Red Rose Music R3 loudspeaker Page 4

That freedom was demonstrated again on the second track, Kenny Rankin's breezy turn on "Blackbird." He plays a nylon-stringed guitar, which was reproduced just about right, and not at all with the boxy midbass coloration you often get from a small speaker. Spatially, tonally, and dynamically, the R3s delivered the performance with convincing ease, putting Rankin in the room.

Solo performances are one thing; how did the R3 do with larger ensembles? Shirley Horn's superb new CD, You're My Thrill (Verve 314 549 417-2), arrived toward the end of the review period. With a big orchestra arranged by Johnny Mandel, recorded by Al Schmitt at Capitol and mastered by Doug Sax, this is a definite back-to-the-'50s "Record To Die For," musically and sonically. The R3s did it justice, creating a lush 3D picture with rich, supple strings and a natural-sounding voice. Horn's voice is a bit nasal, and the R3s effectively captured her distinctive vocal tone while delivering her clean, articulate phrasing with effortless clarity. (Horn opens with "You're My Thrill," which Joni Mitchell sings on Both Sides Now. Love that Joni, but clearly she's been listening to Horn, who here shows how it's done.)

$3500 may seem a lot for a pair of compact two-way loudspeakers, but the Red Rose R3 delivered big performance in every way. At Red Rose Music's exhibit at CES 2001, a pair of R3s sat on stands in front of the large, imposing R1s. When the demo was over, most in the crowd were sure they'd been hearing the R1s filling the big room, but they were mistaken: it was the R3s. The R3s produced a superbly focused, airy, non-etchy, 3D picture far bigger than anyone would ever have expected from such a small speaker, and did so with unusual ease and grace. They produced prodigious, remarkably deep bass that didn't color the midbass or midrange, and played remarkably loud while maintaining their dynamic abilities. If they could do that in a big CES room, what do you think happened at home? Same thing, only better.

At CES, Mark Levinson mostly played small ensembles recorded live to DSD; I tested the R3s in far more trying musical circumstances. While they couldn't deliver a full symphony orchestra whole, the way my big Sonus Faber Amati Homages can, they came closer than any speaker this small has a right to—and they weren't bad with Led Zeppelin either. More resolution of detail and more pinpoint imaging can probably be had elsewhere for $3500/pair, but not with such superb overall balance, deep bass, and ease of presentation.

The Red Rose R3 has nothing to apologize for, and that's rare in a small speaker. Check it out. I think you'll be impressed—even amazed.

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