Jean-Marie Reynaud Twin Mk.III loudspeaker

I love dealing with the colorful characters of high-end audio. One such individual is Victor (Veekh-tor) Goldstein, who has distributed high-quality European audio gear from his New York City headquarters, Fanfare International, for 23 years. A nuclear engineer by training, Goldstein transitioned into audio when the Three Mile Island incident reduced the demand for his services. (I guess he felt his skills were transferable to single-ended triode amplifiers.) Most of all, Goldstein is a passionate lover of music with a vinyl collection that numbers well into five figures, and a fixture at many of the significant classical performances at New York's major concert halls.

But Victor Goldstein is best known for his unique personality—he is a passionate, high-energy man who speaks in a distinctive Romanian accent and makes unique choices of words. Before our Michael Fremer was a famous audio writer, he made his living as a standup comic, and his impersonations of Goldstein are legendary. He'll walk into a room at a Consumer Electronics Show and, inserting his own words for Goldstein's, launch into an unprovoked tirade: "I must tell you! The realism is such that you will feel as if Joni Mitchell is reaching over to you and unbuttoning your shirt as you listen! It's un-be-livv-able!" Fremer's performances became so notorious that I once witnessed Goldstein doing an impersonation of Fremer impersonating Goldstein. Kinda like listening to a third-generation cassette recording.

Goldstein's enthusiasm never lets up. I was returning from a Las Vegas CES on the 1am red-eye, exhausted and debilitated, when I spotted Goldstein at the gate. I was cordial, but gave him a look that distinctly said, "I'm really burned out and don't feel like chatting, okay?" He smiled, reached into his carryon, whipped out an obscure single-ended triode tube amp he was about to distribute, and launched into an impassioned and lengthy sales pitch.

I am most impressed by Goldstein's ear. I've been in listening sessions where, on hearing a particular recording for the first time, he has accurately identified the shape, size, and acoustic of the concert hall. He has personally turned me on to excellent gear from several European high-end firms, including France's Metronome, Germany's Audio Valve, and Italy's Lector. At audio shows over the last 20 years, whenever I've encountered a Fanfare International room introducing a new product to the US, the product has always had the following characteristics: 1) it was a brand unfamiliar to me; 2) it sounded musical, natural, and involving; and 3) it sounded more expensive than its US retail price would indicate.

The Jean-Marie Reynaud Twin Mk.III loudspeaker shares those Fanfare-distributed product characteristics. When David Nemzer, of New York's Audiophile Society, raved to me a while back about the favorable reaction his club (a tough bunch) had to Goldstein's demonstration of Jean-Marie Reynaud's Trente floorstander ($2995/pair), I immediately phoned Victor Goldstein to inquire about the possible existence of an entry-level Reynaud model. He answered the phone: "Yes, Your Majesty." (Manufacturers have pet names for reviewers. One manufacturer calls me "F*cking Moron.") When he informed me that Reynaud manufactures a $1000/pair bookshelf speaker, the Twin Mk.III, I was hot to trot.

I must tell you...
Although relatively new to America, Jean-Marie Reynaud has been designing and manufacturing high-end speakers in France since 1967. The Twin Mk.III is the entry-level product in Reynaud's line, which features 10 models, the top one listing for $7950/pair. The two-way, front-port-loaded, transmission-line Twin has an usual configuration: its tweeter is located below its woofer. The Twin's transmission-line cabinet is finished in an attractive double-faced beech veneer with rounded baffle edges to optimize dispersion,

The 1.2", fabric-dome tweeter has a neodymium-boron magnet with a front waveguide to optimize lateral directivity. The woofer uses a 6.7" paper cone of short fibers filmed with PVC, with a natural rubber surround. The woofer is unusual in that it uses a double voice-coil. Each of which is driven separately, which is why the two-driver Twin Mk.III is specified as having a three-way crossover. According to designer Jean-Marie Reynaud, "the two moving coils are wound on the same mandrel but isolated from each other. We apply to the first moving coil a signal with a low-pass frequency of 900Hz and the second with a low-pass frequency of 4.8kHz. Thus we have good energy in the low part of the spectrum, the two coils working together in parallel configuration. Of course, the crossover is specially designed to avoid phase problems."

I biwired the Twins, and my one peeve about the speaker is that two pairs of binding posts are unmarked. I use Acarian Systems Black Orpheus biwire speaker cable, which has two different thicknesses of wire, so I need to know which is which. When I removed the rear of the cabinet and traced the wires, I discovered that the bass binding post was the bottom one—the opposite of what I would have thought, given the positions of the Twin's drivers.

I used my trusty 24" Celestion Si stands, loaded with sand and lead shot, for all my listening, and mostly left the grillecloths off. There was a very slight improvement in detail resolution with the grilles off, and no change in tonal balance. With the grilles on, however, I found the Twin Mk.III rather attractive-looking.

The sound was...
I was immediately struck by the Twin's lack of coloration in the upper midrange and its extraordinary ability to resolve details in this region, which gave a startling holographic realism to vocal recordings. Crosby, Stills & Nash's eponymous debut album (LP, Atlantic/Classic 78220) was incredibly involving, the three voices layered in rich, lush sonic holography. With such vocal recordings—and more with male than with female voices—I noticed that there was a slight reticence or politeness in the lower midrange that, while not a thinness or a coloration, biased the vocal presentation more toward the middle and upper middle frequencies. This was also evident on classical chamber works with significant woodwind content: The lower clarinet passages of Kohjiba's Transmigration of the Soul, from Festival (CD, Stereophile STPH007-2), seemed a bit thin.

Vocal recordings were also impressive because of the Twin's extended, pristine, and uncolored high-frequency presentation. The low-level transient articulation of Janis Ian's voice on Breaking Silence (LP/CD, Analogue Productions CAPP 027) made it very easy to discern the subtleties of Ian's diction—even the position of her vocal mike—as sibilants were as natural as I've heard from any affordable speaker. I'll wager the Twin Mk.III has an unusually sophisticated tweeter for its price.

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