natural string texture and tone will be hard to beat at any price. The 87dB/W-efficient R3 played remarkably loud, too, and free of dynamic compression or strain as long as I didn't ask too much of them. But I asked for—and received—far more than I thought possible from these little gems!

SACDs, CDs, and the R3
In January, at CES 2001, Mark Levinson tried to persuade me to audition the R3 using his Red Rose integrated tube amp and Sony's top-of-the-line SACD player. I was more than happy to get more face time with SACD, but I turned him down on the integrated: one product change at a time.

Levinson's first SACD, recorded in his showroom, is a compilation of performances by the famous and the obscure, but all of the tracks amply demonstrate the new medium's ability to, unlike conventional CDs, generate sonic pictures that are airy, relaxing, and convincing, tonally and texturally. Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" features Freeman on tenor sax and George Cables on a 9' August Förster concert grand, and while the recording is impressive, it was the tiny R3s' ability to suggest the weight and heft of the piano (without, obviously, really delivering it all) that struck me as special, along with its freedom from boxiness.

Red Rose Music
943 Madison Avenue
(at the Whitney Museum)
New York, NY 10021
(212) 628-5777